Dialogue Between Civil Society and Penal Chain Actors on the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Mali

On 16 March 2020 UNODC in concert with the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors (WACAP) held in Bamako, Mali, first dialogue session between penal chain actors and civil society of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. Representatives from Nigeria and Chad participated as observers. These dialogue sessions stem from “Dakar Call to Action” recommendations and represent an outcome of the sub-regional conference on criminal justice and civil society responses to violent extremism, organized crime and illicit trafficking, held in Dakar, Senegal in March 2018.

The meeting was composed of several interactive sessions aimed to boost effective cooperation among participating stakeholders in addressing violent extremism, organized crime, and illicit trafficking at the transnational and regional levels. This meeting was facilitated by the Timbuktu Institute - African Centre for Peace Studies and participated by prosecutors, judges, officials from security and defense institutions, representatives of NGOs, and numerous experts.

The methodology of this dialogue session was focused on the following pillars: strengthening capacities of the penal chain actors and civil society through a mutual exchange of expertise and good practices, taking stock of the extremism related issues in the regional context and building constructive synergies between implicated actors. Through animated discussions, attendees identified major obstacles to cooperation between civil society and criminal justice officials and defined new strategies to disseminate available judicial mechanisms and instruments aimed at preventing and fighting violent extremism, organized crime, and illicit trafficking. To this end, the discussions facilitated a brainstorm on the ways to enhance the cooperation framework between civil society actors and criminal justice partakers and to boost their performance and capacities in their joint criminal justice response. In consequence, the attendees considered deficient cooperation to be one of the core factors impeding domestic efforts addressing violent extremism. 

The dialogue workshop provided an experimental framework for direct exchanges between penal chain actors and representatives of the civil society. Despite many difficulties on the way of implementation, this initiative merits to be replicated and decentralized at national levels. The meeting concluded with the adoption of recommendations to enhance dialogue inclusiveness in addressing violent extremism and to define comprehensive strategies in Mali and other cross border states for ensuring higher transparency in national judicial mechanisms and trust in the competent authorities. To this end, the WACAP network will provide support in drafting a guide on good practices for strengthening cooperation between civil society actors and penal chain stakeholders.