Mali Discussion: Roles of Youth in Promotion Inclusive Democratic Transition

Discussion date: June 5 and 6, 2021

Partners: Accountability Lab Mali and the National Democratic Institute (NDI)

For over 20 years, Mali was considered one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. Since 1991, Mali had witnessed relatively free and fair elections and leaders who peacefully left power at the end of their terms. However, a military coup in 2020 exposed deep inadequacies of the state. The Global Assembly’s two-day meeting in Gao, Mali in June 2021 attempted to identify avenues for youth to engage in a democratic transition and development of democratic norms despite the country’s uncertain future. The World Movement for Democracy, in partnership with Accountability Lab Mali and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Mali, brought together young leaders, local authorities, media representatives, and civil society organizations to reflect on the consequences of poor governance, corruption, and extremism in their communities. The meetings aimed to identify the best approaches to support youth engagement to promoting accountability and discuss how civil society can engage youth in a democratic transition.

The first session focused on the role of integrity and rule of law in developing accountable institutions. Accountability Lab kicked-off the session with a documentary on “Integrity Idol,” an initiative that trumpets the success of public servants fighting corruption in Mali’s public service. Participants discussed how local leaders and actors often make governing arrangements outside of the rule of law. They explored ways to prevent one bad actor from hindering government services through corrupt agreements. Some effective approaches can be citizen led, such as the Integrity Idol project to advocate for changes in government structure to ensure a separation and balance of powers between different parts of the state.

Violent extremism continues to be a major challenge for Mali. Aly Maiga of NDI facilitated the second session on how the underlying reasons for extremist violence derives from poor governance, inequality, and lack of accessibility to basic social services. Following this session, young people in attendance were encouraged to brainstorm how they can help root out the origins of extremism in their community through civic action.

To implement reform and to plan for the future as the country transitions, Dr. Badié Hima of NDI encouraged youth participants to develop a mechanism for constitutional reforms. The sessions concluded that there are multiple ways for young people to play a role in Mali’s transition, such as leading youth voter registration and conducting awareness campaigns to hold local decision-making bodies accountable.