The activities of the Sahel Alliance since its formation demonstrate some of the wide-ranging ambitions for European and international policy in the region. But the Alliance has also revealed the difficulties facing efforts to coordinate ongoing work and make existing and future policies more effective. Confusion surrounding European programmes and international strategies in the Sahel has been made all the more serious by the worsening security situation there.

France, Germany, and Sahel countries launched the Sahel Alliance in 2017 with the aim of bringing together major international donors to better coordinate development assistance and other financing efforts for the region. The Alliance aimed to integrate security, development, and governance perspectives but has struggled to find coherence and effectiveness – although it has adopted some novel approaches. The worsening security situation in the Sahel led international actors to then set up new initiatives, including the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel and, more recently, the Coalition for the Sahel. However, the relationship between these initiatives remains largely theoretical, with the practicalities of cooperation and burden sharing yet to be fully defined.

What needs to be done

Ensure that coordination mechanisms like the Coalition for the Sahel Secretariat have real authority. While over-institutionalisation of coordinating mechanisms is a risk, these efforts must be genuinely multilateral and sufficiently staffed and funded to have the impact they are intended to have.

Expand multilateral training missions where governing conditions allow, but also make sure that contributors can accompany troops into the field. This would clarify some of the ambiguity that exists in the language of current mandates. Seriously consider designating individuals for sanctions for impeding progress in the implementation of the peace process. Government officials should also be eligible for sanctions.