Since Mali was hit by a coup d’état in March 2012, the country has been in the grip of political instability. A collision of events pulled Mali into a deep state of crisis that alarmed the international community and eventually led to the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) and the French military intervention in January 2013. Following the French initiative, other European countries pledged to help retrain the Malian armed forces and support rebuilding the country. Meanwhile, negotiations between the Malian interim government and Touareg rebels resulted in an agreement that paved the way for new elections. Yet, despite the installment of a new President in August 2013 and the subsequent election of a new parliament, the political framework remains far from settled and instability continues due to complex and deeply rooted problems.

The current situation suggests that Mali has entered a critical new phase. The country is currently exposed to a large and diverse presence of international actors. As peacekeeping operations are being deployed, a mediation effort has been conducted in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, and plans for national reconciliation, stabilization, and development are being created. However, Mali still faces threats from a variety of armed and terrorist groups, and the salience of criminal activities further complicate the political transition. Aiming to tackle these challenges, the international community has committed itself to assist the transition phase, and expectations are being raised with regard to resolving the crisis in Mali through post-conflict dialogue, reconciliation, reintegration, reforms and resource redistribution.

In this context a set of security challenges have become discernible which have direct regional, European and global implications. These ultimately stem from interconnected challenges such as state fragility, weak and corrupt governance, chronic political instability, severe poverty, and social and economic exclusion, plus the convergent interests of non-state armed groups, Islamic extremist groups, and criminal syndicates that engage in illicit trafficking.

Based on a field research mission conducted in Mali in November 2013 this seminar aims to offer insights into these problems, with a view to contribute to a better understanding of the complexities of the fragile balance in post-election Mali.