BRUSSELS – An international high-level summit focused on the Sahel region of West Africa started Friday in Brussels, with the European Union and other countries and institutions seeking to strengthen international support for the afflicted region.
The International High-Level Conference on the Sahel includes top leaders of the EU, United Nations, African Union and the so-called Sahel G5 (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger).
“Today, the EU will double its support to the Sahel G5 joint force,” said Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top diplomat, while adding that individual EU member states would also contribute to it.
The Sahel G5 countries in 2016 created a military joint force to increase the efficiency of their border controls and boost their fight against terror and criminal organizations.
Mogherini explained the initiative was not only about security, but also development, and said there could be no real security without social and economic development.
She then stressed the importance of creating opportunities for young people and women in the region, which is why the EU had invested 8 billion euros ($9.84 billion) in the past seven years in the Sahel.
Mogherini said that “people often talk of a Marshall Plan for Africa,” and explained that the EU was already doing so by investing in the Sahel’s social, human and economic development with a “very important amount of money.”
“This is the first time there has been a summit (on the Sahel) at this level,” she said, while announcing the creation of a “(G5) coordination center, a hub, near the European institutions, here in Brussels.”
“Peace has no price, peace is made with financial support,” Mogherini said.
She reminded the audience that two French soldiers had been killed in Mali this week.
Spain is also contributing to the initiative and already leads a troop-training operation in Mali, among other aid projects.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace-keeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, were all slated to speak later in the day at the summit.