posted on Wed 18 Oct 2017 3:14 PM
Visiting Mission to the Sahel

This evening (18 October), Security Council members are leaving New York on a visiting mission to Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. The objective of the visiting mission is two-fold. First, it aims to assess the situation of the countries of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), in particular regarding the level and the nature of the threat posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime, as well as to assess the status of the operationalisation of the joint force of the G5 Sahel, or FC-G5S. (The G5 Sahel consists of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.) Second, the visiting mission aims to deliver a clear message to the parties in Mali regarding the need to accelerate the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

Upon returning to New York, the Council expects to hold a ministerial-level meeting on 30 October to discuss ways the international community can support the FC-G5S and to review the deployment of the force. At the meeting, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from Secretary-General António Guterres and to discuss his 16 October report on the activities of the FC-G5S, including the challenges encountered in its operationalisation and possible measures for achieving this goal (S/2017/869). The briefing will be chaired by Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The visiting mission—the fifth this year—will be co-led by Ethiopia, France and Italy. Although the chair of the AU Peace and Security Council was invited to participate, conflicting commitments have prevented his participation.

Operationalisation of the FC-G5S

Resolution 2359, adopted on 21 June, welcomed the establishment of the FC-G5S, which is to deploy along the Mali-Mauritania border (Sector West); the Liptako Gourma border region between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger (Central Sector); and the Niger-Chad border (Sector East). The concept of operations of the force establishes a two-phased approach focusing first on border security in three sectors and eventually on centralised operations throughout the G5 Sahel territory. The resolution’s adoption followed a difficult negotiation over whether the Council should authorise the force and use UN assessed contributions to support it. Neither was included in the final text, although the resolution requested the Secretary-General to report on the challenges encountered by the force and measures to address them.

While the Secretary-General’s report, which was circulated to Council members on Monday (16 October), identifies some of the steps taken to render the force operational—such as the establishment of the central command in Sévaré, the deployment of staff officers by some countries, and the identification of required battalions—it highlights the different levels of preparedness across the three sectors and among the five participating countries. The first joint border operation in the central sector is expected to be conducted at the end of October.

Even though the Secretary-General emphasises the importance of bilateral support, the report makes the case for UN support to address limitations derived from lack of sustainable funding and to establish a robust compliance framework under the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. The Secretary-General provides two options that imply the establishment of a dedicated UN support office financed through assessed contributions, such as the UN office supporting the work of the AU Mission in Somalia. In anticipation of Council divisions on this issue, he also includes two proposals that would support the joint force through MINUSMA. The options are:

1. Security Council mandated UN support package
2. Security Council mandated logistical and soft support package
3. Support requiring an adjustment to the MINUSMA mandate
4. Support that could be provided by MINUSMA under its current mandate

The Secretary-General’s report urges Council members to be ambitious, and Guterres expresses his strong conviction that only with predictable and sustainable funding and support can the FC-G5S contribute to lasting stabilisation of the Sahel region. Both in the report and in his luncheon with Council members on Monday, he stressed the urgency of supporting the force. The options in the report are expected to be discussed among Council members, as well as with various interlocutors, during the visiting mission.

Implementation of the Peace Agreement in Mali

The need to prevent the gains achieved in Mali from being reversed is expected to feature prominently in the discussions with Malian stakeholders. In a 6 October press statement following a briefing and consultations on Mali, Council members expressed their deep concern over the persistent delays in the full implementation of key provisions of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and urged the parties to adopt without delay an agreed-upon chronogram (timeline) for its implementation. They also urged them to take urgent and concrete action to fully deliver on their obligations under the Agreement, in particular through:

• operationalisation of the interim administrations in the north of Mali;
• establishment of the Operational Coordination Mechanism in Kidal and Timbuktu;
• progress in the cantonment and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes, including through the definition of adequate eligibility criteria and the submission of finalised lists of candidates;
• progress in security sector reform;
• progress in the decentralisation process;
• women’s participation in the political process; and
• expeditious appointment of an Independent Observer provided for by the Agreement.

Council members are expected to reiterate these messages to the Malian parties. In these exchanges, Council members are also expected to present the rationale for the adoption of resolution 2374 on 5 September, which established a targeted sanctions regime following a request by the government of Mali. The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on individuals and entities engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of Mali. This initiative is aimed at pressuring the parties to adhere to the letter and spirit of the Agreement, and deliver on it, through the increased scrutiny that will result from the establishment of a Sanctions Committee and a Panel of Experts.