Fast-tracked: EU readies long-term cooperation strategy for Mali

Kristalina Georgieva (foreground), European commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, joins Mamadou Sidibe, Mali's minister of humanitarian action, solidarity and elderly people at a conference in Bamako. Photo by: Habibou Kouyate / EU

While Mali is still in chaos, the European Union is already gearing up to resuming development cooperation. The regional bloc has identified priority sectors, but not yet partner organizations.

The commission may mobilize as much as €250 million ($333 million) development assistance, focused on governance and economic development. A needs assessment is in progress; it will be followed by consultations with Malian government and civil society representatives, a spokesperson for the European External Action Service told Devex.

The money will be channeled through the European Development Fund, the spokesperson added.

The European Union suspended development aid to Mali following a coup attempt in March. EU’s decision to resume it would be based on the progress of a national dialogue of all forces in Mali as well as a road map leading to elections, the EEAS spokesperson stressed. Part of the EU’s goal is to help Mali build a stable democracy.

The decision to lift the hold on longer-term aid comes after EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told European foreign ministers last week that the commission is ”looking” to increase its humanitarian support for Malians.

To that end, the EU’s humanitarian arm, ECHO, has announced it will provide another €20 million in emergency relief to help the growing number of people displaced by fighting between armed militias and Malian forces that are being aided by France and a host of other countries. The money is expected to go toward the work of ECHO partners in Mali and neighboring countries such as Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva made the announcement on Tuesday, Jan. 22, during a visit to Mali. Georgieva appealed to donors to “act swiftly as the populations have been weakened by months for hardship.”

Fighting continues between rebels and government-led forces. Access to many parts of the country remains difficult.

Climate change, desertification and the “government’s reluctance to implement meaningful development programs” in the north have led to rebels feeling “abandoned by the Malian state,” wrote Anna Alissa Hitzemann and Ben Zala of the Oxford Research Group in a report released Tuesday.

It is these “feelings of resentment and marginalisation that drive such conflicts” as the one in Mali, the report notes, adding: “It is the resentment towards the central government over the marginalisation of the northern territories and its population that in part has helped Islamists gain strength.”

The European Union will host a ministerial meeting of the international support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also set to discuss the situation with African leaders at the ongoing African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The focus of the Mali donor conference set for Jan. 29 in Addis Ababa, meanwhile, is on the training and deployment of African troops to Mali.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.