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A Just Future for Malians: towards better security, peace and justice systems

Story Justice and peace
Mali -

Improving security, justice, and peace systems means making sure they really respond to what communities need. In order to make these systems more effective, open, and accountable, people must be put at the heart of them. That’s why Cordaid operates at the roots of conflict, injustice and insecurity.

Sabane Ibrahim Touré, programme coordinator for CAD Mali and partner in the Just Future Alliance.

In Mali, this presents both challenges and opportunities. “The Malian context is characterised by great insecurity” says Kola Togo, the coordinator of the Just Future programme based in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Since 2012, the West African state has endured a multidimensional crisis which has created scores of (and entrenched existing) obstacles for its citizens who seek access to justice, security and peace. 

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The Just Future programme seeks to overcome these obstacles by supporting organisations across Mali in their work to address the justice gap, from the community to the national level. Fundamentally, these organisations, run by and for Malians, identify opportunities to change the way justice is perceived, accessed and obtained in Mali, and much of the success of the programme can be traced back to its bottom-up approach. As Hawa Traoré, one of the leaders of a partner organisation within the Just Future Alliance summarises, “it’s about putting people at the centre of security and justice issues”. 

The Just Future Alliance

Established in 2021 with Cordaid as the Consortium Lead, the Just Future Alliance is a five-year programme, formed of international and local NGOs and civil society organisations. Simply put, the Alliance aims to achieve equitable access to justice for all, as well as people-centred security and inclusive political decision making and peace processes, in the framework of the rule of law, transparency, and accountability. 

Kola explains how the programme is structured around three distinct yet intersecting pillars: security, justice and inclusive peace. The objective of the programme is to improve the responsiveness, accountability and accessibility of each of these three pillars. 

Kola Togo, programme coordinator for Cordaid Mali of the Just Future Alliance.

Cordaid supports dozens of civil society organisations in Mali with reporting, planning and best practices in their advocacy work. In addition to advocating for people-centred security, our Just Future partners in Mali also work on improving access to justice, thereby ensuring that the people in people-centred security include women, the youth and other marginalised groups, such as displaced people.  

To learn more about the Just Future programme, Cordaid spoke with four members of CSOs partnered with the Alliance. Here’s what they had to say about the impact of the programme on their communities and their country. 

Justice and gender

By incorporating diverse perspectives, particularly by elevating the roles of women in decision-making processes, Cordaid, via the Just Future Alliance, contributes towards building security and justice institutions that are more inclusive, responsive, and equitable. 

Hawa Traoré, director of Aprofem, partner in the Just Future Alliance.

In Mali, Hawa Traoré demonstrates this diverse perspective well. As the founder of Aprofem, the Association for the Promotion of Women and Children in Mali, her organisation promotes women’s rights in Mali, including the right to health care, access to income, the right to land and the right to live in a healthy environment. 

Without justice, there can be no peace

Aprofem’s projects aim for overall peace in Mali by focusing on improving social justice for women. The organisation’s vision, that of women fully integrated into Mali’s social fabric as independent citizens, requires a level of social change in the conflict-affected country tantamount to transformative social justice. Indeed, as Hawa points out, “without justice, there can be no peace.” 

Reflecting on the broader, national effects of the programme and what that means for her and her colleagues at the organisational level, Hawa says that, “working in a programme like Just Future, which helps our country in the process towards stabilisation and the return of peace, is very motivating for us as a civil society organisation.” 

Hawa with a friend who owns and runs a shop selling local produce in Bamako thanks to the support of Aprofem.

Another benefit of the Just Future Alliance for organisations like Aprofem is the wider access offered by its intra-national partnership network. Hawa notes that “there is no activity at the governorate or regional level where the Just Future partners are not invited.” So, besides improving access to justice for individual citizens, the Alliance helps civil society organisations themselves access resources and connections within the security, justice and peace systems. 

Justice for young people

Another partner from the Just Future Alliance, advocating for the inclusion of women and youth in a people-centred security for Mali, is the Coalition of Alternative Africans and Development (CAD). Of the three Just Future pillars, CAD focuses its work on two: security and inclusive peace.  

Sabane Ibrahim Touré, programme coordinator for CAD Mali and partner in the Just Future Alliance.

For the security pillar, CAD operates in the northern Tombouctou region. Sabane Ibrahim Touré, programme coordinator for CAD Mali, highlights that the security challenges presented by the country’s continuing crisis is particularly acute for Mali’s northern population, hence the focus on Tombouctou. The security pillar is also a priority for CAD in the country’s midlands – the Mopti region. Here, inclusive peace work is also carried out by CAD.  

Young people in Mali are questioning the authorities about their own involvement in the peace processes.

With their target group of women and youth, CAD supports the two working in synergy. Moreover, CAD bolsters the advocacy actions of these two groups, particularly when their actions demand collaboration with other actors, such as those in defence and security forces. This could occur during projects or advocacy actions related to restoring trust between said actors.  

Nonetheless, Sabane notes that the supportive role of CAD has changed over time, especially in terms of assisting the youth: “today young people are able to carry out advocacy actions without our support.” Of their own volition, and on their own terms, Sabane witnesses young people in Mali “questioning the authorities about their own involvement in the peace processes.” 

Sabane in the centre after being challenged to a penalty shoot out in the square outside the office.

Sabane emphasises how important it is for young people to organise themselves, to collaborate and initiate, for instance, action that prevents their peers from being recruited by armed groups, a real danger for communities in the Mopti and Tombouctou regions.  

Reform and rebuilding trust

A climate of mistrust between citizens and officials, and between different communities, has been a by-product of Mali’s continuing state of insecurity for over a decade. Sekou Kayentao, programme coordinator for Aide Au Developpement Durable (ADD), highlights how timely the Just Future programme is because of this issue: “Mali, since 2012 has been enduring a situation of unprecedented insecurity in which the context is complex and the actors diverse.”  

The staff of Just Future partner ADD (Aide Au Developpement Durable) with Sekou Kayentao on the far-right and Boubacar Maiga on the far-left.

The ADD is a consortium consisting of three Malian NGOs who combined their efforts to collectively operate in the Gao and Tombouctou regions to address the three Just Future pillars. Bringing the population together with security forces in shared dialogue, to tackle tensions and suspicions between these two diverse actors, is a priority for ADD, explains Boubacar Maiga, who works in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) for ADD. 

Sekou Kayentao, programme coordinator for the Aide Au Developpement Durable (ADD) consortium.

A second focal point for the consortium is to bring about greater transparency by following the flow of security reports between police forces and government, as well as advocating for security sector reform. Committees within the ADD consortium arrange workshops for participants to understand the importance of documenting processes for the sake of accessibility. Such approaches speak to the vision of the broader Just Future Alliance to improve access to justice across Mali. 

Inclusive approaches 

Beyond boosting transparency, getting civil society involved in security management is the next step for the consortium, in order to advocate for inclusive peace practices which enable marginalised groups to access justice in Mali. Sekou highlights how the consortium teaches paralegals to advocate for women, youth and displaced people as a key strategy for tackling the prevailing climate of mistrust. 

At every meeting, at every committee, we invite young people and women as well as displaced people

Boubacar Maiga, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) coordinator of the Aide Au Developpement Durable (ADD) consortium.

“The first plea is advocacy for the specific needs of young people and young people to be taken into account,” says Boubacar. “And that paid off, because not only are the mayors, at the municipal level, now imbued with the specific needs of young people and women, but they are in the process of integrating this into their development plan. And at every meeting, at every committee, we invite young people and women as well as displaced people.” 

Boubacar explains that, previously, displaced people didn’t have a voice in the communities. Now, thanks to the efforts of the ADD consortium, displaced people have been brought into contact with the rest of the community where they can find allyship and make their unique justice challenges known. 

Justice is both everyone’s right and responsibility 

Sekou believes that Mali’s security issue has reached such a level that “if the military can’t manage, everyone must be involved and contribute to finding sustainable solutions whether in Gao or Tombouctou, through education, information and awareness-raising projects.”  

Security is not only about the military, civilians have a role to play.

Ultimately, the bottom-up community approach that the Just Future Alliance has taken in Mali has succeeded in diversifying sources of justice for Malians in both theory and practice. By championing people-centred justice, CSOs like Aprofem, CAD and the ADD consortium have helped people realise that, as Boubacar says, “security is not only about the military; civilians have a role to play too.”  

Written by Bryony Harris.

Images: Mickael Franci / Cordaid.