Climate crisis and stabilisation in the Sahel – Foreign Minister Baerbock travels to Mali and the Niger

Agricultural project for sustainable cultivation in arid conditions, in the refugee settlement in Ouallam

Agricultural project for sustainable cultivation in arid conditions, in the refugee settlement in Ouallam, © UNHCR Niger

14.04.2022 - Article

Climate change and terrorist threats – at first, these sound like two major foreign policy issues that have nothing to do with one another. In the Sahel region, however, these two phenomena come together – with dramatic consequences.

Foreign Minister Baerbock arrived in Niamey yesterday, as part of her trip to Mali and the Niger. In the Sahel region, the Minister wants to gain a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground – both with an eye to ongoing European and other international missions in which Germany is participating, and pressing global issues such as food security and the climate crisis.

During her speech to students at Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey yesterday, she stated:

The fact that there is a terrible war going on in Ukraine, in our immediate neighbourhood, in Europe, must not and will not make us turn our backs on the other crises of this world. For me, the opposite is the case. After all, the very result if not even the strategy of Russia’s war is to further exacerbate hardship in the world’s poorest countries by disrupting or cutting off food supplies. That’s why I am urgently calling on our international partners to tackle the global food crisis now, jointly and decisively. [...] We have therefore agreed with the G7, where Germany currently holds the Presidency – that is, with the group of the world’s strongest industrialised countries – that 430 million euro will be made available for food security, to mitigate the consequences of this war in other countries around the world, primarily in Africa and the Middle East.

The Sahel region is suffering hugely from the effects of the climate crisis, now compounded by the significant increases in food prices triggered by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, one of the world’s most important cereal-growing regions. The renewal of the Bundeswehr’s mandates for the EU training mission EUTM in Mali and the UN stabilisation mission MINUSMA in the north of the country will be up for debate in May of this year.

Prior to her departure, the Foreign Minister Baerbock said:

During my visits to Mali and the Niger, I want to engage in discussions with government representatives and, in particular, with ordinary people outside of the capital cities and seats of government, in order to gain an accurate picture of the situation, and of how we all, working together, can best tackle the numerous challenges that face the people of the Sahel region day in, day out, and massively impact their lives. The regional perspective is particularly important to me because neither the climate crisis nor famines nor terrorist groups stop at border controls.

In conversation: Foreign Minister Baerbock meets Malian women in Gao
In conversation: Foreign Minister Baerbock meets Malian women in Gao© Florian Gaertner / photothek

Alongside the effects of the climate crisis, in the form of droughts and flooding and the subsequent food shortages, the people of the Sahel region are suffering from the instable and unreliable nature of state structures, or in some cases their complete absence. Large parts of the Sahel are essentially beyond state control. Gangs and terrorist movements exploit this vacuum and consistently attract new recruits who have given up on the struggle for a share of the scarce local resources.

Germany has been working for years to combat this phenomenon and endeavour to stabilise the region, through development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and the provision of funding and personnel for military and civilian missions. In addition, Germany supports stabilisation projects in areas such as the Niger’s border regions. These projects see military forces, the administration and police working hand in hand with development organisations, not just to secure the areas but to provide local residents with more sustainable prospects and livelihoods at the same time. The aim of this coordinated joint approach is to dry up support for terrorist groups and thus also tackle human trafficking and illegal migration.


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