European Union External Action

The European Union and the Sahel, fact sheet

The EU supports the Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger – in areas of shared interest such as security, migration, terrorism, the humanitarian response, resilience building and long-term development. 

The Sahel region faces a number of pressing challenges such as extreme poverty, frequent food and nutrition crises, conflict, 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 has potential spill-over effects outside the region, including Europe. 

  • Sahel Strategy

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 Ministers 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 Regional Action Plan was adopted by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 20 April 2015. 

With the establishment of this comprehensive framework for EU engagement 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. 

  • Sahel Regional Action Plan  

The Sahel Regional Action Plan (RAP) has taken the implementation of the EU Sahel Strategy to the next steps. It identifies actions and initiatives for the years to come, in coordination with Member States' activities, and constitutes a framework for EU engagement 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 EU activities, instruments and resources with those of the EU Member States 

  • EU Special Representative for the Sahel 

The current EU Special Representative for the Sahel, Mr Angel Losada, was appointed in December 2015 replacing Michel Reveyrand de Menthon. According to his mandate, 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 tasked 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 diaspora, including with the countries of the Maghreb and Lake Chad Basin. OP 44 of UNSCR 2295 specifically calls on the EUSR for the Sahel to coordinate closely with MINUSMA and other bilateral partners to assist the Malian authorities in the Security Sector Reform (SSR).The EUSR also represents the EU in relevant regional and international fora, such as the Comité de Suivi of the Mali Peace Agreement, and ensures visibility for the EU's support to crisis management and conflict prevention, including EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger. 

  • Missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)   

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 Nigerian 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, facilitates coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and improves 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 National Guard, and coordinates with international partners. The current mandate of the mission runs until 15 January 2019. 

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 in meeting 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. 

  • EU-G5 Sahel – a strengthened partnership 

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. The presidency was passed over from Chad to Mali at the third Summit of the G5 in Bamako, February 2017. 

The first high-level meeting between the High Representative / Vice –President (HR/VP) Federica Mogherini and the governments of the Member States of the G5 Sahel took place in Brussels, 17 June 2015. Discussions showed a converging analysis of the challenges faced by the region, ranging from security threats and organised crime to irregular migration, the humanitarian situation and the consequences of climate change. Sahel ministers strongly welcomed EU engagement, and the EU Regional Action Plan for the Sahel was seen as highly relevant and as a useful reference for further cooperation.

Both parties agreed to pursue dialogue on a regular basis, both at political and operational levels. The HR/VP accepted the invitation to attend the next ministerial meeting in one of the Sahel countries. A second ministerial meeting with the G5 Foreign Ministers was held on 17 June 2016 in Brussels, where the HR/VP met with the G5 Sahel Ministers of Foreign Affairs together with Commissioners Avramopoulos, Mimica and Stylianides, as well as the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank. A number of pressing issues were discussed, including the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, the need to push for stabilisation of Libya, the common fight against terrorism, the mutual responsibility for tackling irregular migration, and the need for creating appropriate conditions for youth.

The third high-level between the HR/VP and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel meeting takes place on 6 June 2017 in Bamako, Mali.

  • EU development cooperation 

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, resilience building, 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. 

  • Humanitarian assistance 

As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.55 million extremely food insecure people and 539 000 severely malnourished children in 2016. To this end and to provide assistance to conflict-affected populations, in 2016 the European Commission allocated € 179.2 million. These figures include the G5 countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger). In 2017, the European Commission continues to demonstrating EU solidarity to the most vulnerable populations in the region. 

The EU supports the Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger – in areas of shared interest such as security, migration, terrorism, the humanitarian response, resilience building and long-term development. 

The Sahel region faces a number of pressing challenges such as extreme poverty, frequent food and nutrition crises, conflict, 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 has potential spill-over effects outside the region, including Europe. 

  • Sahel Strategy

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 Ministers 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 Regional Action Plan was adopted by Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 20 April 2015. 

With the establishment of this comprehensive framework for EU engagement 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. 

  • Sahel Regional Action Plan  

The Sahel Regional Action Plan (RAP) has taken the implementation of the EU Sahel Strategy to the next steps. It identifies actions and initiatives for the years to come, in coordination with Member States' activities, and constitutes a framework for EU engagement 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 EU activities, instruments and resources with those of the EU Member States 

  • EU Special Representative for the Sahel 

The current EU Special Representative for the Sahel, Mr Angel Losada, was appointed in December 2015 replacing Michel Reveyrand de Menthon. According to his mandate, 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 tasked 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 diaspora, including with the countries of the Maghreb and Lake Chad Basin. OP 44 of UNSCR 2295 specifically calls on the EUSR for the Sahel to coordinate closely with MINUSMA and other bilateral partners to assist the Malian authorities in the Security Sector Reform (SSR).The EUSR also represents the EU in relevant regional and international fora, such as the Comité de Suivi of the Mali Peace Agreement, and ensures visibility for the EU's support to crisis management and conflict prevention, including EUTM Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger. 

  • Missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)   

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 Nigerian 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, facilitates coordination in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and improves 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 National Guard, and coordinates with international partners. The current mandate of the mission runs until 15 January 2019. 

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 in meeting 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. 

  • EU-G5 Sahel – a strengthened partnership 

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. The presidency was passed over from Chad to Mali at the third Summit of the G5 in Bamako, February 2017. 

The first high-level meeting between the High Representative / Vice –President (HR/VP) Federica Mogherini and the governments of the Member States of the G5 Sahel took place in Brussels, 17 June 2015. Discussions showed a converging analysis of the challenges faced by the region, ranging from security threats and organised crime to irregular migration, the humanitarian situation and the consequences of climate change. Sahel ministers strongly welcomed EU engagement, and the EU Regional Action Plan for the Sahel was seen as highly relevant and as a useful reference for further cooperation.

Both parties agreed to pursue dialogue on a regular basis, both at political and operational levels. The HR/VP accepted the invitation to attend the next ministerial meeting in one of the Sahel countries. A second ministerial meeting with the G5 Foreign Ministers was held on 17 June 2016 in Brussels, where the HR/VP met with the G5 Sahel Ministers of Foreign Affairs together with Commissioners Avramopoulos, Mimica and Stylianides, as well as the Vice-President of the European Investment Bank. A number of pressing issues were discussed, including the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, the need to push for stabilisation of Libya, the common fight against terrorism, the mutual responsibility for tackling irregular migration, and the need for creating appropriate conditions for youth.

The third high-level between the HR/VP and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G5 Sahel meeting takes place on 6 June 2017 in Bamako, Mali.

  • EU development cooperation 

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, resilience building, 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. 

  • Humanitarian assistance 

As one of the largest contributors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel, the European Commission has assisted 1.55 million extremely food insecure people and 539 000 severely malnourished children in 2016. To this end and to provide assistance to conflict-affected populations, in 2016 the European Commission allocated € 179.2 million. These figures include the G5 countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger). In 2017, the European Commission continues to demonstrating EU solidarity to the most vulnerable populations in the region. 

The European Union has a long-standing and strong relationship with Chad and remains committed to supporting Chad's efforts to address major challenges in security and development, fostering societal and institutional resilience. The EU acknowledges Chad's contribution to the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad area; Chad has a crucial role in the stability puzzle in the broader region (including Libya), and regional security and stability is a shared goal which, in the long run, can only be achieved through development and good governance.

In development cooperation, the EU particularly targets the most vulnerable segments of the population, and it aims at strengthening governance in line with the EU's Strategy for the Sahel. As part of the ongoing political dialogue, the EU and Chad also discuss human rights and political freedoms, which remain a challenge, and explore ways to boost regional cooperation through the G5 Sahel but also ECCAS/CEMAC.

Member States and the EU are Chad's main development cooperation partners. Through the 11th EDF (for the period 2014-2020), the National Indicative Programme foresees a support of 542 MEUR with focus on the following areas: (i) food security, nutrition and rural development; (ii) management of natural resources; (iii) strengthening the rule of law. Chad receives additional regional funding through EDF regional programs and regional ETFA projects, among others. Chad also benefits from the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (ETFA); so far five actions amounting to close to 90 MEUR have been approved and will be implemented to strengthen the resilience and contribute to the stability of the Lake Chad Basin and other fragile regions. The Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) finances several actions aiming at promoting stabilization, security and peaceful cohabitation.

Severely affected by food insecurity and currently undergoing a crisis that affects over four million people, Chad is a priority for EU's humanitarian action. The European Commission's humanitarian aid amounted to 62.36 MEUR in 2016. The funds contributed to the treatment of acutely malnourished children, multi-sectoral assistance to displaced people, as well as food assistance to the most vulnerable population during the lean season. In addition, basic support is also provided to refugees from Central African Republic and Sudan, and IDP and refugees in the Lake Chad area. 

The EU is a very active and important actor in Mali, even more since the 2012 crisis. Collectively with Member States, the EU is playing a key role in supporting the country's stability and development. EU support to Mali comprises political, security (CSDP missions), development policy and humanitarian action. 

Member States and the EU together provide annually approximately 660 MEUR and 50 percent of the overall assistance to Mali. 

Through the 11th EDF (for the period 2014-2020) National Indicative Programme, 615 MEUR will be provided to cover 4 mains sectors: (i) Peace consolidation and State reform, (ii) Rural Development and food security, (iv) Education and Infrastructure. The programme also provides support to civil society, to the National Authorizing Officer and a technical cooperation facility. Collectively, EU joint programming for development cooperation foresees to mobilize some 2 billion EUR for the 2014-2018 period. 

Under the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, 9 projects linking security and development actions for an amount of 151.5MEUR have been approved so far for Mali. The EU also provides humanitarian assistance and has had humanitarian office in Bamako since 2011, mobilising around 40 MEUR of humanitarian aid per year. 

The EU is also engaging in High level political dialogue on migration with Mali. 

Humanitarian aid: In 2016, the European Commission has allocated more than 40 MEUR to meet humanitarian needs in terms of nutrition, health and food assistance and 30 MEUR million in 2017. Aid is provided to the most vulnerable victims of the conflict as well as to vulnerable populations facing acute food and nutrition insecurity. 

The EU is Mauritania's first trading partner and its biggest donor. The Partnership Agreement on Fisheries is the most important in volume and finance which the EU has concluded. The Protocol amounts at present to 57,5MEUR per year in bilateral compensations (exploitation by the European fleets of the fishing resources in Mauritanian waters), in addition to 4.125MEUR for sectorial support.

Common interests and close cooperation in fight against irregular migration to the EU and against terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel have in the last years reinforced the partnership and has led to Mauritania being a key partner of the EU Strategy for the Sahel.

Member States and the EU together provide annually approximately 100 MEUR amounting to 36 percent of the overall assistance to Mauritania.

Through the 11th EDF (for the period 2014-2020) National Indicative Programme of 195 MEUR, a special focus is placed on (i) rural development, (ii) good governance and (iii) the improvement of the health system.  Around 350 MEUR of projects, from all cooperation instruments combined, are currently ongoing in Mauritania. Under the 10th EDF, Mauritania was chosen for the implementation of two pilot-projects in terms of security and fight against radicalisation, underscoring the role of the country as a major security interlocutor in the Sahel region. Mauritania also benefits from EDF Regional funds, supporting the construction of the Rosso bridge.

Through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, six projects amounting to 44.2MEUR were approved by the Operational Committees in 2016. These projects cover strategic priorities of the Mauritanian government such as the creation of jobs (in particular in the fisheries sector), the fight against radicalisation and the return and reintegration of irregular migrants. In addition to this, Mauritania benefits from 3 regional projects approved in 2016, including those supporting the G5 Sahel, in which Mauritanian role is crucial.

Humanitarian aid: In 2016, the European Commission's humanitarian funding totals some 12.8 MEUR. In 2017, it will receive 8.6 MEUR. This includes emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable people during the lean season as well as the treatment of severe acute malnutrition of children. Support is also provided to Malian refugees, helping to cover basis needs in M'bera camp. 

The EU remains a key political interlocutor as well as Niger's main development partner. Given Niger's role as a key transit country for irregular migrants from West Africa, the EU has a particular interest in dialogue and cooperation on migration issues and with regard to the implementation of the Valetta Action Plan. A High Level Dialogue was launched by the HR/VP when she visited Niger in September 2015 and Niger is one of the priority countries within the Partnership Framework on migration. Important steps have been taken in consolidating the EU-Niger migration dialogue and creating synergies between migration-development and security actions in the spirit of Valetta.

Member States and the EU together provide annually approximately 420 MEUR and 44 percent of the overall assistance to Niger.

Niger receives one of the highest per capita aid allocations under the 11th EDF (for the period 2014-2020), amounting to 596 MEUR.

The Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is complementing existing EU efforts and contributing to better migration management as well as addressing the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration, in particular by promoting resilience, economic and equal opportunities, and security and development. Since the launch of the Trust Fund a the Valetta Summit, Niger has been allocated 139.9 MEUR supporting 9 dedicated projects.  Niger is also covered by three regional projects supporting, i.e., West African Police Information System (WAPIS) and regional cooperation of G5 Sahel

Under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the EU also implements one short term  measure is ongoing in Niger for around 14 million EUR. It covers areas linked to security, migration and resilience the Diffa region:

The mandate of the Civilian CSDP mission EUCAP Sahel Niger supports Nigerien security institutions/forces (Police, Gendarmerie, National Guard, Armed forces) to reinforce the rule of law and Nigerien capacities to fight terrorism and organised crime, in line with the EU Strategy for Security and Development. Since May 2015, its mandate has been enlarged to a fifth objective related to migration. An antenna has been open in Agadez since April 2016.

Humanitarian aid: The European Commission's humanitarian aid totals 47.8 MEUR in 2016. In 2017, humanitarian funding is currently 42.2 MEUR. This includes basic support to the victims of Boko Haram violence in the Diffa area (food, nutrition, shelter, water and sanitation and protection), food assistance for the most vulnerable food insecure populations and the treatment of children under five suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. On the resilience side, Niger is an active partner in the Global Alliance for resilience Initiative (AGIR) (http://ec.europa.eu/echo/what/humanitarian-aid/resilience/sahel-agir_en), having developed its 3N (Nigeriens nourish Nigeriens) initiative which receives significant EU support. A policy framework and related action plan were adopted in 2016.