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Countering Violent Extremism in Mali (MERIT)

Since 2016, ICCT has been developing and implementing activities in Mali to prevent and counter violent extremism in prisons and local communities. We have focused on improving the management of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) in prison and on increasing the resilience of Malian youth and their communities against violent extremism. Young people play a key role, as they represent a majority of the Malian population (almost 70% are 24 years or younger) and therefore the future of the country. Their engagement in promoting alternatives to violence is therefore crucial for any counter-terrorism initiative to succeed.

The activities have been conducted in collaboration with local, national and international actors including MINUSMA, the Malian Prison Administration, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and civil society organisations and in partnership with various members of the international community, such as the Royal Danish Embassy in Bamako and the US Bureau of Counterterrorism.


Impact since 2016


Advanced Media Training

August 21, 2019

The Advanced Media Training for Malian Youth was conducted in August 2019 and helped Malian youth gain vital skills on verifying media sources, critically think about how to engage with news, and understand the differences between traditional media outlet and popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Voices from Mali

February 1, 2020

As part of the Advanced Media Training for Malian Youth, Voices from Mali was launched in February 2020, which takes the form of interviews with Malian youth yet also independent videos made by Malian youth which allows them to express their opinions on youth resilience in Mali.

Message of peace from MERIT project leaders

March 1, 2020

A set of engagement and empowerment training sessions addressed to young people to promote alternatives to violence have been carried out. In particular, youth leaders have been supported in developing media literacy and alternative narratives, local practices have been strengthened while ensuring local ownerships, raising awareness and promoting dialogue and inclusion. One example of a powerful counter-narrative is included in this video, which provides a message of peace for young people in Mali and throughout the Sahel region. This project was supported by the Royal Danish Embassy, and in close collaboration with Think Peace Sahel, Conseil National de la Jeunesse, International Alert, and SNV-ICCO-OXFAM.


1. To improve Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Malian VEOs in and after prison. (First Phase)
2. To prevent Violent Extremism outside the prison context, by promoting alternatives to violence. (Second Phase)
3. Produce a research paper based on the analysis of the findings of the programme that will study the impact of terrorist groups on young people in Mali and the wider region.

About the Project

The MERIT project runs from August 2018 until March 2021. It is spearheaded by ICCT and the United Nations Interregional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI), and is funded by the Royal Danish Embassy in Bamako. It is part of a broader effort to prevent and counter violent extremism in Mali, and aims to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of released Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs), as well as reduce the risk of radicalisation among Malian youth.


Since the Tuareg rebellion in 2012, violence in Mali between the North and the South has resurged. Soon after the start of the rebellion, Islamist groups took over the rebellion from nationalist Tuareg groups, imposing Sharia law in the northern region. In March 2012, President Touré was deposed after a coup d’état by the military. In 2013, an international intervention was launched by French, UN and ECOWAS forces, which halted the Tuareg advance. Despite several peace accords, the fighting continues: attacks from terrorist groups are launched on civilians and (inter)national armed forces. The conflict has created a breeding ground for violent extremism and criminal activities, and has resulted in forms of collaboration between terrorist organisations and criminal groups. Local and regional terrorist organisations have engaged in various forms of illicit activities, especially in smuggling and drug trafficking, while criminal groups have been active alongside terror groups in the northern part of the country through trafficking of drugs, weapons and migrants to the Mediterranean.

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