The Danish government has decided to strengthen its already comprehensive efforts in the West African Sahel-region, in order to address terrorism and irregular migration to Europe. With the collapse of Libya, developments in the Sahel-region affect Europe and Denmark more directly. Today the region is the primary route for migrants from West Africa to Europe. Moreover, the countries in the Sahel are faced with an increasing threat from terrorist groups such as the West African branch of the Al Qaeda.
In order to address the challenges in the region, Denmark has decided to contribute 1 million EURO to a new joint force for the regional initiative, G5 Sahel. The force is comprised of troops from the five countries that constitute the G5 Sahel; Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauretania. The purpose of the joint force is to address terrorism and cross-border organized crime such as smuggling of migrants, drugs and weapons.
The Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen states: “It is always important to work to identify regional solutions to regional challenges. And this is exactly the idea behind the strengthened cooperation between the G5 countries. The immense challenges that the Sahel countries face are of direct relevance to Europe and to Denmark. Therefore it is positive that the G5 countries have taken the initiative to establish a joint force which will address some of these challenges. And I am pleased to announce that Denmark will support the force with 1 mio. EURO. Our support will be an important contribution to the efforts to counter terrorism in the Sahel region, as well as irregular migration from West Africa to Europe.”
It is, however, not sufficient to address the inflow of migrants at the borders of Europe. Europe must invest massively in easing the migration pressure in the African countries. Together with our international partners, Denmark is actively engaged in developing and stabilizing the Sahel-region in a coordinated effort aimed at addressing the root causes of e.g. terrorism and irregular migration.
The Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tørnæs underlines: “With our long-standing and broad engagement in the Sahel region Denmark can make an important difference. If we want to ease the migration pressure on Europe, we must invest massively in addressing the challenges that nourish migration and terrorism – namely the lack of prospects for a large part of Africa’s population. The Sahel-region has the world’ s fastest growing and youngest population. Our efforts help create possibilities for the region’s large young population, e.g. by supporting the development of the private sector. We are also focusing on girls and women’s rights, as well as creating access to family planning services.”
The Danish Minister for Defence Claus Hjort Frederiksen states: ”The Danish Armed Forces make an important effort to create peace and security in Mali to avoid that the country becomes a sanctuary for unscrupulous human traffickers and Islamic terrorists. Currently, we have deployed a C130 Hercules transport aircraft and more than 60 personnel to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA. In the mission our forces are collaborating with soldiers from many other countries. Moreover, we contribute to the education of local forces to increase their capacity to handle the problems on their own. Denmark’s support to the G5 joint force is fully in line with this effort, and it will contribute to preventing that the Sahel-region develops into a lawless area.”
In relation to the Danish support to the G5 joint force, Denmark will emphasize respect for human rights – an area where Denmark has been actively engaged in the Sahel-region for many years. Denmark also supports confidence-building measures between the local population and the security forces in the Sahel-region. The support to the G5 joint force is therefore complemented by a new contribution of approximately 700.000 EURO to civil society activities. The activities will focus on strengthening parliamentarians’ and civil society organizations’ control of the security sector. Furthermore, the new contribution will support local conflict resolution in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which will also be the geographical focus for Denmark’s support to the G5 joint force.
In addition, the Danish government has appointed Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen as Special Representative for Sahel and the Maghreb. An important task for the Special Representative will be to strengthen the link between Denmark’s efforts in the Sahel-region and North Africa with a particular emphasis on terrorism and migration.
Denmark’s strengthened effort in the Sahel-region is a part of a broad and comprehensive Danish engagement, which comprises, among others, long-term development assistance to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger (approximately 75 mio. EURO per year). Important priorities for this development assistance are e.g. to support sustainable, inclusive economic growth by strengthening the private sector and create jobs, to strengthen the capacity of public authorities to deliver basic services to the population (for example access to clean drinking water and education), to fight corruption, and to strengthen the confidence between the state and the local population. Denmark also has a special emphasis on youth, women and girls’ rights, as well as access to family planning services. Furthermore, Denmark is engaged in the Sahel-region with regional stabilization efforts, humanitarian assistance, as well as military, civilian and financial contributions to MINUSMA.
The new Danish contribution to the G5 Sahel joint force will be announced by the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen at a meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York this week. The G5 joint force is also supported by e.g. the EU and France.