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Libyan Newswire

The European Union and the Sahel – fact sheet

The Sahel region is one of the poorest in the world. Countries of the Sahel face extreme poverty, internal tensions, institutional weaknesses, very high population growth rates, high exposition to climate change and frequent food crises, fragile governance, illegal trafficking, radicalization and violent extremism.

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Background and context 

The Sahel region is one of the poorest in the world. Countries of the Sahel face extreme poverty, internal tensions, institutional weaknesses, very high population growth rates, high exposition to climate change and frequent food crises, fragile governance, illegal trafficking, radicalization and violent extremism.

The EU has been concerned by the deteriorating political, security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the Sahel region since the early 2000s. This situation predated the Libyan crisis, but was further exacerbated by its consequences.

In March 2011, the EU adopted a comprehensive approach to the Sahel region, using as reference an EU Strategy for Security and Development (“Sahel Strategy”), based on the assumptions that development and security are mutually supportive and that the issues faced in the Sahel require a regional answer. This strategy includes four lines of actions:

  • Development, good governance and internal conflict resolution;
  • Political and diplomatic action;
  • Security and the rule of law;
  • Countering violent extremism and radicalisation.

Since the beginning of the crisis in Mali, the Council has reiterated the EU’s resolve to accelerate and enhance the implementation of this Strategy in order to help tackle the regional consequences of the crisis. This Strategy has proven a crucial tool to enhance the coherence of the EU approach and to mobilise considerable additional European efforts, with a particular focus on Mauritania, Niger and Mali. 

Mr Michel Reveyrand de Menthon was appointed EU Special Representative in March 2013. In this role, he plays a key part in reaching out to the region and in guiding EU action in support of regional and international efforts in favour of peace, security and sustainable development in the Sahel. He is also mandated to help coordinate the EU’s overall approach to the crisis, using the EU Sahel Strategy as a basis.

The EU Sahel Strategy today

This Strategy remains the key framework for EU action at both individual and collective levels to help countries in the wider Sahel-Sahara region address key security and development challenges. In March 2014, EU Foreign Affairs extended the Strategy to Burkina Faso and Chad in addition to Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Ministers also asked for the development of a new regional action plan for the implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.

The Action Plan was adopted by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on April 20 2015. With the establishment of this comprehensive framework for EU’s action in the Sahel region, the EU reiterates its readiness to continue working closely with the Sahel countries to support their efforts to achieve peace, security and development. The plan reinforces the EU’s focus on four key priorities for the coming years:

  1.  Prevention and countering radicalisation; 

  2. Creation of appropriate conditions for youth;

  3. Migration and mobility;

  4. Border management, the fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime.

The Action Plan will be implemented with the full ownership and under the primary responsibility of the countries concerned, and in coordination with key international and regional organisations. It will combine the contribution by EU activities, instruments and resources with those of the EU Member States.

Missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

The EU’s comprehensive approach to security and development in the Sahel includes three CSDP actions: EUCAP Sahel Niger, EUCAP Sahel Mali and the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM).

The EU launched a civilian CSDP mission EUCAP SAHEL in Niger in 2012 with the objective to fight terrorism and organised crime. Its mandate was extended in 2014 until July 2016. EUCAP Sahel Niger provides advice and training to support the Nigerien authorities in strengthening their capacities to combat terrorism and organised crime. The mission promotes the interoperability of Nigerien security forces, helps develop criminal investigation capacities, facilitate coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and improve the sustainability of the security forces.

In January 2015, the Council launched EUCAP Sahel Mali, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy mission in Mali. The mission’s task is to support the Malian internal security forces.

EUCAP Sahel Mali is helping the Malian state ensure constitutional and democratic order, put in place the conditions for lasting peace as well as maintain its authority throughout the entire territory. The mission advises and trains the three internal security forces in Mali, i.e. the police, Gendarmerie and Garde Nationale, and coordinates with international partners. The mission is foreseen to last until 15 January 2017.

At the request of Mali and in line with relevant international decisions including UNSC Resolution 2085 (2012), the EU launched an EU military Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) in 2013. Its mandate currently runs until 18 May 2016.

The mission supports the rebuilding of the Malian armed forces and to meet their operational needs by providing expertise and advice, in particular as regards command and control, logistical chains, human resources and international humanitarian law; it also helps training combat units. The mission is not involved in combat operations.


Response to the food crisis and long-term food insecurity in the Sahel region

Large parts of the Western Sahel region suffer from structural food insecurity and malnutrition, compounded by low household incomes, vulnerability to natural disasters (draughts), , and increases of food prices on international markets.. Over 5 million children are stunted (about 40% of the children under five). On top of the distressing human and social costs, the economic cost of malnutrition is estimated between 2% to 8% of GDP. Weakness of public finances and national institutions in some countries makes it more difficult to respond to the frequent crises that affect the region. However, some countries have adopted national response strategies and have been supported by large-scale funding, including from the European Commission.


Humanitarian aid

As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.7 million extremely food insecure people and 580 000 severely malnourished children in 2014.

With a contribution of €202 in humanitarian aid for 2014 and an initial envelope of €156 million for 2015 , the European Commission continues to support life-saving aid, covering a quarter of all food security needs and half of nutrition care needs. The Commission also assisted people affected by conflict including hundreds of thousands of displaced people from Mali, and Nigeria.

Long-term EU response to the food crisis: building resilience

In addition to humanitarian support, the EU is implementing development programmes aimed at strengthening resilience, helping address the root causes of malnutrition, improving the functioning of regional markets and increase the regional and national capacity to reduce the risks of disasters.

In 2012, the European Commission launched together with regional organisations an international partnership for resilience in West Africa including Sahel region (Alliance Globale pour l’Initiative Résilience – AGIR). The EU intends to allocate approximately €1.5 billion for resilience in West Africa for 2014-2020, playing a catalysing role by encouraging regional and national authorities to define their resilience priorities.

Overall development support

Between 2014 and 2020, the Commission will mobilize 5 billion EUR in support development efforts in the countries of the Sahel. That includes both bilateral aid from the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) as well as support through other financial instruments, notably regional programmes and Commission budget lines.

Under the 11th EDF, the five countries covered under the Strategy will benefit from almost € 2.5 billion in bilateral development cooperation.

The continues to support inclusive socio-economic development, stability, building state capacity, governance, justice, fight against corruption and impunity, and regional integration including social services, especially health and education, resilience, sustainable agriculture rural development, food and nutrition security, infrastructure, private sector development, and addressing demographic challenges.

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