I am grateful to you, Mr Chair/Secretary General, for inviting us to this meeting. There is an urgent need to put the situation in the Sahel higher up on the international agenda. It is a multi-faceted crisis, where pressing humanitarian needs, lack of sustainable development, weak institutions and serious threats to security combine in a dangerous mix. A comprehensive strategy that addresses all of these elements is needed in order to find a durable solution.
We welcome the UN initiative for an Integrated Strategy for the Sahel. Let me underline that women are a key in this respect. They must be part of our efforts to build resilience and community preparedness. Greater equality and opportunities for women contribute towards development and food security.
Norway has a longstanding engagement in the region, in particular in Mali. Since the 1980s, we have worked to promote development and meet urgent humanitarian needs. We will continue our humanitarian assistance as well as our development efforts wherever circumstances permit. And we stand ready to contribute in other areas where our cooperation is sought.
The current crisis in Mali is of great concern to us all. It is a serious blow to the country’s security and stability, as well as its territorial integrity. The flow of refugees has increased dramatically, causing great human suffering in an already impoverished region. As is so often the case, there is no quick fix or easy way out of the crisis. It will require sustained efforts along several tracks. Where dialogue is possible, it should be pursued. Where legitimate local grievances can be resolved, they should be addressed. And where the armed forces are needed to underpin a solution and ensure stability, they should be enabled to do so. Resolving the crisis will require a broadly based, civilian government, where all legitimate political forces have a stake.
However, the crisis in Mali is also affecting the security, stability and development of several neighbouring countries. Therefore, it is crucial that a strategy is drawn up for the Sahel that involves all the countries in the region. All are affected and all need to engage and make a contribution. While no solution can be imposed from outside, the assistance of the wider international community will be also needed. In this spirit, Norway is prepared to provide support.