Canada has been represented by an Ambassador in Bamako since 1995 (previously, the Ambassador resided in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, with an office of the Embassy in Bamako). Mali established its embassy in Ottawa in 1978. The coup d’état that occurred in Mali on March 22, 2012, undermined Canada’s strong partnership with Mali and 20 years of democracy and progress in the country. Canada condemned the coup d’état and suspended aid programs involving direct payments to the government of Mali. However, humanitarian and development assistance, delivered through non-governmental organizations and multilateral channels continue.
Before the March coup d’état, Canada and Mali collaborated in matters of peace and security on the African continent. Canadian instructors from the Department of National Defence and the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre provided training through the Peacekeeping School (École de maintien de la paix) in Bamako. Mali and Canada also shared common values, such as democracy and good governance, and cooperated closely in multilateral forums, particularly in La Francophonie.
Mali has been receiving official development assistance from Canada since 1972 and has been figuring prominently in Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) programming since then. In 2009, Mali was designated as one of CIDA’s country of focus. Canada was the second largest bilateral donor in Mali in 2010-2011, with annual aid expenditures averaging approximately $112 million since 2008. Canada’s development program focused on children and youth (education and health), food security (irrigation projects, agriculture development and access to credit), and governance (financial administration, external controls, institutional development and justice). Although the suspension of direct support to the Government of Mali is still in effect, Mali remains a country of focus for Canada and these development priorities remain relevant but related work is being adopted to the new context. After pledging $13 million in humanitarian assistance to Mali in January 2013, on May 15, 2013, Canada announced a further $75 million contribution with a focus on mitigating the risk of social unrest and continuing to provide basic services in health, food security, nutrition and education.
Mali and Canada have a modest, but significant trade relationship. In 2012, bilateral merchandise trade totalled $17.2 million consisting of $16 million in Canadian exports to, and $1.2 million in Canadian imports from Mali. Mali’s key merchandise exports comprised gold, cotton and fertilizers, while merchandise imports comprised primarily mineral fuels and oils, machinery and electrical and electronic equipment. Canadian mining companies have made significant investments in Mali but the coup has slowed Canadian commercial activity.
The occupation of northern Mali by terrorist and armed groups in early 2012 led the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt on December 20, 2012, Resolution 2085 authorizing the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). In early January 2013, the sudden advance of terrorist and associated elements towards the south of the country led the Malian interim authorities to request the urgent assistance of France. In response, France launched military operations under "Opération Serval". Since January 14, 2013, Canada has deployed a C-17 strategic airlift aircraft for logistical support to French operations between France and Bamako. As of March 31st, the airlift support provided by the Canadian Armed Forces has transitioned from being continuous to episodic, based on evolving requirements.
On May 13, 2013, Canada committed $10 million to: support the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) until the coming into force of the new United Nations mission to Mali; contribute to a UN-administered trust fund to help Mali restore democratic institutions in advance of planned elections in July and preserve Mali’s territorial integrity; and contribute to a European Union military training program to help the Malian armed forces protect the basic rights of Malian civilians.
In 2012, Canada made a $500,000 contribution to a multi-donor fund managed by the United Nations Development Program, in preparation for the 2012 elections. Although the elections were postponed by the March 2012 coup d’état, Canada contributed to improving the knowledge of political parties, civil society and government institutions on electoral fraud and management of litigation related to elections.
Canada also committed $250,000 to establishing an election-assessment mission that included two Canadian MPs and experts for the first round of the presidential elections that took place on July 28, 2013. The team was deployed under the leadership of the International Republican Institute (IRI).
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