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Communication as a Strategic Challenge

Media Resonance Analysis of the German Engagement in Mali

This study examines how the federal government's previous communication measures on Germany's engagement in Mali have been reflected in German print media and whether the key messages intended by the federal government or the individual federal ministries have been taken on board. To this end, the study surveys articles published after selected key events from 2013 to 2020. It also analyzes the core messages and makes recommendations for future joint communication measures by the federal government. The study is available in German language.

In Mali, Germany is engaged in foreign and security policy, development policy and peace-building measures. Since the end of the international military engagement in Afghanistan in 2021, the Sahel country has been the most important deployment location for the German Armed Forces. Nevertheless, there is comparatively little media coverage and the German public is hardly aware of the diverse activities of the federal ministries and civil society actors in Mali. At the government level, counterterrorism and the regulation of migration are cited as the main security policy interests of Germany and the EU in Mali. These aspects were probably decisive, not least, for the Bundestag’s approval of the Bundeswehr’s continued participation in the UN mission MINUSMA.

But the nature and scope of Germany’s involvement in Mali should not only be negotiated between the federal government and parliament. A broad public debate is needed. In this way, the current coalition would realize its goal, set out in the coalition agreement, of establishing a “dialogue with citizens about the challenges of international politics.” A prerequisite for this, however, is that citizens are able to develop an informed opinion.

In 2017, in its guidelines “Preventing Crises, Managing Conflicts, Promoting Peace,” the then German government formulated the ambition to expand communication with the public on its engagement in civil crisis prevention. Communication coordinated among the federal ministries should explain the diverse activities to the public and point out the opportunities, challenges and limits of these activities. This would increase public understanding of the complexity of such a commitment.

It is true that the coordination processes between the federal ministries have been improved in recent years, and a joint inter-ministerial working group on public communication of crisis prevention, conflict management and peacebuilding has been established. However, effective communication requires not only sufficient resources and structures, but also a unified, inter-ministerial government position. Against this backdrop in particular, the German government’s communication on Germany’s engagement in Mali remains inadequate, despite progress in individual areas.

This study examines how the German government’s communication measures to date on Germany’s engagement in Mali have been reflected in German print media and whether the core messages intended by the federal government or the individual federal ministries have been taken on board. To this end, the study surveys articles published on the subject on the basis of selected key events from 2013 to 2020. It also analyses the core messages and makes recommendations for future joint communication measures by the federal government.

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