A country must ensure the security of its citizens. Human security is a fundamental public good, as is access to healthcare, education or food.
The Sahel region is a fragile zone due to different factors such as extreme poverty, weak state structures and climate change. Moreover, since the early 2010s, there has been an increased presence of jihadist and other armed groups in the region, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS).
This has led to increasing insecurity and instability in the region. The armed groups carry out attacks on civilians, government officials and military personnel and use violence to control territory. In the process, they destroy security posts, schools and telecommunications infrastructure. They undermine the role and credibility of the state and present themselves as alternatives for protecting the population and managing infrastructure.
With a view to stabilising the security situation in the Sahel region and addressing the threat of jihadism, the situation receives increased international attention.
The 2022-2027 cooperation programme between Belgium and Niger focuses on four themes: social security and combating inequality; livestock breeding with a focus on rural entrepreneurship; environment and climate; and security.
The government of Niger has requested support of the international community to stabilise the Torodi Department, which has been ravaged by armed gangs and jihadists. The area lies on the traffic axis linking the capital Niamey with Burkina Faso and Benin. The State of Niger wants to restore its presence there, strengthen social cohesion and improve government services. For the government, it is important that the fight against terrorism is combined with development programmes that improve the living conditions of the 260,000 inhabitants of the Torodi Department and ensure that the state continues to play its role so that people’s confidence in public services is strengthened and the economy is boosted.
3D-approach – Defense, Diplomacy and Development
In response to this request, Belgium was one of the first countries to pioneer the 3D approach, with Belgian Defence, Diplomacy and Development working together to provide coherent support.
Belgian Diplomacy has privileged contacts with the authorities of Niger through its Ambassador, so that a permanent check can be made on whether the activities are properly aligned with Niger’s strategic priorities. This serves the sustainability of the actions.
Belgian Defence supports the armed forces of Niger in becoming more autonomous and resilient. The support consists of training, advice and the provision of non-lethal equipment (individual equipment including helmets, binoculars, clothing, sleeping gear, night vision equipment, communication tools, vehicles, navigation equipment). Belgian Defence is also involved in the construction of new barracks in the Torodi Department, from which Niger will conduct its operations in the zone. With the presence of other internal security services (police, gendarmerie, national guard), this support should ensure that the local population regains confidence in its security forces, which is only possible if they manage to guarantee security.
The Belgian Development Cooperation, through Enabel, commissioned a thorough analysis of the socioeconomic situation in Torodi. The needs of the population form the basis for the municipal development and investment plans. Enabel supports the realisation of those plans. The intention is to work with the local administration in Torodi on access to healthcare, education and economic activities (production and sales of vegetables and livestock). These rapid impact actions are combined with awareness-raising campaigns for peace, civic engagement and social cohesion.
“All activities are organised as close as possible to the citizens. To best guarantee success and not jeopardise the credibility of Niger’s public services, it was expressly requested that Belgian support be as low profile as possible. After all, the aim is to strengthen the presence of the government of Niger and show the population that the State takes its duties to heart,” says Bart De Groof, Special Envoy for the Sahel Region.
The 3D initiative is not going unnoticed, with the EU providing extra funds to support the Belgian pilot project. The ‘European’ activities include the construction of a commissariat and the supply of equipment (furniture, computers, bullet-proof vests, binoculars, transport equipment…) so that the national security services can carry out their mission in the region.