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UN Peacekeeping Operations and Pastoralism-Related Insecurity: Adopting a Coordinated Approach for the Sahel


Executive Summary

In recent years, pastoralism has increasingly become associated with violent conflict, especially in the Sahel region of Africa. Pastoralism-related insecurity in the Sahel stems from a confluence of stressors. These include weak governance and predatory behavior by elites; climate change, which undermines pastoralists’ livelihoods by exacerbating desertification, drought, and soil erosion; and protracted conflicts and insecurity that intersect with pastoralist migration routes throughout the region.

In the Sahel, pastoralism-related insecurity is directly linked to the macrolevel conflict dynamics in contexts with UN peacekeeping missions, including Mali, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Abyei, and South Sudan. None of the associated missions, however, have mandates that explicitly address pastoralism-related insecurity. While the UN Security Council has included references to local conflict in most of these missions’ mandates, their approach has been ad hoc. The Security Council’s reluctance to address the impact of climate change on conflict has also limited its ability to give missions the tools to address pastoralism-related insecurity.

Despite these limitations, UN peacekeeping missions in the Sahel have sought to address pastoralism-related insecurity, particularly through their civil and political affairs teams. They have directly provided mediation support and good offices, built the capacity of host governments to prevent and manage conflict, gathered information to predict the timing and scope of pastoralist migrations, and used joint police-military patrols to deter outbreaks of violence. These initiatives show how peacekeeping missions can use existing structures, tools, and approaches to address pastoralism-related insecurity.

Even if peacekeeping missions prioritize addressing pastoralism-related insecurity, however, their reliance on political and security-centered approaches and limited geographic mandates require them to partner with other UN and non UN actors. These include the UN’s regional offices, which have a clear mandate for conflict prevention, and UN country teams, which can complement missions through their peacebuilding efforts. Partnerships with national governments and civil society are also essential. Together with these partners, peacekeeping missions should leverage their comparative advantages to be part of a multi-stakeholder approach to pastoralism-related insecurity in the Sahel.