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Building Resilience in the Sahel in an Era of Forced Displacement

In the Sahel, a growing crisis driven by ongoing violence and devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and food insecurity, has led to the internal displacement of more than 2 million people—four times the number displaced just 2 years ago. This humanitarian crisis demands an urgent response to ensure adequate provision of shelter, food, and water for those forced from their homes. It also points to a need for comprehensive approaches and sustained investments to address the drivers of forced displacement in the region. The Wilson Center and Population Institute held a discussion with experts who are working across disciplines to identify entry points for policies and programs that strengthen the resilience of communities across the region.

Date & Time

Thursday
Apr. 8, 2021
9:30am – 11:00am ET

Building Resilience in the Sahel in an Era of Forced Displacement

In the Sahel, a growing crisis driven by ongoing violence and devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and food insecurity, has led to the internal displacement of more than 2 million people—four times the number displaced just 2 years ago. This humanitarian crisis demands an urgent response to ensure adequate provision of shelter, food, and water for those forced from their homes. It also points to a need for comprehensive approaches and sustained investments to address the drivers of forced displacement in the region. The Wilson Center and Population Institute held a discussion with experts who are working across disciplines to identify entry points for policies and programs that strengthen the resilience of communities across the region.

Continue the conversation on Twitter @NewSecurityBeat. Find related coverage of these issues on our blog, NewSecurityBeat.org.

Selected Quotes

Ambassador Mark Green

“In the Sahel in the last two years alone, the number of internally displaced persons has quadrupled. There are over 3.7 million people displaced in the region, 2 million of those are displaced within their home country, often to similarly fragile or resource stressed areas.”

“We know that the crisis of forced displaced is driven by violent conflict and instability. After all, that is what makes the airwaves on the front pages, but we also know that the root causes go far deeper—to issues of extreme poverty, and corruption, and weak governance, and growing inequality, all of which are compounded by the impacts of a changing climate.”

“The impacts of displacement present major challenges at every level of decision-making, but the opportunities for interventions that build resilience to climate change, foster social cohesion and address gender and other disparities—well they’re also very real as well.”

Ngozi Amu

“To address all these challenges, you really have to broaden your partnerships and broaden the partnerships horizontally but also [vertically]. And so, this is something that we are doing, which is quite unique, to try to link what local communities—how they are perceiving of their realities—and how we can link this to national and regional policy.”

“The fact that there is this youth bulge, there is a potential for opportunities for global trade. There is also potential for renewable energy in terms of solar energy and wind energy. There is an abundance of natural resources, so there is an issue of the governance of these resources. There is also as Ambassador Green had mentioned, an extraordinary resilience in the region in terms of people.”

“The solution has to be multifaceted and that is why I think the emphasis on partnership is important and I think where UNOWAS sits, it’s our role to help link the work that is being done at the local level… It also has to be linked to policy development at the national and regional level and it has to allow for other partners to come in to make sure that it’s sustainable.”

Elizabeth Ferris

“Too often we see displacement just in humanitarian terms but increasingly, and I think this is a positive trend, we are realizing that you know the return or the ability of [internally displaced persons] to find solutions is really essential for sustainable peace.”

“A second trend is that displacement is becoming more and more protracted. This we see globally where you know displacement situations can last for not just years but sometimes decades or multiple decades. We know that the longer people are displaced the harder it is for them to return and even to find other solutions; so, I think as an international community and as national governments—there is a real imperative to resolve displacement quickly to intervene to find solutions not to wait until everything is perfect before working on these difficult issues of solution.”

Florian Morier

“I think there is no new approach… It’s always the same holistic methods around rule of law and stabilization, including livelihood and basic service. Because when we start to work on security sector—we are dragged into all components of the rule of law and the social contracts in general… The rule of law should not be underestimated especially with donors and international partners.”

“We need a strong, national ownership… We need a lot of flexibility to be able to address all the challenges step by step because they always start to rise one by one.”

“This method of using the state as direct implementing partners, it promotes the state actors in front of their own citizens. It improves also the project system sustainability… So as a United Nations of international NGOs we should work behind the scene. We should work in the shadow; we should not plant a UN flag or NGO flag everywhere we intervene.”

Wise Nzikie Ngasa

“Communities think that poor governance exclusion and marginalization seems to be the underlying driver, the mother of drivers if you like. And this accounts largely for the inability of certain states, the concerned states, to be able to provide very basic services for citizens, but also to be able to respond to other changes other shocks and stresses, such as the effects of climate change, that are driving conflicts and displacement.”

“Ill-adapted land tenure systems, but also justice systems, have given the latitude to both pastoralists and agro-pastoralist communities to sometimes move into segments of land that does not belong to them… A key shock or driver that communities have said that they want to see action on has to do with the intra- and inter-community conflicts.”  

“There is a poor understanding of land laws, not just poor understanding but tensions, a clash, between some of the former land tenure laws that states are putting out and traditional systems that have been very successful in the past to manage some of these conflicts that we are seeing… The authority of traditional systems of management of conflicts and displacement has been raided and this is because there is some distrust that we find in the communities.”

Kayly Ober

“I think there is an acknowledgement also there that climate change may induce different trends or dynamics around displacement or migration, and we can’t just simply bury our head in the sands about it. We have to be proactive and plan for it and so that’s what the executive order really calls for, is a report that really outlines policy recommendations related to a number of things including the way in which we provide foreign assistance, how we engage in multilateral institutions or frameworks, and also how do we offer perhaps new or novel types of protection and resettlement for people who may be displaced or migrating due to climate related factors.”

“Decisions to migrate are complex and multi-causal. It’s based on highly contextual factors and often determined by complex interactions at the site of disaster, including the underlying vulnerability of people and communities, the magnitude and frequency of the given climate-related hazard, and the ability to cope with such events… Climate is rarely the only factor that makes an individual or a household decide to move. It can however exacerbate existing conditions or underlying vulnerabilities that may underpin more principal drivers.”

“We know that the poor will be first to move because they will face debilitating shocks to their incomes and they have livelihoods that are more dependent on rain-fed agriculture—as we see in the Sahel as well. They may turn to seasonal migration to weather kind of lean seasons or in some cases they may move more permanently. Often this migration will take the form of rural to urban migration as people seek out better more stable economic opportunities not related to weather or not tied to the vagaries of weather. We also know it takes assets and capabilities to migrate including economic and social capital for instance, so the poorest of the poor may actually end up becoming trapped unable to move even if they would like to.”


Hosted By

Environmental Change and Security Program

The Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) explores the connections between environmental change, health, and population dynamics and their links to conflict, human insecurity, and foreign policy.  Read more

Maternal Health Initiative

Life and health are the most basic human rights, yet disparities between and within countries continue to grow. No single solution or institution can address the variety of health concerns the world faces. By leveraging, building on, and coordinating the Wilson Center’s strong regional and cross-cutting programming, the Maternal Health Initiative (MHI) promotes dialogue and understanding among practitioners, scholars, community leaders, and policymakers.  Read more

Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.–Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, including our blog Africa Up Close, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more

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