International donors have pledged more than $4.2 billion for development and peace-building efforts in Mali, a sum that far surpassed initial expectations for the pledging conference held Wednesday in Brussels.
The donations exceeded the $2.5 billion Malian officials hoped international donors would provide the West African nation. At a press conference in Brussels, French President Francois Hollande, who co-hosted the conference along with the European Union officials, characterized it as a big success.
"Now peace must succeed in Mali, the ingredients for that are there," said Hollande, explaining that development assistance will benefit all parts of the country by targeting critical areas such as water and infrastructure. "Malian authorities are determined to keep to their targeted July 28 date for presidential elections and Malians are united in wanting good governance."
At the start of Wednesday's conference in Brussels, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had encouraged donations, saying the money was needed to secure Mali's peace and stability.
"Development needs money, and today it is a meeting at the initiative of the European Union, France and Mali to get pledges from the international community to do very concrete things like helping farmers, implement water and electricity, to allow the development," said Fabius.
Malian Foreign Minister Tiena Coulibaly said the crisis with the militants is one that could spread to neighboring regions.
"Mali is an important country in the heart of Occidental Africa [west Africa] and you know that the political dynamics and the endemic violence in the Sahel region are part of a crisis that has been going on for several years and that could spread and touch other countries, so that is why it is important for the international community to stand together," said Coulibaly.
Echoing that sentiment, Mali's interim President Diacounde Traore said that, beyond money, the Brussels conference underscored a common commitment to battle the terrorism and jihadism that poses a threat well beyond Mali's borders.
"The fight against international terrorism helped fuel the extraordinary mobilization on behalf of Mali," he said, thanking the international community for its help.
Mali plunged into turmoil last year following a coup that allowed Islamist fighters to take control of large parts of the north. In recent months, French and African fighters have routed many of the extremists, and a United Nations peacekeeping force is expected to deploy as of early July to help stabilize the country.
The Brussels pledges target not only economic development but also peace- and democracy-building efforts.
"Follow-up mechanisms will be put in place to ensure the pledges on behalf of Mali bear fruit," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The United Nations Security Council approved a new peacekeeping force for Mali that is expected to take over July 1 from an African-led force now in the country. Many of those African troops will become part of the U.N. mission.
The Security Council resolution includes a one-year authorization with up to 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police.