Coups, conflict and instability have increased in the Sahel without the root causes of insecurity being addressed. The Analysis Paper “Insecurity in the Sahel: Rethinking Europe’s response”, authored by Lucia Montanaro, Head of Saferworld Europe, outlines the trend of securitisation in EU foreign policy and states that EU and member states need to urgently consider how to adjust their responses and integrate the lessons learnt from Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
With a view on the current geopolitical upheavals and their repercussions on European Foreign Policy the author explains why she fears that civilians are once again caught between international Agendas. The questions were posed by Annette Schlicht.
In light of the EU’s revised Sahel strategy calling for a civilian and political leap forward, it is fundamental that there is a shift from state-centered stabilization towards more civil society and community engagement, including with women-led organizations, as the basis for a peace-centered response. There is a need to address longer-term structural drivers of insecurity. These include severe inequalities, weak and corrupt governance, violence against civilians, impunity, criminality, gender-based violence, conflicts between farmers and herders restrictions on freedom of movement, internal displacements, environmental vulnerabilities, food and water security, coping with rapid demographic increase, poor access to livelihood opportunities and to health and education.
The EU should prioritize human security and apply a conflict-sensitive and gender-transformative lens to all its initiatives. Also, the security assistance should focus on people‘s security and justice needs, and on civilian protection, strengthening the democratic governance of the security sector and building trust between security/military forces and civilians.
Lastly, its important that safeguards, monitoring, evaluation and accountability be strengthened.
The Council decision to provide €1 billion to support the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, combined with the EU’s recently adopted Strategic Compass and compounded by the massive increase in Germany’s and other EU member states’ defense budgets, are definitively a consolidation of European securitization. This represents a historic shifting of gears, accelerating the securitization trend in foreign policy. Germany is soon to become the third biggest defense power in the world after the US and China. Germany’s motivations for securitization have been predominantly its ambitions for a stronger global role, migration containment and territorial defense, as well geopolitical leverage. It has however been pulled into the European counter-terrorism paradigm led by France. The question is: what will Germany do with this triple combo of major political, economic and defense power?
Will the EU and Germany take stock of the disastrous results (where violence against civilians in G5 Sahel countries has increased tenfold) in the Sahel to finally rethink and readjust their response? Will they examine the failures of security assistance in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and the Sahel to rethink the wider and longer-term impacts? Security is not a linear process, and ‘security first responses’ such as those used in the Sahel risk exacerbating violence against civilians and ultimately risk being complicit in harm – by training, equipping and emboldening security forces operating in a context of impunity.
The choice is one between an attitude of strategic stubbornness that has not brought about peace and stability (quite the contrary); or rethinking and rebalancing the response to focus on people-centered strategies that address structural drivers of insecurity.
I believe we have moved from narratives of counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism, then to what we have now: the geopolitics of competing blocs, where time and time again civilians are caught between international agendas. Numerous civil society organizations both in Brussels and across the globe are concerned about the predominance of simplified security responses to complex multidimensional conflicts. Moreover, at Saferworld we are also concerned about the gap between the European policy commitments (security sector reform, Women, Peace and Security, human rights, protection of civilians, and the German guidelines on preventing crises, resolving conflicts and building peace) and the reality of current practices. The focus on combat effectiveness rather than on the transformation of often predatory security forces risks exacerbating abuses of civilians, rather than contributing to peace and security for the people.