Global Security Risks and West Africa: Development Challenges


cov-global security risks

OECD West African Studies, January 2012

This SWAC publication explores current global security issues, their development in West Africa and their potential impact on regional stability. It takes a close look at issues such as terrorism and trafficking, climate change, and the links between “security and development”. Some of these issues are still the object of heated debate. This book draws attention to the risk of oversimplified analyses and biased perceptions of security risks. It also highlights the need for co-ordinated policies and dialogue between West Africa, North Africa and OECD countries.

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Part I. Emergence of Criminal Global Networks in West Africa

Part II. Climate Change and Security

Part III. The “Security and Development” Nexus

Chapter 1. Reversal of fortune: AQIM’s stalemate in Algeria and its new front in the Sahel

by Henry Wilkinson

Since 2007, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has failed to realise its goals in Algeria, the Maghreb and has never carried out an attack in the West. And instead, driven by a mix of necessity, opportunism, a change of ideology in its leaders and a more favourable operating environment, it has intensified its activities in the Sahel, where it now has the potential to pose a significant and tenacious threat to regional security, stability and development. AQIM is neither a large nor a mainstream movement but it is a capable terrorist organisation within the region, and having intensified its activities in the Sahara and accrued considerable wealth from kidnapping operations appears now to be in an advantageous position to exploit the insecurity wrought by Libyan civil war. The contention of this paper is that there is now a serious risk of AQIM reversing years of stagnation and failure, and reinvigorating the jihadist cause in North Africa in a way that few observers of the group would have foreseen before the Arab Spring of 2011. The Sahel countries are therefore at a critical juncture in terms of terrorism threat and response. > free preview

Chapter 2. The security challenges of West Africa

by Eric Denécé and Alain Rodier

West Africa has been faced with a multitude of wide-ranging security challenges. This article provides a comprehensive assessment in understanding some of the region’s security challenges. It highlights their negative impact to the stability, development and economies of the region. Three concurrent factors are identified: 1 – persistent internal conflict emphasised by the structural weakness of governments; 2 – jihadist terrorism as a manifestation of the rise of radical Islam and the presence of AQIM in the Sahel; and 3 – the growth of organised crime including drug and human trafficking and piracy. The role of key regional and external actors in fueling insecurity in the region is also analysed. It concludes that security challenges can no longer be solved in a national or regional framework. The transnational connection between the Sahel and West Africa with North Africa is an important element that supports the expansion of such a framework. Regional, transnational and international co-operation are effctive and long-term solutions that will improve the security landscape of the region as a whole. > free preview

Chapter 4. The Sahel and the climate security debate

by Tor A. Benjaminsen

With climate change becoming a leading global political issue, the idea that there is a close link between global warming and violent conflicts has also caught international attention. The Sahel, in particular, is pointed out as the clearest example where there are climate-driven conflicts. Many politicians and international civil servants in particular, seem attracted to this idea. For instance, in a newspaper article UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a connection between global warming and the Darfur conflict (Ban 2007). The idea was also at the crux of the decision to award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to former US Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, human-induced climate change is one of the main causes of violent conflict and war in the world today.

The essence of an argument about the climate-conflict link in the Sahel that consists of two elements:

  • Global climate change leads to drought and desertification, which in turn lead to resource scarcity.
  • This resource scarcity leads to migration and the emergence of new conflicts, or it triggers existing, latent conflicts.

This chapter takes a critical look at both these claims and assesses them on the basis of available international research. But before assessing these two claims, a brief review the climate security literature on the Sahel will be presented. > free preview

Chapter 5. Climate change in the Sahel: A human security perspective

by Philipp Heinrigs and Marie Trémolières

Climate change and speculation over its security implications pervade political and public discourse. Against this backdrop, recent incidents involving terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel which is identified as one of the most vulnerable to climate makes this region a most pressing security concerns of the OECD countries.

As emphasised in Article 1, the climate of the Sahel features extreme variability in precipitation from one season or decade to another. Nevertheless, the scientific community has been unable to reach consensus on the causes of lengthy drought at the end of the 20th century, or on the directions of climate change.

As for the cause-and-effect relationship between climate and security, climatic variables would seem secondary, and often indirect, as compared with political, historical and economic variables. These uncertainties, highlighted by the recent SWAC/OECD study, would suggest that security should be tackled in its expanded dimension (human security), in particular by focusing more on food security and optimising the “management” of climatic variability in future policies. > free preview

Chapter 6. The securitisation of climate change in the European Union

by Rafaela Rodrigues de Brito

The securitisation of climate change has entered the international agenda creating concerns about the appropriateness of security responses to an issue such as climate change. Nevertheless, the European Union (EU) has identified climate change as an international security issue and is seeking to take the lead in shaping international response to the security implications of climate change.

This chapter addresses the securitisation of climate change in the EU and analyses the policy implications of such a process. It argues that contradicting predictions of militarisation as well as the causes and consequences of climate change are being addressed through mitigation and adaptation measures. Moreover, at the international level, the EU is enhancing dialogue and co-operation with key partners and countries most at risk. > free preview


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