Our Views: Long-term role needed in Mali recovery

Remember Mali. Or is it, in today’s fast-paced news cycle: Remember Mali?

The first statement is from the head of Mercy Corps, Jeremy Konyndyk, and is relevant both to today’s crisis in the war-torn African country and building a better future for it after the French-led intervention against Islamist extremists.

Konyndyk noted that the international limelight is already fading. “Restoring a degree of normality in northern Mali will mean dealing with a humanitarian emergency and building peace amid weak governance and worsening ethnic tensions,” he wrote recently in The Guardian newspaper.

Mercy Corps has been working in Mali since the middle of last year. Konyndyk’s message is that sustainable recovery requires skills in peacekeeping, not to mention persistence. And it’s only common sense, but the nature of public attention is fleeting. Governments and international aid agencies require long-term assistance.

While the circumstances cannot be more different, in Louisiana we’ve seen the problem of world attention turning away from a huge catastrophe, that of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The wags at the State Capitol might chime in here that we’re still struggling with the governance part.

But recovery requires more persistence than even many well-established charities can provide. Ultimately, it is dependent not only on the vital security role of government, but on more-structured commitments to long-term assistance. Given the low level of infrastructure in Mali, that cannot be considered a short-term proposition.

As Konyndyk said, international aid must be focused on building resilience, a sustainable future for a Mali after the peacekeeper missions are gone.

Remember Mali? We hope so.