Members' Research Service By / June 17, 2016

EU security strategy in the Sahel

Written by Eric Pichon, [last update : 17 June 2016] The Sahel, a band of desert stretching across Africa – from Senegal…

(c) EU - EUTM

Written by Eric Pichon,

[last update : 17 June 2016]

EU Security strategy in the SahelThe Sahel, a band of desert stretching across Africa – from Senegal in the West to Eritrea in the East, is a crisis-shaken region where frontiers blur. Poverty and the fragility of state infrastructures have given free rein to parallel powers, militias, arms-runners and drug dealers.

Added to the food crisis, political instability and insecurity here, almost at Europe’s back door, have made the Sahel a particular concern for the European Union. In 2011, the European Union set up a new “Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel”, which has been confirmed and renewed in 2015. EU missions are currently deployed in Niger and Mali, alongside UN, French and African Union forces, a mix which makes a streamlined approach somewhat difficult.

EPRS publication

Eric Pichon. Sahel: stratégie de l’UE pour la sécurité et le développement . Briefing, EPRS, May 2016, 8 p.


Monitoring de la stabilité régionale dans le bassin sahélien et en Afrique de l’ouest . GRIP Groupe de recherche et d’information sur la la paix et la sécurité.
A follow up of the security situation in West African countries (esp. Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal).

More documents from GRIP:

Fix the unfixable Dealing with full-blown crisis and instability: How to bring greater stability to the Sahel? Clingendael Institute (NL), Policy Brief, 12/2015, 14 p.
16 different ‘stabilisation strategies’ are deployed in Sahel the region suffer from a  lack of coordination The author advocates for a broader dialogue between all local, regional and international actors.

Alec Crawford. Climate change and state fragility in the Sahel . Fride, 06/2015, 6 p.
Sahel countries are highly affected by climate change: from the  70 temperatures in the Sahel have increased twice as fast as the rest  of the world; rainfall varies with greater scale, increasing  frequency and intensity of drought and floods.

Libya: a growing hub for Criminal Economies and Terrorist Financing in the Trans-Sahara. The Global Initiative agains Transnational Organized Crime, 05/2015, 10 p.
Gaddafi’s fall and the dismantling of Libyan security services have accelerated the proliferation of weapons across the Sahel area.

People’s perspectives of organised crime in West Africa and the Sahel = Points de vue de la population sur la criminalité organisée en Afrique de l’Ouest et au Sahel / Mark Shaw and Tuesday Reitano, ISS Papers, 16 April 2014, 20 p.
How does the inabitants of Sahel (interviewed in Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger) perceive trafficking in a context of weeak governance and poverty?


European Union statements and programmes

European Parliament

resolutions and initiatives on Sahel

Council of the European Union

Foreign Affairs Council Meetings conclusions:

European External Action Service

Factsheet: the European Union and the Sahel , EEAS, [regularly updated].

EU Special representative in Sahel

Crisis response: Sahel , EEAS

A backgrounder on the events and the various actions and programmes in the region. A list of documents and statements is included (though some not in their latest versions).

EU programmes and projects

EUCAP Sahel Niger mission – EUCAP Sahel Mali

This missions aim at supporting Mali and Niger’s authorities in building their own capacities to fight organised crime and terrorism in the Sahel.

EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM)

On 10 December 2012, the EU foreign ministers agreed to plan a military training mission aimed at helping the Malian army to regain control of the north of the country after it fell under Islamist control. Staff from 23 EU member states is deployed in Bamako. On  15/04/2014 the Council of the EU extended the mission by two years (until 18 May 2016).


Analysis from European Parliament DG EXPO

Une stratégie cohérente de l’UE pour le Sahel: étude / European Parliament, Policy Department External Policies, Mai 2012

A critical evaluation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.

Algeria’s underused potential in security cooperation in the Sahel region / Martina Lagatta et al. European Parliament, DG EXPO Policy Briefing, June 2013, 18 p.

“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.”


The Neighbours of the European Union’s Neighbours: Diplomatic and Geopolitical Dimensions beyond the European Neighbourhood Policy/ Erwan Lannon, and Sieglinde Gstöhl (ed.). Ashgate, 2014.

EU Security Policy and Crisis Management: A Quest for Coherence/ Nicole Koening. Routledge, 2016.

Think Tanks

Several think tanks publish series devoted to the Sahel : see in particular the work of :

  • Damien Helly et al. for the European Centre for Development Policy Management ;
  • Bérangère Rouppert for the Group for Research and Information on Peace and security (GRIP);
  • Clingendael , the Netherlands Institute for International Relations
  • The Broker regularly updates Sahel watch : a living analysis of the conflict in Mali .”

Laurent Bossard. Building Peace in the Sahel: A Regional Perspective . GREAT Insights, Vol. 4, no. 1, 27/11/2014.
Regional cooperation is crucial for long lasting security and stability in the Sahel but is difficult to implement.

Joining up security in the Sahel. Africa Confidential , Vol. 55, no. 9, pp. 10–11, 2 May 2014.
The EU faces many obstacles to set up a regional cooperation on security (in particular the rivalry between Algeria and Morocco).

Why the Sahel urgently needs an EU backed security framework; The EU has a role to play, but Africans must lead . Europe’s World, 15 January 2014.
The former UN Special Representative to West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, explains why a strong European commitment will be key to the region’s security and stability. But, according to Hans Hoebeke, Senior research fellow at the Africa Programme at the Royal Institute for International Relations (Belgium), “the EU and key member states active in the wider region, in collaboration with other international actors, in particular the U.S. and the UN, should focus on creating and reinforcing regional collaboration.”


[A first version of this post was published in December 2012 by Caroline Renuart]

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