New project to bolster peacebuilding in Mali
By Evelyn Rupert
Communities in central and northern Mali will be the focus of a new initiative to build peace and mitigate the conflict and distrust that have fueled violence in the region.
The five-year Mali Peacebuilding, Stabilization and Reconciliation project is funded by the U.S. Agency of International Development and will be implemented by Creative Associates International in 46 communities, also known as communes.
The project’s objectives include improving communities’ ability to prevent, detect and recover from violence and conflict, as well as building youths’ resilience to violent extremism, fostering inclusivity in governance and civic engagement and rebuilding trust and cooperation between citizens and their government.
Debby Kimble, Director of Creative’s Governance and Community Resilience Practice Area, says the new project will take a “shared responsibility — shared success” approach to encourage local leaders to take ownership of the peacebuilding process while rebuilding communication and collaboration with the national government.
“With this approach, communities and state institutions will jointly identify needs and collaborate on problem-solving,” she says. “This process will bring people together, build trust, reconcile past wrongs and help determine how each actor and party involved can contribute to making the communities more resilient.”
Creative President and CEO Leland Kruvant says that the program marks a new milestone in the organization’s 41-year history.
“We are excited to launch Creative’s first project in Mali and support communities as they lay the foundation for sustained peace,” he says.
FRAMe: Measuring resilience
At the center of the project is Creative’s signature Fragility-Resilience Assessment Methodology (FRAMe) — a conflict assessment tool that asks a representative cross-section of citizens to grade their community over eight dimensions.
By using this tool and including often-marginalized groups as respondents, the project will be able to identify what’s causing grievances, driving conflict and contributing to gaps among ethnic groups.
The insights from FRAMe will allow community leaders and governments to better understand and respond to conflict triggers and evaluate citizens’ perceptions.
Improving a foundation for peace
The Peacebuilding, Stabilization and Reconciliation project will assist communities in developing and implementing social, economic and cultural development plans and include activities around conflict management, youth engagement, women’s empowerment and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed fighters.
Communities will also receive support to improve their capability of predicting and responding to warning signs of conflict, either by tapping into existing early warning response systems or developing their own.
Local leaders will take ownership of strategies to reduce conflict and strengthen communication within and between communities and between communities and the government. The project will emphasize the voices and engagement of often-marginalized groups, like women, youth and ethnic minorities.
Through this strengthening of communication, trust and social cohesion, and improvement in communities’ ability to respond to threats of conflict and the civic engagement of marginalized groups, communities will become more resilient and fortify the foundations for peacebuilding, stabilization and reconciliation.
At the same time, the project will engage with youth organizations, civil society groups, community and religious leaders, schools and families to address the recruitment of youth to violent extremist organizations. By building awareness about the factors that drive violent extremism, offering counter-messaging and involving youth in civic activities, young men and women and the communities at large will build resilience to these groups.
Creative will draw on the expertise of its partners Think Peace, Association Malienne pour la Survie au Sahel (“The Malian Association for the Survival of the Sahel”) and the Kenya-based Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development to carry out these initiatives.
Kimble said that with these partners and Creative’s experience strengthening local governance in Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Latin America and the Caribbean, this comprehensive project will assist communities transitioning out of a state of conflict.
“Creative is recognized for our ability to swiftly implement successful programming in some of the world’s most complex environments,” she says. “In Mali, our approach zeroes in on the need to empower communities to act as change agents by building on their own resiliencies, with the goal of consolidating gains made in the north and addressing the spread of conflict and violence in the center.”