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Security and humanitarian crisis in Mali: The role of regional organisations


About this resource

Resource type:Research, reports and studies
Keywords:Conflict, violence & peace, National & regional actors, Regional
Agency:ODI - Overseas Development Institute
Author(s):Haysom, S.
Date published:March 2014

Throughout most of 2012 Mali was in a state of
deep crisis. Its political institutions were in disarray
following a military coup. Its territorial integrity was
threatened by a secessionist conflict in the north with
the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad
(MNLA) and other actors, and its people were facing
displacement, acute hunger and violence. Some of
the most active responses to this state of affairs came
from Mali’s neighbours, in the form of diplomatic
interventions by the Economic Community of West
African States (ECOWAS) and eventually an African
Union (AU)-led push for a UN-authorised military
This Working Paper explores the role played by
ECOWAS and the AU in addressing the crises
in Mali. It is part of a research project entitled
‘Zones of Engagement: Regional Organisations
and Humanitarian Action’, being undertaken by
the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) as part
of its 2013–2015 Integrated Programme. The
project is designed to explore the role of regional
organisations in humanitarian action, the rationale
for their involvement and the degree to which their
approaches may or may not differ from the approach
of the UN.
The paper mainly concerns the period from January
2012 to August 2013. The analysis covers three
phases: the origins and underlying causes of the
crisis (discussed briefly below); the outbreak of
conflict, political instability and the French-led
intervention (in Section 2); and the handover from
the African-led International Support Mission to
Mali (AFISMA) to the UN (Section 3). The aim is
to explore the evolution of the crisis in Mali, its
humanitarian consequences and the role of regional
organisations in the response, with a particular
concern for the high-profile role played by ECOWAS.
The paper concludes with a brief analysis of current
humanitarian needs and protection concerns, and the
role of AU and ECOWAS humanitarian mechanisms
in addressing them. This report is a desk-based
study drawing on academic literature, think-tank
and policy reports and news articles and limited
consultations with experts.

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