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Mali needs reforms and smart aid to stop its slide and help “win the peace”

15th May 2013

International donors must help Mali to rebuild its ability to govern itself and stop its slide into economic ruin if it is to "win the peace" following the French-led military intervention, says Oxfam.

The international aid agency publishes a report today called "Mali: A New Development Contract", as donors meet in Brussels to discuss their plans for the country's future.

Marietou Diaby, Oxfam's Country Director in Mali, said that since the breakout of the crisis last year international attention on Mali has focused mainly on security and counter-terrorism so far. That focus now needs to be widened. 

"Donors must learn the lessons from crises such as Afghanistan and Somalia that a narrow approach to winning a military conflict is never enough to achieve sustainable long-term peace and security," Diaby said. "Donors need to help build the foundations for genuine prosperity in Mali - otherwise they'll have left the job half done".

Mali today is in dire straits. As of last month, people in the north are facing a second food crisis in as many years. There are food shortages, disruption of supplies and inflation. Around 467,000 people - approximately one third of the population in the North - are displaced by the conflict. The country's economy is now in decline, having fallen in the UN Human Development Index to one of the five poorest in the world over the last 12 months. 

The agency stresses that Mali does have strong economic potential. It is now Africa's third largest gold producer but the population has not yet profited from this wealth. One in five people - around three million altogether - live in extreme poverty and are unable to meet their basic nutritional needs.

"The Malian government is primarily responsible to its own people to drive the country's development," continued Diaby. "It certainly needs to improve the management of its resources and distribute the benefits more fairly. It must overcome the problems of corruption and lack of transparency. Mali's future prosperity must be much more grounded in the interests and needs of ordinary people and allow them to play a more central role in determining their future.

Oxfam says smart development aid can play a significant role at this crucial time too.  There are encouraging signs that donors know it's time now to shift their focus toward solving the structural problems that are undermining Mali's development. They have to follow through with real action - provide immediate resources for the humanitarian response and commit funding for the long-term, at least the next 15 years. They must also clearly state that they need to see a government using its resources to tackle poverty and corruption and inequality, and to promote human rights.