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Denmark supports peace and stabilisation in the Sahel region with a new 125 million programme

New York, NY – September 23, 2013 – Today the Danish government launches a new regional Peace and Stabilisation Programme for the Sahel, covering Mali and other countries in the region. The programme has three pillars: 1) Support for dialogue and reconciliation, 2) Security sector support, and 3) Countering violent extremism and organized crime. The total budget for the 5 year programme is DKK 125 million (approx. 17 million euro).

The Sahel region is a focus area during the 68th Annual General Assembly, and the UN General Secretary will host a high level discussion focused on the region on Thursday, September 26, 2013. For Denmark, there is special focus on dialogue and reconciliation in civil society in the Sahel. This is priority area for Denmark, with strong focus on building a lasting peace in the region.


“We are launching the new regional Sahel programme with the aim of contributing to peace and development in one of the world’s most unstable regions and in some of the world’s poorest countries”, says Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, Christian Friis Bach. “The Danish government will dedicate DKK 125 million over 5 years to activities focusing on tackling the underlying causes of instability.”


”Sahel is a priority for the Danish government during the UN General Assembly this week,” says Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Villy Søvndal. “Sahel is a fragile region, where a number of global challenges are present. Fragile states, extremists, significant poverty and refugees mean that instability risks spreading beyond the Sahel.


Denmark is committed to contributing to combating these challenges. Politically, our objective is to promote peace and stabilization across the region. Mali is a good example. Last year Mali was on the verge of being overrun by extremists. The international community stood up to the challenge in Mali – and we are now contributing in the areas of security, political initiatives and development. The effort has paid off - after a year and a half of instability, Mali has held presidential elections with a historical high turnout.


The need to focus on a comprehensive approach as well as the need to include civil society in building a lasting peace will be one of my main focus areas at the high-level meeting with the UN Secretary-General on September 26.”


Christian Friis Bach, Minister for Development Cooperation, elaborates:

“The Sahel programme will supplement Denmark’s long-term developmental cooperation and humanitarian programmes in the region. The new programme will focus on dialogue and reconciliation, security sector initiatives and will work against extremism, radicalization and organized crime.


We will work to support conflict resolution at the local level by including all groups of society – across social and cultural divides. Conflicts are often local and require local solutions. We will support the large effort in building responsible security structures in countries including Mali. It is important that democratic control of military and police is increased.


Finally, we will work in close cooperation with the UN and international partners to tackle the underlying effects of organized crime and violent extremism on stability, development and social structures.”






The Danish government will continue our efforts in the Sahel region. Denmark will contribute to finding solutions for the crises in order to achieve long-term peace - providing the basis for development in one of the world’s poorest regions. The Sahel region is only one border away from Europe. Denmark plays a special role in the region as we have a long history of development cooperation with countries in the region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger).  Denmark played a very active role after the coup in 2012, including support for the presidential elections and with Danish military contribution to the French-led military operation.


In addition to Denmark’s long-term development cooperation and humanitarian engagement, Denmark is launching a regional Peace and Stabilisation Programme for the Sahel region. it is important to have a regional approach, as a majority of the challenges are cross-border in nature and have destabilising effects on the region as a whole. This is the case with organised crime affecting the region, including smuggling of weapons and drugs across the countries of the region. The programme focuses on the underlying reasons for the unstable security situation in the Sahel. We will work with three focus areas to contribute to increase stability in the Sahel:


  • Within 1) dialogue and reconciliation, the government will work to support conflict resolution at the local level, including a focus on inclusion of both formal and informal groups. Conflicts are often local and require local solutions.  
  • By focusing on 2) security, the government will supplement the widespread international efforts in building responsible security structures, specifically targeting democratic control of the military and police
  • Finally, the government will work to 3) fight violent extremism and organized crime. Organized crime and extremism threaten the underlying social structure of the countries of the region and thus overall security.


The total budget of the programme over 5 years is DKK 125 million (approx. 17 million euro). The Danish government will work with international partners, including other bilateral donors, the United Nations, the EU and others. The programme supplements Denmark’s long term development cooperation with the countries of the region, where Denmark contributes to peace, stability and development.


One of the overall themes of the programme is the importance of civil society in building peace and stability. As we have seen in Mali with the peace agreements of 1991, 1992 and 2006, peace was not long-term and stable. A main factor behind this was that civil society inclusion in the peace agreements was not systematic, and did not include all groups and was short-term. In the Sahel region, there are “visible” and “invisible” layers of civil society. The invisible layer, which includes traditional leaders, women’s groups and others, is very important to include in dialogue and reconciliation processes, as the key to peace is at the local level.


With this as point of departure, Denmark will co-host a high-level meeting of ministers from the Sahel countries, West Africa, Danish partner countries and representatives from the African Union, the EU and the UN during the 68th Annual General Assembly of the United Nations. The meeting takes place today and will focus on how the inclusion of civil society can contribute to building a lasting peace in the Sahel region.


For further information, please contact

Press advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lars Peter Levy, tel. +4541904124

Special advisor to the Minister for Development Cooperation, Thomas Hundsbæk-Pedersen, tel. +4541865900