Although Mali is a poor country with a relatively small population, it has maintained an active and influential position in international affairs. In part, this has been a compensatory mechanism for protecting specific interests and for ensuring continued sovereignty. Mali is a member of a large number of political and economic groupings and its diplomats and administrators have served in leadership positions in a number of them, including the United Nations (UN), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Comité Permanent Inter-Etats de Lutte Contre la Secheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS), and the Communauté Economique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (CEAO).