March 2020 Monthly Forecast



Expected Council Action

In March, China, the Council’s president, is planning a debate on countering terrorism and extremism in Africa under the agenda item of “peace and security in Africa” to discuss the need for comprehensive multidimensional approaches in combating terrorism and violent extremism in Africa. Possible briefers may be Secretary-General António Guterres and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat (the latter most likely via video teleconference). Interested African member states are likely to participate in the debate.

Background and Key Recent Developments

In February, the Council was briefed by Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov, the head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (OCT) and Michèle Coninsx, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) on the Secretary-General’s tenth strategic-level report on the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh). Voronkov noted that in his previous briefing he reported a noticeable increase in ISIL- and Al-Qaida-linked recruitment in West Africa. He said the situation had deteriorated further and that this trend was of greater concern today as “the Islamic State’s West Africa Province in the Lake Chad basin reinforces its links to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara”. During the same briefing, Coninsx observed that CTED’s recent assessment visits to Africa had noted the lack of mechanisms to “address radicalization within correctional facilities, ineffective training of officials to manage violent extremist detainees and the absence of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for prisoners upon release”.

The Council was also updated on “unprecedented terrorist violence” across West Africa and the Sahel by UN Special Representative and head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Mohamed Ibn Chambas during his January briefing on peace consolidation in West Africa. In presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNOWAS, Chambas emphasised that since July 2019, the region has experienced a surge in terrorist attacks against military and civilian targets. Significantly, the geographic focus of terrorist attacks shifted from Mali to Burkina Faso and also threatened coastal states in West Africa, according to Chambas. Casualties from terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have risen five-fold since 2016, with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 compared with an estimated 770 deaths in 2016. Chambas stressed that terrorism, organised crime and intercommunal violence are often intertwined, particularly in areas where there is weak state presence, and extremists provide safety and protection to populations in exchange for loyalty.

Key Issues and Options

The regional counter-terrorism Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S, made up of units from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger)—which has carried out some successful operations—faces persistent challenges in securing financial and material resources, which prevents it from becoming fully operational. Similarly, the region’s states are also confronted by the need to allocate part of their national budgets to counter-terrorism, which would divert funds from social services and development efforts.

An issue is how to address violent extremism and terrorism in Africa in a more holistic manner.  Besides West Africa, there are concerns about terrorist activity in other parts of Africa including Somalia and Libya. A continent-wide approach to the phenomenon could be discussed during the debate.

The Council has also recognised the terrorist threat posed by radicalised prisoners and the need to address that threat. Resolution 2482 (2019) on the nexus between terrorism and organised crime states that prisons can be settings where both radicalisation and rehabilitation can occur. The Council may want to encourage member states to develop specific strategies to address and counter terrorist narratives within the prison system, as well as to organise periodic meetings on how to assess and manage the risk posed by radicalised prisoners and support them following their release to avoid recidivism.

Council Dynamics

Council members share concerns about the spread of terrorism and organised crime in Africa, including previously unaffected regions, and its impact on civilians. However, since most members in principle do not consider UN political missions and good office engagements to be appropriate for conducting counter-terrorism activities, they may be interested in exploring what the regional and sub-regional organisations, as well as African member states participating in the debate, may suggest in this context.

Security Council Resolutions
19 July 2019S/RES/2482 This was on the nexus between terrorism and international organised crime.
Secretary-General’s Reports
4 February 2020S/2020/95 This was the Secretary-General’s tenth report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh to international peace and security and the range of UN efforts in support of member states in countering the threat.
Security Council Meeting Records
7 February 2020S/PV.8716 This was a briefing on the tenth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh).
8 January 2020S/PV.8698 This was a briefing on West Africa and the Sahel with Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative and Head of UNOWAS.
27 August 2019S/PV.8605 This was a briefing on the ninth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh).