The situation in Mali is quietly dropping out of the headlines. But last week Ban Ki-moon called for 11,000 peacekeeping troops, possibly backed by combat forces so it’s a good time to be thinking about what the peacebuilding needs are in Mali. The French intervention seems to have been driven by a very short-term view (or perhaps just by the hope for a quick result), based on seeing the problem in terms of terrorism and therefore concentrating on hard security measures. This seems to be backed by a superficial analysis of Mali’s political economy focusing on the north rather than on the whole country and how power is organised, and on the Tuaregs rather than all the different ethnic groups. International Alert has published a briefing paper that goes into the background and explores what is needed for peacebuilding. I have drawn on it for a shorter piece in the Huffington Post.
The state is the organising principle of national and international politics and states are the subject of abundant historical research, academic theory and contemporary analysis. That perhaps makes it a little strange to say that both the state as a category and states in general tend to be taken for granted. But that’s how it is – and it’s a problem. Continue reading