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CILSS summit focuses on reforms

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CILSS leaders gathered on 7 February in Niamey for the 18th ordinary session of the Conference of Heads of State and Government. Organised back-to-back with the G5 Sahel summit, six presidents (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal) as well the Prime Minister of Togo participated in the event. Discussions focused on how to advance reforms of the 45-year old institution and how to provide the institution with sustainable financing. CILSS leaders formally re-committed to regularise outstanding payments and ensure the regular payment of membership fees. However, the institution remains heavily dependant on external funding. Winning a stronger buy-in from its membership base could be one way to change this situation. In their final communiqué, CILSS leaders decided to strengthen member countries’ political support of CILSS activities in order to increase the visibility and impact of CILSS work at the national level. Moreover, they committed to increasing co-operation with other regional bodies such as ECOWAS, UEMOA, CEEAC-CEMAC, the G5 Sahel as well as the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall. Sudan was admitted as a new CILSS member, becoming its 14th member country. The institution has progressively expanded its geographic coverage from the Sahel to coastal countries. To date, CILSS counts eight coastal countries, five landlocked countries and one group of islands (Cabo Verde). With Sudan, CILSS is strengthening its base of Sahelian countries and fulfilling its original mission to combat desertification and promote drought control in line with the slogan, “Another Sahel is possible!” However, the new membership configuration might complicate its collaboration with ECOWAS; CILSS is often seen as the technical branch of ECOWAS, but it now counts three non-ECOWAS members (Chad, Mauritania and Sudan). The rotating presidency was transferred from Mali to Burkina Faso and President Christian Roch Kaboré has become the new CILSS chair. His minister of agriculture, Jacob Ouédraogo, is the new CILSS co-ordinating minister in charge of leading the reform process, along with CILSS Executive Secretary Djimé Adoum.