Sahel Strategies: Why Coordination is Imperative


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    The Sahel has been at the centre of international and regional efforts to solve multiple crises that affect the region - the lack of human security, terrorism threats, governance failures and food insecurity.

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    The Sahelian strategic environment has become more and more crowded as international and regional organisations propose their own solutions to tackle this multiplicity of challenges.

    At the request of the Bamako Ministerial Coordination Platform for Sahel Strategies and Initiatives, ECDPM and ISS Dakar have undertaken a mapping and comparative analysis of Sahel strategies and initiatives of regional and international actors.

    Given the significant challenges in the region, the extent of the international community’s response to the situation in the Sahel should be commended. Nonetheless, coordination is essential to ensure the effective implementation of programmes and projects aiming to improve everyday life for the people of the Sahel.

    With this in mind, this study offers a comparative analysis of the various initiatives and strategies for the Sahel undertaken by multilateral actors. Gaps and overlaps are identified and recommendations on both the possibility for synergies and for coordination efforts are set out.

    Key Messages

    • On paper, the identification of the Sahel issues are broadly shared, but in reality the various strategies play out in different ways.

    • Sahel strategies converge on four main areas:

      • Security

      • Development & resilience (including infrastructure)

      • Governance

      • Education

    • Differences between certain strategies and financial resources inevitably result in competition between organisations and states for the uptake of available resources. There is a risk that competition supersedes coordination in Saharan-Sahelian region.

    • Given the need to work with Sahelian governments and civil society, it is important to realistically assess the capacity for implementation in the region.

    • For transparency and legitimacy, it is essential that the development of action plans avoid duplication, and that there is comprehensive impact assessment. Many synergies are possible through more systematic overlap of thematic experts and formal and informal actors in the countries of the region - some are effective already.

    • "Strategies" or "initiatives" actually cover a range or strategic vision and documents developed by multilateral organisations, states, groups of states or networks operating in the Sahel region Sahel.

    EU External Action in the Sahel

    The EU, with its financial assistance, extensive diplomatic presence, CSDP missions, diplomatic engagement, including that of its member states, is one of the key actors in the region. How can the EU act comprehensively in the Sahel?

    The EU’s Sahel Strategy can be regarded as a precursor to the Comprehensive Approach: what already works in the region should be seen as best practice for holistic EU action. Where there is a lack of comprehensiveness, it is because of structural shortcomings in EU external action, with other external variables also at play.

    Read, share and download 'Avant la Lettre? The EU’s Comprehensive Approach (to Crises) in the Sahel'

    Further Reading

    Regional coordination efforts have been proposed outside of existing strategies. Our series of blogs on regional diplomacy in the Sahel highlight that the stakes behind coordination have been made even more relevant by the emergence of initiatives such as the G5 group of Sahel countries. We also identify ways of working regionally in the Sahel-Sahara.

    For more information please visit ECDPM’s Sahel dossier


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