As leaders of the G7 countries met with representatives of the G5 Sahel countries in Biarritz, Action Against Hunger and the Norwegian Refugee Council expressed deep concern at their failure to agree meaningful measures to address the crisis in the Sahel region. Instead of scaling up the humanitarian response, guaranteeing the protection of civilians and making solid 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, sidelining the urgent needs of civilians in the region once again.
In the past year, around one million people have 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-defense 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 non-governmental organisations have unrestricted access to these populations to deliver aid,” said 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 can safely deliver life-saving assistance to people in need.
Beyond humanitarian action, the newly-launched "Partnership for Stability and Security in Africa” 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 for all - health, water, education - and support for small-scale farmers to develop agro-ecology practices and enhance their resilience to the climate crisis. Yet no new funds were pledged by G7 leaders in Biarritz for the Sahel region 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,” said Michael Siegel, Advocacy Advisor for Action Against Hunger in France.