UN, World Bank, EU Pledge Support to Sahel

un-worldbank8 November 2013: Development leaders traveled to the Sahel region in Africa to discuss governance, resilience, peace and security with the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. During the trip, from 4-8 November 2013, the World Bank and EU announced over US$8 billion in investments to boost economic growth and tackle poverty in the region.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the trip with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Donald Kaberuka, African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The trip aimed to facilitate discussion on how the region can move from fragility to sustainability through peace and development.

In remarks to the Ministerial Meeting on the Sahel, held in Bamako, Mali, Ban said “the challenges of the region respect no borders and neither should our solutions,” and said the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel connects efforts across issues and the region and prioritizes governance, resilience and security. In Niger, Ban outlined UN and international priorities, including: realizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); defining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and addressing climate change and related impacts including drought, nutrition challenges and energy and water shortages.

Leaders emphasized that conflict and insecurity compound Sahelian challenges, including food and water scarcities and land pressure, and made recommendations to promote stability, sustainability and prosperity. Noting the region's climate vulnerability and recurrent drought, Kaberuka recommended, inter alia, supporting the private sector and investing in inclusive economic growth, infrastructure, regional integration and trade. Zuma suggested assisting farmers to improve agricultural outputs and handle droughts, investing in education and skills development, and building democratic, inclusive governance.

Kim said the Sahel struggles with “too little economic growth and opportunity, a harsh climate, hunger, high fertility rates and the world's highest number of maternal and child deaths.” The World Bank pledged US$1.5 billion in regional investments over two years to support infrastructure investments and social safety nets. This funding also will support and expand: hydropower and clean energy projects to transform agriculture and expand irrigation; health services for girls and women; pastoralism; and regional connectivity and communications.

The EU pledged US$6.75 billion to help Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal address regional priorities, including agriculture and food security, development, governance, regional integration and trade, resilience, security, and social services. Piebalgs explained the EU's “approach is built on the principle that security is a pre-requisite for growth” and development.

Ban and Kim also pledged US$200 million to improve girl's education and women's reproductive health in the Sahel, in coordination with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Kim stressed that such investments are critical in “ending poverty across the developing world.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka described agriculture as key to women's economic empowerment, particularly in conflict areas, and highlighted UN Women's initiatives to advance women's empowerment, participation and rights. 

Announcing the trip on 1 November 2013, Ban said a key message is that peace is not sustainable without development, and development is not sustainable without peace. Kim added that the Bank is mobilizing behind a new approach to the Sahel, and the regional plan includes promoting sustainable development and addressing root causes of poverty. [Statement of UN Secretary-General, 1 November] [Webcast of 1 November Press Conference[UN Press Release on Joint Visit] [UN Press Release on Financial Pledges] [UN Press Release on Niger Visit] [UN Press Release on Burkina Faso Visit] [UN Press Release on Chad Visit] [GEF Press Release] [EU Press Release] [Statement of UN Secretary-General at Ministerial Meeting] [Statement of UN Secretary-General in Niger] [Statement of UN Secretary-General on Call to Action on Demographic Issues] [UNFPA Press Release] [UN Women Press Release] [AU Press Release]