Crossing the wilderness: Europe and the Sahel

European Defence Studies

Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe

Rooted in a heavy colonial heritage, cyclical water and land scarcity, rapid population growth, widespread unemployment, weak governance and multiple community conflicts, the security situation in the Sahel has experienced a significant degradation in recent years, now worsened by disruptive impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight years after France’s military intervention at the request of the Malian government, the region has experienced an uptick in violence. The numbers of civilian casualties and displaced persons continues to rise, food insecurity has worsened and the footprint of jihadist groups has expanded southwards and westwards.

Recent developments in the region, including the N’Djamena summit, the new European strategy, the untimely death of Chadian President Idriss Deby and kidnappings of European citizens have further sharpened the interest for finding a new approach to creating peace and stability in the Sahel.

Based on a range of interviews with African, European and US policymakers, military commanders, civil society activists and relief workers, this report explores the realities on the ground, from a variety of perspectives, including development and climate, among others. The report considers how European, African and international policies can be adapted to achieve stability and a better outcome for the peoples of the Sahel and produces a set of recommendations to capitalise on existing efforts and create new opportunities to secure peace and stability, crucial for development and ending the cycle of conflict.

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.

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