Next MUNA conference:
February 6, 7 & 8, 2019

The question of improving the security situation in the Sahel region

Issue in Security Council

The Sahel region is a region in the north of Africa, spanning from the west to the east coast. It encompasses parts of 14 different countries and is home to approximately 100 million people. Ever since colonial rule, the countries making up Sahel have faced challenges in political instability, with disastrous consequences. Lack of economic growth has left the region with staggering unemployment rates, and climate change is now threatening to cause mass famine in the entire region. Despite all of this, there is an even more pressing issue: security.

The presence of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI) has resulted in the displacement of nearly 5 million people, with 24 million more in need of humanitarian assistance. Trafficking of arms and narcotics by terrorist groups from Sahel has impacted the whole of Africa, and even human trafficking is not unheard of either. The UN has responded by sending a peacekeeping force: Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des Nations unies pour la stabilisation au Mali (MUNISMA). The mission has however not been very effective, it has even been called the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission in history. Due to difficulties with the provision of equipment and funding by member-states, peacekeeping troops have lacked the ability to defend themselves from terrorist attacks, let alone to defend civilians. As an alternative to MUNISMA the G5, made up of Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania, have decided to set up a joint security force to combat terrorism. The force is however still being assembled and trained, and it could still take a while until it is fully operational.

Cooperation between Sahel nations, as seen with the G5 Sahel Force, could very well be the key to solving this issue. Terrorism in the Sahel is not limited by borders, and therefore requires joint action of states rather than individual initiatives to be most effectively combatted. Moreover, reports by the UN, the EU and NGOs have shown that a multidimensional approach is needed in order to provide long-term solutions. This means that, in order to provide lasting solutions to the crisis, not only security needs to be improved, but also the development of governance and any counter-terrorism measures must take the economy into account. If the economy is not improved, unemployed people will remain easy targets for terrorist recruitment. Currently only 30% of Sahel inhabitants have access to legal institutions for prosecution of wrongdoings. Half of all children born in the Sahel are not registered and have no nationality as such and the dominating presence of terrorists limits the executive power of governments. If any of these problems are to be solved, governments will need to align their efforts and focus on combating the origins of terrorism as well as its actuality, together.

Useful Documents

ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly resolution on the security situation in the Sahel-Saharan region (Operative clauses start on page 5):

EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel:

Remarks at UN Security Council meeting on Sahel:



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