19 Jun 2019
19 Jun 2019
EDD19 Lab Debate: Water, Peace and Security. Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies by addressing water threats

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Event Date: 19/06/2019 - 19/06/2019
Venue: Tour & Taxis Bruxelles

On 19th June 2019 Wetlands International European Association together with World Resources Institutes, International Alert Europe and Partners for Resilience will be present at the European Development Days with a lab session on Water, Peace and Security.

Description of the session

The degradation of Sahelian wetlands leads to water and food scarcity and further land degradation, and can affect the social, economic and political stability of the region and be one of the drivers of out-migration and conflicts over access to land and water. Recent violent attacks on villages in the Inner Niger Delta (Mali) have only heightened the need to address these conflicts. Good management of natural resources is key to resolve tensions within and among different user groups such as herders, farmers and fishers, prevent violence within and between communities and the State and foster peaceful, inclusive societies. This session aims at discussing what is needed to enhance community resilience, by addressing water and human insecurity in times of crisis.


Human-driven changes to the water and land-use in the Sahel, in the name of economic development, is in many situations undermining people’s livelihoods and their resilience to the unpredictable and changing climate. Sahelian wetlands degradation impacts rural food production, creates competition for resources and increases tension between communities and different ethnic groups. These important relationships bind the social contract in the region and when fractured create instability, prevent sustainable socio-economic development and  open the door to insurgency, leaving the poorest and most vulnerable behind. Sharing information about how wise management of wetlands generates peace benefits by contributing to holding the peace will help to generate a wider commitment

This session will be moderated by Cy Griffin, European Programme Manager, Wetlands International- European Association


Yamide Dagnet, Senior Associate World Resources Institute

Karounga Keita, Director Sahel Office, Wetlands International Mali

Carmen Marquez Ruiz, Policy Coordinator Environment & Water, Global 2/ Global and Economic issues, EEAS

Hans- Harald Jahn, Head of Division, Agribusiness in Rural Development, European Investment Bank

Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit C1, Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition, DG DEVCO

The event will be web streamed on https://youtu.be/uvSyQFLwloY


Background info


The Sahel Region is a semi-arid belt extending across Africa for some 5500km. In a region frequently characterised by its dry and unforgiving nature, it is perhaps surprising that more than 10% of land cover is wetlands and much of this in only six major floodplain systems. These wetlands are the main sources of the region’s productivity outside the short wet season. They sustain agriculture, fisheries and pastoralism across the region. The loss and degradation of wetlands is now fatally undermining development, damaging critical natural resources, affecting rural productivity, accentuating poverty, contributing to migration and extending insecurity to the whole region.

Climate change is not the sole driver for the increasing frequency and intensity of water-related disasters which lead to human migration. Water stress and environmental degradation result from decisions on land and water usage. Human-driven changes to the hydrology and land-use of the Sahel, in the name of economic development, is in many situations undermining people’s livelihoods and their resilience to the unpredictable and changing climate.

The degradation of Sahelian wetlands leads to water and food scarcity and further land degradation, and can affect the social, economic and political stability of the region and be one of the drivers of out-migration and conflicts. In these circumstances, traditional adaptive mechanisms are insufficient and people are obliged to look elsewhere to seek alternative livelihoods, temporarily or permanently, including significant numbers travelling to Europe, leaving the poorest and most vulnerable behind.

Policy reference

The EU’s engagement in the Sahel region is defined by the EU Sahel Strategy and Regional Action Plan, the Valletta Action Plan, the G5 Roadmap, the Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration, and the Operational Framework of the EU Trust Fund for Africa. The EU and Africa’s consolidated relationship roots back in the Africa-EU Partnership[1] signed in 2007 in Lisbon, where a Joint strategy[2] was adopted. With regard to the Sahel Region, the EU’s engagement is enshrined in the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel[3], translated in a Regional Action Plan in 2014, updated in 2016 which reiterates the “EU readiness to continue working closely with the Sahel countries to support their efforts to achieve peace, security and development, and to provide support to sustainable and inclusive political and socio-economic development, the strengthening of human rights, democratic governance and the rule of law as well as resilience, as a response to the multidimensional crisis in the Sahel” as highlighted by the Council in 2015[4]. Current dialogues between the EU and the region of Sahel/Lake Chad on security, stability and migration-related issues are based on existing or reinforced dialogues (e.g. Sahel Strategy and the Valletta Summit on Migration) and different platforms (Rabat process, ECOWAS, G5 Sahel, Lake Chad Basin Commission)[5].

The European engagement in the Sahel Region is part of the new strategic approach the EU is shaping to respond to global challenges and to achieve sustainable development around the world. This approach is defined in a set of communications released in November 2016, among which the proposal on a new Consensus for Development[6] and A renewed partnership with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific[7] (ACP). Both proposals identify as one of the priorities of the EU the protection of the environment, management of natural resources and fight climate change, because Environmental degradation, including climate change, which can offset economic progress, jeopardise peace and stability and cause large-scale migration. Human well-being and resilient societies depend on healthy ecosystems and a functioning environment[8]”. In the new consensus for development the EU and its Member States will proactively contribute to building stability and security and promoting resilience in fragile situations. This includes efforts to tackle urban crime and violence. They will integrate conflict sensitivity in their work, to maximise the impact for peace and human security. They will promote peace, state-building, transparency, accountability and access to justice, by engaging with all stakeholders in conflict prevention, peace-keeping and peace-building processes Whilst these Communications are very welcome they do not reflect the disproportionate importance of wetlands for resilient societies and a contribution to peace, and stability.

On 23 February 2018, the European Commission hosted the International High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels to strengthen international support for the Sahel region. This is part of the EU’s longstanding partnership with the Sahel region. The EU is a strong political partner of the G5 Sahel countries, composed of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger. The EU has supported the G5 Sahel since it was set up in 2014 to foster close cooperation in the region.

On 19 Nov 2018 Council approved conclusions on water diplomacy, noting “the potential of water scarcity to affect peace and security, as water related risks can have grave human and economic costs, all of which can have direct implications for the EU, including through migration flows. The Council intends to enhance EU diplomatic engagement about water as a tool for peace, security and stability, and firmly condemns the use of water as a weapon of war. The Council also underlines the EU’s commitment to promoting transboundary and integrated water management as well as effective water governance.

[1] This Partnership aims to:

  1. Reinforce political relations between Africa and the EU and jointly address global common challenges such as climate change, the protection of the environment, or peace and security. Through joint positions Africa and Europe have more weight in global fora;
  2. Expand Africa-EU cooperation into promising new areas of common interest such as governance and human rights, trade and regional integration, energy, climate change, migration, mobility and employment, or science, Information and Communication Technologies and space applications;
  3. Facilitate and promote a broad-based and wide-ranging people-centered partnership by ensuring the effective participation of civil society and the private sector and by delivering direct benefits for African and European citizens.

[2] A Joint Africa-EU Strategy, 2007

[3] https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/3947/Strategy%20for%20Security%20and%20Development%20in%20the%20Sahel

[4] Council conclusions on the Sahel Regional Action Plan 2015-2020, 7823/15, April 2015

[5] http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/regions/africa/eu-emergency-trust-fund/sahel-region-and-lake-chad-area_en

[6] https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/communication-proposal-new-consensus-development-20161122_en.pdf

[7] http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/joint-communication-renewed-partnership-acp-20161122_en.pdf

[8] Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development. Our World, our Dignity, our Future, COM(2016) 740 final