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 growing pressure on its limited natural resources as a consequence of climate change and high demographic growth.
This challenging development context is exacerbated by the ongoing political and security crisis that affects the whole sub-region and has accelerated 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. In 2013, after a military intervention led by France stopped the advance of jihadi forces, there was a formal restoration of constitutional rule.
In the same year, UN Multidimensional Mission (MINUSMA) was deployed to help stabilize the country and provide security for large population centres. A Peace Agreement announcing important reforms such as further decentralization and security sector reform, was signed between different armed groups and the Malian government in 2015. Implementation of the Agreement, however, is very slow. The lack of peace dividend and the continuously worrying economic and security situation have not improved trust between the population and the state.
Furthermore the political system, characterized by weak linkages between the political class and the population, combined with dissatisfaction over basic services delivery such as health, food security, education and justice cause the general population to disengage from the political process. The low participation rate (32% in the second round) in the 2018 presidential elections was a clear sign of this.
NIMD’s approach in Mali
The NIMD programme in Mali started with exploratory visits and projects through a local organization in 2002-2003. 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).
As of 2018, NIMD has established its own presence in Bamako. We base our interventions on an analysis of the political economy made by Malian practitioners and analysts. The focus has shifted from an emphasis on inter-party dialogue to supporting increased inclusivity and accountability in policy making. Our main partners are members of parliament and civil society. Where opportune, we will engage with political parties and the executive to keep them informed, and if necessary and pertinent, support and sensitize other political actors (religious leaders, international community, armed groups) and consider them in our analysis.
Facilitate dialogue for political reforms
The NIMD programme is focused on supporting political reforms that help deepen Mali’s democracy. Interventions are aimed at three levels: the political system, political actors, and political culture. The objective is to on the one hand create incentives for change through improved dialogue between political actors and the population, and on the other increase the capacity of political actors to be responsive.
Strengthen links between parties and citizens
In general, Malian political parties are weakly organized and are perceived by the population as not really representing the interests of ordinary people. Moreover, in policy making there is little formal role or opportunity to present changes to legislation, as the presidential system ensures a powerful executive with a weak counterbalance from parliament. As a result there is a clear need to enhance parliament’s mandate for executive oversight and improve public representation at the national level. Therefore our programme supports improved collaboration between civil society and parliament, reaching groups from across Mali’s political spectrum.
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 will mainstream attention to gender and support building capacity (skills, knowledge) to empower women and youth, and on engaging with men to change these perceptions and practices.
This programme is part of the ‘Strategic Partnership’ programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More on the Strategic Partnership with the Ministry here.