NewsBrief, 17-23 February 2015

Regional actors move to advance Great Green Wall

Sustainable land management experts from 12 Sahelian and West African countries shared knowledge and best practices to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities and landscapes. Held from 18-19 February at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the conference brought together stakeholders in the Sahel and West Africa Programme (SAWAP) in support of the Great Green Wall initiative. Backed by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Great Green Wall initiative aims to combat desertification and ecological degradation in the Sahara-Sahel region. It links together environmental and resilience projects stretching across a 7 100 km strip from Dakar to Djibouti. In West Africa, the USD 1.1 billion SAWAP investment programme is facilitated by the regional hub project Building Resilience through Innovation, Communication and Knowledge Services (BRICKS). BRICKS promotes co-operation and co-ordination between the country project teams working to reverse land degradation strengthen livelihoods in some of the poorest communities, which depend heavily on natural resources for food and environmental security. CILSS is one of three implementing partners for BRICKS, providing knowledge management services. "The merit of the BRICKS arrangement is that it allows us, African regional centres of excellence, to collaborate together in a united way, up our game and leverage our capacity," said CILSS Executive Secretary Djime Adoum. "This allows us to offer effective services to the 12 country project teams and respond to their needs."
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Mali: parties pledge to respect ceasefire agreements

Parties in the inter-Malian dialogue process have agreed to an immediate halt to hostilities and pledged to abide by previous ceasefire agreements. Representatives of the government and an alliance of six armed groups signed a "Declaration of the parties to Algiers process" on 19 February in the Algerian capital. The Declaration comes just days after the start of the fifth round of talks in the international mediation effort. It calls for an "immediate cessation of all forms of violence" and urges all parties to "refrain from any provocative act or comments". Both sides agree to respect commitments made in the ceasefire agreement signed on 23 May 2014, the roadmap for peace talks agreed on 24 July 2014 and the Declaration on Cessation of Hostilities of 24 July 2014. Continuing clashes between the militant groups and pro-government militia have called the validity of the previous agreements into question and cast a pall over negotiations to find a lasting peace in northern Mali. Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra chaired the signing ceremony and said the Declaration aims to consolidate the ceasefire on the ground and build an atmosphere of confidence in the negotiations. "The stake is to avoid actions and statements that are likely to deteriorate the situation on the ground, and therefore to create undue and unnecessary difficulties in this process of negotiations," he said.
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UN appeals for USD 2 billion in humanitarian aid to the Sahel

National governments are assuming greater responsibility for supporting vulnerable populations, but millions of people are still in need of humanitarian assistance in the Sahel. The United Nations delivered this message as it launched an appeal for USD 1.96 billion to fund relief operations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. Robert Piper, the UN Under-Secretary General and Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Sahel region presented the UN plan on 16 February in Dakar. The appeal is part of a multi-year, regional strategy to enhance the international response to chronic challenges in food security and nutrition. Plans emphasise early intervention and stronger partnerships with governments and development actors. "Countries are becoming more aware of how to manage risk," Piper said. "Food security funding requirements are USD 200 million less this year than last, which shows governments are taking more financial burden than ever before." The UN said climate change is a principal factor in food insecurity in the region, with erratic rainfall disrupting food production. Conflicts in Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere have compounded the difficulties. Millions of people fleeing violence are taking refuge in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Mauritania and Niger, putting additional strain on already limited resources and inadequate infrastructure.
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UEMOA: focusing on results to enhance integration

UEMOA countries laid out plans to accelerate regional integration by placing greater emphasis on concrete results to improve the lives of citizens of the Union. The first peer review of the Africa Knowledge for Results Initiative (Afrik4R) in the UEMOA region was held from 3-5 February in Dakar, alongside the second meeting of the Community of Practice for the sector. Delegations from each of the eight UEMOA member countries attended the session to review the application of Managing for Development Results (MDR) at the national level and set an action plan for the realisation of three regional priorities: public financial management, trade facilitation and improving the business climate. Backed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Afrik4R initiative aims to promote regional integration by applying a results-based approach to public management. The pillars of MDR include strategic planning, results-based budgeting, monitoring and evaluation, and capacity building in statistical and information systems.
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Who's Who? Abderrahmane Sissako, filmmaker

Mauritanian film director Abderrahmane Sissako is putting West African filmmaking on the international stage in 2015. His critically acclaimed film "Timbuktu" is set against the backdrop of the Islamist revolt in northern Mali in 2012. It tells the story of the occupation of Timbuktu and how residents resisted harsh Islamic law that went against centuries of culture and learning in the fabled desert town. The film came away with seven trophies at the 40th Cesar Awards ceremony on 20 February in Paris. It previously won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign language category. The Mauritanian filmmaker is using his time in the international spotlight to urge African governments to promote filmmaking and other arts. "Wherever there is no culture, it is not a good thing," Sissako says. "There is a lack of political vision in nearly all the countries." Sissako is equally willing to take aim at extremist movements in West Africa. A theme in "Timbuktu" is the hypocrisy of the Islamists, who are depicted discussing football heroes despite having banned the sport. "We have to be clear - the salafists are a step backwards for society," Sissako said in an interview with Reuters. Born in 1961 in Kiffa, Mauitania, Sissako spent some of his childhood years in Mali. Currently based in France, he continues to focus his work on Africa and issues affecting the continent.
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Publication: Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010 

West Africans are among the healthiest eaters in the world, according to a recent study of dietary habits and trends in 187 countries. Researchers examined the consumption of key dietary items in 1990 and 2010. Overall the study, published in the Lancet Global Health, shows increased consumption of both health and unhealthy foods. Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone received high marks for the consumption of healthy foods. The West African diet was praised for containing lean meats, vegetables, beans, legumes and rice. While food insecurity and malnutrition are of paramount concern in West Africa, the study notes that poor diets contribute to the incidence non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs), which "are now surpassing those due to under nutrition in nearly every region of the world".
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Maps & Facts

For the past fifty years, the Sahara-Sahel has been wracked by recurring episodes of violence. However, the violence has never been as intense as now. These maps depict the variety of events related to the persistent centres of violence in South Sudan, Darfur and Nigeria, to which are added, depending on the period, the wave of “Arab Springs” in the north and the domestic conflicts in Gulf of Guinea states from Côte d’Ivoire to Guinea-Bissau. The Sahara-Sahel is not the region most directly affected by what could be compared to a state of war, except for recent events in Mali. The perpetual connection to peripheral regions and the traffic that passes through the region clearly show that it can be both a connection point between hotbeds of violence and a “sanctuary”. > download the map