Cross border areas have long been a central concern for West Africa's stability.
On the one hand, they are zones of dynamic exchanges between border communities due to the shared cultural and ethnolinguistic ties. On the other hand, porous borders have facilitated the proliferation of illicit trade and are increasingly being perceived as a security threat as armed groups threaten the livelihoods of border communities by causing widespread destruction and displacement of people.The relative absence of the central government and the lack of basic services are further contributing to the instability of many cross-border areas. Yet, there is much to be gained by fostering cross-border collaboration between the local governments that share not just a common border but also common development and security challenges.
To respond to this challenge, UNCDF together with UEMOA and the Government of Luxembourg launched the Local Cross-Border Initiatives (LoBI) programme in 2012, initially piloted in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Over a 5 year period, LoBI will support the definition of cross-border strategies and policies at the national and regional levels and support efforts to create a regional funding mechanism for cross-border initiatives. At the local level, LoBI is designed to pilot new governance and financing mechanisms to support local governments in setting up cross-border initiatives such as infrastructure projects with a cross-border component or cross-border peace-building activities.
Since its inception, LoBI has made important contributions to the design and definition of the regional funding mechanism based at the UEMOA. At the national level, the programme has provided analytical support to help promote the inclusion of cross-border cooperation in national policy-making. In Mali for instance, cross-border cooperation was included for the first time in the national laws on inter-communal cooperation. LoBI's contribution is most visible in the IIR-Sahel zone between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, where UNCDF has provided technical assistance and grant funding to invest in infrastructure projects with a cross-border impact, most notably in the livestock and food sector.
As LoBI is nearing the end of its implementation cycle in June 2017, the primary concern is to build on the achievements made between 2012 and 2017. LoBI's support to creating a formal governance mechanism in the IIRSahel zone is a blueprint for promoting similar initiatives in other cross-border areas. With support from UNDP, more investments and cross-border initiatives were supported in 2017, including in the Diffa Region of Niger. In building on these experiences, LoBI will seek to strengthen its partnership with UNDP and the G5 Sahel to continue building peace through local economic development, working first and foremost with local governments in cross-border areas.