UNODC supports Women as Peacemakers in Mali and Niger

The border area between Mali and Niger has increasingly been confronted with the effects of climate change and rising conflicts. The region located along the 830km frontier amid the two countries is inhabited by populations that share the same cultures, languages and religions, yet it is subject to increasing tensions. In particular, the municipalities situated between Gao, Ménaka in eastern Mali and Tillabéry in western Niger, populated by Tuaregs, Sonrai Zarma and the Peul ethnic groups, have directly felt the consequences of climate change with the increase of desertification and an erosion of power that has led to multiple sources of conflict as well as growing insecurity with the consequent deterioration of living standards.

Disputes regarding animal transhumance and pasture management are at the origin of the conflicts within and between communities in the region. Additionally, another source of violence are the attacks of separatist rebel groups in Mali and of extremist groups both in Mali and in Niger.

Furthermore, external factors such as weak justice administration and failure of the security system have contributed to the intensification of conflicts. Consequently, communities often lack trust in government institutions and their representatives, such as the defence and security forces (DFS).

As combination of all these factors the region has become a fertile ground for conflicts, violent extremism and terrorism as well as an arrested development. Consequently, there is a large presence of national DFS, G5 Sahel, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and other international missions (e.g. the French Barkhane). However, beyond the security response there is a strong need to consider a comprehensive approach to restore peace and development for the local populations.

Women should be included into the discourse as they have especially been affected by the worsening situation of the region and have always played a key role in fuelling and resolving conflicts in the two countries, namely outside the formal spheres. In this context, the UNODC, in partnership with UNWOMEN, has developed a project targeting women as peacemakers. The joint project, called "Support for cross-border community dialogue initiatives with security and justice sector actors for peace-building", aims at rebuilding trust between the most vulnerable communities, the FDS, and the relevant criminal agencies, through a gender approach. The project promotes cross-border dialogue initiatives, peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms, access to justice, awareness raising on human rights and criminal procedures as well as early warning mechanisms.

Group photo of the Goa Forum in July 2019.

Launched in March 2019, with the funding of the Peace-Building Fund (PBF), this innovative project will have a duration of 18 months. The governors of Tillabéry in Niger, and of Gao and Ménaka in Mali as well as the mayors of all the relevant municipalities of the two countries and the religious leaders of Niger were present at the opening ceremony. Also, civil societies organizations, local radio stations, women organization and women and youth organizations took part in the ceremony. 

Since then, fora have been organized in Gao and Tillabéry in July 2019 to promote better collaboration between actors in the criminal justice chain, FDS and local communities while including women and youth in the peace promotion process.

This joint project is an integral part of the UNODC Sahel Programme and also contributes to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 and 5 as well as the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.

Photo of the participants to a workshop during the forum in Tillabéry, July 2019.

 For more information:


Sahel Programme

Peace-Building Fund (PBF)

United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel