The MERIT project will run from August 2018 until October 2020. 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.
- To improve Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Malian VEOs in and after prison. (First Phase)
- To prevent Violent Extremism outside the prison context, by promoting alternatives to violence. (Second Phase)
- 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.
These objectives are further operationalized across several modules, that each have one of the two main objectives as point of focus.
Latest mission: 9-11 December 2019
Following a previous workshop held in October 2019, 28 young leaders coming from various regions in Mali gathered in Bamako from 9 to 11 December 2019 to attend a second training session on the development of counter discourse and alternative narratives. This three-day training, conducted in close cooperation with experts from Search for Common Ground and Think Peace, aimed at enabling youth to develop effective alternative narratives to counter the propaganda and ideology of violent/terrorist groups.
>As part of the Advanced Media Training for Malian Youth, Voices from Mali was launched, 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.
>The Advanced Media Training for Malian Youth was conducted on 21 and 22 August which 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 outlets and popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
>The Risk Assessment Training held in May 2019 is actively being used in both of the prisons trained in Bamako and Koulikoro, to assess new Violent Extremist detainees. Feedback from the trained staff was received to help improve and refine the tool, as well as to assess future needs of the prison system regarding Violent Extremist Offenders.
> ICCT is pleased to welcome Julie Coleman as the new Program Manager for the MERIT project. Together with the Senior Program Manager Liesbeth van der Heide, she will be responsible for the design, implementation and evaluation of the overall project.
> The ICCT-UNICRI team visited Mali to implement the second phase of the project. From 21-24 May 2019, ICCT and UNICRI organised a Risk Assessment Training of Trainers for prison staffs of Maison Central d’Arret and Koulikoro prison. Local NGO ThinkPeace Mali and MINUSMA’s Justice and Corrections Section also participated in the training.
>ICCT-UNICRI conducted a Youth Media Literacy Training on May 27th and 28th at the Maison de la Presse in Bamako, Mali. In partnership with Studio Tamani, they organised a two-day workshop on media literacy for 28 youth participants from all Malian regions.
> In February 2019, the project team implemented the Pilot Risk Assessment tool and held a kick-off meeting with the partners for the youth modules: International Alert, Think Peace Mali, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Conseil National de La Jeunesse.
> From 21 to 26 October 2018, ICCT and UNICRI visited Bamako on a joint MERIT mission to Mali to kick off the project and meet with (potential) project partners. After a visit to the donor of the MERIT project, the Royal Danish Embassy, the project team met with DNAPES and MINUSMA and paid a visit to Maison Central d’Arret to prepare the risk assessment training. For the part of the program focusing on youth, meetings were held with Imadel, Think Peace Mali, CNDH (see picture), FAMOC, SNV, Human Security Collective, Studio Tamani and International Alert. Finally, meetings with the broader network in Bamako were organized including meetings with the Ministry of Administration Reform and Transparency in Public Life, UNDSS, INL and the Dutch and French Embassies.
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.
As part of the implementation of the Rehabilitation & Reintegration programme, ICCT identified several areas of work to enhance efforts in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali (Action Agenda). To do so, the MERIT project targets both the prison environment as well as communities outside prison to facilitate effective reintegration and to reduce the risk of radicalisation in the larger population, especially among youth.
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.
ICCT is implementing the MERIT programme in close collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Faith, the Malian National Prison Administration (DNAPES), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and a number of local partners and implementers. (Imadel, Think Peace Mali, CNDH, FAMOC, SNV, Human Security Collective, Studio Tamani, International Alert, Ministry of Administration Reform and Transparency in Public Life, UNDSS, INL and the Dutch and French Embassies.)
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