Q: What is the Sahel?
A great question for the January 2014 Public Forum topic, but also one without an exact answer. Many have an answer:
But here, I don’t want to simply copy paste an answer you could find on your own. I want to discuss for a moment some implications of having a term that is defined in many ways.
1. The debate can become about definitions, but it should not be.
I would argue that as long as some internationally recognized body includes a country in the Sahel region, you can use evidence or arguments about that country. Do not try to fit a country into the region if no organization or credible source lists it as in the Sahel region.
2. Arguments should apply across the region, not just one country.
Though you may find a compelling argument about one nation in the Sahel, such as Mali, the argument should be applicable to at least one other country. The debate can rely on examples by country but should be painting a picture of the region. For this reason, arguments that discuss trends across the region and issues that cross borders will be strongest.
3. Define the Sahel region for clarity and for the judge.
Just in case your opponent tries to include arguments about countries outside the Sahel region, like the countries of the region. You also want to do this for the judge, who is most likely does not know much about the region. Giving the judge some background on the countries, politics, environment, etc will be helpful to ground your arguments in context. Think about the judge as you explain the Sahel and not simply your arguments.