Mali Briefing and Consultations
The Security Council is expected to hold a briefing and consultations tomorrow (3 April) to discuss the Secretary-General’s recent report on Mali (S/2013/189). It seems that Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, will brief, while a representative from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations may participate in the consultations. (A similar format was used during the briefing and consultations last Wednesday [27 March] with Edmond Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, attending the consultations.) It seems that participation by Mali and Côte d’Ivoire (as ECOWAS chair) is also likely. No immediate outcome is expected from tomorrow’s meeting although it is possible that a draft resolution may be circulated.
The briefing and consultations were originally scheduled for today (2 April), but the report was only published into all six official UN languages yesterday (1 April). Russia—with the support of Argentina, Guatemala, and Morocco—requested that the briefing be held on 4 April, as this would give their capitals more time to study the report and would be in keeping with rule 26 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council (S/96/Rev.7), by which the Secretary-General has to distribute documents required by the Security Council at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting (except in urgent circumstances). However, France, supported by Togo, wanted the meeting held as soon as possible because of the urgency of the situation in Mali. It appears that 3 April was finally an acceptable compromise date.
Tomorrow’s briefing and consultations will provide Council members with an opportunity to discuss in greater detail options for a future UN presence in Mali. During an initial discussion in consultations on 27 March, there was widespread support among members for option 2. According to the recent Secretary-General’s report, this option calls for a multi-dimensional integrated stabilisation mission that would have a Chapter VII mandate and operate alongside a parallel force that would “conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations and provide specialist support beyond the scope of the United Nations’ mandate and capability.” Option 1 was beefing up the current UN multidimensional presence in Bamako and transforming it into an integrated political presence with a better resourced African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), which would then transition to a UN stabilisation mission once certain critical benchmarks are met. (A possible third option for a mission with peace enforcement capability, suggested by Mulet following his exploratory mission in March, was not included in the Secretary-General’s report with an explanation that the UN is not configured to oversee at a strategic level such operations nor are its peacekeepers trained in this area.)
Council members will likely be interested in further information on how option 2 would be implemented. Given that option 2 envisions the transitioning of AFISMA into a stabilisation mission, some members may be interested in how the AFISMA troops will be vetted with respect to international human rights standards. Some members may also be interested in a discussion of what is meant by “robust rules of engagement,” a term used in the Secretary-General’s report to describe the mission’s force posture.
Another key issue that may be discussed tomorrow is the role that the UN stabilisation mission would play in providing support for the political processes in Mali, both in the north and the south, given the fragility of governance in the country, and in particular, how it would support elections which increasingly seem unlikely to take place by 7 and 21 July as announced by the interim government.
Members may also have questions about the parallel force that would operate alongside the UN stablisation mission. One key issue that may be raised is how it will coordinate its activities with the UN presence and what level of cooperation can be expected between the UN mission and the parallel force. Some members may also be interested in who will contribute to the parallel force and how it will be financed.
It seems that some members may be interested in discussing a prospective panel of experts for Mali and the sub-region, in keeping with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Council consider such a mechanism to focus on transnational and organised crime. More specifically members will likely be interested in discussing what the mandate of such a panel would cover i.e: drug trafficking; terrorist financing; sanctions; or a combination of these issues.
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