The Sahel region has faced an unprecedented wave of terrorism-related violence, with more than 4,000 deaths reported over the course of the past year. While the broader Sahel region continues to be confronted with serious security challenges, terrorist organizations have expanded their operations in areas such as north and central Mali and Liptako-Gourma, the tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. The exploitation of local conflicts, porous and remote borders, the absence of or weak levels of governance, high levels of corruption, and the proliferation of illicit activities such as the smuggling of weapons, drugs, motorcycles (and parts), as well as fuel trafficking, cattle rustling, and poaching provide violent extremist groups with financial, operational and human resources. Overall, the propagation of black markets within these areas is indicative of the absence of effective security capacities to protect borders and manage cross-border trade within the wider Sahel region.
Terrorist organizations operating in the region include affiliates of al-Qaida and ISIS, such as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and ISIS-Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), respectively, as well as non-aligned extremist groups. A large majority of violent extremists within the Sahel are recruited from local communities to plan and conduct attacks against government institutions, military facilities, and/or rival organizations. The number of attacks in the wider Sahel region has increased by 250 percent since 2018 . Furthermore, the alliance between violent extremists and criminal organizations within the Sahel fuels a cycle of chronic poverty and violent land disputes, making terrorism an attractive employment opportunity and further contributing to the spread of violence across the region.
While states in the region remain resolute against terrorism, they lack the means and capabilities to contain or degrade the threat on a sustained basis. The G5 Sahel Joint Force (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), launched in 2017 to coordinate counter-terrorism operations among member states, has potential as a coordination mechanism but has not yet been capable of disrupting the growing terrorist footprint across the wider Sahel region. France’s Operation Barkhane also plays a crucial role in countering terrorist groups and promoting a basic level of security, as does the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The impact of terrorism within the Sahel region has fostered an environment of massive displacement and perpetual violence. As of June 2020 , approximately 920,000 people have been forced to flee Burkina Faso . Mali and Niger also continue to experience increasing numbers of internally displaced persons, including large numbers of women and children, and more than 7 million Nigerians currently require emergency assistance.
The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center (UNCCT) within the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), under the framework of its global Border Security Management (BSM) Programme, supports Member States in strengthening border security and management capacities to counter terrorism and stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) across land, air, and maritime borders, as well as preventing the cross-border movement of illicit cargo and related transnational crimes, including through enhanced inter-agency and international cooperation.
This webinar, focusing on ‘Border Challenges in the Sahel Region in the Context of Counter-Terrorism and Related Transnational Organized Crime’, aims to virtually delve into the region-specific context and explore threat landscapes, border security and management challenges, and discuss response measures and mechanisms related to countering terrorism and transnational organized crime. The virtual discussions will include presentations from key experts from the region, as well as incorporating the international perspective, and will touch on current threats and the evolving terrorism landscape, the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism, main gaps and challenges for border management, and the need for border security strategies, plans of action, and processes that incorporate counter-terrorism components as well as crisis and risk management mechanisms within the current global pandemic context. The webinar will bring together counter-terrorism coordinators, border and law enforcement experts and practitioners from national governments, as well as international experts from the private sector, civil society, academia, and other relevant international, regional and sub-regional organizations to share their experience and ideas for addressing the existing challenges.
OPENING REMARKS: Mr. Ulrik Ahnfeldt-Mollerup, Chief, Countering Terrorism Section, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
MODERATOR: Ms. Christine Bradley, Programme Manager, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
SESSION 1: REGIONAL THREAT LANDSCAPE (30 minutes)
- Mr. Marc Vaillant, Regional Programme Coordinator for West Africa, United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism - United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
- Mr. Ludovic-Henry D'Hoore, Regional Coordinator for West and Central Africa, Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
SESSION 2: BORDER SECURITY AND MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES (30 minutes)
- Ms. Sophie Hoffmann, Programme Manager, Immigration and Border Management Unit (IBM), International Organization for Migrations (IOM) Niger, and
- Mr. Arthur Langouët, Head, Immigration and Border Management Unit (IBM), International Organization for Migrations (IOM) Mali
- Mr. Rocco Messina, Head, Border Security and Management Unit (BSM), United Nations Office of Counter Terrorism - United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT-UNCCT)
SESSION 3: GLOBAL, REGIONAL, SUB-REGIONAL AND NATIONAL RESPONSE MEASURES (30 minutes)
- Mr. Ahmed Mohamed, Border Security Expert, Counter-Terrorism Directorate, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)
- Mr. Badreddine El Harti, Principal Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Rule of Law (RoL) Adviser, Office of the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Burkina Faso