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I am honoured to participate in the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel.

Substantial advances have been made since the past High level Meeting on the Sahel last year. The people of Mali voted peacefully in their presidential election, showing their desire for stability and democracy.

Considerable efforts have been made by the International Community to help the people of Mali stabilise their country.

The UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel outlines the major actions for the long-term security and development of the region.

We are confident that the new Mali leadership will work together with civil society to overcome the emergency by pursuing reconciliation, peace and development.

But we cannot underestimate the humanitarian challenges and the risk of insecurity spreading to other Sahel Countries.

It is essential to step up our efforts and to unite our actions in providing the fullest support to Professor Romano Prodi, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, and the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.

The implementation of the Sahel Strategy is crucial for the sustainable and long-term development of this area.

We all need to do more to help. International Financial Institutions have a particularly crucial role to play.

Constant attention should be paid to capacity building and border control.

These are our main policies in the region.

Commitments to human rights promotion, women’s empowerment and civilian control of the military remain crucial.

For Mali we stress in particular the importance of political dialogue and inclusiveness with the Northern populations who reject terrorism and accept a unified state.

The reconciliation process must be effective and must empower those who have felt more than once abandoned by the State.

Italy is concerned by the implication of the crisis in the Sahel region, because of our geographic position and our traditional links of friendship with the Sahel countries.

I feel very close to the immigrants and to their struggle.

We also support training programmes for the fight against organised crime and for border protection.

The Sahel is a high priority for our development cooperation.

This is the time to step up our efforts to improve the living standards of the population and to contribute to the sustainable development of the Sahel countries.

Thank you.