Aigachatou, a single mother and her children, standing in front of their makeshift tent after fleeing violence in Timbuktu. Credit: TOGO Moise/NRC

Sahel crisis: G7 leaders and African partners fail to take strong commitments in Biarritz

Published 26. Aug 2019
As leaders of the G7 countries met with representatives of the G5 Sahel countries yesterday in Biarritz, Norwegian Refugee Council and Action Against Hunger are deeply concerned by the lack of strong measures to address the crisis in the Sahel region.

Instead of scaling up the humanitarian response, guaranteeing the protection of civilians and taking strong financial commitments to fight the root causes of hunger and inequality in the Sahel, G7 leaders launched a partnership with African partners that puts their own security strategy interests first, while other urgent needs of civilians in the region are once again side-lined.   

In the past year, around 1 million people had to flee their homes due to insecurity and violence. In Burkina Faso, Mali and western Niger displacement has increased five-fold.  

“The first victims of this cycle of violence are civilians. They are killed, they are injured, they are threatened; and their only chance to survive is to flee. Today, people are caught between armed groups, self-defence militias, and military forces. The protection of civilians is a major concern, especially in places where the state authority has been absent. International and African leaders should have used the opportunity in Biarritz to ensure that NGOs have unrestricted access to these populations to deliver aid” says Hassane Hamadou, NRC´s Country Director in Mali.

However, the surge in attention to and presence from G7 leaders in the Sahel has once again focused largely on a military solution to the problem. This large scale presence of military and political actors in the midst of a conflict setting, threatens the independence of humanitarian action, which is the only way we can ensure that we safely can deliver lifesaving assistance to people in need.

Beyond humanitarian action, “the Partnership for Stability and Security in Africa” launched yesterday in Biarritz focuses primarily on extended military cooperation to fight terrorism and fails to tackle the root causes of inequality and hunger. What civilians in the Sahel need right now are ambitious financial commitments to guarantee access to basic services (health, water, education) for all and support small-scale farmers in developing agro-ecology and resilience to the climate crisis. But no new funds have been pledged for the Sahel region by G7 leaders and initiatives on agro-ecology in the Sahel have been blocked by the United States.

“World hunger has increased for the third consecutive year in 2018 and the Sahel is the region which has been impacted the most. The only way for international and regional powers to reverse this worrying trend would have been to commit to new funds to support sustainable development in the region. Sadly the G7 and G5 Sahel leaders have failed to rise up to the expectations of previous G7 Summits ” says Michael Siegel, Advocacy Advisor for Action Against Hunger in France.