In the wake of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Africare President Darius Mans met Wednesday with the recently appointed United Nations Special Envoy to the Sahel Hiroute Guebre-Selassie at Africare House in Washington, D.C. Ms. Selassie and Dr. Mans took the opportunity to share their plans for their respective organizations, and they sought to learn how they could better support each other’s missions.
Ms. Selassie explained that in her role she will focus on achieving greater coordination among UN agencies and other international efforts in the Sahel. She believes the development community needs to begin conceptualizing the Sahel more concretely as a region and to organize programming accordingly. She said this would not mean replicating the exact same programs in the different countries, but rather having comprehensive, over-arching missions and comparable phases for long-term development programming across the countries.
Dr. Mans spoke of Africare’s extensive history in the Sahel and our role as a community-based development organization. By working directly with local community members, Africare can translate higher level goals and commitments, like those of UN agencies, into measurable impacts in the lives of local people. Conversely, Africare can also strengthen the voices of local communities to allow programmatic successes to reverberate upward and influence national and regional policies.
Ms. Selassie also sought recommendations from Jacqueline Johnson, Africare’s food security manager and former Africare/Niger country director, and Robert Patterson, Africare’s deputy director of international programs overseeing Francophone and Sahel countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Each supported Ms. Selassie’s aim for increased coordination and provided examples of where, when and how this could be enacted, including consolidating program inputs and goals among UN agencies for regional activities that are intertwined, improving proactivity ahead of potential food crises, and providing resources for longer programmatic horizons and to scale-up programs achieving the best results.
The Sahel region is gaining increased attention from global development actors, but Ms. Selassie and Africare have long known the magnitude of the Sahel’s importance and of its needs. Africare congratulates Ms. Selassie on her appointment, and we look forward to working together to help improve lives in the Sahel.