European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
AGIR – one year on
West Africa Week / Abidjan
27 November 2013
Monsieur le Premier Ministre, Messieurs les Ministres, Messieurs les Commissaires, Cher Francois-Xavier De Donnea, President du Club du Sahel, Monsieur le Secretaire Executif du CILSS; chers amis du Sahel et de l'Afrique de l'Ouest.
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be with you again today. One year ago, many of us met in Ouagadougou, and together we launched AGIR-Sahel. Today is a key staging post in our collective effort to make AGIR a reality on the ground. D'agir ensemble pour la resilience au Sahel. Allow me to share a few thoughts on how far we have come together, and what lies ahead for AGIR.
But before that, a quick reminder of what resilience in the Sahel is actually about.
It is about making sure agricultural production is more resistant to the kind of shocks to which the Sahel is particularly vulnerable. By helping farmers use simple methods to protect their crops against drought – and against floods.
And it is also about taking action across a whole range of sectors. Health. Nutrition. Social protection systems.
You saw some examples earlier today in the video: like the example of the Traore family in Burkina Faso – a typical story of how ordinary people in the Sahel are hit by extreme weather events – dry spells; but also floods. And how these impact on their livelihoods – and not just livelihoods: resilience, for people like the Traore family, is literally a question of life and death. And we saw in the video how well-targeted schemes to help people like the Traores – such as the cash transfer scheme you saw in the video; or access to healthcare – can make a difference. The difference between life and death.
Or to take another example: subsidizing health care for the most vulnerable, which can make a huge difference – I saw that last year in Burkina. A 13% decrease in mortality for the under-5s, for that particular programme in Burkina. Again: the difference between life – and death.
There is a tremendous amount of experience on precisely these issues in this room today. Au Niger, vous avez les 3N – vive les 3N! Au Tchad, vous avez une très grande expérience avec le pastoralisme. And there are many more examples from all the countries of the region. This is the kind of rich experience that AGIR needs to build on – with all the expertise and resources that are now available at the regional level. My key point is that we collectively – you, collectively – know what to do to build resilience. And AGIR is all about building on that knowledge.
2. AGIR – one year on
So now we have AGIR. The test is: what difference does it make on the ground? How does it help get the kind of activities that we heard about earlier off the ground – the kind of activities that are making a difference for people like the Traore family?
I think the story so far is very encouraging:
We have strong leadership at the regional level – from ECOWAS, from UEMOA, from CILSS. Messieurs les Commissaires, Monsieur le Secrétaire Exécutif du CILSS – merci, et bravo. And we have had fantastic support from the Club du Sahel – thank you.
As we have been hearing this week, many of the States of the region have started launching national dialogues to identify national resilience priorities.
The impact of AGIR on us, the donors, really cannot be overstated. Let me take the example of the EU: as my colleague Commissioner Piebalgs announced in April, we will be putting € 1.5 bn of EU development funding into resilience-building in the Sahel and West Africa for the 2014-2020 period. We have now identified the big priorities for our programming, together with our partner countries in the region. I am pleased to say that food security and resilience is among the priority sectors in almost all the countries of the region. And we have instructed all our Delegations in the region to engage with their host governments on how we can best support national resilience priorities.
I am also extremely pleased to inform you that we have proposed to EU Member States and the Eureopean Parliament to double the allocation to our West Africa Regional Program for 2014-2020 under the 11th European Development Fund with an envelope of €1.2 bn. Again, resilience has been proposed as one of the 3 main priorities.
Another example of the impact of AGIR: we are as EU supporting the €56 million regional food reserve project. This helps link up humanitarian response and development assistance, reinforces the interaction between national and regional levels, and joins up the efforts of the EU, some of our Member States (notably Spain and France), and USAID.
In fact, more generally, AGIR has had a very beneficial effect on us, the donor community: it has forced us to ensure much better linkages between our humanitarian response and our development assistance. Something we, for example in the EU, have been talking about for years – but now, thanks to AGIR, it is actually happening.
I also know how committed the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United Nations and USAID are – and that is very heartening.
We are also seeing much closer cooperation among the technical and financial partners on resilience – at country level; and at regional level. AGIR has been the catalyst for this. And the recent joint visit to the Sahel by the UN Secretary General and the President of the World Bank (in which my colleague Andris Piebalgs participated) was a great opportunity to reinforce our shared commitment to resilience across the region.
Finally, at a time when the linkages between security and development are getting even greater prominence: building resilience, improving natural resource management, and reducing tensions and conflicts over scarced natural resources are among the best options we have to improve the livelihoods of agro-pastoral and rural communities. And indirectly, all of these efforts will also positively impact on the stability and security of the region.
3. Next steps – between now and April 2014
So, a lot of work is under way. I am confident that by the time of the RPCA meeting in April next year, we will be seeing even more good news stories.
I am very hopeful that we will see more national dialogues launched between now and April. More resilience priorities finalized. And that these priorities will address all the key components of resilience, across different sectors: agricultural production, of course; but also access to health care; nutrition; social safety nets; water; and proper functioning of local and regional food markets.
And one last point: we need to remain vigilant. Because there is no guarantee that we will not see another crisis like those that hit the Sahel in 2005, in 2010, in 2012. Food prices across the region remain very high. Markets are still affected by the security situation in some countries of the region. It would not take much to tip the most vulnerable people across the region over the edge.
And that takes me back to my starting point: what AGIR is really about. It is about the difference between life and death. For people like the Traores. Together, we can make that difference.
Thank you very much.