While the Sahara-Sahel region has experienced recurrent episodes of instability in the past, recent crises in Libya and Mali have amplified the level of violence throughout the area. They have also reshaped the region’s geopolitical and geographical dynamics: the current crises are cross-border and regional. Addressing them requires new institutional responses.
Historically, the Sahara plays the role of intermediary between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Even before Roman times, the area was criss-crossed by roads, principally serving a military use in this period. Despite the common conception of the Sahara-Sahel as an empty space, today, commercial and human exchange is vibrant. This exchange is founded on social networks, more recently used by traffickers. Understanding the nature of this trafficking as well as the geographic and organisational mobility of criminal groups is of strategic importance.
The Atlas proposes a new reading of these phenomena, based on a spatial and regional analysis. It explores how the countries that share the Sahara-Sahel could work together towards stabilisation and development. The Atlas also aims to inform the Sahel strategies of the African Union, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the European Union, G5 Sahel and the United Nations, in their attempts to forge a lasting peace.