On February 17, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in partnership with OCP Policy Center hosted a breakfast discussion in Brussels with Tuesday Reitano, head of the Secretariat at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. Delving deeper into the issues Reitano addressed in her recent chapter in Atlantic Currents, the discussion focused on the implications of illicit trafficking routes in the Greater Sahara and Sahel regions and their impact on transatlantic security. The discussion was moderated by Madeleine Goerg, program officer at GMF, and brought together 30 participants from local, national, and European institutions and organizations in Brussels.
The discussion, held under the Chatham House Rule, addressed issues relating to diplomacy with non-state actors, strategies for structural change of the political economies of the region, and adapting policy from reactive security oriented responses to broader approaches to regional political and economic processes. Reitano examined the long standing Saharan and Sahelian trade routes and relations between two instrumental groups in the region, the Tuareg and the Tebu, before the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. She went on to address the evolution of these dynamics since Libya’s regime change and descent into instability. Reitano outlined the strategies undertaken by the Tuareg and the Tebu in response to the intervention in Libya. The dual impact of the military intervention in Northern Mali, which greatly disrupted cocaine trafficking to Europe, and the influx of migrants from Syria with significantly more financial resources than their sub-Saharan counterparts, further contributed to a shift in power dynamics and trafficking activities in the region. Given the engagement of European and U.S. political, security, and NGO actors in the region, Reitano emphasized the need for a much more granular understanding of the political, economic, and security relations in the region and a shift in policy approaches.
The panel was followed by a question and answer session touching on a number of issues such as possible responses from the EU and the United States to this changing landscape, and long-term incentives for local communities to address the issues of drug trafficking and migrant smuggling, which are among the main illicit flows through the Sahara and the Sahel. The links between Tuareg and Tebu groups and state actors, as well as the challenges of including other marginalized groups in the state consolidation processes were also mentioned. Reitano concluded the discussion by stressing the fact that while there are no quick fixes, there are strategic opportunities to seize.