The Coalition for the Sahel
The Coalition for the Sahel was announced at the Pau Summit on 13 January 2020 by the Heads of State of Burkina Faso, Chad, France, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the European Council, the European Union High Representative, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary General of La Francophonie.
The seriousness of the crisis in the Sahel, the urgent need to act and the scale of the needs required a stronger, more inclusive response. This is the goal of the Coalition for the Sahel. The creation of this Coalition, which had long been called for by the G5 Sahel, is a strong sign of solidarity with the Sahel States.
It enhances the visibility of the international engagement and is a guarantee of long-term support. It increases and optimizes this international support, facilitating exchanges and interactions, and thereby the establishment of a common approach.
The goal is also to address all the causes of the crisis. The solution is not just security: efforts must be made as regards redeploying government administrations and services, as well as development needs.
The International Coalition for the Sahel promotes a comprehensive approach at regional level including all levers and actors involved in the Sahel, whether they be military, security, political or development actors, but does not replace existing decision-making processes.
The Coalition also helps facilitate full access for humanitarian aid and ensure that international humanitarian law is observed.
"[…] this joint action is aimed at protecting civilians, defending the sovereignty of the G5 Sahel states […], preventing the terrorist threat from spreading into bordering countries – the goal being to restore stability, the essential precondition for development.” "
In a poor security and humanitarian situation, the Coalition for the Sahel offers a new framework for international action, across four complementary pillars which are each steered independently.
Pillar 1: Fighting armed terrorist groups
The aim is to fight against armed terrorist groups by coordinating all of the efforts led by armed forces of G5 Sahel countries and the G5 Sahel Joint Force (G5SJF) with their operational partners – Barkhane, MINUSMA, Takuba Task Force – with priority given to the Three-Borders region (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso). Faced with a poor security situation and the possibility of the threat expanding beyond the borders of the G5 Sahel countries, the aim is to create the conditions required for stabilization and development work.
Due to multiple obstacles created by the Malian authorities, in February 2022 Canada and the European States collaborating with Operation Barkhane within the Takuba Task Force concluded that the political, operational and legal conditions were no longer in place to effectively perform their current counter-terrorism commitments in Mali and that they would thus begin a coordinated withdrawal of their relevant military resources from Malian territory.
At the request of their African partners, they did, however, agree to continue their joint counter-terrorism work in the Sahel region, including in Niger and the Gulf of Guinea, and began political and military consultations with them in order to set out the details of this shared action by June 2022.
Pillar 2: Building the capacities of the armed forces in the region
The Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel (P3S), initiated by France and Germany during the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August 2019, aims to identify security needs and increase support efforts in the fields of defence and internal security.
The Coalition’s second pillar aims to coordinate all the defence capacity building actions for G5 countries, and in particular all of the offers of training and equipment for national armed forces and the G5 Sahel Joint Force (G5-SJF).
The European Union is supporting the G5 Sahel, particularly through the “African Peace Facility” and the EUTM Mali military training and strategic advice mission. This mission, which was launched in January 2013, advises the Malian Defence Ministry and aims to advise, train and coach the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa). It also supports the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Discussions are underway on how the mission should unfold in light of the current political situation in Mali. The EUTM Mali mid-term strategic review should take place at the end of April 2022.
While the European Union contributes to all pillars of the Coalition, it also co-manages pillars 2 and 3 of the Coalition for the Sahel with the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat, in line with the European Union’s Integrated Strategy in the Sahel, adopted in April 2021.
Pillar 3. Supporting the return of the State and administrations in the territory; improving access to basic services
In the framework of the effort to identify the priority needs of the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel (P3S), this pillar aims to coordinate all available training and equipment for national internal security forces (police, gendarmerie, national guard) and the G5 Sahel Joint Force’s provost marshals. The aim is to help bolster the sovereign function of the State. Enhancing the State’s presence also entails rebuilding the legal capacities and local administration of the G5 countries, with priority for the most fragile areas. It also prioritizes access to public and basic services for populations impacted by the crises. This action is part of a stabilizing approach to meet their short-term needs and complements the implementation of more long-term development projects (closely linked to Pillar 4).
The European Union also provides support under Pillar 3, until 2020 via former financial instruments (Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP)) and now via the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI – Global Europe) and EU civilian missions (EUCAP Sahel Niger and Mali). Discussions are underway on how the civilian mission in Mali should unfold in light of the current political situation in Mali. The mid-term strategic review will take place in September 2022.
The European Union also co-manages this pillar with the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat, in line with the European Union’s Integrated Strategy in the Sahel, adopted in April 2021.
Pillar 4: Assisting development
Development assistance is currently coordinated through two main bodies: the G5 Sahel, created in 2014, and the Sahel Alliance, launched on 13 July 2017 by France, Germany and the European Union.
The fourth pillar aims to respond to challenges regarding employment, poverty, education, healthcare and infrastructure in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
These contributions are spearheaded by the Sahel Alliance (26 members including 9 observer members; over 913 projects totalling €22 billion), in collaboration with the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat. The Executive Secretariat helps to identify activities, ensure good coordination between actions and distribute roles and/or geographical areas. It therefore guarantees the overall efficiency of development work, in coherence with the political, security and military aspects.
The aim of this pillar is also to support the return of government services and decentralization, so as to build confidence between public authorities and local people. The European Union is contributing to this development effort by mobilizing NDICI – Global Europe around the world.
To implement these four pillars, the Secretariat of the Coalition for the Sahel operates as a platform of services for international partners working in the Sahel.
Acting as a real political interface aiming at promoting a cross-cutting vision of the Sahel’s issues, the Secretariat intends to:
1. Hold political dialogue in order to better coordinate international actions in the Sahel;
2. Ensure more effective sharing of information on the actions conducted by Coalition partners;
3. Foster discussion on cross-cutting, cross-pillar action conducted in the Sahel;
4. Communicate on progress being made by the Coalition in order to mobilize the Coalition for the Sahel partners and the general public and to incorporate a cross-cutting vision of the Sahel’s problems in international political debate.
France agreed to support this momentum for increased coordination and mobilization of international partners by running the Secretariat of the Coalition for the Sahel (SCS) until it was moved to Brussels in 2021. Comprising personnel seconded by Canada, Chad, France and Italy, the SCS Secretariat is now fully operational under the authority of the High Representative, Djimé Adoum, in offices located in Brussels. It plays an essential coordinating role between the G5 Sahel, the European Union, the Secretariat of the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel (S-P3S) and the Sahel Alliance Coordination Unit (ACU).
After the N’Djamena Summit: a new roadmap
The G5 Sahel Summit in N’Djamena on 15-16 February 2021, attended by France and other international partners, defined new shared commitments which had been set in motion at the Pau Summit. The G5 Sahel Heads of State, who were convinced of the need to move beyond a security response, undertook to implement a “civil and political leap forward” aimed at expediting the deployment of their civil service and public services in crisis-hit areas in order to restore lasting peace. The G5 Sahel Member States also reiterated their desire to see France and its partners continue their military commitment to the region.
A year after the official launch of the Coalition for the Sahel in March 2020, the Foreign Ministers of the Coalition members met on 19 March 2021 for the Second ministerial meeting in order to adopt its roadmap, setting out the commitments defined at the N’Djamena Summit and defining clear and precise milestones regarding:
• specific counter-terrorism actions;
• capacity building of national defence and security forces;
• support for G5 Sahel governments in undertaking reforms on rule of law and more transparent and inclusive governance. These efforts will require action from the government, administration and basic services as well as the creation of interministerial political mechanisms in G5 Sahel countries.
See the Joint informal communiqué from the Secretariat of the Sahel Coalition, the Presidency of the G5 Sahel, the Executive Secretariat of the G5 Sahel and the European Union on the Sahel Coalition website
The sixth ordinary summit of the G5 Sahel was held on 25 February 2020 in Nouakchott, in the presence of G5 Heads of State. The Secretariat of the G5 Sahel, renamed the “executive secretariat”, reaffirmed its commitment to consolidating cooperation in the field of fighting against terrorism and continuing joint military efforts.
Alongside this summit, the first General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance, chaired by the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, mobilized the international community around shared commitments involving the development of the Sahel. The Sahel Alliance committed to taking action first and foremost in the most fragile areas of the Sahel region, to working towards better coordination between the security and development pillars and enhancing the coordination and flexibility of the methods of intervention.
The General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance was an opportunity for partners mobilized for the Sahel region to adopt the principle of an integrated territorial approach to coordinate, ensure coherence and, where necessary, concentrate efforts in priority areas. The aim is to start with a joint identification of fragile areas and areas in crisis and define joint or shared objectives through and for the actors in the 4 pillars.
The Takuba Task Force
The Takuba Task Force was launched on 27 March 2020 at the request of the Malian authorities, and is part of the first pillar of the Coalition for the Sahel, focusing on counter-terrorism. Under the command of Operation Barkhane, the initiative aims to mobilize, alongside France, special forces from European partners to carry out “Advise, Assist and Accompany (3A)” missions alongside the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) until they are fully autonomous and operational.
Deployed in Liptako (Three-Borders region with Burkina Faso and Niger), where there is a strong presence of armed terrorist groups, the Takuba Task Force is an innovative coalition comprising 10 European countries and over 800 soldiers. Predominantly made up of European special forces, it has trained several light reconnaissance and intervention units (ULRI), led several joint operations against terrorist groups and thus secured the main towns in Liptako.
It carried out its mission in coordination with G5 Sahel partners, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s civilian and military missions (EUTM Mali, EUCAP Mali and EUCAP Niger).
The Takuba Task Force has been in Liptako since July 2020 and reached its full operational capability (FOC) in April 2021. Despite the results achieved and the excellent cooperation with Malian armed forces on the ground, political stances and decisions taken by the Malian transitional authorities led the countries participating in Takuba to announce the withdrawal of their troops from Mali in February 2022. In light of the success achieved regarding the rapid empowerment of local armed forces, the Takuba Task Force model could inspire fresh initiatives outside of Mali if an African partner makes such a request and the interested contributing countries have the approval of their national parliaments.