Swiss Cooperation with Mali: Definition of the common perspectives for 2012-2015

Article, 09.02.2012

On 2 and 3 February 2012 in Bamako, Switzerland and its cooperation partner Mali met to take stock of the ongoing cooperation between the two countries and to launch their new strategy for the years 2012 to 2015. This new strategy formulates Swiss cooperation’s major points of thrust in this west African country over the next four years. The Memorandum of Understanding signed on this occasion paves the way to a new period of cooperation between Mali and Switzerland and defines their common perspectives for the coming years.

Swiss cooperation in Mali for the period 2012-2015 is vested with a very particular dimension in connection with the current situation existing in the Sahel countries, a region which has over the last decade become extremely fragile. The objective is to contribute to the creation of a society and institutions capable of promoting dynamic local economies and ensuring basic education and suitable professional training, while at the same time paying particular attention to a shared and transparent governance. Rooted in the principles of solidarity and partnership, this cooperation unfolds by taking a global approach and involving several structures and various offices of the FDFA.

Support for human security and for stability
Although Mali has registered significant progress in various domains, its State institutions remain weak. The problem of Tuareg irredentism in the north of the country has been compounded by certain factors to which Mali is exposed and which have contributed to the fragilization or even destabilization of the Sahel region over the last ten years, namely drug trafficking, activities conducted by Al Qaida-affiliated groups in the Islamic Maghreb, and political crises (e.g., Libya, Ivory Coast). Thus, the cooperation programme is part of a more global Swiss mission to promote both human security as well as social and economic development by supporting efforts aimed at stability and the consolidation of democracy in the States concerned.

For over 30 years a priority country for Swiss cooperation
Mali has been a priority country for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) since the mid-1970s. And Mali has recognized the SDC as a credible partner since it has always remained faithful to the following principles of development cooperation, i.e., support for disadvantaged rural communities, on-site support at grass-roots level, and consolidation of the power of local actors in the decision-making processes on issues directly concerning them. The comparative advantage of Swiss cooperation in Mali is rooted in its capacity to insert local actors into the mechanisms and instruments of public management and access to aid.

During the discussions that led up to the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding, it became clear how much the Mali partners appreciated Swiss cooperation, a cooperation which respects the initiative of the local actors and supports development processes that generate concrete and sustainable results, particularly in the domain of decentralization and the organizational set up of rural communities. These results have often been crowned by acknowledgement and recognition within the scope of Malian national policies, e.g., the mobile schools for the children of nomad communities – a project launched by Swiss cooperation - have henceforth been endorsed, and are being financed, by the Mali authorities.

In line with Mali’s own development programme
Drawing its inspiration from earlier successes, the SDC intends to focus its work on promoting the agro-pastoral potential of the country. Three domains of priority intervention have hence been defined as being appropriate to creating the economic conditions for sustainable growth at regional and local levels. They are in keeping with the direction chosen by the Mali government itself in its strategic framework for growth and poverty reduction.

Rural development, basic education and professional training, public administration
First of all, the focus is on the domain of rural development and rural economies. In this area, Switzerland seeks not only to contribute to the food security of the Mali population groups, but also to participate in the emergence of a rural economy which is integrated into sub-regional or even international markets.

The second focal domain concerns basic education and professional training. Stress is to be place on the diversification of educational offerings, an improvement in the quality of basic education, and professional insertion into the rural job market. And lastly, cooperation in the domain of local public management which aims at strengthening the accountability of local institutions and facilitating the emergence of organized civil society capable of exerting citizen control on the management of local public affairs.

Moreover, two crosscutting themes have been chosen, i.e., governance (including recognition of the role that can be played by traditional authorities in democracy building) and gender (in particular the access of women to rural land).

Geographic fine-tuning
The SDC concentrates its activities in the regions of Sikasso, Mopti, and Timbuktu. For the sake of good balance, it has re-weighted its support in the favour of the last two regions insofar as they manifest an aggravated vulnerability due to the situation of food scarcity and failing security in the north of Mali.