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The R-word: Rhetoric versus reality in the Sahel

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DAKAR, 4 March 2013 (IRIN) - The annual gearing-up of humanitarian
programmes to treat the chronic problems of vulnerable Sahelians is a
clear sign that development there is not working. As a result, the
Sahel is at the centre of the debate on the need to boost vulnerable
people's resilience to shocks.

Donors are starting to shift their approach, notably the Sahel's
biggest humanitarian donors European aid body ECHO and the US Agency
for International Development (USAID), but development donors remain
behind, and donor fatigue means vulnerable Sahelians this year risk
missing out on emergency aid, let alone aid to build their resilience.

The US$1.66 billion humanitarian and resilience appeal for the Sahel in
2013 is 5 percent funded

as of 1 March.

"People are clearly distracted or are looking away from the region or
largely through a security lens," said Oxfam's Sahel campaigner Elise
Ford. "The challenge is how are you to make good on the resilience
rhetoric. How do we consider this appeal?. Despite all the talk of
resilience in 2012 we've seen very little from donors on how they're
going to finance it."

Sahel resilience meetings are being held globally - a meeting was held
in Rome last week; another is being held now in Dakar, "but there seems
to be a time lag: what is happening right now?" said Ford.

For farmers to harvest their crops this year they need adequate seeds
by May - this is mere survival, quite apart from embracing a more
ambitious resilience agenda. According to a World Food Programme (WFP)
study in Niger, it takes families three years to recover from a food
security shock, and that is if harvests are good for three years

Agencies need more money, not less, to make resilience happen in the
Sahel, starting from 2013, stressed Jan Eijkenaar, ECHO's resilience
and AGIR (Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Resilience) focal point in
the Sahel. But the way things are going, "there won't be enough time to
do resilience properly this year," he told IRIN, noting it will take
decades to get resilience right over the long term.

Political commitment

Having said that, many donors and national governments have understood
the need to put resilience at the heart of Sahel programming. The most
prominent example is the inter-governmental and inter-agency AGIR-Sahel
build resilience in the Sahel, which has brought together all sorts of
actors, including the European Commission (which leads it), the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West Africa
Economic and Monetary Union, the Permanent Inter-State Committee to
Fight Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahel and West Africa Club

"Resilience is a priority now because of flawed development and
"Resilience is a priority now because of flawed development and
governance," said Jan Eijkenaar, ECHO's Sahel lead on resilience and
the AGIR initiative. We have an opportunity not to fail over the next
20 years. The AGIR declaration gives us the tools and scope to do so."

Globally, donors have promoted resilience on a wide scale over recent
years, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) and the World Bank are also promoting it, having realized that
the impact of their development investments has been insufficient, says
French research group Urgence, R

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