Like neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the troubled country is also facing other obstacles such as lack of employment, scarcity of food and inter-ethnic tensions.
Niger is one of Africa’s largest countries, and one of its poorest. It is an important migration transit country – as well as both a sender of migrants and a destination.
This week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Niger launched the second phase of its Niger Community Cohesion Initiative (NCCI) in partnership with the German Federal Foreign Office supporting the initiative with EUR 18 million.
The initiative is set to run until December 2021.
The 18-month programme is designed to build the capacity of the Government of Niger to deliver essential services and support to at-risk communities, especially at village and commune level, while increasing state institutions’ resilience to conflict and instability, including to threats of violent extremism.
Ambassador to Germany in Niger, Hermann Nicolai, says “at this critical juncture, it is more important than ever for the international community to support the government and people of Niger to ensure that communities remain stable and resilient.
“We are confident that through this partnership with IOM, we can successfully contribute to the response and resilience of local authorities and leaders to conflict, insecurity and violent extremist threats in Niger.”
The first phase of the NCCI was implemented between 2014 and 2020 in the regions of Agadez, Tillabéri and Diffa, with support from the United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI).
During that first phase, the programme sought to strengthen youth resilience to violent extremist organizations (VEOs), increase local leaders’ effectiveness in addressing these threats and prepare communities in Diffa for the reintegration of ex-combatants.
For its second phase, the focus will be on those regions – Diffa, Tillabéri and Tahoua – that are Niger’s most impacted by insecurity, population displacement, and lack of opportunities for youth. These are the areas that are particularly vulnerable to recruitment by VEOs and other forms of conflict and insecurity.
Peace committees, another initiative of the programme, serve as early warning mechanisms for possible security threats. IOM will continue to support existing peace committees and peace networks in target communities and empower local authorities to establish and train new village-level peace committees.
Women and women’s associations will be involved in all the stages of the decision-making process, recognizing the critical role they have in the identification, prevention and resolution of tensions and conflict. Youth also are to be targeted as agents for change in building strong, stable and peaceful local communities.
Through its quick impact mechanism, NCCI will support activities, identified by local communities, that address threat to their stability. These activities can include infrastructure works or livelihood support, such as vocational training and cash-for-work opportunities.
The programme will raise awareness on security-related topics and civic engagement through a variety of activities ranging from caravans, sports tournaments, participatory theatre, sporting events and traditional festivals. A street dance festival in 2019 organized by NCCI drew youth members from across Niger.
IOM‘s Chief of Mission in Niger, Barbara Rijks, explains “we are grateful to the Government of Germany for their support that enables us to continue the valuable work we started in 2014 and which has had an incredible impact on communities and authorities.
“If communities and local leaders have the right tools to jointly address conflict and insecurity, there is hope that stability and social cohesion in conflict-affected communities can become a reality.”