28 October 2013, Geneva - “It might seem easy to win a war, but it is far more difficult to win peace” – this is in short the conclusion drawn from the roundtable discussion on the question “Mali: What steps to peace?” organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in partnership with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), the Centre for Strategy and Security in the Sahel Sahara (Centre 4S) and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. The event was held on the occasion of the 5th session of the Advisory Board of UNITAR’s Peacekeeping Training Programme.

Findings answers to the crisis in Mali is high up on the agenda of the international community. Given the complexity of the challenges for the long-lasting stabilization of the country, the question arises as to whether peace will be possible without taking a broader perspective on the troubled Sahel region. Key note speaker of the discussion, former SRSG and specialist for the Sahel region Ahmed Ould-Abdallah, highlighted the fact that “what happens in Mali reaches far beyond the borders of this nation – there are national, interregional and international factors which contribute to the crisis in Mali”. Panellist Prof. Vautravers referred to the current state of Mali as a “complex emergency”, listing the manifold factors that destabilize the country and the region such as geopolitical struggles between the sedentary population and the nomadic people, a wide network of drug traffickers, influence of terrorist groups and a huge number of displaced populations.

Formulating strategies to encounter all aspects of the conflict in Mali thus remains challenging, but as H.E. Ould-Abdallah stated “prevention is a must in the region, which also should be in the interest of Europe in order not to be affected”. According to the panellists possible solutions should not focus too much on the military aspect of the conflict. The international community therefore was asked to support the negotiation process which starts on the 8th of November as well as national reconciliation initiatives. Possible entry points for conflict resolution furthermore can be found at the community levels, dealing with questions of land dispute and the distribution of resources. In the long-term however, panellist Lt.Gen Obiakor once more highlighted that “the only solution to Mali is not to treat Mali in isolation but the sub region in total.

Gen. Obiakor is one of the distinguished members of the Advisory Board of the Peacekeeping Training Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. The board meets annually to review the projects and focus areas of the programme. The discussion about possible steps to peace in Mali is closely linked to the focus of the programme, as it is the mandate of PTP to contribute to the effectiveness of peace operations, by improving the preparedness of civilian, military and police personnel interested in deployment to field missions. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is to date the third largest UN field mission and has a broad mandate which ranges from support for the political process, security-related stabilization tasks, the protection of civilians and the preparation of free, inclusive and peaceful elections. This broad mandate once again underlines- there is no simple formula for peace in Mali and it will take the cooperation of national, regional and international actors to make steps towards a more peaceful Mali.