What's In Blue

Posted Thu 29 Jun 2023

Mali: Vote on Resolution Ending the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali*

Tomorrow morning (30 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution that terminates the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as of 30 June and begins the drawdown and withdrawal of the mission.

Earlier this month, Council members started negotiations on a resolution renewing MINUSMA’s mandate based on options for its reconfiguration outlined in the Secretary-General’s 16 January report of a UN internal review of the mission. However, after Mali’s Transitional Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop called for the “withdrawal without delay of MINUSMA” at a 16 June Council briefing, France (the penholder on Mali) prepared a new draft resolution to end the mission. France circulated this draft to Council members on 22 June and convened a read-through of the text that same day. Members held additional expert-level meetings on Monday (26 June), which included a briefing by the UN Secretariat on the withdrawal’s envisioned timeline and technical requirements. On Tuesday (27 June), France placed the text, which it had revised to reflect Council members’ comments, under silence procedure until today (29 June). Yesterday (28 June), the penholder circulated an updated version of this text. This draft passed the silence procedure this morning (29 June).

In addition to terminating MINUSMA’s mandate as of 30 June, the draft in blue requests the mission to immediately start on 1 July the transfer of its tasks and the orderly and safe drawdown and withdrawal of its personnel, while ceasing its operations, with the objective of completing this process by 31 December. The Secretary-General is requested to engage with Mali’s transitional government to articulate a plan for the transfer of MINUSMA’s tasks, which considers the possible contribution of the UN Country Team (UNCT), the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), and other stakeholders, including to support the 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. This plan should be presented to the Council by 15 August, according to the draft resolution.

Mali’s call for MINUSMA’s withdrawal appeared to take Council members by surprise. Since last year, however, Malian authorities have been restricting the mission’s freedom of movement and objecting to its human rights reporting. Tense relations between the government and the mission, along with the deployment of the Russian private security company the Wagner Group to Mali since late 2021 had already caused several troop-contributing countries to withdraw from MINUSMA. Authorities had also rejected, most recently in a 15 June statement, the options for MINUSMA’s reconfiguration from the internal review, which included proposals to increase the mission’s troop ceiling, to consolidate its presence at current authorised force levels, or to withdraw its military personnel and replace the peacekeeping force with a UN special political mission. Special Representative and head of MINUSMA El-Ghassim Wane, speaking to the press after his briefing at the Council’s 16 June session, suggested that it would be “nearly impossible” for MINUSMA to remain in Mali without the host country’s consent, which is a principle of UN peacekeeping.

Following the 16 June briefing, France developed, in consultation with the UN, a draft resolution that would facilitate MINUSMA’s safe and orderly departure, safeguard MINUSMA’s legacy—particularly its support for the 2015 peace agreement—and provide the basis for the continued presence of the UNCT. The text also sought to keep in mind Mali’s call for MINUSMA’s withdrawal “without delay”. In a 21 June letter to the Council, Mali reaffirmed its request for MINUSMA’s immediate withdrawal and reiterated that authorities were ready to cooperate with the mission for this purpose.

Council members recognise the serious risks that MINUSMA’s departure poses to the security and the humanitarian situation in Mali and to the broader West Africa and Sahel region. The withdrawal also presents risks to the maintenance of the 2015 peace agreement, in particular, due to the loss of the mission’s monitoring capacities. The Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), a coalition of armed groups in northern Mali, said in a 22 June statement that MINUSMA’s exit would be a “fatal blow” to the accord. However, negotiations on the text demonstrated that Council members agreed that MINUSMA could no longer operate in the country following Mali’s request that it withdraw.

In determining the functions that MINUSMA should continue to fulfil until its withdrawal, there apparently was some discussion about whether to maintain the mission’s political functions in support of implementing the peace agreement and Mali’s political transition to restore constitutional order. The initial draft text that the penholder proposed, however, authorised only a few limited functions, which remained the same in the draft resolution in blue. These functions include, among others, to provide security for UN personnel, facilities, convoys, installations and equipment and associated personnel; to maintain situational awareness in the vicinity of MINUSMA locations; and to provide medical support for UN personnel.

On 28 June, after the penholder placed the text under silence procedure, Mali informed Council members that it wanted MINUSMA’s departure completed in three months. The UN had already conveyed to Council members the difficulty of conducting the mission’s withdrawal by 31 December, given the size and complexity of the mission. A three-month timeline, as Mali requested, was not considered realistic, and it would undermine the mission’s ability to withdraw in a secure and coordinated manner.

Council members and the UN engaged with Mali to explain the process for the withdrawal. Still, revisions were made to the text to alleviate Mali’s apparent concerns that the draft resolution could allow MINUSMA to remain in the country. This included adding language requesting MINUSMA to “immediately start on 1 July” the transfer of tasks and the drawdown. It also shortened the timeline for the Secretary-General to develop the plan for the transfer of tasks. The initial draft text requested the Secretary-General to present such a plan to the Security Council by 30 September. But the draft resolution in blue now sets out a six-week deadline of 15 August.

The text was also revised to specify different phases: “drawdown”, “withdrawal”, and “liquidation and financial matters”. Under the drawdown phase, which is scheduled to last until 30 September, the draft resolution authorises MINUSMA to respond to “imminent threats of violence” to civilians and to contribute to the safe civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance “in its immediate vicinity”. This shortened the period in which the mission could intervene to protect civilians, which the earlier versions of the text had authorised until 31 December. The liquidation phase includes the authorisation of a guard unit.

In addition to presenting the transfer plan by 15 August, the Secretary-General should keep the Council regularly informed about the withdrawal process, according to the draft resolution. A concern for Council members is to be able to monitor over the coming months the resolution’s implementation and ensure that Mali respects its commitments for a safe and orderly withdrawal.

Before Mali called for MINUSMA’s withdrawal, Council members had already started negotiations on renewing MINUSMA’s mandate. France had prepared a text that proposed maintaining MINUSMA’s force ceiling, which the Secretary-General’s 1 June report on Mali had recommended. This draft text also revised the mission’s strategic priorities. It suggested that MINUSMA’s primary strategic priority would continue to be supporting the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. But its second strategic priority would have been supporting Mali’s political transition and the mission would no longer have focused on supporting the government’s efforts to stabilise central Mali. The draft resolution still included in its priority tasks supporting the stabilisation of Mali, which apparently would have allowed the Secretary-General flexibility in determining where to deploy mission capacities.

The proposed text also sought to establish as benchmarks the four parameters that the UN internal review had identified as critical for MINUSMA to operate, which include MINUSMA’s freedom of movement and the ability to implement its entire mandate, including its human rights provisions. The Council would have considered the gradual drawdown of the mission, according to that text, should MINUSMA’s ability to carry out its mandate be significantly compromised, as assessed by the benchmarks. Council members ceased their consideration of this draft resolution following Mali’s call to withdraw MINUSMA.

In parallel to Council negotiations on MINUSMA’s mandate, there have been ongoing negotiations in the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly on budgets of UN peacekeeping operations. This evening, the Fifth Committee apparently agreed on MINUSMA’s budget, appropriating $590 million for six months.


*Post-script: On 30 June, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2690, which terminated the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) as of 30 June and started the mission’s drawdown and withdrawal. Several Council members made explanations of vote (S/PV.9365).

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