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EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
The humanitarian response, linking relief to rehabilitation and development, and reconciliation – crucial for Mali's sustainable future
At the International donors' conference for the development of Mali/Brussels
15 May 2013
Your Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour to be with you today. Today is about a long-term perspective for Mali, but it is very important not to lose sight of the on-going humanitarian crisis. I will touch on three aspects of this: First, the humanitarian situation as such; Second, on the basic services and the link between relief and development; And third, on reconciliation, which is crucial if our efforts are to be sustainable.
1. The humanitarian situation:
Huge humanitarian needs persist in the North of Mali – in food and nutrition in particular. There is still an emergency situation in the Kidal region. In Mali, 750,000 people need immediate food aid; 660,000 children face malnutrition. The nutrition crisis has worsened since the start of the lean season in April. In the North, big needs persist also in the areas of water/sanitation, health and protection. These needs predate the events of January 2013. But they remain acute.
The good news is that humanitarian actors have been able to stay and operate in Mali throughout the crisis, since early 2012 – not least because they have remained neutral and impartial. Access has improved since January 2013, but is still very difficult in rural areas in the North. Nonetheless, the humanitarian response has been stepped up in many areas. In this context, I also wish to commend the work of the Malian Ministry for Humanitarian Action. But it is important that as donors we ensure adequate funding. At present, the UN's humanitarian appeal (CAP) for Mali is only 28% funded. For us in the EU, I am pleased to announce that we have just mobilized an additional € 12million in humanitarian funding. This brings our total relief aid to € 127 million since early 2012. There is, in addition, € 388 m from the EU for the wider Sahel food and nutrition crisis in 2012 and 2013.
In terms of displacement, there are still 300,000 IDPs, and 174,000 refugees in Mali. The overwhelming majority of these were displaced before January 2013. Many of the displaced people live in precarious conditions (as I saw when I was in Bamako a few months ago). For now, only 14,000 are estimated to have returned to the North. A widespread perception of insecurity prevents many from returning to their homes. In addition they are prevented from returning by a lack of basic services, beyond those provided by humanitarian actors. This brings us to my second point
2. Basic services / transition from relief to development:
It is crucial that we make a concerted effort to help Mali restore basic services in the North. These services are needed to enable humanitarian actors to phase out as soon as possible. As I mentioned earlier, they are also needed to ensure that people will return. There are many challenges to overcome: damage to public buildings in the North; the absence of most civil servants; lack of capacity.
Today, we are talking mainly about long-term recovery. But that long road to recovery starts with small practical steps to get basic services up and running. Fortunately there is now a process in Bamako to address this, in the form of the Commission on Rehabilitation, under the leadership of the government. And for the EU, I am pleased to say that with my colleague Andris Piebalgs, we have just mobilized a € 23 m package from the EDF for basic services – social safety nets; health; water; and education.
But there is another crucial condition that will need to be fulfilled if returns are to be viable – and sustainable: that is, a genuine process of reconciliation. The creation of the Reconciliation Commission is to be saluted. But this work also needs to be done at community level, not just in terms of North-South relations but also North-North. This is a process that can only be accomplished by Malians themselves. We can't expect reconciliation to happen overnight, but it is crucial if we are to see lasting returns, and sustainable development.