The United Nations is committed to ensuring a stable and prosperous future for Mali, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message to a meeting in Brussels devoted to restoring the West African nation to the path of peace and security, good governance and long-term development.
"Addressing the crisis in Mali goes beyond addressing security threats. It will require tackling deep-rooted political, social and development challenges," Mr. Ban told the High-level Conference on Support and Development of Mali, in a message delivered by Rebeca Grynspan, Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
"Mali's leaders must work together in the framework of an inclusive national dialogue with the common goals of re-establishing the legitimacy and full authority of the Malian State across its entire territory; providing security and basic services for the population, and ensuring that Mali's territory is not used as a platform for the further emergence of extremism, terrorism and other threats to its neighbours and itself," he added.
The conference was organized by the Governments of France and Mali as well as the European Commission to better coordinate international support as Mali emerges from its recent crisis.
Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.
While security has greatly improved following the actions of French and African military forces which helped push Islamists and other militants out of the cities they had seized, much remains to be done to restore Mali's constitutional order and territorial integrity. While military operations and stabilization are essential, the UN has consistently stated that political progress is the key to any lasting solution.
Last month the Security Council approved a 12,600-strong UN peacekeeping operation to take over from the African-led mission in Mali on 1 July. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is tasked with supporting the political process in the country, in close coordination with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Mission will help the Malian authorities to implement the transitional roadmap towards the full restoration of constitutional order, democratic governance and national unity. This includes the holding of elections in July, confidence-building and facilitation of reconciliation at the national and local levels.
Mr. Ban noted that the upcoming establishment of MINUSMA demonstrates the commitment of the international community to help Mali lay the foundations for durable peace and security.
"We count on our Malian partners to use this opportunity to promote a sustainable and inclusive political process that will lead to improved governance, including elections - for which resources need to be mobilized - national cohesion and reconciliation, and long-term development.
To support the Government's efforts, the UN in Mali has prepared the Joint UN Framework to Support the Transition, which defines the collective and integrated response of the world body to the Government's priorities.
The Joint Framework is aligned with the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali, which contains 12 priorities reflecting the commitment of Mali's authorities to restore territorial integrity, promote inclusive growth and restore the country to the path of peace and security, good governance and development.
The Framework targets the restoration of good governance and sustainable peace while supporting access to basic social services, noted the Secretary-General. It is also part of the broader UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, which will soon be presented to the Security Council and offers a coordinated response to the complex issues facing the region.
Mr. Ban added that, in considering Mali's challenges, it is important not to overlook immediate humanitarian needs, which are still considerable and require urgent attention. "We must also focus greater attention on gender issues and the needs of women in Mali, and on resilience to economic and climatic shocks," he said.
"I count on the international community to provide coordinated support to the Government of Mali, and I commend the efforts of ECOWAS Member States and other African nations in contributing to ending the Mali crisis and other crises in the region," he stated. "Enduring peace and prosperity needs solidarity among neighbours."