Mali: Renewal of MINUSMA’s Mandate*
Tomorrow (29 June), Security Council members will vote in person on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for one year. France, the penholder on Mali, shared an initial draft text with Council members following the Council’s quarterly briefing and consultations on Mali, which took place on 14 June. An expert level meeting was held that same day to read through the draft resolution, followed by two rounds of negotiations. On 24 June, France placed the draft resolution under silence procedure. Silence was broken first by the US, and then by the UK, China, India, and Russia. Despite China and India breaking a second silence procedure this morning (28 June), the penholder placed the draft resolution in blue this afternoon.
The draft text in blue updates MINUSMA’s mandate to include supporting Mali’s political transition for restoring an elected government following the two coup d’états which took place in the country in the span of 10 months—in August 2020 and more recently on 24 May. MINUSMA has already been supporting the transition, which the Council requested in an October 2020 presidential statement. Its new mandate, according to the draft resolution in blue, states that MINUSMA’s “primary” strategic priority is to support both the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and the political transition. The draft text further calls on all Malian stakeholders to facilitate the resumption and full realisation of the transition and handover of power to elected civilian authorities, reaffirming the need to respect the 18-month transition period and the 27 February 2022 date set for the presidential and legislative elections.
Additionally, among the “priority measures” that the Council created in 2019 to monitor progress in the implementation of the peace agreement, the draft text contains a new benchmark on achieving the political transition within the 18-month timeline set out in the transition charter and in accordance with the demands of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 30 May, following the 24 May coup.
Differences during the negotiations revolved around several issues, including France’s proposal, announced at this month’s briefing on Mali, to increase MINUSMA’s troop ceiling to improve its capacity to protect civilians and promote reconciliation in central Mali. It appears that an earlier version of the draft resolution, as proposed by the penholder, sought an additional 2,069 military and police personnel to the mission’s current ceiling of 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 police. As France noted at the 14 June briefing, when the Council established in resolution 2480 of June 2019 MINUSMA’s second strategic priority—to support Malian authorities’ efforts to stabilise the situation in the centre—it did so “without providing it with needed additional resources”. Despite MINUSMA’s attempts to become more mobile through its adaptation plan, violence in central Mali “continues unabated”, according to the Secretary-General’s latest report on Mali, which was issued on 1 June.
It seems that several members expressed concerns about the penholder’s proposal, noting that the Secretary-General had not suggested raising the troop ceiling in his latest report. Despite the fact that Council members sought more information from the Secretariat—which apparently told members an increase in troops could be useful if the government develops a political strategy for the centre—it seems that most members preferred a more formal proposal from the Secretary-General before agreeing to a possible increase. The US apparently noted that it would not be possible for it to agree to the troop increase within the timeframe of the current negotiations because of its congressional budgetary approval process. Members such as the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) apparently expressed doubts regarding the troop increase, since they were concerned about the possible link between the proposal to increase the MINUSMA ceiling with France’s announcement on 10 June that it plans to drawdown Operation Barkhane, its regional counter-terrorism force in the Sahel.
France withdrew the proposed troop increase when it placed the draft resolution under silence, and instead added a request for the Secretary-General to provide, no later than 15 July, a detailed proposal for a potential increase of the troop ceiling. China raised concerns about the timing and the scope of such a report—apparently considering two weeks insufficient time to prepare the report, and not wanting it to focus solely on a potential troop increase. Despite amendments to the text, which noted that the report should cover progress in the force adaptation plan and the accompanying role of a government-led strategy for the centre, China broke silence again this morning (28 June) over this issue. The penholder, however, placed the draft resolution in blue, without making further changes.
Another difficult discussion during negotiations was on MINUSMA’s support to the Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S). Differences initially centred around the penholder’s proposal to add to the list of MINUSMA’s priority tasks the support that the mission provides to the FC-G5S. When the Council authorised, through resolution 2391 in 2017, MINUSMA support to the FC-G5S, which includes life consumables support and additional logistical support to FC-G5S units operating in Mali, some members only agreed to do so reluctantly. Their main concern at that time was that this would further stretch the mission, which was already finding it difficult to fulfil its existing mandate. During this year’s negotiations, some members, in particular the UK and the US, objected to elevating this function to a “priority task”.
The subject of FC-G5S support became the source of further disagreement when the text was placed under silence on 24 June. New language was added requesting the Secretary-General to submit his upcoming report on the FC-G5S—which is due in November—by 30 September, and for it to include detailed and operational options for potentially more suitable solutions to support the FC-G5S.
The latter request has been a sensitive issue during the past two months, as the UK and the US have been unwilling to sign off on a Council letter to the Secretary-General requesting a white paper for more information on a potential UN support office to the FC-G5S. France and the “A3 plus one” have said in recent months that they plan to table a resolution to establish such an office, which the Secretary-General first suggested in 2017. However, the UK and the US have long objected to this proposal, as they oppose using UN assessed contributions on non-UN missions and are not convinced that a UN support office would be more effective than bilateral support for the FC-G5S. Ultimately, a compromise led to removing the inclusion of MINUSMA support to the FC-G5S from the list of priority tasks, while retaining a request for the Secretary-General to provide a report by 30 September on both bilateral and multilateral options for support to the FC-G5S.
Another contentious issue was over a proposed paragraph on climate change. During the negotiations on resolution 2480, two years ago, a previously agreed-upon operative paragraph on climate change was removed, leaving only one paragraph on climate change in the resolution’s preambular section. The change was promoted at the time by the US. This year, the penholder sought to reinsert a paragraph on climate change in the resolution’s operative section. China, India and especially Russia objected to the proposal, although it seems that China and Russia suggested that they could accept the climate language in exchange for additional language on development. However, the US objected to the proposed development language, which it apparently associates with China’s public diplomacy. Following the first silence procedure, the proposed operative paragraph on climate change was removed.
India’s breaking of silence this morning (28 June) was largely over continued concerns about language that it deemed as critical of peacekeepers. The draft resolution in blue notes the “adverse effects” of troop-contributing countries’ “national caveats” and says that “the refusal to obey orders” and “failure to respond to attacks on civilians”, among other points, “may adversely affect the shared responsibility for effective mandate implementation”. This language was drawn from previous resolutions renewing the mandate of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), including most recently resolution 2567 of 12 March. Having already amended some of this text based on India’s concerns, the penholder opted to place the draft resolution in blue without further revisions.
*Post-Script: On 29 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2584, renewing the MINUSMA mandate for another year.