23 May 2017

Calling Additional Peacekeepers ‘Force Multipliers’ in Mali, Secretary-General Urges New Contributions to Reinforce Mission’s Protection Mandate

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) force generation conference, in New York today:

We are here today to focus attention on Mali and how we can together best ensure effective support.

I would like to express my particular appreciation to all countries whose troops serve in Mali, and all those who have been supporting Mali and MINUSMA in other ways.

I particularly thank the Member States that announced their intentions to make pledges yesterday, and ask them to do their utmost to ensure swift deployment.  Let me add my welcome to Issa Konfourou [Permanent Representative of Mali to the United Nations].

This meeting is an important sign of solidarity and support for the people of Mali, and the work of the women and men deployed in one of our most challenging peacekeeping operations.

I pay tribute to the courageous peacekeepers who have lost their lives while supporting peace in Mali.  Malian and French forces continue to be targeted by extremist and terrorist groups.  Earlier today, two peacekeepers were killed when a MINUSMA convoy was ambushed near Kidal — a grim reminder of the dangers faced by MINUSMA on the ground.

Since MINUSMA was established four years ago, Malians have made significant progress towards peace and reconciliation.  Elections were held.  A peace agreement signed almost two years ago.

Despite delays and differences of opinion, the parties have found common ground to overcome obstacles and achieve progress in implementing interim political and security arrangements.  However, tragically, that progress has not translated into peace.

Violent extremist groups are actively seeking to spoil and stop the peace process.  New armed groups have emerged while some existing groups have divided into different factions.  Instability has spread from the north to the centre of the country, and beyond Mali’s borders into neighbouring countries.

Security Council resolution 2295 (2016) urged the Malian parties to accelerate implementation of the agreement and restore State authority.

This includes redeploying Malian defence and security forces to the centre and the north of the country.  In light of serious security challenges on the ground, the Security Council reinforced the mandate of MINUSMA backing it with necessary capabilities and authorizing up to 2,049 additional troops.

Yet confidence in the peace process was undermined by renewed fighting between armed groups last summer and continued delays in institutional reform and redeployment of Malian forces.

Few countries have answered the Secretariat’s call for new contributions to MINUSMA, which are urgently needed to create an environment for political progress, security and sustainable development.

As I told the Security Council on 6 April, peacekeeping operations must be equipped to meet the demands of new operational environments.  Mali is a test case for the international community.

We cannot deploy MINUSMA’s peacekeepers in areas where terrorist groups and transnational criminal networks operate, without providing them with the means to meet the challenges they face.  Nor can we prepare for Malian institutions to gradually assume responsibility for stability.

The figures of 13,289 military and 1,920 police are relatively modest, given the size of MINUSMA’s area of operation.  In fact, most of the additional personnel are “force multipliers” — specialized military units that would greatly enhance the ability of troops already on the ground to perform their mandated tasks.

More are needed not only for MINUSMA to implement its mandate to protect civilians, but to protect United Nations personnel.

In this vast and inhospitable terrain, protection is essential to deter threats and implement the Mission’s mandate.  But it has taken two years to secure the combat convoy battalion that will enable troops to be redirected from force protection to fulfilling the Mission’s mandate.

We need armoured personnel carriers and helicopters so peacekeepers can carry out their tasks more effectively.  We need the quick reaction force and its integrated helicopter task force in Mopti, to respond quickly to incidents, protect civilians and counter the spread of violent extremist elements.  Both the units are now pledged and will deploy soon, with our appreciation to those contributing countries.

Now we must reflect on the posture and capabilities that peacekeeping operations like MINUSMA should be offered to make the biggest difference on the ground.

In Mali, we need more robustness; more deterrence; more preparedness of the contingents; greater capability to implement the mandate and protect our personnel.

Three factors are critical to achieving greater results:

First, success requires troop-contributing countries to commit to MINUSMA’s mandate.  While a robust peacekeeping mandate does not equal a counter-terrorist mandate, it does imply a proactive, pre-emptive posture.  Caveats work against our ability to protect civilians and ensure the security of the women and men who are deployed.  I hope that troop-contributing countries will come to share this view.

Second, we need predictable military assets.  The Secretariat is working with troop-contributing countries to plan contributions up to five years ahead to ensure the uninterrupted availability of key capabilities.  We must seek efficiency gains in this time of scarce resources, but we must also invest now to save later.

Third, partnerships.  Counter-terrorist forces and peacekeeping operations complement one another.  We must enhance our cooperation with Barkhane, and support the G5 Sahel Joint Force in due course, to maximize collective efforts against the threats facing Mali.

Time is of the essence.  Violent extremist groups have increased their area of operations and the speed at which they work.  Civilians are under threat.  Continued instability saps the Malian people’s confidence in State institutions.  It saps hope for the restoration of law and order.  And it affects the morale of MINUSMA’s troops.

At this critical time, we owe the people of Mali the means to implement the Mission’s mandate.  I trust that together we will identify solutions.

I know that you are already exploring some ideas including the rotation of high-end capabilities.  I challenge you to explore new ways of ensuring that peacekeepers have what they need to succeed.

Once again, thank you for sharing our commitment to durable peace in Mali and the Sahel.

For information media. Not an official record.