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Introduction: Mali - The Security and Development Nexus

Mali and the Sahel region have become of increased strategic importance to Danish and European foreign policy and security interests. The conflict in Mali is closely linked to the broader Maghreb-Sahara-Sahel region. Following the collapse of Libya, Sahel is only one border away from Europe. The combination of weak states with limited control of vast territories and borders and a power vacuum in Libya have enlarged the playing field for rebels, transnational organised crime, violent extremism and terrorism. The limited control of borders allows for increased irregular migration towards e.g. Europe, driven by wide-spread poverty and large numbers of young people looking for opportunities and employment. Since 2012, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly stated that the situation in Mali constitutes a threat to global peace and security.

Mali appeared as the epicentre for the current crisis in the Sahel in 2011, when a Tuareg uprising spearheaded violent Islamist groups taking control of the northern part coinciding with a military coup in the capital Bamako. The groups were driven back by the French led military intervention Serval supported by i.a. Denmark. Recognizing the potential impact in the region and beyond, the crisis in Mali has been met with an unprecedented international response politically, militarily and in terms of development assistance.

Mali is slowly recovering from the crisis. Democracy returned after general elections in 2013 and the country was presented with a historical opportunity for peace when the Malian government and the two coalitions of armed groups during May and June 2015 signed the Algiers Peace Agreement in the presence of the international community. However, the situation remains fragile. While state structures are in place in the Southern part of Mali large parts of Northern Mali remain outside state armed conflict has played out in the North. Implementation of the complex peace accord will be challenging, and it must be anticipated that violent extremists and organised crime will continue to fuel the conflict.

Facing significant insecurity and being one of the poorest and least developed countries of the world, a durable resolution of the crisis requires recognition of the inter-dependence between security and development. Just like peace and security are the immediate preconditions for good governance, effective service delivery and economic growth; inclusive democratic governance and economic growth are the long-term prerequisites for sustainable poverty reduction and a durable peace.

It is in Denmark's strategic interest to continue our contribution to the stabilisation and development of Mali through a broadbased and comprehensive engagement. Denmark is a trusted partner in Mali, and has responded to the Malian crisis with flexibility and commitment to bringing Mali back on the democratic development track. In this regard, Denmark has combined all instruments available in a comprehensive manner.

This policy paper provides an analysis of the political, social and economic context in Mali, and based on this presents three strategic objectives underpinning the future Danish-Malian partnership, namely: 1) peaceful co-existence, stability and security, 2) democratic and inclusive governance, and 3) inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The paper will be used as a guiding, strategic document for the entire Danish-Malian partnership, including the bilateral development cooperation.