Paving the path to peace in Mali

We have made recent breakthroughs in our work on natural resource management (NRM), violent extremism and border security in Mali.

Our policy brief on organised crime in Mali highlighted how this is impacting on security, peace and justice across the country, worsening conflict and divisions between and within communities.

One key way of tackling organised crime is therefore to improve trust and collaboration between communities and border security forces. This was the focus of our project in south western Mali, which has just come to an end. Through taking part in local forums designed to combat organised crime – especially trafficking of goods and people into Mali – communities and security forces established rapport and dialogue, and began to resolve local conflicts together. They are planning to continue many of these activities.

This ‘bottom up’ approach to local security governance led us to convene a successful round table with a number of national security groups, who have now agreed to include a community engagement approach in the National Border Security Strategy.

There have also been positive developments with our NRM work in Mali. The Government of Canada has invited us to provide training on the UN Voluntary Principles of Security and Human Rights to security management organisations working for international NRM companies. This will be the first training of its kind in Mali.

A leading African gold mining company has approached us to assess the viability of setting up operations in Mali, whilst in the south western mining town of Kenieba we are holding a training on analysis and management of conflicts. Communities affected by mining will attend along with representatives of several international mining companies now operating in Mali.

Meanwhile we are continuing to support local efforts to counter violent extremism and build community trust in north and central Mali. Three regional workshops organised in Segou, Mopti and Timbuktu gave people, including remote and vulnerable communities, the chance to report on how their activities have impacted on local security. These include projects to build relationships between women and young people, and working groups who are identifying trends in violent extremism in their local areas.

Representatives of women’s civil society organisations, local religious leaders and mayors attended these workshops. “We’ve now learnt about the steps we can take [in our communities] to begin addressing new forms of violence”, said one participant from Segou.

We are launching a policy brief on crime, violence and extremism next month based on research with these communities. A national seminar in Bamako in December will also raise awareness about community perceptions of criminality and violent extremism and explore further the role peacebuilding organisations can play in tackling these issues.

Find out more about our work in Mali.

Photo © UN/Marco Dormino (2013)