Policy brief: Perceptions about the EU crisis response in Mali

Abdoul Wahab Cisse, Morten Bøås, Frida Kvamme, Ambroise Dakouo

This policy brief provides a bottom-up analysis of the impact of the European Union’s (EU) crisis response in Mali. It examines how the EU’s engagement in crisis response is received and perceived by different local actors throughout the conflict cycle. The Malian crisis is cross-dimensional, and the EU’s engagement in Mali also includes many different sectors and aspects. However, in this brief we are mainly concerned with how Malian stakeholders perceive the EU’s engagement in the fields of security sector reform (SSR), governance and capacity building, and humanitarian and development aid. This study therefore seeks to unpack whether the EU’s response corresponds to the needs of target groups and if it is perceived as conflict sensitive and reaches vulnerable groups.  

The findings indicate that attitudes towards the EU are generally quite favourable, but there are also certain critical issues. Of particular importance is the information gap that this policy brief highlights. Even Malians who have personal and direct contact with the EU do not understand EU programming well enough to make up their minds about what the EU is doing in crisis response in their own country. This runs counter to the objective of local ownership. Therefore, taking this into consideration, as well as the fact that the situation in Mali has improved little since the international community returned in full in 2013, we suggest the following recommendations to the EU:

  • develop a more context-sensitive communication strategy;
  • deepen the engagement with Malian counterparts;
  • ensure greater engagement with Malian society and more direct engagement with society at large;
  • improve the communication of how EU programming can benefit the most vulnerable groups, such as minorities, refugees and IDPs.