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The International Day for Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace on April 24 is a chance to reflect on multilateral approaches that have proved effective tools of diplomacy.
The establishment of an Independent Observer for the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali is one example. The Independent Observer works alongside and is supported by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). It evaluates and reports on progress toward implementation of the agreement, including the identification of challenges and recommended measures to ensure progress toward the agreement’s 78 commitments.
On January 23, 2018, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, then undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, briefed the U.N. Security Council on the situation in Mali. The council welcomed the Carter Center’s appointment as the Independent Observer, pursuant to Article 63 of the agreement, and called upon all parties to cooperate fully with it. Since then, the international community, through successive Security Council resolutions, has continued to underscore the important role of the Independent Observer and to urge support for it. To date, the Independent Observer has had numerous behind-the-scenes conversations and produced 12 reports highlighting observations intended to hold the Signatory Parties accountable and recommendations to improve the execution of their commitments. Recently, the International Mediation overseeing the implementation process urged the Independent Observer to facilitate dialogue among the parties, aiming to build trust and restore forward momentum in the implementation process.
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Today, independent observation in Mali faces real challenges: stagnation in the implementation of the agreement, two military coups, deteriorating relations between the Malian transitional authorities and some members of the international community, lingering questions about the future of MINUSMA, degrading security challenges characterised by advances by jihadist organisations in certain parts of the country, and the destabilising presence of external mercenary forces. These factors have undermined the parties’ political will to prioritise the implementation of the agreement. The time is right for The Carter Center to share lessons learned from our experience as the Independent Observer in Mali and how our role complements other multilateral efforts there.
The mission’s first central lesson has been the importance of having strong, trusted, credible, and well-respected leadership to maintain high-level strategic and political engagement with the parties to the conflict
The Carter Center’s Independent Observer mission is led by Bisa Williams, former deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and former U.S. ambassador to Niger, and is supported by a team in Bamako and at the Carter Center headquarters in Atlanta. The mission’s first central lesson has been the importance of having strong, trusted, credible, and well-respected leadership to maintain high-level strategic and political engagement with the parties to the conflict. With her vast connections and experience in Mali and throughout the Sahel, the Malian parties welcomed Williams’ appointment.
The second lesson is that independence and credibility are essential for any nongovernmental organisation or person mandated to fulfil the role of independent observation. Any perception of non-neutrality, bias, or favouritism exhibited by the Independent Observer will jeopardise its utility and effectiveness. The Carter Center has worked in Mali for 30 years through its health programmes, and President Carter’s strong relationships with Malian leaders positioned the Center as a respected and trustworthy partner in the implementation process. The parties requested that we observe because we are universally perceived in Mali and in the region as an independent nongovernmental organisation committed to promoting peace and supporting conflict resolution.
A third critically important lesson The Carter Center has learned since 2018 is that independent observation is not a short-term, results-focused endeavour. Implementing a peace agreement is, by nature, a non-linear process of building and sustaining reconciliation. Peace processes have highs and lows, ebbs, and flows, and focusing primarily on achieving results can impact how an independent observer fulfils its mandate. While it is important that the parties achieve milestones to demonstrate that they are meeting their commitments — which should, in turn, produce visible peace dividends for their people — the value of the Independent Observer’s efforts does not come from tallying results. The Independent Observer provides the most value when it offers recommendations on how the parties can improve their efforts to implement the agreement and can reinforce accountability through, for example, informed engagement with the public.
Independent observation is an essential component of any peace process and should form the linchpin of any peace agreement
Finally, for independent observation to maximise its effectiveness, accountable enforcement mechanisms must be built into the peace agreement. Without such an enforcement structure, rather than being instructive or potentially catalytic, the Independent Observer’s work becomes ceremonial and perfunctory — acknowledged by the parties, heralded by the U.N. Security Council, and bereft of follow-through in the absence of political will.
Independent observation is an essential component of any peace process and should form the linchpin of any peace agreement. This role works well when supported through a Security Council resolution mandate and when well-coordinated with and supported by the U.N. mission on the ground. Well-respected leadership, true independence, focus on the long-term process, and accountable enforcement boost the ability of an independent observer to play its role effectively and to support the signatory parties as they build sustainable peace, reconciliation, and stability.
Learn more by reading the OECD report on Aid for Trade at a Glance 2022
This report analyses the evolution of Aid for Trade flows in a context marked by crises of unprecedented magnitude, with significant impacts on trade and investment. Under the theme “Empowering Connected, Sustainable Trade”, it shows that Aid for Trade was an important tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and can help address emerging challenges, such as the environmental and digital transitions while ensuring that no one is left behind. Recent data indicate that a shift is under way to put sustainability, including green transition and women’s empowerment, at the heart of Aid for Trade, and point to its potential to support an inclusive and sustainable recovery.
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