Comprehensive analysis could lead to a more resilient and responsive governance system
The Republic of Mali is fraught with tension between its governance system and those it is meant to ultimately benefit, the people. Its governance is complicated by a history of attempts to devolve responsibility and authority among clashing ethnic groups that seek to be recognized and respected. Armed conflict, which remains ongoing in many of its central and northern communes, has upended the rules of local governance.
Mali Peacebuilding, Stabilization, and Reconciliation (PSR) project seeks to understand the complexity of Mali’s governance system in 46 communes where it operates. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented by Creative, the project undertook a major study to assess levels of conflict that has allowed it to paint a larger and more nuanced picture of the conflict dynamics in each commune.
Working in collaboration with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the project used Creative’s Fragility Resilience Assessment Methodology (FRAMe®), a tool that provides citizens’ perspectives on the responsiveness of commune governance system, and paired it with information gathered through an adapted version of USAID’s Interagency Conflict Analysis Framework (ICAF).
At the same time, Creative collaborated with the University of Letters and Human Sciences of Bamako (ULSHB) to conduct the FRAMe® analysis. The findings were captured in a report, Path to Resilience.
Systematic challenges: Trust and legitimacy
The comprehensive analysis shed light on actions that could lead to building a more resilient and responsive governance system. The findings challenge leaders to address the systematic problems of governance in Mali — problems that hold in place traditional roles and relationships among different ethnic or economic actors and do not recognize or respect the needs of others.
For Mali, the efficacy of the system is largely challenged by two factors: mutual trust that actors in the system will respect decisions made (trust and confidence); and the social contract (system legitimacy).
Unfortunately, the weakness of these factors undermines nearly every dimension of the governance system, from leadership to economic foundations. Even where a dimension was perceived as functioning, such as citizen participation, the overall trust, confidence and legitimacy of the system were questioned. In a highly conflict–affected state like Mali, there is concern that these factors will retard attempts to strengthen or establish social cohesion and performance of the system.
Overall, leading communes along the path to resilience will require more than bringing the state back to what are perceived as ungoverned spaces. The lack of trust among citizens, which may be exacerbated by the absences of the state, is also a reflection of frayed relations, frustration and power dynamics that exist and that cannot be addressed by the state alone. Placing all the responsibility and expectation that the state is the only actor to facilitate peace and foster stability is not a recipe for success.
Information to action
Upon completing the study, the Peacebuilding, Stabilization, and Reconciliation program recognized that such an in-depth and critical analysis requires the involvement and understanding of Malians and non-Malians alike, across several regions, social lines and political affiliations.
In early 2020, the program began disseminating Path to Resilience among administrative, political and security authorities, including the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, and local community organizations, such as Community Engagement Committees (CEC), which are present in nearly all communes where the program operates.
Participants involved in the dissemination have recognized the ICAF/FRAMe® cross-analysis‘ ability to identify grievances and the drivers of conflict but also the characteristics of resilience that exist in their communes.
Oumar Konaté, the President of the Community Engagement Committees of Ansongo of the Gao region, remarked: “We are really satisfied with the results of the intersectoral analysis because the grievances identified by this analysis are the real problems that our commune suffers from. Everything that can or must lead us towards peace, we are willing and available to go in that direction. Thank you, PSR, for the quality of this work. From now on, the Community Engagement Committee will draw inspiration from the results of the ICAF and FRAMe® studies to strengthen peace and coexistence.”
While perceptions unveiled by the FRAMe®/ICAF study will likely change over time in a constantly evolving context, testimonies like the one from Mr. Konaté, substantiate that the results from Path to Resilience largely reflect the reality of those exposed to conflict and violent extremism in Mali.
More information on how FRAMe® was conducted and its findings can be found in the full Path to Resilience report.
Afia wa Mwenze is a Program Associate in the Governance Practice Area at Creative. Deborah Kimble is the Director of the Practice Area.