The report – presented on Wednesday (10 July) in the Parliament’s women’s rights committee – comes as United Nations and human rights monitors warn that more needs to be done to protect women from slavery and violence carried out by militants and drug traders who operate in the region.
The European Union has pledged to step up development and humanitarian aid to stabilise Mali and its Sahel neighbours, which are vulnerable to food insecurity and inter-ethnic fighting.
The European Commission and the EU member states have pledged €1.35 billion for Mali through 2014, one-third of the international commitments made to rebuild the country. An additional €200 million is available under the EU’s strategy for the security and development of Sahel.
But MEPs on the women’s committee said the EU needs to ensure that beneficiary governments end abuses of women and children, who are disproportionately affected by violence, drought and malnourishment.
“There is a chronic problem with human rights in the region,” said Mariya Gabriel (European People’s Party), a Bulgarian MEP on the committee, who added that the EU aid “has to be a lever to promote women’s rights and human rights.”
“A country cannot make economic and political progress if half the population is left by the wayside,” said Gabriel.
EU pledges millions for region
The EU hosted a donor conference in May to help Mali and its neighbours. Europe and its global partners were under pressure to ensure that the Malian government lived up to its pledged to hold elections in on 28 July and address reports of extrajudicial executions, torture and reprisals carried out by government forces.
The European Commission has deployed human rights observers in the region and is working with African Union troops serving in a UN stabilisation force in Mali to provide human rights training. Commission officials have also said the EU is working across the Sahel to combat slavery and sexual exploitation of women and children.
Mali is at the epicentre of the broader Sahel, a formidable region where the Sahara desert transitions into savannah. Along with Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania have all faced drought, food shortages and insecurity in the past two years.
Some 10.3 million people in the region lack sufficient food and 4.5 million children under five are vulnerable to severe to moderate malnutrition, recent EU and UN figures show. The UN estimates that 226,000 million children die every year from malnutrition.
Mali has been torn for decades by divisions between its northern Islamic and Arab communities and the African south. Attacks by northern insurgents, backed by regional Islamic groups, surged in early 2012, leading the military to temporarily seize control of the government. An EU-backed, French-led force intervened six months ago to prop up the interim government.
A United Nations report on children in conflicts, along with advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have accused Malian insurgents and Islamic militants of pillaging and rape, while government forces have been linked to reprisals and torture.
Amnesty International has accused government forces in the north of carrying out executions and Islamic rebels of recruiting child soldiers.