What's In Blue

Renewal of UN Mission in Mali’s Mandate

Tomorrow (29 June), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for one year. The first draft was circulated by France, the penholder on Mali, on 17 June, and two rounds of negotiations were held among all Council members. The draft resolution was put under silence procedure over the weekend (25 and 26 June). Although silence was broken by Russia, following bilateral discussions the draft was finally put in blue yesterday.

The draft establishes that the strategic priority of the mission is to support the implementation of the 20 June 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, in particular its provisions related to the gradual restoration and extension of state authority. In this context, the draft urges the government of Mali, the Plateforme and the Coordination armed groups to prioritise without further delay the political and institutional aspects of the Agreement, as well as provisions related to defence and security.
In order to be able to better operate in Mali’s non-permissive environment, the draft increases the force levels of MINUSMA up to a ceiling of 13,289 military personnel (from 11,240), and 1,920 police personnel (from 1,440), as recommended by the Secretary-General in his latest report. As a result of rising inter-communal violence and terrorist attacks in central Mali, the draft mandates MINUSMA to focus on that area of the country, in addition to the north. The Secretariat and mission officials had discussed likely recommendations regarding the troop ceiling and the mission’s geographical focus with Council members over the last few months (including during the March Council visit to Mali), which made these issues easier to negotiate without opposition.

The draft tasks the Secretary-General to establish, with the government of Mali, “concrete benchmarks and timelines to assess the progress of the Malian parties toward the full and effective implementation of the Agreement”, in order to adjust MINUSMA’s mandate as developments on the ground evolve. Even though some informal discussions have taken place over the potential establishment of “compacts” among the Council, field missions and host states, in order to ensure a shared understanding of mandates and status-of-mission agreements, in this case the development of benchmarks relies upon the government and the mission on the ground.

One of the most contentious issues in the negotiations was language on the mission’s posture. Most Malian stakeholders that interacted with Council members during their March visit stressed the need for a more robust mandate for the mission. In his last report, the Secretary-General called for enhancing MINUSMA’s posture by confirming that it can take all necessary means to ensure that its areas of operation are not used for hostile activities of any kind that would prevent it from discharging its duties under its mandate, and to protect UN personnel, facilities, installations and equipment. The draft in blue requests MINUSMA to move to a more proactive and robust posture to carry out its mandate, and emphasises the importance of protecting civilians, referring specifically to asymmetric threats.

There were some divisions in the negotiation process over whether the above changes proposed by the penholder (including language regarding the anticipation of threats) may expand the mission’s posture in a way that could ultimately be used to engage preemptively in counter-terrorism activities. It seems this issue was raised by a number of members including China, New Zealand, Russia, Uruguay and Venezuela. When referring to the magnitude of the threats to civilians, language in the draft provides for direct operations to be carried out if the threat is serious and credible. After Russia broke silence, language was added to ensure that direct operations are “only” carried out in those circumstances, in an effort to further delimitate when the mission could use force. The draft also reiterates the principles of peacekeeping: consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force, except in self-defence and defence of the mandate. It further recalls the 25 November 2015 presidential statement that struck a balance between upholding these principles and doing so with flexibility in order to fully deliver Council mandates.

A key focus of the text is the safety and security of peacekeepers as well as the need to enhance their operational effectiveness. The draft pays tribute to the peacekeepers who have risked and lost their lives in Mali and expresses serious concern at the continuing lack of key capabilities of the mission. It requests the Secretary-General to identify options to enhance the safety and security of MINUSMA’s personnel and to report on them to the Council. It further emphasises the importance of MINUSMA ensuring the most effective use and disposition of its troops and capabilities in accordance with the prioritisation of tasks of its mandate.

The draft highlights the need to ensure MINUSMA’s force protection through the deployment of the needed capabilities and resources. In this context, it urges MINUSMA’s troop and police contributing countries to expedite the procurement and deployment of all necessary contingent-owned equipment. It furthermore urges member states to provide troops and police that have adequate capabilities and training specific to MINUSMA’s operating environment.

Despite the opposition of at least one Council member to include a reference to improving intelligence capacities, this language remained in the draft in blue, which includes a reference to improving surveillance and monitoring capacities, within the limits of MINUSMA’s mandate.

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