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The Sahel region faces a number of pressing challenges such as extreme poverty, frequent food crises, high population growth rates, institutional weaknesses, irregular migration and related crimes such as trafficking in human beings and migrant smuggling. Violent extremism also poses serious security challenges to the region and have potential spill-over effects outside the region, including Europe.
In March 2011, the EU adopted a comprehensive approach to the Sahel region, using as reference an EU Strategy for Security and Development ("Sahel Strategy").
This Strategy remains the key framework for EU action at both individual and collective levels to help countries in the wider Sahel-Sahara region address key security and development challenges. In March 2014, EU Foreign Affairs extended the Strategy to Burkina Faso and Chad in addition to Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Ministers also asked for the development of a new Regional Action Plan for the implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel.
The Action Plan was adopted by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on April 20 2015 and was reviewed and updated beginning of June 2016. With the establishment of this comprehensive framework for EU's action in the Sahel region, the EU reiterates its readiness to continue working closely with the Sahel countries to support their efforts to achieve peace, security and development.
The Sahel Regional Action Plan (RAP), adopted in 2015, has taken the implementation of the EU Sahel Strategy to the next steps. It identifies actions and initiatives for years to come, in coordination with Member States' activities, and constitutes a framework for EU's action in the Sahel region. The four key priorities are: 1) Preventing and countering radicalisation, 2) Creating appropriate conditions for Youth, 3) Migration and mobility, 4) Border management, fight against illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime.
The Action Plan is implemented with the full ownership and under the primary responsibility of the countries concerned, and in coordination with key international and regional organisations. It will combine the contribution by EU activities, instruments and resources with those of the EU Member States
The new EU Special Representative for the Sahel, Mr Angel Losada, was appointed in December 2015 replacing Michel Reveyrand de Menthon. In this role, he plays a key part in reaching out to the region and in guiding EU action in support of regional and international efforts in favour of peace, security and sustainable development in the Sahel. He is also mandated to help coordinate the EU's overall approach to the crisis, using the EU Sahel Strategy as a basis.
The EUSR's mandate covers the engagement with all relevant stakeholders of the region, in particular G5 Sahel as a regional organisation but also governments, international organisations, civil society and diasporas, including with the countries of the Maghreb and Lake Chad Basin. The EUSR also represents the EU in relevant regional and international fora, including participation in the Comité de Suivi of the Mali Peace Agreement, and ensures visibility for Union's support to crisis management and conflict prevention, including EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger.
The EU's comprehensive approach to security and development in the Sahel includes three CSDP actions: EUCAP Sahel Niger, EUCAP Sahel Mali and the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM).
The EU launched a civilian CSDP mission, EUCAP SAHEL Niger, in 2012 with the objective to support the country in fighting terrorism and organised crime. EUCAP Sahel Niger provides advice and training to support the Nigerien security institutions (Police, Gendarmerie, National Guard) in strengthening their capacities to combat terrorism and organised crime, in line with the EU Strategy for Security and Development. The mission promotes the interoperability of Nigerien security forces, helps develop criminal investigation capacities, facilitate coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and improve the sustainability of the security forces.
In January 2015, the Council launched EUCAP Sahel Mali, a civilian CSDP mission in Mali. The mission's task is to support the Malian internal security forces in ensuring constitutional and democratic order, putting in place the conditions for lasting peace as well as maintaining State authority throughout the entire territory. The mission advises and trains the three internal security forces in Mali, i.e. the police, Gendarmerie and Garde Nationale, and coordinates with international partners. The current mandate of the mission runs until 15 January 2017.
At the request of Mali and in line with relevant international decisions including UNSC Resolution 2085 (2012), the EU launched an EU military Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) in 2013. Its mandate currently runs, after a strategic review held in February 2016, until May 2018.
The mission supports the rebuilding of the Malian armed forces and to meet their operational needs by providing expertise and advice, in particular as regards command and control, logistical chains, human resources and international humanitarian law; it also helps training combat units. The mission is not involved in combat operations. It also contributes, upon Malian request and in coordination with MINUSMA, to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process framed by Peace Agreement, through the provision of training sessions in order to facilitate the reconstitution of inclusive Malian Armed Forces. The Mission finally provides support to the G5 Sahel process within the activities of EUTM Mali in support of the MAF, by contributing to enhancing coordination and interoperability with G5 Sahel national armed forces.
The EU is increasingly engaging with the 'G5 Sahel', formally created in December 2014.
The G5 Sahel comprises Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. Mauritania assured the presidency in 2014/2015 and was followed by Chad in November 2015.
The HRVP Federica Mogherini met with the G5 Sahel Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Brussels on 17 June 2015 and attended the Summit in Ndjamena on 20 November 2015, during which the EU-G5 Sahel Roadmap was adopted.
The latest Ministerial Meeting takes place on 17 June 2016 in Brussels.
The EU already has a close and substantial cooperation with each of the five Sahel countries, evolving around the National Indicative Programmes, the Regional Indicative Programmes, humanitarian assistance, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and three CSDP missions. Resources available and pledged for the five Sahel countries by the EU and its Member States amount to approximately EUR 8 billion.
The EU is also now supporting countries in the Sahel via the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.22 million extremely food insecure people and 650 000 severely malnourished children in 2015. With a contribution of €206 million in humanitarian aid for 2015 and an initial envelope of €139.1 million for 2016 , the European Commission continues to support life-saving aid in the region.