19 African and International NGOs call for the Alliance with the Sahel to guarantee sustainable change in the region

The Sahel is at the forefront of Africa’s opportunities and challenges, yet despite noteworthy efforts to improve conditions in the region, the situation continues to deteriorate. As concerned civil society from Africa and Europe, we welcome the potential of the new Alliance with the Sahel, which seeks to accelerate and increase development efforts in the region.

At the same time, we recognize that this initiative can only be successful if it proves its added value from the start, catalyzes policy reforms, and delivers a game-changing model that guarantees political buy-in and sustained engagement. As the Alliance is still being designed at this moment, we want to ensure that it is built from the start with the correct framework to actually guarantee sustainable change in the region and foster a paradigm shift in development cooperation.

To accomplish this, we, the undersigned NGOs are calling for all partners to agree to the following core principles at a Sahel Summit in the region this year:

1. Equal Partnership:
To succeed, the Alliance must move away from old cooperation schemes, and spearhead a new type of partnership between African and partner governments that ensures Sahel countries are in the drivers’ seat for decision-making processes and implementation. In the spirit of equal partnership, the initiative should be officially renamed as the “Alliance with the Sahel,” instead of the “Alliance for the Sahel.”

The Alliance should also be broadened to include civil society, businesses, and other partners, and not be restricted to governments and multilateral banks. Each member should play a key role in supporting the Alliance’s ecosystem, for example by monitoring progress, scaling up what already works, committing to policy reforms, or by piloting new innovative projects across sectors. Most importantly, all members of the Alliance should agree to a shared vision of the region’s future, which will ensure each partner works towards common goals and results.

2. Transparency and Accountability:
Second, the Alliance has to make transparency and accountability the backbone of its framework. Many of the Sahel’s persistent development challenges stem from corruption and poor governance, which prevents national and international resources from being invested in essential public services like education. Estimates suggest that Africa lost $817 billion due to illicit financial flows between 2004 and 2013- and 55% of these funds can be traced to developed countries.

In order for the Alliance to succeed, both Sahelian and European leaders need to commit to stronger transparency standards, such as through the Open Government Partnership. These reforms should be coupled with social accountability initiatives that empower citizens to ensure that leaders’ promises are kept and resources are properly spent. In tandem, the Alliance will work to rebuild peace, trust, and confidence in the government in both European and Sahelian societies.

3. Improve the quality and quantity of finance:
It is essential that the Alliance delivers concrete results by dramatically boosting the quantity and quality of the Sahel’s financial resources. Sahel leaders can do more by boosting domestic revenue collection capacity, and European leaders should boost development aid in support of the Alliance’s priority sectors. All members should especially commit to directing more funding to global public goods, such as education.

The Alliance should also look to reform the traditional development aid paradigm by implementing a results-orientated approach. Partners should collectively agree upon a set of objectives aligned with the SDGs in a Joint Results Framework, and every partner should lay out how they will contribute to reach those objectives. This approach will guarantee progress towards measurable benchmarks, and ensure that each member of the Alliance contributes its share and citizens can track progress.

4. Empower Women and Girls:
Finally, the Alliance should foster social change by putting the empowerment of women center stage. Despite overwhelming evidence that empowering women benefits the health and economic development of families, communities and future generations, the Sahel is still home to the world’s highest levels of gender inequality. The Alliance should agree on specific measures and pilot innovative projects to empower women and girls, such as by closing gender gaps in education, agricultural productivity, and access to health and financial services. These initiatives will be crucial to ensuring that the Sahel reaches its full potential.

5. 2018 Sahel Summit
To generate the political momentum necessary to implement this model for change and encourage ambitious commitments, partners should use a Sahel 2018 Summit in a G5 country as an “action-forcing moment.” This Summit would serve to solidify the Alliance’s framework, announce each member’s individual and shared commitments, and open and extend the Alliance to a broader range of partners, such as private sector, civil society and local youth networks.

Signed by:

1. The ONE Campaign
2. Accountability Lab
3. Plan International
4. CNCD 11.11.11
5. Transparency International
6. Widaf Mali
7. Fondation Tuwindi
8. Association et ONG Féminines du Mali (CAFO)
9. ARAED
10. Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme (RDDH)
11. APROFEM
12. Le Mouvement Devoir de Citoyen
13. Le SECO-ONG
14. Le Mouvement National des Jeunes pour la Culture de l’Excellence
15. Le Réseau plaidoyer
16. Alliance contre la Pauvreté au Mali
17. Association Malienne pour la Sauvegarde du Bien etre familial
18. La plateforme Volontaires pour le Mali
19. L’Association Médiatique pour la Paix