top of page

Summary Common Effort 2020 Webinar

Trust-building in the Sahel


This webinar was designed to ensure the continuity of the Sahel focus and builds on the 2019 knowledge development workshop which aimed to gain a comprehensive overview of the opportunities and challenges in the Sahel. Trust-building in the Sahel is not a goal in itself, but a means to sustain security and development efforts. Weak government structures that are often unable to meet the basic needs of the population as well as the performance of security forces are often considered as root causes for the ongoing conflict in the Sahel. A common understanding of the conflict dynamics and the needs of the population is therefore necessary to obtain commitment. The challenges in this respect can be tackled by mapping out the key issues and actors together with community engagement to support security and development attempts.


The first part of the webinar focused on the theoretical background of trust-building. There were several responses to our call for papers, two of which were discussed during the webinar. Valerio Viscardi elaborated on a paper published by OTH Regensburg which measures trust through different perspectives in gains and losses explained via prospect theory. Prospect theory is an economic theory which explains why and when people are willing or reluctant to take risks. The paper discusses how this willingness or reluctance to take risks translates into trustworthiness. Max Bornefeld-Ettmann, the second respondent to our call for papers, discussed community building and management based on his findings in the book ‘’The Different Drum’’ by M. Scott Peck. According to Mr. Bornefeld-Ettmann, every aspect of community building relates to trust-building. Key factors to community building are communication, inclusivity, commitment, continuity and consensus. Just to be present in one place with others is not enough, community creation requires time as well as effort and sacrifice, it cannot be cheaply bought. This becomes visible in the four stages described towards community making (1. Pseudo community 2. Chaos 3. Emptiness 4. Community).


The recent developments in the G5 Sahel region were discussed during the second part of the webinar by Clingendael, EU Military Staff, EUCAP and Mosecon.

Anna Schmauder, from Clingendael, elaborated on the recent developments when it comes to the overall security and conflict dynamics, the role of various government actors including armed groups and political challenges in the Sahel region. 2020 marks a key year both in terms of security development and political dynamics with stagnation and setbacks being region wide trends. Just looking at the first 9 months of this year, 2020 is already deadlier than any year in the past decade. A worrying trend that has become visible during this year is that security and defense forces now account for more civilian fatalities than the violent extremist groups they are supposed to fight. As a response to this trend, the amount of self-defense groups has increased significantly. Clashes between extremist groups such as Al Qaida and the Islamic State have additionally increased due to the geographic expansion efforts of the Islamic State. Despite these expansions, the position of Al Qaida has strengthened significantly as a result of a high profile prisoner’s swap in Mali. All these development have resulted in a displacement crisis in the Sahel region. The political challenges arise from the elections coming up in Niger and Burkina Faso.

Brigadier General Bart Laurent, from the EU Military Staff, provided the attendees with information on the EU integrated approach and elaborated on the EU initiatives in the Sahel. The focus within the Sahel is on Mali and the EU has deployed quite a lot in Mali as well as the rest of the Sahel region; both civilian and military missions. During the next four years, the mission in Mali will expand and will have a broader regional focus in Burkina Faso and Niger. This mission is a non-executive assistance mission, so no combat operations will be undertaken.

On behalf of MOSECON, Yan St-Pierre briefly discussed how different hegemons, such as the historical hegemon (FRA) and the current hegemon (US), are part of the problem rather than the solution. This affects many aspects of program implementation and trust-building. What MOSECON aims to do is bridge the gap between local actors, decision-makers as well as various international partners. The non-hegemonic actors have more credibility and greater soft power capabilities and should therefore be more involved in international humanitarian and military operations to reduce the credibility gap that is a problem for international organizations and trust-building.

EUCAP is the sister organization of EUTM, but focuses on the national guards, gendarmerie (police) rather than on the army. Hanna Mollan and Lena Edouard explain how EUCAP focus on capacity building through counselling and trainings (non-executive). EUCAP brings forces and civil society together in order to create trust. This is not as easy as it sounds as the gendarmerie has a double mission: a mission of security protection and a mission defense and combat. Those are incompatible and it is a challenge to find a balance.

Q&A following the recent developments in the Sahel region:

  • To Anna Schmauder (Clingendael): Do you see increasing tension towards international/external intervention and how would you read that?

There is an imbalance of the European Union and the African States. There is a tension towards certain missions, increasing amounts of protests in Mali. Even with the new transition in the government, the relation towards the international partners remains unchanged. The previous missions have proved to be insufficient. But the responsibility lies with both the national and international communities/actors in the conflict dynamics.

  • To Lena Edouard (EUCAP): Could you tell us a little more on the relations with the HQ, specifically on trust-building between your mission and Brussels?

It is important to translate the guidelines and big ambitions coming from Brussels in our own strategy. We have great connection with the different delegations.

  • To Hanna Mollan (EUCAP): You indicated the interaction with civilians to be put higher in the Malian chain of command. Which level do you aim for?

We only aim for the top! We talked about the disconnect between of the civilians. Our framework is security sector reform, and both the European and Malian policy is very clear on the importance and necessity of systematically including civil society. The thing we need now if for the actors to operationalize these policies.


The third part of the webinar is the panel which focuses on mapping as a first step towards community engagement and trust-building. Our different panelists are DCAF-ISSAT, IDLO, ELVA, Mercy Corps, IOM and GIZ.

Sharazad Chida elaborates on how DCAF-ISSAT provides donors with information of the populations needs and helps target areas of focus through mapping. Mapping helps eliminate the ‘quick fixes’ and focus on the sustainable options. One challenge in regards to mapping is that it can be too ambitions (e.g. cover entire governance – no specification).

IDLO exclusively focuses on promoting the rule of law. As explained by Ousmane Seye, restoring the legitimacy of the justice system requires strengthening (1) the capacities of institutions in the criminal justice chain, (2) external monitoring mechanisms and (3) access to justice. IDLO’s approach towards community engagement and trust-building is the innovative approach. Identification of local and regional needs through mapping, promoting ownership and adapting to opportunities whilst drawing inspirations from lessons learned is of essence here.

As explained by Mark van Embden Andres, ELVA collects and analyses data from conflict effected communities for the purpose of early warning and response, preventing violence against civilians and countering violent extremism. Since February 2020, ELVA has been involved in a cross country study, including the Sahel region, to detect and analyze potential spill-over of extremism to other regions/countries. One of the main impacts of ELVA’s work is the early detection of activity of insurgency/armed groups.

Jim Arbogast, from Mercy Corps, elaborated on the resilience approach they use in detecting and identifying tensions in local communities through mapping. In the process of mapping, Jim Arbogast noticed how the identification of tensions in certain areas and the collaboration with locals is almost more important than the mapping result. Mercy Corps tries to find solutions with the locals collectively, aiming to strengthen social cohesion and resilience to reduce violence.

IOM, as explained by Sophie Hoffmann, contributes to stronger migration governance and border management in the Sahel G5 region. IOM advices the government regarding border policies and management as these policies lead to illegal and legal migration. Furthermore, IOM aims to strengthen community building and engagement in border areas through activities and the creation of a community network. Communities need to be part of the solution when it comes to problems regarding border management.

Rudiger Wehr, from GIZ, states that trust depends on protection and (the sense of) security as well as the availability of basic services. Decentralization is of great importance to strengthen social cohesion and trust between the state and society. Building trust is not a one way street. By decentralizing power, the state shows its trust in the capacity of the society. GIZ realizes this idea by advising the government, offering technical and financial support and training elected officials.

Ideas & recommendations for the Common Effort Newsletter?
Do you have an upcoming event or a suggestion for an article in the next newsletter? Send us an e-mail

bottom of page