2 June 2017

West Africa: The European Union and the Sahel, Fact Sheet

Photo: RFI
Groupe armé à Kidal, le 13 juillet 2016. Sur le terrain, les groupes armés comme le CJA ont le sentiment qu’on accorde plus de considération aux hommes armés de cette cité.
press release

Brussels — The EU supports the Sahel countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger - in areas of shared interest such as security, migration, terrorism, the humanitarian response, resilience building and long-term development.

The Sahel region faces a number of pressing challenges such as extreme poverty, frequent food and nutrition crises, conflict, high population growth rates, institutional weaknesses, irregular migration and related crimes such as trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling. Violent extremism also poses serious security challenges to the region and has potential spill-over effects outside the region, including Europe.

Sahel Strategy

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").

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 Ministers 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 Regional Action Plan was adopted by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 20 April 2015.

With the establishment of this comprehensive framework for EU engagement 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.

Sahel Regional Action Plan

The Sahel Regional Action Plan (RAP) has taken the implementation of the EU Sahel Strategy to the next steps. It identifies actions and initiatives for the years to come, in coordination with Member States' activities, and constitutes a framework for EU engagement in the Sahel region. The four key priorities are: 1) Preventing and countering radicalisation, 2) Creating appropriate conditions for Youth, 3) Migration and mobility, 4) Border management, fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime.

The Action Plan is 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 EU activities, instruments and resources with those of the EU Member States

EU Special Representative for the Sahel

The current EU Special Representative for the Sahel, Mr Angel Losada, was appointed in December 2015 replacing Michel Reveyrand de Menthon. According to his mandate, 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 tasked to help coordinate the EU's overall approach to the crisis, using the EU Sahel Strategy as a basis.

The EUSR's mandate covers the engagement with all relevant stakeholders of the region, in particular G5 Sahel as a regional organisation but also governments, international organisations, civil society and diaspora, including with the countries of the Maghreb and Lake Chad Basin. OP 44 of UNSCR 2295 specifically calls on the EUSR for the Sahel to coordinate closely with MINUSMA and other bilateral partners to assist the Malian authorities in the Security Sector Reform (SSR).The EUSR also represents the EU in relevant regional and international fora, such as the Comité de Suivi of the Mali Peace Agreement, and ensures visibility for the EU's support to crisis management and conflict prevention, including EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger.

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 Niger, in 2012 with the objective to support the country in fighting terrorism and organised crime. EUCAP Sahel Niger provides advice and training to support the Nigerian security institutions (Police, Gendarmerie, National Guard) in strengthening their capacities to combat terrorism and organised crime, in line with the EU Strategy for Security and Development. The mission promotes the interoperability of Nigerien security forces, helps develop criminal investigation capacities, facilitates coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and improves the sustainability of the security forces.

In January 2015, the Council launched EUCAP Sahel Mali, a civilian CSDP mission in Mali. The mission's task is to support the Malian internal security forces in ensuring constitutional and democratic order, putting in place the conditions for lasting peace as well as maintaining State authority throughout the entire territory. The mission advises and trains the three internal security forces in Mali, i.e. the Police, Gendarmerie and National Guard, and coordinates with international partners. The current mandate of the mission runs until 15 January 2019.

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, after a strategic review held in February 2016, until May 2018.

The mission supports the rebuilding of the Malian armed forces in meeting 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. It also contributes, upon Malian request and in coordination with MINUSMA, to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process framed by Peace Agreement, through the provision of training sessions in order to facilitate the reconstitution of inclusive Malian Armed Forces. The Mission finally provides support to the G5 Sahel process within the activities of EUTM Mali in support of the MAF, by contributing to enhancing coordination and interoperability with G5 Sahel national armed forces.

EU-G5 Sahel - a strengthened partnership

The EU is increasingly engaging with the 'G5 Sahel', formally created in December 2014.

The G5 Sahel comprises Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. The presidency was passed over from Chad to Mali at the third Summit of the G5 in Bamako, February 2017.

The first high-level meeting between the High Representative / Vice -President (HR/VP) Federica Mogherini and the governments of the Member States of the G5 Sahel took place in Brussels, 17 June 2015. Discussions showed a converging analysis of the challenges faced by the region, ranging from security threats and organised crime to irregular migration, the humanitarian situation and the consequences of climate change. Sahel ministers strongly welcomed EU engagement, and the EU Regional Action Plan for the Sahel was seen as highly relevant and as a useful reference for further cooperation.

Both parties agreed to pursue dialogue on a regular basis, both at political and operational levels. The HR/VP accepted the invitation to attend the next ministerial meeting in one of the Sahel countries. A second ministerial meeting with the G5 Foreign Ministers was held on 17 June 2016 in Brussels, where the HR/VP met with the G5 Sahel Ministers of Foreign Affairs together with Commissioners Avramopoulos, Mimica and Stylianides, as well as the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank. A number of pressing issues were discussed, including the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, the need to push for stabilisation of Libya, the common fight against terrorism, the mutual responsibility for tackling irregular migration, and the need for creating appropriate conditions for youth.

The third high-level between the HR/VP and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel meeting takes place on 6 June 2017 in Bamako, Mali.

EU development cooperation

The EU already has a close and substantial cooperation with each of the five Sahel countries, evolving around the National Indicative Programmes, the Regional Indicative Programmes, resilience building, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and three CSDP missions. Resources available and pledged for the five Sahel countries by the EU and its Member States amount to approximately EUR 8 billion.

The EU is also now supporting countries in the Sahel via the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

Humanitarian assistance

As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.55 million extremely food insecure people and 539 000 severely malnourished children in 2016. To this end and to provide assistance to conflict-affected populations, in 2016 the European Commission allocated € 179.2 million. These figures include the G5 countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger). In 2017, the European Commission continues to demonstrating EU solidarity to the most vulnerable populations in the region.

Copyright European Union, 1995-2017

SOURCE European External Action

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