Perilous terrain: Humanitarian action at risk in Mali

Case study

March 2017
Alejandro Pozo Marín

This paper examines the incursion of military and political actors into the humanitarian realm in Mali, a context shaped by the rationales of “integration”, “stabilisation” and “counter-terrorism”, and argues that it is jeopardising humanitarian action in the country. The purpose of this report is to elaborate upon this, and to raise concerns regarding current and potential consequences of what MSF believes to be a blatant and harmful instrumentalisation of humanitarian action.

MSF is deeply concerned that the emergency gap – that is the lack of sufficient humanitarian presence and quality response to populations most in need – which has existed to a certain extent in the country since the start of the conflict, is becoming wider. Humanitarian action is still possible and feasible in Mali, albeit with great difficulty. However, the fragile balance of acceptance by the population could break at any point and the situation could easily deteriorate. Humanitarian actors have a key role to play in negotiating and safeguarding access to populations in need. Whilst we call on the military actors to withhold from instrumentalising aid, we equally call on humanitarian actors to resist playing into any of the three rationales analysed in this report and to reject any practice that may jeopardise access to the most vulnerable.