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The Sahel region – Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, Senegal, and Nigeria – is a volatile region subjected to many crises: regarding food, nutrition, climate and security. If those countries were considered before priorities of the French international aid for several years, the outcome is still pending. Yet, the situation is urgent.
After a severe drought in a main part of the region during the 2017 rainy season, the Sahel region is to face a major hunger crisis. This drought adds itself to a persistence, even an increase of the violence and unrest in some areas, where an actual vicious circle has settled: the lack of development results in conflicts, and the tensions trigger even more poverty and hunger.
To sum up, throughout the Sahelian region, 24 million people need help; among them 11 million suffer from food insecurity. 4.7 million of them are children who are affected by severe malnutrition, and more than 3 million are displaced people or refugees.
"“When one person out of five in need of humanitarian aid lives in the Sahel, this aid only stands for 12% of the international humanitarian aid budget"
If France has put for several years the Sahelian countries at the top of its agenda, none of those countries is among the top ten recipients of humanitarian aid. Except for the Burkina Faso, the French contribution to the Sahelian countries has even diminished between 2015 and 2016.
Furthermore, the development aid from France and the European Union has been more and more used those last years as a mean to control migrations. The main risk is the misappropriation of the development aid, which is supposed to meet the populations’ needs, at the advantage of this political agenda that aims to curb migrations.
In July 2017, spurred by France and Germany, the Sahel Alliance has been created as a space for cooperation between some donors and the G5 Sahel countries. The geographical borders of the Alliance cover the following countries of the G5 Sahel: Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Total, 7,5 billion Euros are to be invested before 2023 in order to fund about 500 development projects within six priority areas: young people’s employability and education – agriculture, rural development and food security – energy and climate – governance, decentralization and basic services – homeland security.
The aim carried out by the Sahel Alliance of redesigning a new development through more effective and coordinated actions between the funders is to be acknowledged. Yet, except the objective of fostering the cooperation between the funders and the countries of the G5 Sahel, it is hard today to figure out to what tangible extent the Sahel Alliance will constitute a new development opportunity for the Sahel region.
First, because at the exception of the 7.5 billion Euros of identified projects, there is no intent from the funders to commit any additional funding toward the Sahelian countries to address the humanitarian crises and to deal with the development stakes. This means that an approach based on the development and humanitarian stakes is a prerequisite, in default of an approach based on security and development stakes.
The six chosen areas, which constitute the investment pillars, represent true opportunities to tackle the demographic, social and economic stakes and poverty as well. However, the chosen indicators do not always overlap with the field reality, and can hardly be measurable. Some essential stakes do not appear in the approach fostered by the Sahel Alliance, such as the inclusion of malnutrition or of gender.