Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in Mali provides the only pathway for stabilization there, the head of UN peacekeeping told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix updated ambassadors on developments in the West African country, where a UN operation, known by the French acronym MINUSMA, supports political processes and restoration of state authority against a backdrop of insecurity, intercommunal violence and increasing displacement.
MINUSMA was established following fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in January 2012, leading to the occupation of northern Mali by radical Islamists.
The authorities and two separate armed group coalitions signed the peace deal three years later.
“The rapid and thorough implementation of the peace agreement remains the only viable path for the stabilization of Mali. It provides the framework for the required political and institutional reforms to restore and decentralize State authority, to build a Malian state that reflects the diversity and interests of all its citizens”, said Mr. Lacroix.
“The peace agreement also provides for mechanisms to address the grievances of those Malians who feel excluded from the country’s political life and economic development and who see little hope for their future.”
National dialogue concludes
Despite slow starts and disagreements, both between and among the sides, the UN peacekeeping chief reported that progress has been achieved in Mali, such as the holding of an inclusive national dialogue which concluded in December.
Foreign Minister Tiébilé Dramé characterized it as a milestone for his country.
“The national dialogue was an important point in the life of the nation: a point at which a true national consensus was forged with lively solidarity,” he said, speaking via videoconference.
“For his part, the President of Mali has taken the commitment of doing everything in his power to ensure that the resolutions and recommendations of the national dialogue, pursuant to current law, be implemented.”
Another step forward has been the disarming and subsequent integration of former combatants into the national defence and security forces.
Mr. Lacroix said redeploying reconstituted army units to the north remains an “urgent priority”, with a first battalion expected in the region by the end of the month: an important step towards restoring state authority nation-wide.
At the same time, the UN has increased its presence and activity in Mopti, located in central Mali, which has contributed to de-escalating intercommunal violence and massacres.
However, this has meant diverting assets from the north, leading to what Mr. Lacroix described as “dangerous gaps” in some areas. To address the challenge, MINUSMA will make some adaptations within its authorized troop strength.
“The plan provides for the establishment of a Mobile Task Force, which will enhance the Mission’s ability to implement its mandate and protect civilians. It will make MINUSMA more agile, flexible and mobile with tailored units and enhanced capabilities, most importantly additional air mobility”, he explained, before calling on ambassadors for their support.
Support for the Sahel
Mr. Lacroix began his briefing by addressing the “alarming” deteriorating security situation not only in Mali but in the wider Sahel.
Just last week alone, 89 soldiers from Niger were killed and 18 peacekeepers injured in two separate attacks. There has also been a rise in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against UN convoys.
“Terrorism continues to feed into inter-communal violence in the centre of Mali,” he reported. “There are now more displaced persons suffering from hunger in the Mopti region than there were in the past.”
The United Nations supports the G5 Sahel regional body, which brings together Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, all of which are experiencing rising extremist violence.
French ambassador Nicolas de Rivière told the Council that following a recent summit held in his country, the G5 and its international partners have established a coalition for the Sahel.
“The aim is to step up our support for countries of the G5 Sahel, but also beyond that to incentivize them to engage in reform: of course, security reform, but also governance and human rights reform,” he said. “With these conditions being met, we can eradicate terrorism.”
Investing in Key Sectors to Help Nigeriens Recover From the Health and Security Crises
The Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the security situation continue to undermine the Nigerien economy, wiping out years of hard-won gains in poverty reduction. A number of fiscal policy options are, however, available to help the country enhance public expenditure efficiency and increase its GDP by up to 2%. These are the findings of the World Bank’s latest economic and poverty update for Niger published today.
The report titled “Maximizing Public Expenditure Efficiency for Rebuilding Better” analyzes the impact of the health and security crises on Niger’s economy. The economy grew by 5.9% in 2019, but slowed to 3.6% in 2020, as a result of the combined impact of these crises. This sharp downturn increased poverty levels and pushed an additional 400,000 people into extreme poverty.
“Nigeriens have been hard hit by the volatile security situation and these long months in the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of children being kept out of school and deprived of proper health care, which will adversely affect their future,” notes Joelle Dehasse, World Bank Country Manager for Niger. “Turning this situation around will require massive and effective investments in human capital over the next few years.”
The report notes that these investments must be accompanied by bold structural and sectoral reforms aimed, among other things, at mobilizing more domestic resources, modernizing the administration, including the civil service, and promoting sound, prudent, and transparent government spending.
The projections for 2021 are nevertheless positive and economic growth is expected to rebound to 5.5%, driven by the reopening of the border with Nigeria, the resumption of large investment projects, and the normalization of several supply chains. However, these projections remain subject to the duration of the pandemic and the availability of vaccines, as well as to climate hazards and their impact on agricultural production and livelihoods.
“The government of Niger has made tremendous progress in recent years in managing its public finances, giving high priority to social spending,” says Paolo Di Lorenzo, World Bank Senior Economist and co-author of the report. “However, public expenditure pressures remain high, partly due to the deteriorating security situation. Against this backdrop, the authorities should take further steps to improve domestic resource mobilization and public spending efficiency.”
The report’s authors recommend reprioritization across a number of key sectors in order to ensure Niger’s strong economic rebound. These recommendations aim to redirect government revenues to basic social services and essential public infrastructure in order to maximize growth opportunities and social welfare. “Implementing the recommendations in the education sector will help improve spending and reallocate resources within the sector,” says Blaise Ehowe Nguem, Country Economist for Niger. “This will improve the quality of education, thereby reducing repetition and dropout rates.”
Partnership with Private Sector is Key in Closing Rwanda’s Infrastructure Gap
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has pushed the Rwandan economy into recession in 2020 for the first time since 1994, according to the World Bank’s latest Rwanda Economic Update.
The 17th edition of the Rwanda Economic Update: The Role of the Private Sector in Closing the Infrastructure Gap, says that the economy shrank by 3.7 percent in 2020, as measures implemented to limit the spread of the coronavirus and ease pressures on health systems brought economic activity to a near standstill in many sectors. Although the economy is set to recover in 2021, the report notes the growth is projected to remain below the pre-pandemic average through 2023.
Declining economic activity has also reduced the government’s ability to collect revenue amid increased fiscal needs, worsening the fiscal situation. Public debt reached 71 percent of GDP in 2020, and is projected to peak at 84 percent of GDP in 2023. Against this backdrop, the report underlines the importance of the government’s commitment to implement a fiscal consolidation plan once the crisis abates to reduce the country’s vulnerability to external shocks and liquidity pressures.
“Narrowing fiscal space calls for a progressive shift in Rwanda’s development model away from the public sector towards a predominantly private sector driven model, while also stepping up efforts to improve the efficiency of public investment,” said Calvin Djiofack, World Bank’s Senior Economist for Rwanda.
According to the Update, private sector financing, either through public-private partnerships or pure private investment, will be essential for Rwanda to continue investing in critical infrastructure needed to achieve its development goals. The analysis underscores the need to capitalize further on Rwanda’s foreign direct investment (FDI) regulatory framework, considered one of the best in the continent, to attract and retain more FDI; to foster domestic private capital mobilization through risk sharing facilities that would absorb a percentage of the losses on loans made to private projects; and to avoid unsolicited proposals of public–private partnership (PPP) initiatives; as well as to build a robust, multisector PPP project pipeline, targeting sectors with clearly identified service needs such as transport, water and sanitation, waste management, irrigation, and housing.
While the report findings establish clearly the gains of public infrastructure development for the country as whole, it also stressed that these gains tend to benefit urban and richer households most.
“Rwanda will need to rebalance its investment strategy from prioritizing large strategic capital-intensive projects toward projects critical for broad-based social returns to boost the potential of public infrastructure to reduce inequality and poverty,” said Rolande Pryce, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda. “Any step toward the Malabo Declaration to allocate 10 percent of future infrastructure investment to agriculture, allied activities, and rural infrastructure, will go a long way to achieving this goal.”
Greenpeace Africa responds to the cancellation of oil blocks in Salonga National Park
On Monday the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to remove Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision follows clarification “provided by the national authorities that the oil concessions overlapping with the property are nul[l] and void and that these blocks will be excluded from future auctioning.”
Oil blocks overlapping with Salonga were awarded by President Joseph Kabila in the twilight of his regime. Greenpeace Africa has repeatedly demanded their cancellation, while local leaders voiced their opposition to the project in light of its impacts on communities.
“A decision by President Felix Tshisekedi to cancel all oil blocks in Salonga Park must be followed by a decision to cancel oil blocks in Virunga Park and across the Cuvette Centrale region. These are vast areas rich in biodiversity that provide clean water, food security and medicine to local communities and which render environmental services to humanity,” says Irene Wabiwa Betoko, International Project Leader for the Congo Basin forest.
The Salonga National Park, which is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984. The park plays a fundamental role in climate regulation and the sequestration of carbon. The park is also home to numerous endemic endangered species such as the pygmy chimpanzee (or bonobo), the forest elephant, the African slender-snouted crocodile and the Congo peacock. Salonga had been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999, due to pressures such as poaching, deforestation and poor management. The government of DRC later on issued oil drilling licences that encroached on the protected area, posing a threat to the wildlife-rich site.
“DRC’s auctioning of oil blocks has not only been scandalously lacking transparency and menacing for particularly sensitive environmental areas – they neither benefit Congolese people nor the planet. Instead of privileging a small group of beneficiaries of the toxic fossil fuels industry, diversifying the DRC’s economy should be done through renewable energy investments that will make energy accessible and affordable for all,” Irene Wabiwa concluded.
Greenpeace Africa urges full transparency from both UNESCO and the DRC government and calls for the publication of all supportive documents regarding the decision to cancel the aforementioned oil blocks, as well as the map of the nine oil blocks that are still being auctioned in the Cuvette Centrale region.
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