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Following a proposal by Ministers Dedonder, Lahbib and Gennez, the Council of Ministers officially adopted the Integrated Strategy for the Sahel Region on Friday, July 7. This reaffirms the priority of this region for Belgium. The Strategy is the result of a thorough and inclusive consultative process and is evidence of Belgium's commitment to mobilize all its foreign policy actors in the region: Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Development Cooperation, as well as the Egmont Institute.
The Sahel Strategy reflects Belgium's comprehensive approach, emphasizing the coordination and concordance of the actions of all the actors involved. With this in mind, Belgian non-governmental cooperation actors active in the region were also surveyed about their priorities in this area. This Strategy embodies a shared vision aimed at promoting a safe and stable European neighborhood, human security and the defense of human rights, the rule of law and good governance, economic security, and sustainable prosperity - as well as maintaining a supportive and reliable partnership in the Sahel. These five common objectives are at the heart of the Strategy, the latter also being closely connected to Belgium's National Security Strategy.
Considering the close relationship between the Sahel countries (Burkina-Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad) and their neighboring countries, notably the coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea and the Maghreb countries, the concept of the Sahel Region is defined broadly - in line with the concepts developed by the European Union, the United Nations, and the African Union.
The actors in charge of implementing this strategy will be guided by several key principles, including a comprehensive approach (now going beyond the former 3D for "Defense-Diplomacy-Development"); continuous and joint analysis of risks and context; the quest for sustainability and local ownership; and conflict sensitivity. In implementing this strategy, it is also important to pay close attention to local partners. Indeed, their involvement is essential to guarantee the effectiveness and relevance of the actions undertaken by Belgium in the Sahel.
Through this national strategy, Belgium also aims to contribute to the implementation of the European Union's Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, while aligning itself with the objectives set out in the United Nations' Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder: "Our Defence has had a partnership with the Sahel for over 50 years. It was therefore only natural for me to coordinate our actions with our partners in Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, to contribute to the full implementation of the comprehensive approach. By working together in these three areas, the impact of the whole is far greater than the potential impact of each area in isolation. A safe environment is the basis for trust in government and the further development of society. Our comprehensive approach is a model for other countries, which are looking at our projects with great interest".
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib: "For the first time, this Strategy provides for a comprehensive approach, addressing the complexity of the links between climate, security, and peace. Diplomacy, defense, and development will work together to provide the most effective response to these challenges, each with its expertise and experience towards a common goal: preventing conflict, building peace, and fostering the resilience of local communities. A collaborative approach".
Minister for Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez: "With this new integrated strategy, we are tackling the Sahel's problems head-on. There can be no progress or development without security, but there can be no security without development either. This is our starting point. We can continue to build schools, but that's not enough if children can't move around safely. The army and the police can hardly do their job if there is no housing or adequate supervision".
Read Belgium's integrated strategy for the Sahel region.
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