Where We Work
GCERF delineates the Sahel within the context of the Group of Five Countries for the Sahel, also known as G5 Sahel, the intergovernmental body to promote regional cooperation in development and security matters. Our focus is on the central Sahel region covering Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Our engagement in the region will directly bolster the implementation of National Action Plans of the three countries working in partnership with local, national, regional, and global partners. Our work began in Mali in 2016 followed by Burkina Faso and Niger in 2021.
The Sahel is one of the most deprived regions in the world. It is home to several fragile and conflict-affected states, each ranking low on the UN Human Development Index and beset by multidimensional conflicts. These conflicts have created fertile environments for violent extremism and organised crime in an already fragile regional context. The region is also a source of criminal activities, including human trafficking and the smuggling of people, drugs, and weapons.
Mali is currently ranked 4 on the Global Terrorism Index of 2023. According to the 2023 Global Terrorism Index, deaths due to terrorism in Mali increased by 56%. Deaths in the Sahel constituted 43% of the global total of terrorism deaths in 2022, compared to just one percent in 2007.
The main drivers of violent extremism are youth unemployment, farmer/herder conflicts and governance-related grievances. VE groups exploit these tensions and insecurities by communicating narratives of injustice and by providing protection in exchange for loyalty.
Empowering women and youth through workshops
I am learning for the first time, through these participatory diagnostics workshop, that a citizen has the right to challenge an elected local official on the management of communal affairs.
– Youth participant in Douentza
Pathways to Change
Baseline studies conducted by GCERF grantees revealed that unemployment, poverty, lack of access to basic social services, and the lack of economic opportunities result in frustrations that contribute to a feeling of exclusion and marginalisation.
Violent extremist groups take advantage of this situation and offer young people financial and material incentives to enlist them. Violent extremists exploit public perceptions of poor governance with a discourse that claims fight to corruption, impunity, and offer alternative solutions.
GCERF works with youth, women, religious and tradition leaders, farmers and herders, students and local authorities to:
- Promote women and youth leaders within community-level conflict resolution mechanisms for the prevention on violent extremism (PVE).
- Strengthen the role of women leaders and local media in accessing information and communication on violent extremism.
- Reintegrate ex-detainees and ex-combatants through community action plans for the PVE.
- Improve political participation and economic opportunities for youth and women and improve access to basic services for communities.
- Improve pastoral resilience through infrastructure investment.
- Facilitate access to loans for young people and women and improve their socio-economic situation.
31,500 community members were directly engaged in activities to enhance their sense of belonging to an inclusive community.
10,388 women participated in awareness activities on PVE and conflict resolution.
297 PVE radio shows (in the languages Bambara, Dogon, Fulani, French, and Songhay) were broadcast in the programme locations, in addition to reaching listeners across the border in Burkina Faso. Some imams use the free air time granted to them by local stations to spread PVE messages based on the GCERF-funded programme training materials. Further, GCERF’s Malian grantees engage local radio reporters in other activities. As local celebrities, they have been invited to host graduation ceremonies of vocational training.
16,020 religious and community leaders participated in prevention activities.
13,030 students and teachers participated in prevention activities.
140 religious and community leaders completed training on violent extremism, prevention and management of conflicts.
140 religious and community leaders trained other on the causes of radicalisation and violent extremism.
123 village/district community dialogues raised awareness of recruitment and radicalisation to violent extremism, and how to guide at-risk individuals to the help they need.
6,581 people provided livelihood, economic or material support.
3,061 people reported improved livelihood and employment.
3,959 individuals reported being able to provide for their and their family’s basic needs.
1,287 individuals benefited from increased access to microcredit or savings mechanisms (Due to the high-risk security environment, many credit mechanisms have deserted the Malian countryside, and GCERF grantees have provided alternative savings solutions to programme participants).
1,191 young people launched community initiatives to fight radicalisation and violent extremism.
8,150 young people aged 15 or over participated in initiatives to prevent and combat radicalisaiton.
9,794 women actively participated in initiatives to prevent and combat radicalisation.
13,030 students and teachers who launched prevention initiatives on radicalism and violent extremism.