The Sahel-Sahara faces a multitude of security challenges. The biggest threats mushroom at the periphery of national boundaries where government writs rarely run. The permeability of borders, along with the proliferation of zones of political vacuums and economic marginalisation in the hinterlands, has transformed border communities into epicentres of radicalised ethnic claims, cross-border militancy, and organized crime. Understanding the dangerous interplay between structural forces like dispossession, region-specific exclusion and group discrimination on the one hand, and the pull exercised by extremist networks and inspirational ideologues on the other, is necessary for tackling the underlying causes of militancy in the Sahel/Saharan border regions.
The Middle East and North Africa is undergoing a profound geopolitical reconfiguration. Since the 2011 popular revolutions, the region has transitioned from great hopes for democratisation towards a spiral of violence, fragmentation and fragility. As a result, competition for power and influence in the Arab world increasingly supersedes calls for political reform. In particular, those states that claim to support the development of democracy face a number of seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas as they simultaneously try to further their geopolitical interests. This FRIDE book maps the geopolitical profiles and activities of six key regional powers (Egypt, Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) and seven influential external actors (China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) - and assesses how their pursuit of their geopolitical interests is affecting the prospects for democracy across the Middle East.
The Sahel is a hotspot for global climate change, with temperatures having risen by nearly 1ºC since 1970, at a rate nearly twice the global average. The region also faces increasingly variable rainfall, and more frequent droughts and storms, while its highly fragile states have limited ability to adapt to climate-related shocks. Moreover, the region’s weak institutions, political instability, poverty, inequality and historical grievances have the potential to combine with climate change to exacerbate existing tensions and trigger new conflicts. International actors can help states across the Sahel address their interrelated climate and conflict challenges by supporting peacebuilding interventions that help build resilience to climate change and climate change responses that help avoid conflict.
The Sahel region is wracked both by state fragility and extreme gender inequality, which are inextricably linked. Across the region, women’s profound political, economic and social exclusion is both exacerbated by and contributes to weak governance, underdevelopment and conflict, and acts as a barrier to effective peacebuilding. Despite this, international actors have failed to prioritise gender equality or women’s rights in their responses to fragility in the Sahel. It is critical that international actors recognise the centrality of gender for the political, security, development and sustainability outcomes they seek for the region.
Iran has been the most effective country at leveraging the ongoing disorder across the Middle East to expand its regional influence. Tehran has done this by providing substantial political, military and financial backing to allies and proxies in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. However, this expansion of Iranian influence has come with some costs. For example, because it has supported mainly Shiite groups, Iran’s image as a pan-Islamic power has been damaged in the predominantly Sunni Arab world. Furthermore, the revolutionary regime in Tehran shows no signs of lessening its ideological antipathy towards the United States and its Middle Eastern allies. Despite the pending nuclear deal, therefore, relations with the US are unlikely to be realigned, while relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, look set to deteriorate further.
Yemen has become the testing ground for Saudi Arabia’s new assertive foreign policy and its bid for regional leadership. A Saudi-led coalition launched an aerial bombing campaign at the end of March to contain and reverse Houthi rebels’ expansion and reinstate exiled President Hadi. The Saudi Kingdom was able to leverage shared concerns over the threat represented by Iran’s growing influence and backing of the Houthis to gain the support of other Sunni regimes in the region. However, Yemen represents little more than a backwater for many of the external actors involved. This is why Saudi Arabia, the country that has most invested in the crisis, may end up paying the highest political price for it.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.
Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.
The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.
The President of the Board
FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.
Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.
El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.
El Presidente del Patronato