Understanding the EU Strategy for the Sahel

07-09-2020

The August 2020 coup in Mali has once again demonstrated the instability of the Sahel. The region is affected by climate change and rapid population growth. Rivalries over access to livelihoods exacerbate grievances against states. Struggling to provide basic services throughout their territory and security at their borders, governments are competing with armed groups that have emerged from the failed regimes of Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The instability in this region has direct consequences for the security of the European Union's neighbours and for the EU itself. In 2011, to respond to the multiple factors of this instability, the EU adopted the Sahel security and development strategy: the first comprehensive approach aimed at ensuring various external policy programmes and instruments converge towards common objectives. Despite the revamping of the strategy in 2015 based on the lessons learnt, its implementation, which involves the coordination of multiple stakeholders, has been difficult. While it has contributed to notable progress towards integration and regionalisation, security challenges have impeded tangible achievements in preventing radicalisation and fostering inclusive development. The Sahel action plan, adopted in 2015 to provide an overall framework for the implementation of the strategy, comes to an end in 2020; its revision (or replacement) will need to take the EU's and Africa's new geopolitical interests on board. As the EU endeavours to reconnect with Africa in a regional and full-fledged partnership, the successes and failures of the EU Strategy for the Sahel could inspire the whole EU development and security policy on the continent. This briefing is a translated and revised version of Le Sahel: un enjeu stratégique pour l'Union européenne, of November 2017.

The August 2020 coup in Mali has once again demonstrated the instability of the Sahel. The region is affected by climate change and rapid population growth. Rivalries over access to livelihoods exacerbate grievances against states. Struggling to provide basic services throughout their territory and security at their borders, governments are competing with armed groups that have emerged from the failed regimes of Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The instability in this region has direct consequences for the security of the European Union's neighbours and for the EU itself. In 2011, to respond to the multiple factors of this instability, the EU adopted the Sahel security and development strategy: the first comprehensive approach aimed at ensuring various external policy programmes and instruments converge towards common objectives. Despite the revamping of the strategy in 2015 based on the lessons learnt, its implementation, which involves the coordination of multiple stakeholders, has been difficult. While it has contributed to notable progress towards integration and regionalisation, security challenges have impeded tangible achievements in preventing radicalisation and fostering inclusive development. The Sahel action plan, adopted in 2015 to provide an overall framework for the implementation of the strategy, comes to an end in 2020; its revision (or replacement) will need to take the EU's and Africa's new geopolitical interests on board. As the EU endeavours to reconnect with Africa in a regional and full-fledged partnership, the successes and failures of the EU Strategy for the Sahel could inspire the whole EU development and security policy on the continent. This briefing is a translated and revised version of Le Sahel: un enjeu stratégique pour l'Union européenne, of November 2017.