Adam Dicko, activist, executive director of AJCAD-Mali and Sahel superhero. Credit: Sylvain Cherkaoui/ Oxfam

"Mali must not become a new site of clashes between global powers! The protection of peace and security is up to you."

"Mali deserves better than to become a place for settling political scores." - Adam Dicko

Adam Dicko has been a committed community activist from a very young age and is now the president of the Association des Jeunes pour la Citoyenneté Active et la Démocratie (AJCAD), which promotes democracy and active citizenship of young people in her country, Mali. Over the years, she has been vocal about the inadequate military response to the crisis in Mali and its impacts on young people and women, who are suffering the most from the conflicts. 

Invited to address the UN Security Council on January 11th 2022, she insisted that Mali should not become a new site of clashes between global powers and reminded the Security Council of its own responsibilities. 

Read her full speech here: 

Excellency Madam President,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Security Council, 

All protocols observed,  

I am Adam DICKO, Executive Director of AJCAD, Association des Jeunes pour la Citoyenneté Active et la Démocratie, an organisation active throughout my country, Mali, to promote social justice and democratic values.

I am delighted to take this opportunity to speak to the United Nations Security Council today. Before I begin my address, I would like to thank Norway’s approach to include the voice of Malian civil society in this important meeting about the situation in Mali. In the ten years that my country has been experiencing conflict, violence, and instability, dozens of conferences and other international summits have been held without ever really making room for those who are mobilised on a daily basis for more social justice, the defense of human rights and achieving Malian peace.

My country - and the Sahel as a whole – are rich with dynamic and innovative civil societies. We have a vibrant and creative youth. Without the pretence of speaking on behalf of the whole of Malian civil society, which is expansive and diverse, I am nevertheless pleased to be able to bring before the Security Council a perspective from Malian youth on the challenges my country is facing and the expectations we have. After 10 years of failed strategies to resolve the Sahelian crises , it is time for a change in strategy, a more humble approach, and the development of common solutions in which the local populations feel truly reflected.

Today I want to speak to you in the name of Anta, a young girl from the centre of Mali who was the first victim of the security crisis, forced to flee her village to find refuge in an IDP camp, and who witnessed the killing of her parents by terrorist groups. I also want to speak to you in the name of Amadou, a young man from the south who is seeking economic opportunities, who is barely out of his teens, and who has to leave his homeland and venture out to sea, risking his own life to seek a better life. I speak on behalf of all those young Malians who aspire for a better tomorrow.

Your Excellency Madam President,

After two years of fighting Covid-19, I would now like to talk to you about another virus which has been spreading in Mali and the Sahel for years and whose many variants are dangerously feeding the crises and instability that have brought us together today: it is the virus of social, economic, political, and environmental inequalities.

This virus has triggered glaring disparities, particularly in access to essential services: in Mali alone, just 2 to 3% of the pastoralist nomadic children attend school and healthy life expectancy is just 50 years. This virus robs millions of young Malians of happiness and forces most of them to live in poverty. It mutates and adapts itself by profiting from a system corrupted by bad political governance, lack of transparency, and a lack of democracy, which means that many of my fellow Malians do not feel part of a society that, at best, ignores them and at worst, excludes them.

This inequality virus is insidious. When power and wealth are monopolised by a small minority, trust in the very system that allows this to happen is broken. This is exactly the other epidemic that Mali is facing today: a general defiance of the population towards an unequal political, economic, and social system, leading to a broken social contract.

Mali's youth, who represent more than 45% of the total active population, is not asking for the world's compassion to get rid of this virus, but simply that they are included in the definition of inclusive and just public policies; and that they are considered as key actors for positive change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The deterioration of the Malian crisis compels us to state a number of observations. First, in terms of security, it is important to note the inadequacy of the current military response, which has shown its shortcomings and its inability not only to overcome the threat, but even to contain it.

Internal displacements due to violence lead to the separation of families,  to children to miss out on education and, especially for young girls, to exposure to sexual and gender-based violence.

Children are growing up in environments polluted by the presence of armed men and destructive weapons whilst they are the age to be learning about living in society and learning about compassion for those around them.

Young men and women are disappointed and are turning against the state which can no longer ensure their security. The most fragile are joining extremist groups for monetary and materialistic reasons, but above all, just to protect their loved ones.

Your Excellency, Madam President,

Young Malians are watching the media in bewilderment as they see countries repeatedly take actions and express so-called « opposing opinions » as they discuss and fight for what appears to be their own geopolitical interests, just like what happened in Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, to name a few. Mali must not become a new site of clashes between global powers! The protection of peace and security is up to you. It is in fact the first objective of this Council's mandate. You must not only fulfill the responsibilities which are yours, but above all, must be exemplary in this. Mali deserves better than to become a place for settling political scores. You will not be judged on your statements but rather on your actions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Malian democracy is sick and lacks true friends. In the name of sacrosanct stability, the powers are negotiating trade-offs which undermine the already fragile democracy.

There is an urgent need to guarantee greater transparency in the public life, but also in the relations you have with my country, Mali. This will allow young people to tear down the myths being sold to them by certain ill-intentioned protagonists, both on the formal and informal front.

The lack of economic perspectives pushes young people to attempt to leave the country, often illegally and at great risk. Solutions for financing entrepreneurship are often motivated by trying to avoid migratory flows rather than actually trying to improve economic and financial development for their beneficiaries. Ladies and gentlemen, aid is only as important as the conditions under which it is granted.

Unfortunately, Mali is now facing the consequences of poor political and economic governance which is feeding into despair, hunger, and poverty, and young people are the main victims. This crucial governance issue has been downplayed for too long by those who claim to be trying to solve to the Sahelian crises. Yet it is at the core of the challenges we face in Mali.

Currently, there has been some talk of bringing back the state to areas where it has been absent for years and which have been taken over by so-called jihadist groups. But we never question the type of state we are talking about reinstating. Is it really a solution to bring back a state which is often perceived by young people as indifferent to their fate, or even a predator ? Mali is suffering from a broken social contract. Our challenge is not only to bring back the state, but to transform the state and its public actions so that they benefit all Malians. 

Our problems are rooted in this pyramid of inequalities. Whilst inequality is like a virus that spreads, mutates, and kills, there are vaccines to combat this epidemic.

Your Excellency Madam President,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Security Council, 

Fighting inequality is well within our reach. This is about massive reinvestment in high-quality social policies that benefit everyone, and the international community has a crucial role to play. Today my country mobilizes precious resources to finance our security, often at the detriment of our schools and hospitals, which are just as precious and important as security.

I invite you to trust in the people of Mali and its civil society. It is the key to resolving the crises we are facing. It is crucial that our civil society be supported, helped, and strengthened. Through civil society, we can improve governance by striving for more transparency and accountability in public actions. We will provide new solutions and create a new way of living together.

MINUSMA has an important role to play in this respect, provided that it integrates local conflict management solutions and involves local communities in the effort to find solutions that will ensure the sustainability of its actions. It is time to stop with "top-down" decisions; budgets voted on in New York must no longer determine the needs on the ground.

Your Excellency, Madam President,

Given the prevailing political situation in my country, I ask you to step up the Security Council’s interventions in seeking rapid solutions to the political situation between the Malian Government and ECOWAS for the benefit of  citizens, especially the young people, whose future looks increasingly bleak. The Malian population is the first victim of the sanctions and yet they have already suffered enough. A bruised and battered people can not be sanctioned!

As for us, I can assure you that the young people are already committed to renewing mindsets and behaviours in order to ensure that true hope and renewal can be reborn in our country.

Thank you."