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Launch of the new Sahel strategy

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide and Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein launched the new strategy for Norway’s efforts in the Sahel region today. Support for civil society and efforts to promote good governance are being given a more prominent role. In addition, Norway will continue its support for the UN Minusma mission.

Norway carries out comprehensive efforts in the Sahel. The belt of countries south of the Sahara is facing significant challenges relating to security, development and protection of civilians. The Government now plans to focus greater attention on good governance, peace diplomacy and inclusive political processes.

‘A country’s political governance can be one of the root causes of conflict. In recent years we have learned more about, and gained a deeper understanding of, the connection between governance and conflict in the Sahel – which is why the strategy highlights this more prominently,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.

This is the second Sahel strategy presented by the Government. The first was launched in 2018. Prior to this, Norway had begun to intensify its efforts in the Sahel in response to the negative security trends in the region and the growing need for international assistance. The Tuareg Rebellion of 2012 in Mali, followed by a steadily growing foothold gained by terrorist groups in the region, represented a turning point. Norway’s increased and more complex efforts made it necessary to view the policy instruments in conjunction with one another to ensure coordination of political, military, humanitarian and development policy efforts within the same overall framework.

‘In 2019 we invited the parties to the Algiers peace agreement for Mali to visit Norway in connection with the Oslo Forum. The parties themselves wished to learn more about Norway’s experience with decentralisation, minority rights, peaceful conflict resolution and the participation of women in society. They spent a week in Norway, and met representatives of various Sámi institutions in Finnmark in the far north, among others. This type of knowledge transfer is very valuable,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.

The objective is to ensure that all political, military, humanitarian and development policy instruments target the same overarching aims.

‘The new strategy focuses even more on coordination between humanitarian action, development cooperation and peacebuilding,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.

‘We especially want to highlight the importance of working to promote participation of women and gender equality. In Mali, a committee has been established to follow up the Algiers peace agreement. Until recently, membership of this committee has been limited to men. But after the visit of the parties to Norway, steps were taken to include women as members of this important political forum,’ said Mr Ulstein.

The security policy aspect of Norway’s efforts in the Sahel is unchanged. In addition to its participation with military personnel and a transport aircraft, Norway has had a police team in place in the UN Minusma mission since last year. This team works closely with the Malian National Police providing training in investigative techniques and more.