On 23 February 2018, the European Commission is hosting the International High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, with the African Union, the United Nations and the G5 Sahel group of countries, to strengthen international support for the G5 Sahel regions.
In 2014, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger set up the “G5 Sahel” group of countries to foster close cooperation in the region and tackle the major challenges that these countries face. Since then, the EU has stepped up cooperation with this African-led initiative to build a strong partnership on many fronts: from political dialogue, to development and humanitarian support, to strengthening security and tackling irregular migration.
The Sahel region faces a number of pressing challenges such as extreme poverty, frequent food and nutrition crises, conflict, irregular migration and related crimes such as human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Violent extremism also poses a serious security challenge to the region and has potential spill-over effects outside the region, including Europe.
The EU is a member of the Alliance for the Sahel, launched and signed by the EU, France and Germany in July 2017. It is currently composed of 9 members: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the EU, UNDP, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the World Bank. It aims to coordinate and deliver aid quicker and more efficiently in the region. It will have a particular focus on peripheral, cross border and fragile zones of the Sahel. Since its launch, the Sahel Alliance has identified priority six priority areas: (1) youth employment; (2) rural development, agriculture and food security; (3) climate, notably energy access, green energy and water; (4) governance; (5) support for return of basic services throughout the territory, including through decentralisation; (6) security.
- The G5 Sahel Joint Force
The EU has fully supported this African led initiative from the very beginning and provided an initial contribution of €50 million to help set it up. This EU funding is provided through the African Peace Facility and can only cover non-lethal equipment.
Building on the EU’s defence planning capacity and expertise, the EU has set up a one of a kind Coordination Hub to gather together the many offers of international support to the G5 Joint Force. The Hub is already up and running and enables donors to channel much needed assistance. In practice it works by matching the offers of donors to a Recognised List of Needs provided and determined by the Joint Force.
The Joint Force will be comprised of troops from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, and will operate in all five countries. To step up action on security, particularly in border areas in the Sahel countries which face terrorist and security threats, the G5 Sahel countries have set up their own regional security force. Concretely, the G5 Joint Force will have permanent forces deployed along the borders, able to operate together under a centralised command and communication structure. This will help tackle the pressing terrorist and security threat in the region, which is a cross-border issue for all the countries concerned.