Expected Council Action
In October, the Council plans to undertake a visiting mission to Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso to assess the operationalisation of the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), or FC-G5S. The mission will be co-led by Ethiopia, France and Italy.
Upon returning to New York, the Council expects to hold a ministerial-level meeting to discuss ways the international community can support the FC-G5S. At the meeting, the Council will receive a briefing from Secretary-General António Guterres and discuss his report on the activities of the FC-G5S, including the challenges encountered in its operationalisation and possible measures for further consideration. The discussion will be chaired by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
Key Recent Developments
The Sahel region continues to experience instability. Over the past year, terrorist and violent extremist groups have increasingly spread from Mali into north-east Burkina Faso and western Niger. On 13 August, 18 people were killed in a terrorist attack at a restaurant in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), and at least 18 were injured.
The G5 Sahel—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—continue to work on the deployment of a joint force aimed at addressing the impact of terrorism and transnational organised crime. It was authorised by the AU Peace and Security Council in April, and the first joint operations are expected to start in October.
Resolution 2359, adopted on 21 June, welcomed the establishment of the FC-G5S, which is to deploy along the Mali-Mauritania border; the Liptako Gourma border region between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; and the Niger-Chad border. The resolution’s adoption followed a difficult negotiation over whether the Council should authorise the force and envisage the possibility of using UN assessed contributions to support its budget. Neither was included in the final text. The resolution merely welcomes the deployment of the force and encourages bilateral and multilateral partners to support it, including by convening a planning conference to ensure the coordination of donor assistance that is expected to be held in December.
Although the FC-G5S is anticipated to cost 423 million euros per year, so far only a quarter of that has been pledged by the EU, G5 Sahel countries and France. On 15 August, El-Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members on the force’s outstanding needs, not only in terms of funding but also with regard to force generation, training and equipment, tactical support, intelligence and communications technologies, medical evacuation capabilities, and force protection. Other challenges include the potential impact of force generation efforts on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the definition of certain aspects of the legal framework and compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Permanent Representative Anne Gueguen (France) stressed how UN support for the force would be vital to ensure that the force carries out operations in a sustainable and effective manner.
On 9 September, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta inaugurated the headquarters of the force, in the town of Sévaré in central Mali. On 18 September, a high-level meeting about the force took place on the margins of the UN General Assembly’s general debate. With Secretary-General António Guterres presiding, the meeting included heads of state of the countries involved in the force, French President Emmanuel Macron and high-level representatives of the AU and the EU. Participants insisted on the importance of delivering on the pledges made in order to make the force operational.
Key Issues and Options
The visiting mission is expected to travel to Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso in an effort to evaluate what the Council can do to further support the work of the joint force. Given that the US prevented the Council from authorising the force and that several Council members are opposed to using UN assessed contributions to finance it, the visiting mission is devised to make the case for increased UN support in order to address current challenges.
Resolution 2359 expressed the Council’s intent to review the deployment of the joint mission in October. While there has been no significant change in Council dynamics, the visiting mission could improve some Council members’ understanding of the mandate and limitations of the force. The Council could consider issuing a statement that welcomes any progress reported on the establishment of the joint force and commends the commitment of the G5 Sahel countries and the support provided by the EU and France.
Council and Wider Dynamics
While members support this initiative to tackle the region’s security threats, the Council is divided over the UN’s role in funding the force. During negotiations on resolution 2359, the US and several other major financial contributors objected to authorising the force, in part because they considered it unnecessary but also out of concern about the financial obligations such an authorisation could imply. France, which maintains Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, supports the position of the G5 countries and the AU that the UN should consider providing assessed contributions. Among the permanent members, this position is also supported by China.
A 26 May Secretary-General’s report endorsed in principle a proposal for a process of joint UN-AU planning and consultative decision-making and oversight processes. While the Council has not embraced this option, resolution 2378 adopted on 20 September during a high-level open debate on peacekeeping, noted the need to further develop this work, in consultation with the AU.
France acted as penholder on resolution 2359.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE G5 SAHEL
|Security Council Resolutions|
|21 June 2017 S/RES/2359||This welcomed the deployment of the G5 Sahel force.|
|26 May 2017 S/2017/454||This report was on options for authorisation and support for AU peace support operations.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 August 2017 S/PV.8024||This was a meeting on the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5).|
|21 June 2017 S/PV.7979||This was the meeting during which the Council adopted resolution 2359.|