Peace & Security

Improving cross-border and regional cooperation for stability and development, preventing and resolving conflicts and promoting access to justice and human rights.

Peace, justice, human rights and effective governance based on the rule of law are essential elements for sustainable development.

  • In the Sahel, some regions enjoy peace, security and prosperity, while others are caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of conflict and violence. High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive effect on a country’s development, hampering economic growth and unleashing suffering on the population that can persist for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are pervasive in places of conflict or where there is no rule of law. Nations must take action to protect those most at risk. Today, the citizens of the Sahel experience slow administration, corruption and poor redistribution of resources, meaning they have little confidence in their government. They are asking for more justice and public institutions that are in line with their needs. They wish to be more involved in the democratic life of their countries.

  • Through their programs, UN agencies work with governments and communities in Sahel countries to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity. Strengthening the rule of law and promoting human rights are at the heart of this process, including improving access to justice for vulnerable communities, combating human trafficking and reducing illegal arms trafficking. Actions also aim at strengthening institutional capacities for citizen engagement, mediation and reconciliation in communities severely affected by conflict. This includes the creation of local infrastructures for peace and the strengthening of communities to prevent conflicts, combat terrorism, crime and violent extremism, particularly in cross-border regions where refugees, displaced persons and host communities often coexist.

Conflict prevention in Mauritania


The Mbera refugee camp, located in the extreme southeast of Mauritania, is now home to 60,000 Malian refugees. That’s more than the local population.

  • The political and security situation in Mali makes their return unlikely in the near future and the active presence of armed groups on the other side of the border risks a rapid potential spillover of the conflict onto the Mauritanian side. As a result, the usual routes used by nomadic communities for the seasonal movement of their livestock are completely disrupted, leading to a high concentration of population and livestock and further increasing the pressure on vital natural resources, which are already severely affected by climatic shocks.

    This project implemented by four UN agencies – the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) -

  • is addressing the causes of local tensions, thereby reducing the risk of conflict by strengthening the institutional capacity and improving the resources of the existing community.

    With a human rights-based approach, actions are drawn on three components: strengthening the capacity of the local system (state structure, village committees and civil society) to manage natural resources in a peaceful manner; boosting local economic development through income-generating activities; and raising awareness and organizing young people to act as local agents for peace.

  • Mbera, Mauritania, July 2017 – UNICEF Mauritania / A.Tamayo-Alvarez
  • Mohamed

    The young refugee shepherd who became first in his class in Mauritania

    “My name is Mohamed, I’m currently in 9th grade. Before arriving at MBerra camp, I was a shepherd. I used to see the children going to school every day while I took my stick and water canister very early in the morning to follow the animals. Seven years ago, when fighting broke out in Mali, my family had to give up everything and we came here to settle down. As I had no more animals, I asked my father to enroll me in school, because all my friends were going there, and he finally accepted. When I entered 6th grade, I received a gift from the administration because I got the third best grade on my first assignment. Then I became first in the class - I still am. Since then, I’ve received many gifts. My level always amazes my director, and my father, seeing my results, apologized for not sending me sooner. I will continue to work hard and I feel really encouraged by the support we have received since we arrived at the camp.”

    Education plays a crucial role in promoting a return to normality and helping children overcome conflict-related trauma.

  • Vatme

    Member of the women’s network in Bassikounou, Mauritania

    “The human rights organization has organized training and awareness campaigns on women’s rights and conflict resolution and helped us to create a well-organized network. Before, when there were conflicts between us, we would go to the police or the gendarmerie. Now we know how to organize meetings and solve our problems. Our village committees have also been strengthened to resolve conflicts between local communities and refugees. Regarding women’s rights, before, women didn’t know their rights. Today they know them. For example, if a man leaves his wife without giving her money, she goes to the relevant committees and gets her rights without any problem.”

  • Mbera, Mauritania, December 2018 – OHCHR Mauritania

Initiative for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants

by IOM and EU

Since 2017, a joint initiative of the European Union and the International Organization for Migration has assisted 87,000 migrants to return to their countries of origin on Africa’s main migration routes. Of these 76,000 were from the Sahel.

  • Implemented in 26 African countries, the project saves lives by helping migrants along the way, offers voluntary return assistance to those who want it, and provides reintegration assistance to returning migrants and their communities. In cooperation with state and non-state actors, reintegration assistance can take different forms: medical and psychosocial support, help to set up a small business, support to undertake education or vocational training, help with job placement or referral to other services available in the country.

  • Banjul, The Gambia, October 2019 – IOM / Miko Alazas
  • Sireh

    Back in The Gambia

    “After graduating from high school, I opened a cosmetics shop in The Gambia. Business was not lucrative so I saved a little money to go to Europe in 2015. But when I arrived in Bamako, Mali, I already had no money left in my savings. My parents had to send me some money to finish the trip to Libya. There I was lucky because I was not sexually abused or exploited. But I was imprisoned four times and my family had to pay again for my release. After four years of chaos and fear in Libya, I wanted to return to my country. But I had no money, no passport, I had nothing left. I contacted IOM and they helped me to return in April 2019. The reunion with my family went well, everyone was very happy. Thanks to my reintegration assistance, I started selling goods such as bags, shoes and clothes. Now, I would like to open a shop where I could sell fashion and cosmetics from different parts of the world.”

    In three years, 5,247 Gambian migrants (April 2020) were helped to return home voluntarily, of which more than 70% were repatriated from Libya.

  • Ag Zeini Mohamed

    A centenarian back in Mali

    “Once our Eldorado was Kumasi in Ghana. All the Malians who went to Ghana used to earn a lot of money for their families. People didn’t need to cross the Sahara or risk their lives along the migration route to get rich. Today, things have changed. The situation has become difficult. People don’t love each other anymore and borders are sealed. In the past, life in Mali was sweet as sugar but nowadays it is more bitter than chilli because of the conflicts!”

    Ag Zeini Mohamed, 115 years old, is the oldest of the returnees. After 70 years spent away from his country and a busy life working in Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso, this veteran of the French army in Indochina asked IOM in Ouagadougou to help him return home to northern Mali.

  • Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, April 2019 – IOM / Alexander Bee

Good governance and human rights


In Burkina Faso: establishment of the the National Human Rights Commission and the implementation of a master’s degree in anti-corruption.

  • Supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Burkina Faso launched its first master’s programme on fighting corruption in March 2019. Education is a fundamental tool to prevent crime and graft. In addition to promoting a culture that supports the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice, the introduction of anti-corruption programmes in higher education also contributes to building the capacity of future professionals responsible for the fight against corruption.

  • The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has supported the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in Burkina Faso. Since 2018, its mission is to promote, protect and defend human rights. This commission, which receives technical and financial support from OHCHR and UNDP, is held as an example in the region for its broad investigative powers throughout the country and its diverse composition.

  • Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, March 2019 – UNODC / Aurélia Rusek
  • Josiane Dabiré

    Master’s student in governance and development in Burkina Faso

    “The masters programme meets our expectations regarding the fight against corruption, because from the very beginning we learn how corruption manifests itself, what are the different aspects of corruption, what are the different means of fighting corruption, what is the legislative and institutional framework for fighting corruption. And this is already an advantage for us, especially for me, because I already have a degree in auditing and corporate finance. This master’s degree will enable me to improve my curriculum vitae. In five years’ time, I would like to work at the High Authority for the Fight against Corruption in Burkina Faso as a compliance auditor. And in 10 years, I would like to specialize in tracking down illicit financial flows.”

  • Kalifa Y. Rodrigue Namoano

    President of the National Human Rights Commission in Burkina Faso

    “We are going through a very worrying situation in terms of human rights in Burkina Faso, with terrorist attacks, resulting in daily human losses, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, and violations of economic, social and cultural rights. We are increasingly witnessing social upheaval linked to certain government measures, interpreted on both sides as restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration. […] The presence of the United Nations system in general and in particular OHCHR and UNDP - alongside the NHRC - is truly essential and is currently an imperative if the commission is to play its role to the full.”

  • Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, March 2019 – OHCHR / Aurélia Rusek

“The Sahel needs the unity and commitment of all. Many tools and mechanisms are currently in place. All of them are complementary and deserve to be supported and valued […] Time is running out and it is in a spirit of complementarity and unity that we will be able to stop the spiral of violence and suffering in the region.”

António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations. (UN General Assembly, September 2019)