The European Union will next week (15 May) host a donor conference intended to co-ordinate international efforts to help Mali overcome its security, political, and humanitarian crises.
The scale and dimensions of the crisis are reflected in the roll-call of participants, which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, several African heads of state, and the head of the World Bank, as well as French President François Hollande.
Hollande will chair the meeting, together with José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. It will be held in the Jacques Delors building on rue Belliard, the headquarters of the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
The focus will be on supporting and funding Mali’s development, but the debate will remain conditioned by the security situation. France’s intervention to repel advances by Islamist rebels has been successful enough for it to say that it will reduce its troop presence 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of this year.
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However, concern about security in the country – particularly in the Kidal region, which rebels still claim to control – remains so strong that the number of international troops to be deployed to Mali has been increased from 3,300 to 11,400 over the course of the past three months. Originally, the troops were intended to be under the leadership of the African Union. However, on 25 April, the UN decided that the force should be enlarged and should be under its leadership.
At the previous donor conference, in late January, the EU promised €50 million in funding for the African force. The European Commission says that it will not financially support the UN mission. The EU despatched military trainers to help the Malian army in February.
The EU will not, though, provide front-line troops for the UN force. The EU’s political and security committee has been considering support in the area of security and justice to complement the training mission, but no decision will be taken before the conference.
Officials in the EU and from the other states, organisations and financial institutions that will participate in the conference are still discussing how much to provide to support the 160,000 people displaced by the conflict and to help the country’s long-term development.
The European Commission has so far allocated €42m this year to help refugees in Mali and its neighbours. In February, the EU released €250m in development funding that had been suspended after a coup in March 2012.
The resumption of aid follows the Malian government’s adoption in January of a road-map of steps to restore democracy and political stability.
One of the earliest steps – too early, some believe – will be the holding of presidential elections in July. “This conference is an opportunity for the EU to get Mali back up the political agenda,” Eloise Todd of the ONE Campaign said. “But it’s also a reminder that ongoing negotiations over the EU’s long-term budget will have implications for how the EU can respond to such crises in future.”