Policy Framework to Build Peace in the Sahel
In response to the conflict in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proposes the recommendations below. These recommendations are derived from consultations with the local Catholic Church and are based on principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST). CST urges respect for the principle of Subsidiarity -- – solving problems at as local a level as possible, valuing participation and decentralization, and inclusive governance that grants power and resources to people so that they can shape their own destiny.
The Catholic Church also emphasizes the crucial role of the state to ensure peace, the rule of law, and respect for human and civil rights. As such, it prioritizes dialogue and negotiations to resolve conflict and foster sustainable peace by rebuilding social cohesion between communities in conflict and leading them to reconciliation.
The Committee on International Justice and Peace urges the United States government to work with the European Union, the French government, the Africa Union, and the Sahel G-5 countries to support programs and progress in the following areas:
A. General Security, Political and Social Structures
- Governments in the region should collaborate with civil society and faith-based groups to win back credibility by reestablishing the full range of government services, directed and staffed by local authorities. Priority should be placed on justice and the rule of law, to enable health structures, schools, and effective programs to promote employment and micro-enterprise skills among youth and women.
- State military and police forces should prioritize the protection of communities, partnering with them to understand their needs and getting their buy-in on any security measures adopted. Any military/police action taken to prevent attacks should be proportionate, fully respecting human and civil rights.
- Governments in the region should carefully control and limit the creation of armed selfdefense forces to prevent their operating outside the rule of law.
- Incentivize the Malian government to fully implement the 2015 Peace Agreement to:
a. Improve political inclusion and self-determination through decentralization of local government, election of local representatives with appropriate decisionmaking powers, and revenue generation.
b. Reform central government institutions by including northern communities.
B. In Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, there is a long history of solidarity, dialogue and collaboration between Muslim and Christian religious leaders. These leaders are held up as credible and trustworthy advocates for their people and their institutions are valued for their service to people living in poverty and violence.
The Committee urges the United States and the international community to:
- Assist religious leaders to implement an education/media program that constructs a new narrative countering extremist ideologies with messages of a return to traditional values of solidarity, collaboration, mutual support and social cohesion.
- Start inter-faith led programs to end conflict that divides local communities along religious lines and instead, rebuild inter-community cohesion to counter future attempts to stir up violence. This is particularly important in the Middle Belt of Mali between the Fulani herders and the Dogon and Bambara communities. In Burkina Faso this kind of inter-faith peacebuilding is crucial in the North and East of the country where the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel is fueling conflict between Muslim and Christian communities.
- Develop programs that offer youth (both men and women), education, particularly vocational and entrepreneurial skills training; employment assistance, and funding that will give them opportunities for a better future.
- Organize National Youth Forums, gatherings and conferences for young people on social cohesion.
- Institute programs for former young recruits of armed groups to re-integrate into their former communities and for communities to better assimilate former combatants.
- Continue to provide humanitarian and recovery assistance for the victims and communities in conflict.
- Maintain development programs in areas of stability to help communities to build the resilience needed to resist and/or recover from efforts to create conflict.
- Integrate peacebuilding and social cohesion programs into all humanitarian and development programs.
- Prepare for the Possible Expansion of Conflict into Coastal Countries: support early warning systems for violence in coastal countries such as USAID’s Reacting to Early Warning and Response Data in West Africa Program (REWARD) and expand programming that prevents and mitigates conflict such as those that strengthen community bonds.
C. The Committee urges the United States to assist the Catholic Church in collaboration with its inter-faith and civil society partners in the three countries to develop an effective structure and campaign of advocacy towards those governments in the Sahel to encourage them to implement the peace accord in Mali and other responsibilities enumerated in Section A above.