Development for Mali
With France having announced a month ago that it would resume development assistance to Mali—frozen a year ago following the military coup—a preparatory conference is being held this Tuesday in Lyon, attended by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Minister Delegate for Development Pascal Canfin. Mr. Canfin spoke with 20 Minutes about its main themes.
France is providing €150 million in aid to Mali. What will this amount be used for, concretely speaking?
This €150 million will serve, for example, to finish a pumping station in Bamako that I visited in February. Work on it began two years ago but was interrupted when aid was frozen after the coup d’état on March 22, 2012. In a few months, this station will provide an additional 100,000 people in Bamako with access to drinking water. It is one of several projects that will be resumed. In conjunction with Malian officials, we are also examining new priorities, such as restoring power and drinking water to Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. France has a military presence in Mali to restore security, but we know quite well that what will make the country stable in the long term is also economic development. The French equation is “no development without security and no security without development.”
Local communities will be taking part in the conference in Lyon. What will their role be?
These 70 local communities have partnerships with 200 Malian communities. With their combined participation, we can establish development projects throughout the country in the areas of education, health, water access, economic development and agriculture. For example, one of the challenges in Mali is getting children back to school. Eight hundred thousand children have dropped out because of terrorist groups and have missed two years of school. Getting them to resume their education is absolutely crucial. This will be done by providing aid to the Malian government so that it can pay teachers’ salaries, and through help to local communities to make sure cafeterias are reopened, schools are renovated, etc.
How can we be sure that development is linked to security?
There’s no automatic, mechanical connection in this dual equation, but let’s take the example of the children. Once they drop out of school, they are vulnerable to being recruited by terrorist groups. The ability of those groups will be a lot weaker if you have local development with people living off the resources of a legal economy. Helping Mali develop means limiting the ability of terrorist groups to gain back ground. Not all people who’ve been engaged in cigarette trafficking for six months or a year are averse to legal employment.
Is France the only country offering this kind of financial assistance to Mali?
No, this is part of a European strategy. The European Union has already announced a €250 million aid package on top of the €150 million from France. And in mid-May, we are holding a major international conference in Brussels to further mobilize the international community. We are far from being all alone right now, and will be even less so tomorrow, as other partners join us to fund development in Mali. We are in the process of coordinating our efforts to be effective and responsive to the concrete needs of the country. For me it is very important to win this battle because it will have an impact on the ability to win the peace in the long term.