Paul Magnette at the General Assembly of the United Nations: Sahel, meeting with Ban Ki-moon and co-organiser of the event on least developed countries

date: 26 September 2012

At the UN’s General Assembly in New York City today, Minister for Development Cooperation Paul Magnette took part in the High Level Meeting on Sahel then met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and also co-chaired an event on the least developed countries.

High Level Meeting on an “Integrated Strategy for the Sahel”

Eighteen million people in the Sahel, including one million children, are currently suffering from extreme undernutrition. The ambition of a busy meeting attended by 60 heads of state, including the French President François Hollande, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, members of the Security Council, humanitarian agencies and international donors, was to reach an integrated strategy for the Sahel region. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon moderated the meeting and opened the session with words of praise for the presence and the commitment of the many heads of government.

The Chairperson of the African Union advocated an integrated strategy, including humanitarian and security aspects as well as aspects of good governance, development and human rights. This vision was subsequently shared by many. Herman Van Rompuy condemned the conflicts, which have lead to humanitarian crises. He called for a global strategy, in which Europe and its various partnerships can function as an engine for development strategy. He also stated that the EU is prepared, on the basis of an evaluation of the situation in Mali, to resume development cooperation with this country. Minister for Development Cooperation Paul Magnette also stated this last week in a meeting with Mali’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Tieman Coulibaly.

Necessary measures

The countries in the Sahel are practically all, to a certain extent, lacking capacity on a police, legislative and military level, and the provision of social services must be improved. At a national level, efforts must also be made in capacity-building and the strengthening of good governance.
In addition, regional cooperation relations must be strengthened. There is no single organisation that covers the entire Sahel region, and the UN’s presence is also fragmented. For these reasons, work must be done on an integrated strategy with strong, regional cooperation.

Thirdly, the social-economic situation must be improved. Inadequate economic development, social exclusion and droughts lead to radicalisation, and economic perspectives can provide an answer to this.

Belgium is already clearly present in the region via its development cooperation. Mali, Niger and Algeria are three of our partner countries. Minister Magnette has also quickly released extra envelopes to respond to the humanitarian needs in the Sahel region.

Bilateral meeting with Ban Ki-moon

Paul Magnette, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and Didier Reynders held a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Minister for Development stressed the need for a clear post-2015 development agenda, in which convergence must be central. Convergence between the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and convergence with the proposed priorities of sustainable energy for everyone (an initiative that was launched by the UN Secretary-General in Rio and which was supported by Belgium) and training (Ban Ki-moon launched his “Education First” initiative at this General Assembly).

Least Developed Countries

Together with Nepal and Turkey, Belgium was also co-organiser of today’s meeting on least developed countries (LDCs). Panel members included the Prime Minister of Nepal, EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, a representative of the World Bank and Mrs Amina Mohammed, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General, with whom Minister Magnette had already held a bilateral meeting on this subject. Ten of our partner countries are LDCs and Belgium has therefore built up an internationally recognised expertise. After the action programme for LDCs, approved approximately 16 months ago in Istanbul, and after the confirmation in Rio that development must be sustainable, the post-2015 development agenda must now be considered. Paul Magnette: “The LDCs have much to gain from sustainable development, with a green economy and green energy. Every country must develop a plan based on the three pillars of development (social, economic and environmental). Human rights must continue to form the basic principal here, women’s rights in particular because they are the key to inclusive, sustainable and humane development.”