Europe in the Sahel: Between Development and Security Interests

The Sahel region, the narrow stripe of land along the southern border of the Saharan Desert constitutes a geopolitical corridor. Since years, it confronts its regional actors and the international community with a vast set of severe challenges including extreme poverty and lack of development, weak state structures, human and arms trafficking and terrorist insurgencies. 

National guard trainees benefit from a joint training by EUCAP Sahel Mali and UNPOL MINUSMA on the protection of high-ranking people. Photo by: MINUSMA / Marco Dormino / CC BY-NC-SA

Radical groups are using the earnings of organised crime to provide services, employment and protection to vulnerable local communities. For its inhabitants, these groups seem to be the best or only alternative as providers of security. Poor prospects are making people leave their homes, leading to irregular migration to neighbouring countries but also to Europe. 

As the international community fears a further deepening of the Sahel‘s instability, the region is higher on the agenda of international politics than it has ever been. Currently, several international interventions take place, including the French Operation Barkhane, the United Nations’ MINUSMA and the EU operations CIVCAP Sahel and EUTM Mali. 

Despite all these efforts, the situation on the ground is not improving.Now, the international community must find an answer to the question:
How can the priorities of international actors be combined with local needs of the region?
What is the right balance between Security and Development?


Morten Bøås (Research professor at NUPI) and Halvor Sætre (Special Representative of Norway for the Sahel, UD) will shed further light on these highly complex and topical issues. 

Published Jan. 31, 2019 4:09 PM - Last modified Jan. 31, 2019 4:09 PM