The Sahel is an area of strategic importance to Europe for several reasons, including its central position as a crossroads for uncontrolled migration to Europe and trafficking of drugs, weapons and people; the proliferation of jihadist insurgents with connections to ISIS and Al Qaeda militants in Libya and the Middle East; and the risk of destabilisation spreading to key southern Mediterranean states. Yet, without political change and a more inclusive vision, the EU risks pouring increasing amounts of money into the sands of the Sahel to achieve little improvement, while the French and their military partners are doomed to a costly and open-ended containment exercise.
Based on a range of interviews with African, European and US policymakers, military commanders, civil society activists and relief workers, Friends of Europe’s latest study will consider the state and prospects of the Sahel as well as Europe’s role in the region. This launch debate will bring together key stakeholders to discuss the recommendations and conclusions with the author of the study, Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and European Affairs Editor at Politico.
The study is the eighth in the European Defence Cooperation series, following seven similar studies on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, transatlantic defence cooperation and the Arctic.
Questions will include:
- Which objectives should the European Union and its member states realistically aim to achieve?
- How can military, diplomatic, development, humanitarian and state-building tools best be combined effectively to this aim?
- What are the potential long-term ‘exit strategies’ in the Sahel?
Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence and Contributing Editor to Politico
West and Central Africa Sahel Director at Plan International
Irina Schoulgin Nyoni
Ambassador, Deputy Director General and Head of Africa Department at Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
João Gomes Cravinho
Portuguese Minister of Defence
Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for emerging security challenges at NATO
Paul is a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and the author of Friends of Europe’s European Defence Cooperation report series. A Paris-based journalist, he also writes the “Europe at Large” column for Politico. He previously spent four decades working for Reuters as a foreign correspondent in Paris, Tehran, Bonn and Brussels, as bureau chief in Israel/Palestine, Berlin and Brussels, as chief correspondent in France, as diplomatic editor in London, and finally as European affairs editor. His assignments have included covering the Iranian revolution, the Cold War Euromissile crisis, the 1991 Gulf War, German reunification, the Maastricht summit, France in the 1990s, EU enlargement, the Eurozone crisis and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt.
Retiring from NATO in September 2018 after 38 years at the organisation, Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media, and policy planning. As NATO’s spokesperson, he was the face of the Alliance during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the Director of Policy Planning in the private office of former Secretary General Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.
Fatoumata Haidara is a Malian champion for the rights of women and girls with a demonstrated passion for human rights and social justice. She has 20 years’ experience in leadership roles at WaterAid, Oxfam, the Canadian International Development Agency and most recently, Plan International. As its current West and Central Africa Sahel Director, Haidara provides strategic leadership for the design and implementation of Plan International’s Sahel portfolio, including child rights, gender equality and community-based development initiatives. Results-oriented, she focuses on creating and delivering innovative program strategies that improve the quality of health and security of vulnerable communities.
Irina Schoulgin Nyoni is an expert diplomat with foreign affairs experience in security policy, development aid, human rights and good governance. She has worked on several peacekeeping operations, peace-building and post-conflict issues, as well as development cooperation with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Prior to this, Schoulgin Nyoni served as deputy permanent representative at the Swedish Mission to the United Nations in New York and as minister counsellor in Geneva. Her career also includes postings as ambassador-designate to Mozambique, Eswatini and Madagascar.
João Gomes Cravinho is a seasoned Portuguese diplomat and politician. Prior to his current appointment, Gomes Cravinho focused his attention on the world’s top emerging markets, acting as the EU ambassador to India and Brazil. He also served as the secretary of state for foreign affairs and cooperation in Portugal. Earlier in his career, he was a lecturer on international relations at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra, as well as a guest teacher at ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute and NOVA University Lisbon. He has also authored a book, “Visões do Mundo”, as well as numerous articles in specialised academic publications and newspapers.
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