6 Jun 2022


ICRC - Humanitarian Challenges in the Sahel and the Role of Diplomacy

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ICRC - Humanitarian Challenges in the Sahel and the Role of Diplomacy 

According to HE Sultan al Shamsi, the UAE considers the Sahel region, which comprises of five countries including Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad as strategic partners. Despite that, the region faces several humanitarian crises that have far-reaching ramifications. One of the hardest-hitting problems in the region is the limited access to jobs and education, but there are other issues, such as starvation, insecurity, and poor governance that need to be addressed urgently. Humanitarian agencies and bodies recognized the need for aid in the region and established several outposts to help curb some of the problems. There is a significant increase in humanitarian aid that addresses the political, military, and development issues in that region. 

The Sultan asserted that in 2017, the United Nations created a task force to combat the insecurity problem in the area. The existing insecurity had triggered a significant exodus of people from the region prompting an urgent response from the UN to mitigate the problem that arose from an influx of Al-Qaida and ISIS militia into the region. The task force decided to prioritize food security, domestic security, governance, youth employment, training, and development. On the other hand, the UAE agreed to aid in an unaddressed issue of messaging and donated $10 million towards efficient energy production in Burkina Faso. 

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In response to questions about the status on the interest in Mali, the status of the Sahel region and the cause of the conflict, Patrick Youssef acknowledged that the international community had neglected the region. The supporting coalition of countries have solely focused on the security problem in Mali but have overlooked the more severe humanitarian crisis of food insecurity that has affected an estimated 10.8 million people so far. The food shortages have prompted a mass exit of people from the country into neighboring Burkina Faso. This food problem stems from the impacts of climate change in the region, which has experienced an extra 1.5 ° C temperature increment more than the global rate. More problems such as the armed conflict between armed opponents and the government, blatant impunity, and the lack of a solid socio-economic structure further compound the state’s frail condition. Patrick further states that an unchecked humanitarian crisis could trigger insecurity making economic development impossible. 

The diplomat Bernardino Leon contrasts the insecurity issue to an earlier one in Algeria where it was nation against nation. He states that in Mali, the civil fighting renders everything in the political dictionary, such as borders, senseless. The diplomat claims that only a diplomatic solution is viable as military action would exacerbate the situation. Jean Nicholas Marti then addressed how the ICRC is in an environment with no government and increasing violence. He acknowledged the difficulty in coordinating different countries’ initiatives in Mali. Jean said the ICRC changed tactic from distributing relief food to all needy Mali residents to the more sustainable food aid to displaced families. He affirmed that the body acts on protection detention and prioritized health activities. 

Patrick then addressed other programs that the ICRC proposed and the challenges facing them. He mentioned problems such as the chronic human displacement problem, citing an example of a family that had to move nine times in 2 years. Additionally, he pointed out the impact of the war on agriculture and livestock, which provides livelihoods for up to 80% and 20% of the residents respectively. ICRC is trying to remedy the situation through capacity building, restoring autonomy, availing what the people need, and ensuring that armed groups respect humanitarian law. Jean mentions challenges faced on the ground, which include inaccessibility to the people, especially by Europeans who are targeted by kidnappers. Leon challenged the perceived notion that humanitarian aid seemed like a threat to sovereignty acknowledging that states try to intervene in such regions using zero-risk tactics. He asserts that they can use humanitarian laws or other laws depending on the situation. He confirms that the European convention declared that jurisdiction is not limited to states’ national territories and thus extended the law to other places using effective control and total control allowing them to access non-state actors’ conflicts. Leon also mentions that Germany proposed new legislation to avert sexual aggression in conflicts but the US, through its Vice President, watered it down. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 17). ICRC - Humanitarian Challenges in the Sahel and the Role of Diplomacy.


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