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Peace and security in 2020: Evaluating the EU approach to tackling the Sahel conflicts

16-09-2020

The Peace and Security series evaluates European Union (EU) performance in the field of peace and security in a specific geographical region each year. This, the third thematic study in the series, focuses on the EU's contribution to resolving the conflicts in the Sahel, restoring stability and building peace in the region. The EU has adopted a comprehensive and integrated approach to tackling the numerous political, security and defence, humanitarian, development, and environmental challenges facing ...

The Peace and Security series evaluates European Union (EU) performance in the field of peace and security in a specific geographical region each year. This, the third thematic study in the series, focuses on the EU's contribution to resolving the conflicts in the Sahel, restoring stability and building peace in the region. The EU has adopted a comprehensive and integrated approach to tackling the numerous political, security and defence, humanitarian, development, and environmental challenges facing the five countries in the Sahel: Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, issuing a strategy specifically for the region in 2011. This evaluation first outlines the complex local and geopolitical dynamics framing the conflicts in the Sahel. It then assesses the various aspects of the EU's approach to supporting peace efforts in the region in an already crowded international landscape. The study also analyses the European Parliament's engagement with the Sahel region, considers the challenges that the EU (and other international actors) have faced in the Sahel, and presents options for improving the effectiveness of EU action. A parallel study, published separately, provides an overview of current EU action on peace and security, while a third presents the 2020 Normandy Index. The studies have been drafted as a contribution to the Normandy World Peace Forum in October 2020.

The G5 Sahel and the European Union: The challenges of security cooperation with a regional grouping

15-09-2020

The August 2020 coup in Mali recalls the coup the country witnessed in 2012 and highlights the growing instability and insecurity the Sahel region has been facing for a decade now. The combined effect of population growth, poverty, climate change, unsustainable land tenure and marginalisation of peripheral populations has been fuelling community-based tensions and anger towards governments in the region. Weak state power and porous borders have enabled the proliferation of jihadist and other armed ...

The August 2020 coup in Mali recalls the coup the country witnessed in 2012 and highlights the growing instability and insecurity the Sahel region has been facing for a decade now. The combined effect of population growth, poverty, climate change, unsustainable land tenure and marginalisation of peripheral populations has been fuelling community-based tensions and anger towards governments in the region. Weak state power and porous borders have enabled the proliferation of jihadist and other armed groups and the intensification of violence. In 2014, as a collective answer to the growing security threat, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger created the G5 Sahel, an intergovernmental cooperation framework seeking to coordinate the security and development policies of its member states. In 2017, the G5 Sahel Joint Force was launched with the aim of fighting terrorism and organised crime in the region. In addition to its own security and development strategy in the region, the EU has developed close links with the G5 Sahel in support of its work towards sustainable peace and development, including regular political dialogues and three CSDP missions to train and advise the G5 Sahel national armies and Joint Force. The recent coup in Mali has led to the suspension of some forms of cooperation between the EU and the G5 Sahel. However, while efforts to find common ground for action and to build a lasting partnership with unstable countries remains a challenge, the EU is not ready to leave this strategic field to other players.

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 ...

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.

Migration [What Think Tanks are thinking]

19-10-2018

At the European Council meeting on 18 October, European Union Heads of State or Government vowed to step up the fight against illegal migration, by intensifying efforts to crack down on smuggling networks, protect external borders and cooperate with countries of origin and transit. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, although the leaders noted that illegal border crossings into the EU have declined by ...

At the European Council meeting on 18 October, European Union Heads of State or Government vowed to step up the fight against illegal migration, by intensifying efforts to crack down on smuggling networks, protect external borders and cooperate with countries of origin and transit. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, although the leaders noted that illegal border crossings into the EU have declined by 95 % from their peak in October 2015. The leaders also said in their conclusions that a joint task force should be established at Europol's European Migrant Smuggling Centre. The European Commission is to propose a comprehensive set of implementation measures by December, and the leaders urged the European Parliament and Council to examine promptly the recent proposals on the Return Directive, the Asylum Agency and the European Border and Coast Guard. This note offers links to commentaries and studies on migration by major international think tanks. Earlier papers on the same topic can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking', published in June 2018.

The migration challenge [What Think Tanks are thinking]

21-06-2018

Next week, European Union Heads of State or Government will discuss the politically charged issue of reforming the EU’s migration and asylum policies. Divisions among EU members over how to handle migrants were exposed again earlier this month when Italy’s new government tightened its migration policy, while the German ruling coalition faced a potentially destabilising rift over the issue. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and war in the Middle ...

Next week, European Union Heads of State or Government will discuss the politically charged issue of reforming the EU’s migration and asylum policies. Divisions among EU members over how to handle migrants were exposed again earlier this month when Italy’s new government tightened its migration policy, while the German ruling coalition faced a potentially destabilising rift over the issue. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and war in the Middle East and Africa. Although the 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey significantly slowed the influx of migrants into Europe, the problem continues to be used for political gain by nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist movements across the EU. This note offers links to commentaries and studies on migration by major international think tanks. Earlier papers on the same topic can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking', published in March 2018.

The EU and Africa [What Think Tanks are thinking]

17-11-2017

The European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) will hold their fifth summit on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, with the aim of strengthening political and economic relations between the two continents. The focus of the meeting is on investing in youth, which is a priority for Africa, where 60 % of the population is under the age of 25. Other key topics include security, governance and democracy, human rights, migration and mobility, as well as investment and trade, skills development ...

The European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) will hold their fifth summit on 29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, with the aim of strengthening political and economic relations between the two continents. The focus of the meeting is on investing in youth, which is a priority for Africa, where 60 % of the population is under the age of 25. Other key topics include security, governance and democracy, human rights, migration and mobility, as well as investment and trade, skills development and job creation. Relations between Africa and the European Union are governed by partially overlapping policy frameworks. The most important ones are the EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement from 2000 and the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) agreed in 2007. Relations with Northern African countries are governed by the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) launched in 2008 and the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). This note offers links to a series of recent studies from major international think tanks and research institutes on EU-African relations and other issues related to the continent and its countries. More reports on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’ published in October 2017.

State of Play of EU-Mauritania Relations

23-02-2017

Mauritania, an important ally of the EU in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, faces several inter-related development challenges: ensuring an efficient use of the revenue derived from natural resources, economic diversification and improved governance. The severity of these development challenges is increased by difficult political relations between the three main ethnic groups in the country, the dominant group being the Arab-Berber Bidhan. They constitute less than one-third of the country ...

Mauritania, an important ally of the EU in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel, faces several inter-related development challenges: ensuring an efficient use of the revenue derived from natural resources, economic diversification and improved governance. The severity of these development challenges is increased by difficult political relations between the three main ethnic groups in the country, the dominant group being the Arab-Berber Bidhan. They constitute less than one-third of the country’s population, but dominate economically and politically. The Haratin, the largest group in the country, is made up of descendants of black Africans enslaved by the Bidhan (freed or still enslaved). The third group in the country is the West Africans or Black Mauritanians. Mauritania’s post-independence history is marked by repeated attempts by this group to assert its non-Arab identity and claim for a more equitable share of political and economic power. The tension that these divisions create is a problem in itself, but they can also be appropriated by violent Islamist insurgencies in the region. The urgency of this challenge is further complicated by the likelihood of increased climate change effects that the country is currently not adequately prepared for. This study therefore discusses the main political, economic and development challenges that contemporary Mauritania is faced with, illustrating how these challenges can only be properly grasped with consideration to their historical evolution. Based on this, the study investigates the current basis for EU-Mauritania relations and suggests a select number of policy areas for consideration, as this relationship continues to evolve around issues of mutual concern such as security and development.

The European Year for Development: Peace and Stability

07-05-2015

Conflict and poverty have a circular relation: violence negatively affects development and vice versa – poverty is often one of the root causes of conflict. The EU has long recognised the need for conflict prevention, resolution and peace building, as well as for addressing the root causes of conflict, which include poverty, weak governance and human rights abuses. The EU increasingly works to better harmonise its security and development objectives, as well as to coordinate its external policy tools ...

Conflict and poverty have a circular relation: violence negatively affects development and vice versa – poverty is often one of the root causes of conflict. The EU has long recognised the need for conflict prevention, resolution and peace building, as well as for addressing the root causes of conflict, which include poverty, weak governance and human rights abuses. The EU increasingly works to better harmonise its security and development objectives, as well as to coordinate its external policy tools in a 'comprehensive approach'. The European Parliament (EP) has welcomed this coordination, while also asking that anti-poverty objectives not be marginalised, and that humanitarian aid not serve political ends. The EU has dedicated financial instruments for promoting peace; they include the African Peace Facility and the Instrument contributing to Security and Peace. The EP has also underscored the need for a long-term engagement with fragile states and for ensuring that women participate in resolving conflicts and building democracy.

Algeria’s Underused Potential in Security Cooperation in the Sahel Region

24-06-2013

Algeria is a regional power in both economic, political and military terms. Up to now, relations between the EU and Algeria have been mainly based on economic considerations. The crisis in Mali, the Franco-African military intervention (AFISMA) and the terrorist attacks at the gas facility In Amenas in eastern Algeria have opened a new window of opportunity for reinforced cooperation in the field of security between Algeria and the EU in order to combat common threats. Given its strong military power ...

Algeria is a regional power in both economic, political and military terms. Up to now, relations between the EU and Algeria have been mainly based on economic considerations. The crisis in Mali, the Franco-African military intervention (AFISMA) and the terrorist attacks at the gas facility In Amenas in eastern Algeria have opened a new window of opportunity for reinforced cooperation in the field of security between Algeria and the EU in order to combat common threats. Given its strong military power and political stature in the region, Algeria has the potential to develop into an important ally of the EU in the Sahel region. The probable transfer of presidential powers in Algeria will offer a chance for Algeria to reshape its policy in the region, as an assertive and constructive regional power not only in the Maghreb but also in West Africa.

The Involvement of Salafism/Wahhabism in the Support and Supply of Arms to Rebel Groups around the World

11-06-2013

The war in Afghanistan is undoubtedly a key moment in the emergence of an armed rebellion in the Muslim world. The impact of this conflict quickly exceeded the borders of Afghanistan to extend Pakistan. Since then, the Iraq war, the civil war that engulfed Syria and the armed conflict in the Sahel have helped to increase guerrillas in the Muslim world. This study aims to analyze the role of the Salafi / Wahhabi networks in financing and arming rebel groups.

The war in Afghanistan is undoubtedly a key moment in the emergence of an armed rebellion in the Muslim world. The impact of this conflict quickly exceeded the borders of Afghanistan to extend Pakistan. Since then, the Iraq war, the civil war that engulfed Syria and the armed conflict in the Sahel have helped to increase guerrillas in the Muslim world. This study aims to analyze the role of the Salafi / Wahhabi networks in financing and arming rebel groups.

External author

Claude MONIQUET (European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center - ESISC, Belgium)

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