Cross-border cooperation: a tool for building peace and security in Sahel
  • November 06, 2015

The cross-border zones are essential for the stability of Africa. They are places of social, cultural and economic exchanges between various countries where the populations between borders share numerous social and family links. Real imaginary lines for the border zone populations, the borders are often perceived as artificial concepts which, in reality, do not prevent either exchanges between populations, or cross-border movements. However, drawn during colonial period, without reflecting life realities or local cultures, they can also turn out as a source of dispute and sometimes even open conflicts and represent a serious obstacle to the development of border’s populations.

Indeed, peace and security are essential to any development. They are at the same time an important prerequisite and a full component. The absence of safety mortgages development and, mutually, the economic fragility favor conflicts and insecurity. Conflict situations pull a reduction in population’s income and make fall the growth rate of state economies.

Now, how assuring peace and security in a context of an increasing cross-border criminality, circulation of weapons and post-crisis situation that certain countries lived and having engendered movements of population? Such is the stake which comes in western Africa at the moment. The control of borders, weapons and drugs circulation become major stakes since the recent Libyan and Malian crises and, with the increasing power of Islamic terrorism in Sahara.

These conflicts generated refugees on the nearby countries and directly in the border spaces. It is the case of the Malian conflict which made refugees in the municipalities of the Dori’s region and the department of Tilabéry. Impossible to be planned, the management of refugees thus involves the urgency to increase the offer of basic services in the border zones.

Then, how help in the construction of integrated spaces, promoting a long lasting peace culture in zones where it is difficult to associate an ethnic group to a State, so much peoples are imbricated, connected by old and renewed alliances, localize on both sides of borders? More than ever international partners are expected on the ground of an effective answer to the challenges lived by the populations as well as all the actors of the region.

Cross-border cooperation fast appeared to UNCDF as a tool to favor. Indeed, in front of security challenges so numerous and complex, only a united approach anchored in local context can have chances of success in the research for a lasting peace. So, UNCDF developed a global and united approach, which designs local development as sustainable solution to the problems of peace and security and works to put in relation: security, Governance and Development.

With its LoBI program, UNCDF and its partners, thus challenged themselves to invest in an integrated borders management through an harmonious development of West-African border spaces while supplying populations with infrastructures and basic services and by promoting the cross-border cooperation as basis to prevent conflicts. All this, to find peaceful solutions to problems that arise on the borders and to protect historic links between peoples.

The IIRSahel zone, in which LoBI program is working, is an agropastoral space. 90 % of the population lives on the bovine, caprine or ovine breeding, of which a large part of the transhumant breeding. The 200 km transhumance track which will soon be praticable in the municipalities of Dori, Seytenga, Tera and Sebba is an example proving that it is possible to associate local development and peace preservation.

"This track will allow to calm the tensions between breeders and farmers of the region. At the moment, the existing tracks are badly marked out, what create conflicts between populations who are sharing the space and the rare available water resources ", explains M. Mahamane Tahirou, of the Authority Liptako Gourma, an intergovernmental agency working in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and also an UNCDF’s partner, adding that " being secured and fitted out by water sources, this track will serve as route for animals, which will not go any more to the farmers’ fields. We are downright in the field of conflict prevention and of strengthening exchange relations between breeders and farmers ", he concludes.

" The municipalities which share borders have to take care seriously of security and development problems ", estimates M. Lassane OUEDRAOGO, executive Secretary of the Association of the municipalities of Burkina Faso, for whom the process of decentralization has to play a central role to equip them towards a development which will favor peace and will resolve current conflicts.

"It is more and more necessary to develop a joined vision where each have its place if we want to expect a lasting peace ", he concluded.

Indeed, the consideration of these questions requires a good collaboration and an integrated vision. The LOBI program thus leans on local collectivities in this social mobilization of local actors. These are called out, in particular in their role of preventive local diplomacy and their capacity to manage or to calm local conflicts by informal internal negotiations, considering their knowledge of the local environment and their capacities to mobilize moral and cultural strength such as traditional village chiefs, notables etc.

This is time for border’s integration. UNCDF’s approaches with its LoBI program is thus an approach of local development so that the local collectivities can define, by innovative institutional and financial mechanisms, a common vision of their territory, develop coherent and coordinated policies regarding development and planning, services, infrastructures and cross-border public equipments.

The stake thus is to gather populations around common and shared values to make the African continent a space of commercial and cultural exchanges, where the borders will not represent anymore a separation, but a peace zone of sharing.