Strengthening trust between justice actors and communities in Central Mali

"In our commune, people no longer go to the courts. When there are conflicts, dozo hunters are called in to settle them; they are in great demand. They come without trying to understand (the issues) and they don't even know the procedures for managing conflicts. They commit a lot of injustice because all the denunciations are not always well founded.” -Young resident in Niono

Access to justice and the legitimacy of the justice sector in Mali has been a concern for communities for decades. In a country where formal justice mechanisms have always operated alongside traditional forms of justice, which communities have trusted the latter more, new types of actors are offering alternatives to formal and traditional justice mechanisms.

The weakening of the state, its security coverage and the provision of basic social needs is correlated with the emergence of other actors, inclined to carry out their own forms of justice and challenge the authority of the formal justice system. These contribute to catalysing a cycle of violence and revenge, as well as greater distrust of the formal state mechanisms from the population.

In the face of these threats, Malians require greater support and guidance from the judicial system to ensure that their rights are respected, to counter the rise of ideologies promoted by armed groups, as well as to guarantee transparent and fair treatment. The magnitude of these challenges calls for a holistic response that goes beyond the strictly security framework to encompass the aspects of governance, development and social cohesion that underpin people's relationship with justice.

It is in this context that the Institut Malien de Recherche-Action pour la Paix (IMRAP), with the support of its partner Interpeace, produced a participatory barometer to better understand and analyse the perceptions of Malian citizens on the challenges of access to justice, the causes of impunity and possible solutions to address them in an inclusive and sustainable manner.

Misunderstanding, corruption and lack of resources as roots of mistrust

The participatory barometer collected the perceptions and experiences of more than 2,000 people in 6 cercles in Central Mali: Mopti, Bandiagara, Djenne, San, Ségou and Niono. Respondents included community members, traditional authorities and justice actors, all of whom were represented and involved in the creation of the indicators, survey, and data analysis.

Results from the barometer showed that a major obstacle in the population’s access to justice is caused by misunderstanding and mistrust of the judicial system. Many participants were unaware of the channels and services they have access to, where four out of ten people said that they did not know where the nearest court was in their locality.  The lack of knowledge of rules and procedures has also led to the further misunderstanding, mistrust and even rejection of decisions in formal justice systems. In addition, the use of French as the primary language in justice procedures and legal contexts, while almost half of the respondents either have not gone to school or understand the language well was an additional hurdle in accessing such systems.

In a region highly prone to poverty, the costs of legal proceedings and the geographical distances involved deter many citizens from taking legal action. The consultations showed that the costs of initiating proceedings, the assistance of a lawyer and bailiffs, and the deposits required (particularly in civil cases) made justice financially inaccessible to a large proportion of the target communities. This observation generates frustration among some participants, and fuels the perception of an unequal and two-tiered justice system.

In order to help litigants bear the costs of proceedings, the State adopted a law on legal aid in 2001 to facilitate access to justice for the poor. In practice, however, the interviews pointed to a limited application of these measures, due to a lack of financial resources and the difficulty of recruiting legal assistants who can provide the necessary help to people involved in proceedings.

In addition, the barometer also shows that suspicions of corruption and interference that put into question the legitimacy of the formal justice system. More than seven out of 10 respondents stated that the rich and the poor are not treated the same in legal proceedings and find that those with more resources are likely to get more favourable decisions.

The consultations also revealed the dissatisfaction of part of the population with the slowness and failure to complete judicial investigations, which fosters impunity and discourages people from filing complaints. Nearly one person in two surveyed by the barometer declares that they have little or no confidence in the resolution of their problems by the formal justice system.

Several magistrates also acknowledged that suspects sometimes escape justice because procedures are not carried out within the time limits set by law. They attribute this dysfunction largely to the lack of material and human resources available to the courts and investigation units.

“New actors”, instability, and the role of women and traditional authorities

For 60% of Malians surveyed insecurity is a major contributor to the increase in impunity in their locality, and three out of ten people cite it as the major obstacle to the application of the law.

Targeted by armed groups, many magistrates and court staff have retreated to Mopti, Ségou and Bamako, leaving behind slow-moving courts and insufficient resources to meet the needs and demands for justice of the population. In a region where 72% of civil servants surveyed said they feared being assaulted, kidnapped or killed while on their daily rounds, insecurity also prevents investigative units from going into the field to investigate crimes.

The withdrawal of civil servants and defence and security forces targeted by the violence has contributed in recent years to the appearance of 'new actors' in the provision of security and the settlement of disputes in the Centre. Faced with the gradual withdrawal of basic social services (security, justice, education, health, etc.) to the regional capitals, the population is increasingly turning to traditional authorities and 'new actors' such as dozo hunters, armed self-defence groups and so-called radical groups, depending on the area.

Faced with the rise in insecurity and growing number of new actors, the research has also shown that traditional conflict mechanisms play a key role in complementing the formal justice systems. Traditional mechanisms use customs, dialogue and religious texts to settle disputes, appease victims and find agreements between the different parties. They benefit from a certain trust and legitimacy among their communities, who call on them to arbitrate disputes and manage family, land and cohabitation conflicts. Seven out of ten people say that they first turn to the village chief to lodge a complaint or obtain information.

Consultations revealed a strong demand for collaboration and mutual reinforcement between the courts and traditional mechanisms to improve the delivery of justice and combat impunity. Those surveyed recognise existing efforts but express the need to expand and institutionalise a frank, structured collaboration that defines the competences and limits of both systems. This better complementarity can, according to them, contribute to relieving congestion in the courts and tribunals, and to a better understanding and recognition of the formal system by the traditional authorities and the population.

The barometer also highlighted the difficulties of access to justice, particularly for women. In the region, women generally have a lower level of education, financial means and less autonomy than men when it comes to the expenses and needs involved in legal proceedings. There is strong socio-cultural pressure to normalise certain discriminatory and violent practices against women and to dissuade them from initiating or pursuing legal proceedings.

The fear of being stigmatised and rejected by the spouse or family, the lack of information about the procedures, and the lack of money, support and time to follow through with the action therefore deter many women from using the institutions to defend themselves and have their rights respected.

Further strengthening trust in justice systems in Central Mali

The creation and research process of the participatory barometer, which started in 2021, has already provided an opportunity to increase awareness and foster trust between communities and justice actors in the 6 cercles.

However, the obstacles highlighted by the barometer call for further action in order to strengthen the justice system in the region. The findings of the research will be used to inform further interventions, engagement with the formal justice actors, as well as traditional authorities and policymakers in the region.

“The barometer, through an assessment of the perception of population from the middle belt regions on justice issues, aims to establish a better understanding around the challenges, realities and opportunities for an improved judiciary system and process,” said Kadiatou Keita, Interpeace Mali Representative.  “The recommendations resulting from this process would increase the population’s understanding of the judiciary systems, and would further strengthen the frameworks for dialogue between population, traditional authorities and judiciary actors to eventually combat impunity and restore trust between the different actors. This trust is crucial in restoring lasting peace.”

Interpeace and IMRAP would like to thank the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the financial support of the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), for their unwavering support for this initiative.

Access all results of the participatory barometer here:

Read the key findings and recommendations report (in French):

Strengthening the role of women and youth in security governance in Burkina Faso

Long cited as a model of stability and social cohesion in a region facing multiple crises and violence, Burkina Faso is now facing increasingly frequent, violent and deadly armed attacks, as well as a resurgence in the number of violent intra- and inter-community conflicts.

Through an innovative approach to involve customary and religious leaders in the dissemination of peace messages, Interpeace organised caravans in 12 communes in Burkina Faso to sensitise populations on their involvement in security governance, with a particular focus on promoting the integration of women and youth in security management.

The deterioration of the security situation requires the involvement of the entire community, in particular women, who represent 51.7% of the population, and young people under the age of 15, who represent 45.3% of the population. This segment of the population suffers the worst forms of violence due to the security crisis—women become survivors of gender-based violence and young people, due to the lack of employment opportunities and frustration, tend to be recruited by organised armed groups.

Recent Interpeace research has shown the low involvement of women and youth in local security governance. Yet the participation of youth and women in Burkina Faso is a key factor in improving governance, particularly security governance in the country. The participation of youth and women is essential in strengthening local and national resilience and social cohesion.

The caravans Interpeace organised included educational talks by trained youth in forums discussing the integration of women and youth in peacebuilding, radio programmes promoting social cohesion, conflict prevention and management, and debates on the Interpeace analysis report on the security sector in the country.

Religious tradition and practice begin early in the family and continues throughout an individual's life. Religious and traditional leaders are among the most influential and respected people in society, and their involvement and ownership in peacebuilding remains central to conflict prevention and transformation.

As for the youth, they have a great role to play in national reconciliation and social cohesion. This requires that each young person demonstrate responsibility and civic engagement which strengthen their capacities on conflict transformation, non-violent communication and the responsible use of social networks.

"Women and young people are the most numerous, and if we involve them in the fight against terrorism and insecurity, we will be able to fight insecurity effectively. Women are important, young people are important," said the High Commissioner of the Séno province.

Noumpoua Tankoano from Fada N'Gourma underlined the importance of the educational talks, especially for internally displaced people like herself who have fled their localities because of the violence.

"Many of the women among us have lost their husbands, other men have abandoned their wives in the hope of surviving. Women are left as widows, with a large number of children to raise. The adversity in which they live is likely to influence them and lead them into unhealthy behaviour," she said.

"This talk we had on the theme of supporting women in terrorist actions, and resolutions to deter them was necessary and gave us the confidence to contribute to the promotion of peace in our communities.”

These caravans are part of Interpeace's initiative to improve conflict prevention and security governance in the Boucle du Mouhoun, Centre-North, East and Sahel regions. Interpeace would like to thank the Government of Canada, through the Stabilization and Peace Operations Program of Global Affairs Canada, for its financial support.

Promoting an inclusive mediation process to strengthen resilience and peace in Ituri and North Kivu

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), women and youth are the most affected by conflict, yet they are often under-represented in peacebuilding and social cohesion efforts. There is a need for them to be targeted as peace actors in the current mediation process, which is why an Ituri Mediation Advisory Group was established, with the aim of being inclusive and ensuring good representation of women and youth.

Formation of an advisory group is part of a vision of ownership and sustainability of peace efforts by local communities and of strengthening their capacity for conflict resolution. As part of this process, stakeholders were consulted and the results of this approach were validated by provincial actors from public institutions and civil society, including women and youth associations.

Among its recent activities, the group organised a workshop on 29 September, a few days after the International Day of Peace, to relay mediation and negotiation skills to women and youth. Participants were asked "What can be done for the return of peace in Ituri?” In collaboration with the Ituri provincial government, and with the support of the European Union, this meeting took place in Bunia and was facilitated by the mediation consortium composed of Interpeace and its Action for Peace and Concord (APC) partners, and the Congo Research Group (CRG) of New York University (NYU).

According to most of the participants, the workshop was beneficial in contributing to strengthening the involvement of youth and women in the existing peace mechanisms in their province. "Ever since the word 'communitarianism' was first used in Ituri, each community has used this word to arm itself to face the opposing community. But this word has already destroyed Ituri. The community should therefore not be a place of identity withdrawal against others but a space for dialogue to live together," expressed a member of the Ituri Women's Collective.

This opinion was also shared by the representatives of the public authorities. "This kind of meeting is a good opportunity to raise awareness of the culture of living together," says Esther Maturu, Deputy Coordinator in Ituri of the Disarmament, Demobilisation, Community Rehabilitation and Stabilisation Programme (P-DDRCS/Ituri).

The advisor to the provincial military governor in charge of youth, Irène Vaweka, reminded the assembly that "for some time now, young people have increasingly become executioners and that women are the main victims. By bringing all these people together around the issue of peace, this workshop presents a golden opportunity for the young people present to show the world that they too can commit themselves to peace.”

Facilitation of the workshop  was an important step in the work of the Ituri Mediation Advisory Group towards creating inclusivity spaces for women and youth. The group will continue its efforts to ensure that women and youth have an opportunity to build their conflict transformation skills in their communities.

Côte d’Ivoire: Interpeace and the government to strengthen collaboration through new partnership agreement

Côte d'Ivoire is not spared from external threats and the dynamics of regional and global conflict. These further destabilise the already fragile social fabric and endanger the government's achievements in security and economic development.

Over the last few decades, Côte d'Ivoire has itself been marked by socio-political crises and regular cycles of violence that have profoundly affected the lives of Ivorians, the way they live together and social cohesion.

Threats linked to armed groups at the country's doorstep call for the strengthening of the internal social fabric to prevent any risk of tipping over. It is usual for these groups to exploit the cracks and fissures caused by various factors to act.

In order to contribute to the efforts of Ivorian society, Interpeace, which has been present in the country since 2012, signed a partnership agreement with the Minister of Reconciliation and Social Cohesion on 21 October. This agreement aims to strengthen the consolidation of peace, reconciliation and national cohesion in the coastal country.

Both partners commit to work together in seeking and funding responsible and beneficial collaboration opportunities to achieve these objectives. Committed to close cooperation, the Ministry will provide political leadership, guidance and coordination of Interpeace projects, including the current Project to prevent political violence and strengthen social cohesion through dialogue and citizen collaboration in Côte d'Ivoire (PREDIA).

For its part, Interpeace will provide technical and methodological support to inclusive dialogue in all regions of the country, capitalising on lessons learned from conflict prevention mechanisms set up in cooperation with its local partner, Indigo Côte d'Ivoire, and targeting in particular women and youth. The organisation will also support local prevention and reconciliation committees and actively participate in the elaboration of strategies at the technical and political level adapted to Ivorian peacebuilding priorities, with a view to building sustainable peace and contributing to the strengthening of social cohesion.

"We are very pleased to engage in this partnership with the Ministry of Reconciliation and Social Cohesion," says Interpeace's West Africa programme representative Alessia Polidoro. "The methodological rigour of our approach, the diversified experience of successful interventions in different contexts around the world and the expertise of our team and our local partner, Indigo Côte d'Ivoire, will be pooled with the Ministry to provide concrete, endogenous and sustainable solutions to the various challenges to be addressed.

Read more about Interpeace in Côte d'Ivoire here.

Ministry of Youth and Sports and Interpeace sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to advance the agenda for Somali youth in peacebuilding processes

Mogadishu Somalia, 28 September 2022. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, Federal Government of Somalia and Interpeace, an international organization for peacebuilding based in Geneva, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to partner in empowering Somali youth to be agents of transformative change and actively participate in the state-building process. The signing ceremony took place on Wednesday, 28 September, at the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Mogadishu. The MoU was signed by the Minister of Youth and Sports, H.E Mohamed Bare Mohamud, and Interpeace’s Somalia Country Representative, Ahmed Abdurrahman Abdullahi.

The collaboration will foster youth, peace and security resolutions through a mutual commitment to promote nationally-led peace processes to achieve sustainable peace, prevent violent conflict and enhance resilient capacities for peace in accordance to the partnership on UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security.

Speaking during the signing Ahmed Abdullahi, Somalia Country Representative, Interpeace said, “Interpeace is delighted to partner with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Somalia. This partnership will foster youth-centered peacebuilding and harness the innovation and creativity of young women and men in the state-building process of Somalia.”

The partnership is anchored on fostering an institutional relationship of cooperation focused on sharing knowledge, expertise and experiences additionally collaborating in advancing youth representation and participation in the peacebuilding process across Somalia.

“This MoU solidifies our commitment to advancing youth leadership and participation in Somalia’s peacebuilding process and to strengthen resilient capacities for peace.” Said H.E Mohamed Bare Mohamud, the Minister of Youth and Sports. “We are pleased that Interpeace is a strategic partner in the youth, peace and security agenda in Somalia.”

A critical component of empowering young people is ensuring their right to participate in decision-making and economic development. The MoU will strengthen efforts to advance Somalia's youth, peace, and security agenda through joint policy development and programme implementation.


Interpeace is an international organization for peacebuilding. With over 25 years of experience, it has implemented a broad range of peacebuilding programmes in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Interpeace tailors its approach to each society and ensures that its work is locally designed and driven. Interpeace also assists the international community – especially the United Nations – to play a more effective role in peacebuilding, based on Interpeace’s expertise in field-based work at the grassroots level. Interpeace is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has offices around the world. For more information, please visit our website:

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Statement from the Bled Strategic Forum and Interpeace on the importance of addressing the nexus of Water and Peace

The Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and partners, having convened from 29-30 August 2022, urge the 2023 UN Water Conference co-hosts and organizers to reinforce the linkages between water and peace, and thereby enable a more habitable, peaceful planet for future generations.

Gathering five years after the launch of the 2017 Report of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, A Matter of Survival, we remain concerned that the Report’s powerful call for water to be recognized as a “fundamental condition of human survival and dignity”, and “the basis for the resilience of society and of the natural environment” – has gone largely unheeded. This presents a grave threat to the stability of societies and of our planet, which face increasingly precarious and unpredictable water-related events.

In recent decades, climate change, drought conditions, and governance failures have exacerbated challenges to water access and affordability, leading to an alarming rise in water-related conflicts. Today, none of the world’s conflict-affected nations are on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including on clean water and sanitation. At least 48 water-related conflicts rage globally[1], causing immense human suffering and further undermining social and economic progress for communities.

This year, the devastating droughts in southern Europe and parts of China, record-breaking heatwaves on the Indian subcontinent, and disastrous floods in Pakistan are simply the latest reminders of the fragility of our water systems and societies’ interdependence on them and on one other.

We therefore call upon the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Republic of Tajikistan, and the United Nations as co-hosts of the UN Water Conference in particular to:

One unquestionable truth from the 2017 report prevails - there is no substitute for water. New forms of governance, partnership, and decision-making are required to adapt and respond to these threats and changing realities. Just as inclusive and participatory water resource management can yield peace dividends, diplomatic efforts to broker peace can enhance access to safe and clean water in conflict-affected societies. With global freshwater supplies acutely under threat, we can no longer afford to tackle issues of water and of peace in siloes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia endorses this statement.

[1] Climate Diplomacy Initiative's Conflict Factbook: