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Speeches & TranscriptsFebruary 17, 2024

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg at the Rethinking Security Paradigms and Partnerships in The Sahel Side Event of the Munich Security Conference 2024

Minister Schulze, Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, I thank the Robert Bosch Stiftung for organizing this timely event on the Sahel. My appreciation goes to the panel for their insightful contributions to the discussion, and to Minister Schulze for her leadership as Sahel Alliance General Assembly President, of which the World Bank is a proud partner.

While events in the Sahel region have made global headlines recently, it is important to acknowledge that many challenges are not new and are rooted in several structural factors. These include some of the lowest human capital indicators in the world, limited access to basic services, high vulnerability to climate change and a glaring lack of job opportunities, particularly for youth and women.

On the political front, the recent withdrawal of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a signal of a deep shift in regional alliances and cooperation. It could also have significant implications for trade, tariffs, flow of people and goods, and will disrupt progress towards regional economic integration in West Africa.

Despite the series of political shocks and spiraling conflict over the past years, the World Bank has chosen to remain engaged in the Sahel in a “people centered” approach, as we believe it is our responsibility to support and protect the most vulnerable and poorest populations. We are also convinced that, alongside political and security solutions, a development response is needed to help countries transition out of conflict and fragility.

In the past ten years, we have tripled our financial support to the Sahel region and invested more than $20 B in the Sahel region. Such persistence has yielded results in key sectors. For instance, over the past years, 15.88 M women and children received essential health, nutrition, and population services; 1.33 M people were provided with access to improved water sources; 1.77 M people benefitted from social safety net programs.

At the same time, we are conscious that we need to adapt our approach to today’s challenging realities, and partnerships are key for that. We are therefore working closely with other development partners and the UN to deliver more coherent and impactful support, for example on education, social protection and secondary cities; we engage in dialogue with local civil society organizations to find homegrown solutions; and we are supporting the local private sector which remains a source of resilience in many countries.

We have also been able to maintain an open dialogue with the authorities. This has allowed us to advocate for comprehensive responses to tackle the current crises beyond military-centered approaches and to emphasize the need to address governance deficits, strengthen social cohesion and foster reconciliation.


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