Instability is recurrent in the Sahel and in West Africa. However, the violence is more recent and the dynamics are more complicated. These multifaceted crises – coups d’état, revolts, rebellions and terrorism – have reshaped geopolitical and spatial relationships on the African continent. For several years, the Secretariat has contributed to the political dialogue on security by carrying out analyses, contributing to international forums, and fostering and supporting the policies and strategies of Members and partners, particularly as regards the Sahel.

SWAC approaches security analysis through the lens of human security in order to understand vulnerabilities as a whole. It covers interconnected aspects such as economics, politics, food, the environment, people, community and health. Consequently, security issues are not unconnected to politics and development programmes, especially food security.

The conflict in Mali illustrates the difficulties involved in security challenges and solutions: while terrorists rely on controlling cross-border or even regional movement, the responding institutions struggle to co-ordinate and find coping mechanisms.

In a context of globalisation and worldwide interdependencies, security issues can spread in a more or less erratic manner, via organised and concentrated connections and collusions. In addition, various forms of violent trafficking latch themselves onto border networks and interlinked systems.

The fact that those behind the tensions in the Sahel and Nigeria rely on social networks to control space should encourage the adoption of other spatial representations than “corridors” and “sanctuaries”. The reshaping and volatility of alliances between terrorist groups only add to the mobile, systemic and complex dimension of the risks that have developed in West Africa.

As well as being able to conduct its own analysis, the SWAC recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sahel Research Group at the University of Florida to bring together research and politics. It highlights ongoing security-related research work carried out by the Group and its African research centre partners.

The Secretariat also provides support for political dialogue on stabilisation issues in the Sahelo-Saharan areas through its participation in the network of Special Envoys and Partners for the Sahel.

SWAC’s contributions to understanding security issues and to policy dialogue on stabilisation issues contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.