The UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) was in Mali from 6 to 9 September 2021 to carry out two workshops in collaboration with the National Commission for the Fight against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (CNLPAL).
Mali has shown significant progress in establishing small arms policies and mainstreaming gender perspectives into its national action plan on small arms control. The adoption of the Firearms Law No 028 and CNLPAL’s endorsement of a gender mainstreaming policy in collaboration with the Mines Advisory Group, marks an important step towards establishing appropriate national small arms policies. The training programme brought together national experts, key government officials, civil society, and practitioners from Bamako, Gao, Tombouctu, Kayes, and Sikasso, and was aimed at enhancing participants’ understanding of strategic and technical approaches that could further advance the country’s efforts in these areas.
The illicit trafficking of arms feeds community conflicts and negatively impacts the economy of Sahel countries, said Mr. Bart Ouvry, Head of Delegation of the European Union in his opening remarks, outlining what is at stake. He added that strategies to combat this problem, including in the framework of the Monitoring Committee for the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement (CSA), should fully integrate gender dimensions to account for the different effects these weapons have on men, women, boys, and girls – a point that was also underscored by CNLPAL’s Permanent Secretary Colonel-Lieutenant Adama Diarra and the major of the Commune IV of Bamako, Mr. Adama Bérété.
Mali has ratified the international Arms Trade Treaty and adopted the firearms law, said UNREC’s Project Coordinator on gender and small arms control Ms. Erly Munoz, but key legislation in other areas, including against gender-based violence (GBV), is lacking. She added that while the number of women parliamentarians has increased since 2020, the presence of women in other decision-making positions, including in relation to the peace and reconciliation agreement, remains limited.
Gender-based violence (GBV) as well as notions around gender and sex are often linked to social stereotypes, continued Ms. Aminata Maiga, an expert at UN Women Mali. She unpacked key concepts and terminology, saying that “women and girls are not only victims in armed conflict, but they can also become active agents to promote peace […].” In some cases, she added, women’s exclusion from the political, religious, or economic sphere by parties to armed conflict has prompted some women to “become armed combatants or associated in acts of violence.”
Mr. Kassoun Coulibaly, President of the MenEngage Network in Mali and the Global Institute for Women’s Empowerment Group (Groupe IMAF), followed with an in-depth analysis of socially constructed ideas around what it means to “be and behave as a man.” The proliferation of small arms plays a role in this, he argued and requires a strategy to promote a culture of positive masculinity at both government and community levels.
CNLPAL Permanent Secretary Lieutenant-Colonel Adama Diarra and CNLPAL member Captain Djibrilla Maiga spoke next about Mali’s recently adopted Firearms Law No 028, which importantly addresses the manufacture of craft weapons, amongst others. However, gender-related provisions are absent from the text of the law, they said. For example, it does not necessitate background checks, including on incidents relating to GBV and conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), for those applying for a firearms license. Capitan Maiga added that the law’s Application Decree would have to ensure that gender considerations are integrated in the license evaluation criteria, as well as during the implementation of conversion programmes directed at craft weapons manufacturers “where at least 90 percent of the attendants are boys under 16 years old.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Bintou Maiga, Coordinator at the National Commission on Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (CNDDR), went on to discuss challenges and opportunities for the country’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) process. There is a need to adopt gender-sensitive budgeting and strengthen collaboration with the CNLPAL and civil society for more effective and sustainable results, she said. Additionally, the speaker called for more gender balance in the Commission itself: “Of the 33 members […], only one is a woman […].
Ms. Eleonora Magdalena Malgarini, Victim Assistance Advisor at the UN Mine Action Service of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) presented the available data on incidents involving explosive threats and their impacts on men and women. While 70% of the victims are men, representing the vast majority, often women are left to become the family’s primary providers. She advised that mine action experts and government entities account for such facts in their interventions and assistance programmes.
Malian NGOs Coalition Nationale de la Société Civile pour la Paix et la Lutte contre la Prolifération des Armes Légères (CONASCIPAL) and the Association of Women for Peace Initiatives (AFIP), both members of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), presented on civic engagement in small arms control activities. They outlined strategies and recommendations to prevent violent extremism, mentioning that the radicalisation of women, the indoctrination and enlistment of youth, and the militarization of communities are increasingly becoming an issue.
At the end of the workshop, the participants produced a list of recommendations to advance the integration of gender considerations in Mali’s small arms control policies and programmes (available in French and in English).
On 9 September, UNREC, with presentations from the Men Engage Network, carried out a follow-on technical workshop on gender-responsive monitoring and evaluation, presenting best-practices in the region and ways in which the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) and the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC) offer tools and distinct performance indicators to establish gender-sensitive accountability frameworks and transparency, as well as reporting mechanisms.
This was the fourth in a series of activities as part of a global project funded by the European Union on gender mainstreaming small arms control. All activities, including the logistics, were supported by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Mali.