posted on Fri 26 Jun 2020 10:28 PM
Mali: MINUSMA Mandate Renewal

On Monday (29 June), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) until 30 June 2021. As penholder on Mali, France circulated a first draft of the resolution after the Council’s 11 June open videoconference on Mali, chaired by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Members held a first read-through of the text on 15 June and two rounds of negotiations on 17 and 19 June. The draft resolution was placed under a silence procedure on Tuesday (22 June), which the US broke. Earlier today, the draft resolution passed a second silence procedure and is now in blue.

The new mandate updates last year’s benchmarks—referred to as priority measures in the text—for implementing the 2015 Mali Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. It also creates benchmarks for the Malian government to meet in central Mali over the next year. The updated benchmarks for Mali’s peace process set out new targets for security sector reform, completing the constitutional reform and several institutional reforms envisioned in the peace agreement, the development of the north, and the participation of women.

Last year the Council added support for the Malian government in stabilising and protecting civilians in the centre as MINUSMA’s second strategic priority. The new mandate establishes two benchmarks for the situation in central Mali. The first benchmark is on re-establishing state presence and state authority in the centre. This includes the government deploying and making fully operational internal security forces, judicial entities and basic social services. The second is on fighting impunity in the centre, by bringing to justice those responsible for the massacres of hundreds of civilians in 2019 and 2020. China suggested a third benchmark related to sustainable development. But other members, keen to have realistic benchmarks, felt that this was neither measurable nor practical, and should not be included.

The draft resolution contains new elements on accountability and references to allegations of human rights violations, and appears to reinforce provisions on human rights compliance and monitoring. During negotiations, some members raised initial objections to some of these elements, including with regard to the second benchmark for central Mali, while others sought stronger language. Niger, which had a number of concerns, had circulated earlier this month a letter to Council members, rejecting allegations from an April report by MINUSMA’s human rights division that its security forces had committed 34 extrajudicial killings in Mali. In a paragraph on MINUSMA’s human rights monitoring and reporting, language has been added about the mission liaising with relevant partners—inserted in response to Niger having been surprised by allegations in the April report.

One of the most discussed issues was MINUSMA support to the Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5S). This was the subject of a recent UN review which describes “multiple challenges” preventing the FC-G5S from benefitting fully from MINUSMA support. While no members opposed the continuation of this role, they made a number of proposals.

The draft resolution adds language related to the delivery of MINUSMA life support consumables (rations and fuel) by private companies to FC-G5S units operating outside Mali. Last year’s mandate renewal expanded the provision of life support consumables to all FC-G5S units, not just those operating on Malian territory, provided that the joint force or “other partners” deliver the assistance beyond Mali. However, this language did not allow MINUSMA to contract commercial entities to transfer the supplies, while the FC-G5S itself lacks the capacity to transfer the life support consumables from Mali to other Sahel countries. The new mandate addresses this issue. Other language has been added, at the request of the UK and US, to emphasise that MINUSMA should be fully reimbursed for any support to the FC-G5S—as set out in resolution 2391—and that this role should not affect its capacity to implement its mandate and strategic priorities.

The A3 mentioned during the negotiations their preference for a UN support office that could support the FC-G5S logistically and operationally; two options of the long-standing recommendation from the Secretary-General were included in the review of MINUSMA support. These options, which go beyond MINUSMA’s mandate, were not substantively discussed.

The most difficult issue to resolve concerned an exit strategy for MINUSMA. The version of the draft resolution placed under silence procedure on 22 June requested the Malian government and MINUSMA to conduct an assessment on the conditions necessary to pave the way for a possible exit strategy. In breaking silence, the US sought an independent strategic review rather than an assessment conducted by MINUSMA and the government. It specified principles that the review should address, including a timeline for drawing down military personnel and operations.

During the negotiations, other members took a contrary view to that of the US, maintaining that the current situation in Mali made it premature to discuss an exit strategy and to indicate a reduction in troop levels. Among other concerns, members also objected to being prescriptive about what a strategic review should include. The final draft text requests the Secretary-General, in coordination with the Instance du Coordination au Mali and the government, to consult with relevant partners, including member states, regional organisations and independent experts, to assess conditions that could allow for a possible exit strategy for the mission. It asks for the assessment to be presented to the Council by 31 March 2021.

The draft resolution includes several references indicating the Council’s support for the Secretary-General’s December 2019 force adaptation plan and encouraging member states to contribute the required capacities. The plan seeks to equip MINUSMA with more specialised capacities, including air assets, to facilitate MINUSMA’s presence in two major areas, northern Mali and central Mali. The Secretary-General is requested to continue reporting to the Council on Mali every three months, as well as to provide the Council with a six-monthly letter on security challenges, MINUSMA performance and transition planning.

This year’s negotiations were much less contentious than last year. Ahead of the wider discussion on the draft text, France engaged bilaterally with the US, which appears to have facilitated agreement on the mandate. MINUSMA will continue to support the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement as its primary strategic priority. There is new language that highlights the use of the Special Representative’s good offices to encourage progress in the peace process. The mission’s second strategic priority, established last year, remains to support the government’s stabilisation efforts and protection of civilians in the centre. Some language that proved difficult in 2019, including references to the International Criminal Court and climate change, was not contested during this year’s negotiation.