Mali’s political background
Mali is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranked 176th out of 187 on the UN Human Development Index, with an average GDP per capita of $670. Located in the Sahel band, the territory is vast and landlocked (1.2 million km2) with little natural resources and a small domestic market.
This challenging development context is exacerbated by an ongoing political and security crisis that affects the whole sub-region and most visibly since 2012. That year Mali encountered both an occupation of large parts of the country by rebel and jihadist forces, and a military coup d’état deposing two-term democratically elected president Touré. In 2013, after a military intervention led by France stopped the advance of jihadi forces, there was a formal restoration of constitutional rule with the election of new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) and a new national assembly.
In addition a UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission (MINUSMA) was deployed in 2013 to maintain peace and provide security for the population. The comprehensive Peace Accord that was signed between different armed groups and the Malian government in June 2015 opens new perspectives to improve the governance situation in the northern regions and to build peace in a fragile social-economic and multi-ethnic context.
However, the weak state of the political system, characterized by a few opposition parties and weak linkages to people, combined with ongoing weak state capacity to deliver basic services such as health, food security and education cause the general population to disengage from the political process.
The approach of NIMD in Mali
The NIMD programme in Mali started with exploratory visits and project through a local organisation in 2002/03. After several years of support and building relations and trust, NIMD facilitated the set-up of an independent political party dialogue platform in 2008: the Centre Malien pour le Dialogue Interpartis et la Démocratie (CMDID). Since then CMDID has been the main local partner and implementer of the NIMD programme, and the host of the interparty dialogue whereby all parliamentary parties are invited, plus representation of a large group of extra-parliamentary parties.
Facilitate dialogue for political reforms
The NIMD programme is focussed on supporting political reforms that improve the way political parties can operate and that ensures democratic elections and policy making can take place. Important issues have for instance been the need of one (rather than three) bodies that coordinate and organise the elections, the need for better rules around the rights of the opposition in parliament, and the need to update the political parties act.
Strengthen links between parties and citizens
In general the Malian parties are weakly organized and do not really represent the common interests of ordinary people. Moreover, also in policy making there is little formal role, as there is little opportunity to present changes to legislation as the presidential system ensures a powerful executive with a weak counterbalance from parliament. Our programme therefore works for better organized parties that better collaborate for policy change, and to link parties to citizens and civil society to better take up their issues and represent these on the national level.
Build capacity for women and youth to participate
Politics in Mali is dominated by older men, often the same men who were already politically active and involved at the start of the multiparty system back in 1992, and there is little room for women and youth to play a significant role. This is mainly due to conservative mindsets and cultural practices, as well as practical means; one needs resources to be active in politics. Therefore the NIMD programme has a clear focus on both building capacity (skills, knowledge) to empower women and youth, and on engaging with men to change these perceptions and practices.