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Department of Political Affairs

19 April 2013, Address delivered at the fourth meeting of the Follow-Up and Support Group on Mali, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman  

 

Excellences,
 
Je me réjouis de vous retrouver à Bamako pour discuter comment nous pouvons au mieux harmoniser nos efforts en soutien au Mali. Depuis la dernière réunion du Groupe de soutien et de suivi, le 5 février à Bruxelles, la communauté internationale a continué d’intensifier ses efforts pour contribuer à la résolution de la crise au Mali. Comme vous le savez, le Secrétaire général a présenté son rapport sur la situation au Mali le 26 mars au Conseil de sécurité, et nous attendons une décision du Conseil dans les jours à venir. I am delighted to once again join all of you here in Bamako to discuss how we can best align our efforts in support of Mali. Since the last meeting of the Support and Follow-up Group on 5 February 2013 in Brussels, the international community has continued to intensify its efforts in support to the resolution of the crisis in Mali. As you know, the Secretary-General presented his report on the situation in Mali to the Security Council on 26 March and we expect the Council to take a decision on Mali in the coming days.
 
Dans le même temps, la stratégie intégrée des Nations Unies pour le Sahel est en cours de finalisation et nous espérons qu’elle servira d’outil pour s’attaquer à certaines des causes du conflit au Mali et dans le Sahel. Je salue la présence parmi nous l’Envoyé spécial du Secrétaire général pour le Sahel, M. Romano Prodi. M. Prodi partagera avec nous sa vision sur la façon dont la communauté internationale pourra aider le Sahel à surmonter les défis profonds auxquels il est confronté.  At the same time, the UN integrated Strategy for the Sahel is being finalized and we expect it to serve as a long term instrument to address some of the structural and underlying causes of the conflict in Mali and the broader Sahel region. I am delighted to have with us today Mr. Romano Prodi, Special Envoy if the Secretary-General for the Sahel. Mr. Prodi will brief us on the UN Sahel Strategy and will share his vision on the way forward for the international community to support the Sahel region in overcoming the deep-rooted challenges it is facing.
 
Entre-temps, nous devons redoubler d’efforts pour garantir que le processus politique, qui est fondamental pour la stabilité du Mali, ne soit pas supplanté par les opérations militaires en cours qui sont tout autant essentielles. Pour aborder plus en détail la nature du soutien et de l’engagement des Nations Unies au Mali et au Sahel, je salue également la présence icide M. Said Djinnit, Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest, de M. Anthony Banbury, Sous-secrétaire général à l’appui aux missions, de M. David Gressly, Chef du Bureau des Nations Unies au Mali, de M. Aurélien Agbénonci, Coordonateur résident et Coordonateur humanitaire de l’ONU au Mali et de M. Jack Christofides du Département de opérations de maintien de la paix. Meanwhile, we should redouble our efforts to ensure that the political process, which is key to Mali’s stability in both the short and long term, is not overshadowed by the equally essential military operations underway. There have been some important developments in the political situation which should encourage us to do just that. To further elaborate on all these developments and on the UN’ support and engagement in Mali and the West African region, I am also accompanied today by Mr. Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, by Mr. Anthony Banbury, Assistant-Secretary-General for Field Support, by Mr. David Gressly, Head of the United Nations Office in Mali (UNOM), Mr. Aurelien Agbenonci, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Mali and by Mr. Jack Christofides from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
 
In terms of political developments in Mali, the establishment by the Transitional Government on 6 March of the National Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation, and the appointment of its leadership a few weeks later, are important steps for putting in motion a broad and comprehensive political process. The appointment of a women and a Tuareg as vice-presidents of this Commission is consistent with the transitional authorities’ repeated assurances that inclusiveness and plurality will be foundation blocks of the political process. We hope that a broad and inclusive Malian-led political process can begin to address the challenges that must be overcome for Mali to achieve political stability and economic prosperity. We look forward to the establishment of the Secretariat so that the Commission can begin its important work in earnest.
 
To this end, the United Nations will provide all the assistance we possibly can to the Commission in collaboration with regional and international partners. In this regard, UNOM is available to assist all efforts to promote dialogue between the Government and those who wish to take part in the search for a political solution to the crisis, while UNOWA continues to coordinate closely with and support regional efforts to facilitate such a process.
 
I would also like to reiterate one of the key messages we have conveyed to the Security Council regarding the need to ensure that, in the current interplay between political and security priorities, the security imperative does not detract from the primacy of politics in Mali, in both the short and long term. Security Council members have expressed their strong concurrence with this message.
 
We are encouraged by President Traoré’s commitment to move rapidly toward elections by 31 July 2013, as this constitutes a fundamental benchmark in restoring constitutional order in Mali. We encourage all Malians to continue to work towards the creation of a favourable environment for the holding of credible and peaceful elections. There are important challenges for this electoral process to be held in time. Apart from logistical, legal and financial obstacles, the still-volatile security conditions and the absence of State administration in northern Mali poses an important challenge. And on the political front, the absence so far of a dialogue and reconciliation process limits the space for constructive electoral debate. Dialogue with all stakeholders, including in areas where the Malian administration is not yet deployed such as Kidal, is also essential to ensure that elections can take place across the entire territory.
 
Mindful of how much work is required to meet the July deadline, the UN will intensify its effort in support of the preparations for the holding of free, fair, transparent and credible polls in keeping with international standards. We call on the international community to step in and provide timely financial and logistic support for the elections. We hope that ongoing security operations as well as the appointment of the Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation will help overcome these challenges and pave the way for inclusive and credible elections. 
 
As you know, the Secretary-General deployed a multi-disciplinary Exploratory Visit to Mali headed by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Mr. Edmond Mulet from 10 to 16 March to develop recommendations on options for establishing a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali. The Mission provided some key observations and recommendations to the Secretary-General that were included in his report.
 
One important observation states that the serious and inter-linked challenges that confront Mali require concerted and broad-based efforts by the Malian authorities and its people, together with significant international support. They go beyond addressing security threats and require tackling the deep-rooted political, governance, development and humanitarian challenges that are not susceptible to an easy solution. With respect to the security challenges, a key question is the extent to which the United Nations can or should assume responsibility for security and stabilization which, ultimately, will need to serve as an incentive for Malians to engage in a viable political process.
 
We are also mindful of humanitarian actors’ increasing concerns about the possible deployment of a United Nations force in Mali and the need to retain a clear distinction between the humanitarian and political/security agendas to ensure the impartiality of humanitarian action, avoid threatening the safety of aid workers and guarantee humanitarian access to all those in need.
 
In his report, the Secretary-General has proposed two options for UN engagement in Mali, which are now under consideration of the Security Council.
 
Our consultations with Security Council members indicates that the Council prefers the second option,  that of a UN multidimensional stabilization mission under Chapter VII alongside a parallel force. Under this option, the bulk of AFISMA would transition to a UN stabilization mission, which would operate under robust rules of engagement allowing it to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment.
 
This option would be part of the process of transition from the current situation to a UN stabilisation mission deployed alongside a parallel force and it  takes into account the fact that the UN is operating in a new geopolitical context and faces threats that have not been encountered before in a peacekeeping context. The situation on the ground remains fluid, and extremists and criminal elements continue to pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the people of Mali as well as to UN personnel. Therefore, it will be of critical importance that a clear distinction is maintained between the core peacekeeping tasks of an envisaged UN stabilisation mission and the peace enforcement and counter-terrorism activities of a parallel force. Any blurring of the distinction would place severe constraints on the ability of UN humanitarian, development, human rights and other personnel to safely do their work.
 
Given that the crisis in Mali is part of serious wider regional challenges, it will be essential to link our support to Mali within a broader regional strategy that incorporates Mali’s neighbours and key partners in the process. To that end, SRSG Djinnit will continue to work with the ECOWAS countries on the definition of a shared approach to effectively address the security and political challenges in Mali and its impact in the sub region and beyond. 
 
In addition, the regional strategy that the UN is developing for the Sahel should be viewed as a complementary and indispensable process. As this issue will be addressed at more length during the day, I will just bring to your attention that the Secretary General is expected to report to the Security Council at the beginning of May on the development and implementation of the UN Strategy for the Sahel. In this regard, SESG Prodi has set the overarching framework for the strategy and has commenced work, in close coordination with concerned UN entities, on formulating an Action Plan focused on the four thematic pillars of the strategy; namely, governance, security, humanitarian and development as well as on the different levels of coordination foreseen in the strategy.
 
In closing, let me emphasize the full commitment of the United Nations to using all available tools to support and promote a Malian-led process leading to the resumption of democratic rule in the country in the short term and to political stability and economic growth in Mali in the long term.
 
Thank you.