A Virtual Speech, New York, 13 October 2020
I am delighted to be here at Sciences Po – albeit only virtually - because if trainee policy makers anywhere are going in future to make a difference on today’s topic, it will probably be you. My generation’s ideas and actions in the Sahel region are simply not working.
I am tasked with dealing with the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies. Nowhere scares me more than the Sahel. I fear the region is very close to a tipping point – and so by extension are its African neighbours, Europe, and the world. A preventable tragedy is looming.
Next week the UN, together with Germany, Denmark, and the EU, will host a major conference on the central Sahel. Leaders from the region and around the world will come together to pledge funds and make concrete policy commitments.
This is very timely because, as of today, most public policy efforts, at both national and international levels, are treating symptoms rather than their causes. In a talk I gave last year at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Brussels I made the obvious point that this is a surefire recipe for failure.
Barely 16 months on, we’ve moved far more quickly towards the abyss than I expected. Today I want to explain why that is and what we can do about it. I will start by trying to frame the issues and remind you of some of the basic facts.
I will then take a moment to look back a decade, take stock of where we are today, and imagine the Sahel’s future. Finally, I will set out a few thoughts on what we should do.
Geographically, the Sahel is loosely defined. At its broadest it stretches across Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. But what I am focusing on today is the six countries of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and the north-east of Nigeria – in other words, the central Sahel and the countries of the Lake Chad Basin.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.