posted on Tue 22 May 2018 5:58 PM
G5 Sahel Joint Force Briefing

Tomorrow (23 May), the Security Council will convene a briefing on the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), or FC-G5S. The anticipated briefers are Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita, Permanent Secretary of the G5-Sahel Maman Sidikou, Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN Fatima Kyari Mohammed, and Ambassador of the EU to the UN João Pedro Vale de Almeida. France, as penholder, is expected to circulate a press statement, welcoming progress towards establishing the FC-G5S and encouraging further efforts to operationalise the force fully and to generate the support pledged during the Brussels conference in February.

This will be the first Council meeting focused on the G5 Sahel since the adoption of resolution 2391 in December 2017, which outlined how the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is expected to support the FC-G5S. In particular, the resolution requested the Secretary-General to conclude a technical agreement among the EU, the UN and the G5 Sahel states for the provision of operational and logistical support through MINUSMA to the joint force, including medical and casualty evacuation capabilities, access to life-support consumables, and engineering support. The resolution described how the UN would be reimbursed for this assistance, which is expected to be a temporary measure applying to G5 Sahel troops deployed on Malian territory.

The briefing tomorrow will focus on progress in operationalising the FC-G5S. In his 8 May report on the joint force, the Secretary-General states that this process and the mobilisation of funding “have been slow and at times cumbersome”. He maintains that operationalisation of the force is not progressing fast enough, particularly against the backdrop of the worsening security situation in the Sahel.

An area of progress that is likely to be acknowledged during the briefing is the technical agreement on MINUSMA’s operational and logistical support. This was signed at the 23 February International High Level Conference on the Sahel in Brussels, with a budget projected at 44 million euros over two years, to which the EU committed 10 million euros. During the conference, donors further increased their pledges for the FC-G5S to a total of 414 million euros, meeting most of its estimated one-year budget of 423 million euros. A human rights compliance framework has also been developed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in consultation with the joint force.

Both briefers and Council members are likely to raise issues that have affected progress in setting up the force. Funding remains a problem, with the majority of money pledged still not received. Other difficulties include different funding mechanisms, shortfalls in training and equipment, insufficient manpower, and issues over command and control. During a 25 April follow-up meeting to the Brussels conference in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix explained that MINUSMA was prepared to provide medical evacuation and life support provisions. However, the mission cannot move forward with its engineering support, required for urgent activity such as camp construction, until it secures more funding than the EU contribution.

Keita may reiterate the point made in the Secretary-General’s report that the joint force must be embedded within a larger political and institutional framework and strategy. There is a need to better link the G5 Sahel joint force with the G5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat, headquartered in Mauritania, and its development-related initiatives, as well as create greater coherence among G5 countries, which hold divergent views on the role of the FC-G5S. Sidikou, who was appointed Permanent Secretary earlier this year, may cover challenges facing the G5 Sahel in his briefing and ask for financial support and the disbursement of pledges to the force. Speakers may further stress the importance of progress in the Malian peace process.

During tomorrow’s session, briefers and Council members are likely to discuss the recommendation of the Secretary-General to use UN assessed contributions for supporting the force. The Secretary-General has said that this would “allow for more predictable financing and thus facilitate more precise, efficient and longer term planning”. In his report, he proposes two options, both based on the use of assessed contributions. One option is to establish a dedicated UN support office that delivers a support package for the G5 Sahel Force covering its entire area of operations, financed through assessed contributions, similar to the UN Support Office in Somalia set up for the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Another proposal is for MINUSMA to provide enhanced support through assessed contributions to the Central and Western sectors of FC-G5S operations, while the Eastern sector along the Niger-Chad border, where the UN does not have a proximate presence, would continue to rely on bilateral support. A drawback is that this risks overstretching MINUSMA.

The issue of assessed contributions has divided Council members. While France, which has championed the force, believes that a case continues to exist for assessed contributions and a Chapter VII mandate, the US position, as stated by Ambassador Nikki Haley at the adoption of resolution 2391, is that the UN support role should not go beyond MINUSMA’s provision of logistical support on a reimbursable basis.

In addition, briefers and Council members are likely to cover the importance of complementing military efforts with initiatives to address grievances of the local population including under-development and other challenges that have helped enable the rise of terrorist groups and transnational organised crime in the Sahel. These initiatives include the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and the French-German-EU Alliance for the Sahel. Members may further reiterate the importance of FC-G5S operations complying with international humanitarian law and seek to learn more about the Force’s measures to protect civilians.