What's In Blue

Posted Fri 15 Mar 2013

Briefing on the Mali Humanitarian Situation

On Monday (18 March) Council members will be briefed in consultations by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, on the humanitarian situation in Mali. It seems France asked for the briefing and this is the first time Amos will be briefing the Council on Mali specifically (although she covered Mali when she briefed on the humanitarian situation in the wider Sahel region on 13 March 2012). It seems that she is likely to focus on the humanitarian needs, constraints and priorities in Mali.

Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more about the problems of limited access of humanitarian assistance and the efforts of OCHA to deliver aid in spite of the constraints on its activities in the north, particularly in rural areas. While humanitarian actors in central regions have generally been given access, unexploded ordnance, on-going military operations and terrorist threats have restricted humanitarian activities in the north.

Another area that might be covered in Amos’ briefing is the increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). According to the Malian Committee for Population Movement, there were 260,665 IDPs in Mali as of 20 February, roughly 33,000 more than at the end of December 2012. Since the beginning of the military intervention by France (Opération Serval) on 11 January 2013, more than 20,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more about the impact of these refugee flows as they are keenly aware that this is a humanitarian as well as possible security issue.

Council members might also be interested in getting some feedback on the exploratory mission to Mali, headed by Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, which is currently in Mali to assess options for a peacekeeping mission. (Members from OCHA are part of this mission and one of the objectives of the visit is to receive updates on the humanitarian situation from those on the ground.)

Some Council members may be keen to get OCHA’s views on whether an integrated peacekeeping operation would be a good option from a humanitarian point of view. While some Council members such as France and the US have made clear their preference for a mission with a humanitarian component integrated structurally within the mission, some humanitarian actors, including OCHA, appear less keen on integration or prefer, at least, a sequenced approach towards it.

Another topic that may be raised on Monday is the transition process from the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to a peacekeeping mission and its impact on humanitarian issues. An area of concern for OCHA is the lack of training in humanitarian principles of some of the current AFISMA troops and how this might be addressed in the expected vetting process for the rehatting of the troops.

An additional matter that may be raised by some Council members is the current state of the contributions to the humanitarian consolidated appeal for Mali, which was reviewed recently. At press time it had received less than 15% of the 386 million dollars requested.

It is possible that discussions between Council members on Monday will drift beyond the scope of the humanitarian situation in Mali to include recent developments in the country. Council members might want an update on Opération Serval and the military operations conducted by the French and Chadian troops in the north. Council members have also been told that both the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations representatives will be in the room on Monday, so there may be questions on recent political developments and the planning for a peacekeeping operation.

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