With the security situation in Mali taking a turn for the worse, and elections set to take place in April, the United Nations’ top peacekeeping official told the Security Council today that parties to that country’s Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation must redouble their efforts to implement its provisions and restore stability.
Describing last week’s adoption of a timetable by the committee monitoring the peace agreement as an important step forward, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, described the situation in the country as a race against time, with growing insecurity claiming hundreds of civilian lives, in addition to fatalities among peacekeepers in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and members of Mali’s defence and security forces. The human rights and humanitarian situation was worsening, as well, he added, with humanitarian actors estimating that 4.1 million Malians, or 22 per cent of the national population, facing the prospect of food insecurity in 2018.
The goal now must be to create conditions conducive for elections and the peace process, he said. To that end, he encouraged the Government to implement two key parts of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation — decentralization and security sector reform — in a concerted and inclusive manner, with MINUSMA’s support. He also welcomed progress in the operationalization of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) joint force to combat cross-border terrorism and organized crime.
“The upcoming presidential elections will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the stabilization of Mali,” he said, adding that, five years after it was established, it was time to reassess the assumptions underpinning MINUSMA’s presence in Mali, to review its key mandated tasks against achievements on the ground and to re-examine its layout through a comprehensive review. Despite persisting capability gaps, the Mission was striving to project a robust posture, as mandated by the Council, but more must be done to ensure that all peacekeepers received the required training and equipment to operate in hostile conditions, he said.
Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, reaffirmed the determination of his country’s President to do everything possible to speed up implementation of the Agreement, saying there was no other option for resolving the nation’s crisis. With time in short supply, the Government would strive to speed up political and institutional reforms. He acknowledged, however, that repeated attacks in the north and centre of Mali were undermining efforts by the State to assert its authority. He reiterated his Government’s call for MINUSMA’s operational capacities to be strengthened, while at the regional level he welcomed progress in the operationalization of the G‑5 Sahel joint force, as well as the Council’s support for that entity.
In the ensuing debate, Council members emphasized the urgency of implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation as elections in April drew closer, and for MINUSMA’s capacities to be strengthened amid a deteriorating security environment.
France’s representative said it was time that all the parties to the Agreement made progress in fulfilling their respective commitments. The window of opportunity was small given the electoral deadlines, he said, and the relevance of the Agreement might be called into question unless progress was made in its implementation. Underscoring the Council’s responsibility to encourage the parties to fulfil their commitments, he said MINUSMA remained key to ensuring Mali’s stability.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said that, as time was running short, it was important to advance the implementation of Agreement. The worsening security situation in central Mali was worrisome, raising the prospect of terrorist attacks spreading to the south, he said, calling for MINUSMA’s rapid reaction force to be made operational as soon as possible and for Member States to provide the Mission with the means to secure its camps and convoys against attacks by terrorist groups.
In the same vein, Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said the lack of significant progress was a matter of great concern, with terrorist groups meanwhile attacking MINUSMA, French and Malian forces. All possible measures must be adopted to strengthen the Mission, he said, calling on all parties to the Agreement to make all efforts to implement it in a spirit of trust and a with shared vision of restoring peace and security.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Bolivia, Sweden, Peru, Kuwait, Poland, China, Ethiopia, Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Russian Federation and Kazakhstan.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.
JEAN‑PIERRE LACROIX, Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Mali (document S/2017/1105). He said the Agreement Monitoring Committee’s adoption on 15 and 16 January of a timeline for implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali marked an important step. That development would make progress in several areas possible by the end of March, including institutional and security arrangements and the establishment of a development zone in the north of Mali. However, with presidential elections due in six months, it was crucial for the Government and parties to the Agreement to do everything possible to respect that timetable. He commended the new Prime Minister of Mali for his recent visit to Algeria, whose mediating role could give new impetus for the parties to overcome their differences, and he encouraged the parties to commit the coming months to developing a road map leading to new Malian defence and security institutions.
He described the situation in the nation as a race against time, with growing insecurity claiming hundreds of civilian lives in the north and centre of the country, in addition to several dozen deaths among Malian defence and security forces, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peacekeepers and members of the Force Barkhane. The human rights and humanitarian situation was worsening, as well, with humanitarian actors estimating that 4.1 million Malians, or 22 per cent of the national population, would face food insecurity in 2018 — a proportion that could reach 30 to 40 per cent of inhabitants in the north and centre. As Security Council members observed during their visit to Mali in October, the challenges remained considerable, he said. The goal now must be to create conditions conducive for elections and, going forward, the peace process. To that end, he said he encouraged the Government to implement two key parts of the peace agreement — decentralization and security sector reform — in a concerted and inclusive manner, with the support of MINUSMA led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Welcoming progress in deploying the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel) joint force, he said development partners were also stepping up their efforts, with the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund launching four projects in the Mopti and Ségou regions to enhance women’s participation and avert intercommunity conflicts. However, it was still too early for most initiatives to produce significant results, he said, adding that central Mali would likely require sustained attention and to become increasingly prominent in peace and reconciliation efforts. “The upcoming presidential elections will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the stabilization of Mali,” he said, welcoming the Carter Center’s participation in last week’s meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee, the nomination of a panel of experts mandated by Council resolution 2374 (2017) and the Secretary-General’s decision to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Mali since January 2012.
He drew attention to MINUSMA’s enhanced support to the Malian Defence and Security Forces following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on 8 November 2017, and its role in upgrading six Malian military bases at a cost of $1 million. However, five years after its establishment, and two and a half years after the signing of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, it was time to reassess the assumptions underpinning the Mission’s presence, to review its key mandated tasks against achievements on the ground, and to re-examine its layout through a comprehensive strategic review. For now, the Mission — despite persisting capability gaps, such as a shortage of helicopters — was striving to project a robust posture, as mandated by the Council, repelling three attacks in Kidal region and an ambush in Mopti region with only minor injuries to two peacekeepers. However, more must be done to ensure that all peacekeepers get the training and equipment to operate in hostile conditions, he said, stressing that the Secretariat was working with MINUSMA to implement the recommendations of a recent report on peacekeeper fatalities.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that, more than two years after the signing of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, there was still much work to be done. It was high time that all the parties make progress in fulfilling their respective commitments under that Agreement. The window of opportunity was very small given the electoral deadlines coming up in 2018, he said, adding that the north and centre of the country remained a source of real concern. The relevance of the Agreement might be called into question unless progress was made in its implementation, he stressed, adding that sustainable stability in the Sahel was impossible without its full implementation. It was necessary to move to action that would result in concrete progress on the ground, particularly with regard to decentralization and the adoption of laws that created territorial police and endowed the interim authorities with the resources necessary to carry out their missions. Progress on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was also a priority and the authorities should work to fight impunity, while also putting an end to human rights violations.
The responsibility of the Council was to take all necessary measures to encourage the parties to fulfil the commitments undertaken, and in that context, he said the passage of the resolution establishing a sanctions regime in Mali was an important step. The G-5 Sahel countries continued to fight the threat of terrorism, which weighed heavily on the population. The goal was to quickly make progress in stabilizing the countries of the region by resuming the provision of public services. MINUSMA remained a key instrument to ensure Mali’s stability, including through its work with other security forces on the ground. The Council should continue to mobilize efforts to give the Mission all the necessary means to fulfil the robust mandate conferred upon it. Lasting solutions needed to be identified quickly to provide the Mission with appropriate equipment, including bullet-proof vehicles.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) underscored the significant political progress that had taken place in Mali and looked forward to the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, while also urging that country’s people to continue with their efforts to bolster peace and security in their nation. The cessation of armed hostilities was significant and had allowed for the return to dialogue, as well as an increase in confidence‑building measures around disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. He welcomed the efforts of the Government and President of Mali to achieve a cessation of hostilities and recalled that the Libyan crisis had a major impact on the situation in Mali, and the region as a whole. He expressed concern that asymmetric terrorist attacks continued to put the civilian population at risk, as well as security forces and members of MINUSMA. The Mission should be commended for its efforts, yet he was concerned by the lack of material capacities that would allow the Mission to effectively fulfil its mandate in such an asymmetric and volatile environment. Terrorist attacks had resulted in wide-ranging negative impacts, including food shortages and the closure of schools, which highlighted that the security situation in Mali required urgent attention.
BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that, as time was running short, it was important to advance the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation to ensure peaceful and credible elections. The deterioration of the security situation in the central Mali was worrisome, raising the risk of terrorist attacks spreading to the south, he said, calling for MINUSMA’s rapid reaction force to be made operational as soon as possible and for Member States to provide the Mission with the means to secure its camps and convoys against attacks by terrorist groups. Lasting peace would only come about if terrorist groups were neutralized. He said his country was delighted by Council unity on Mali, hailing MINUSMA’s engagement with the Government in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, and emphasized the need to deal with the root causes of the conflict.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said tangible progress was the only way to achieve lasting stability in Mali and the region. Only a comprehensive approach, anchored in the peace process and addressing root causes, would succeed, he said, adding that the window of opportunity was closing. He called on parties to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation to engage in confidence-building measures to prepare the ground for the 2018 elections and hoped the new Prime Minister would lead the way in an inclusive manner. All tools needed to support implementation of the peace process were in place, he said, and Sweden encouraged the parties to use them going forward. He emphasized the important role to be played by women in the peace process, underscored the Government’s responsibility to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and looked forward to hearing more about MINUSMA’s transitional plan and strategic review.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed concern about the situation in Mali and believed that the humanitarian situation there was serious, as was the recurrence of heinous human rights violations due to the actions of terrorist groups, clashes between armed groups and the lack of State presence. Peru commended the efforts of MINUSMA, which continued to operate in a difficult and complex operational environment. The holding of free and transparent elections was a key objective and should receive both international and regional support. The participation of women and young people in all political processes should be encouraged and a constitutional review process should take place to ensure the provision of justice in the country. He highlighted the importance of adopting a regional perspective, which would take a multidimensional view of the conflict, including the connection between terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as the trafficking of persons. The operational capacities of MINUSMA must be bolstered, he said, noting that 100 per cent of the authorized force had not been deployed and there was a concerning lack of equipment for those already on the ground.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) called upon all parties to implement the remaining elements of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation and expressed strong concern about the unravelling of the security situation in Mali. The peacekeeping troops in Mali faced daily dangers, he said, stressing that it was key to define and grapple with the deep-rooted causes of the conflict. Kuwait was following with alarm the increase in terrorist attacks, extremism and threats against the lives of peacekeeping forces in Mali, condemned the terrorist threat in the region and supported the efforts of the G-5 Sahel. He urged the parties to finalize elements of the technical agreement to support the work of the Joint Force. Despite the current situation, Mali had seen promising economic development, which created an opportunity to address some of the remaining socioeconomic issues facing the country. He commended the proposal to establish an investigative committee that would look into flagrant abuses of international law and he called upon the Secretary-General to continue his efforts in that regard.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said the Sahel region was among the most critical regions of the world in the fight against international terrorism. Political stabilization and the territorial integrity of Mali were crucial for maintaining peace and security in the Sahel. Her delegation welcomed the assurances of the President of Mali that all elections scheduled to take place in 2018 would be held in accordance with constitutional deadlines. Women should be included in all decision-making structures related to the peace process. She encouraged the Government to finalize a strategy for the development of the north of the country and adopt a timeline for the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation as part of the confidence-building measures. Poland welcomed further cooperation between the United Nations, the European Union and the G-5 Sahel, including the development of a technical agreement between those groups.
SHEN BO (China) said that parties to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation had, since its signing, made tremendous efforts towards its implementation. However, since the Council’s visit to Mali in October 2017, the security situation had continued to worsen, with terrorist attacks rampant. The international community should step up its efforts to help Mali by supporting parties to the Agreement, help enhance the Government’s capacity to confront terrorism and to support MINUSMA’s work. He emphasized that the interim administration in the north of the country should aim to provide basic services as soon as possible, thus winning the hearts of the people for the peace process.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said the deteriorating security situation in Mali remained a source of serious concern, with terrorists bent on undermining State authority. Reversing the situation was a major challenge, she said, underscoring the need for great efforts to extend State authority throughout the country. Ethiopia called on international partners to help bridge funding gaps for infrastructure rehabilitation, she said, emphasizing also the need to address root causes through investment and job creation. Greater coordination between MINUSMA and Government security forces remained critical, she said, adding that it was important that parties to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation abide by their commitments and respect the timetable in place, with action being taken against those who obstruct implementation.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said the lack of significant progress was a matter of great concern, with terrorist groups meanwhile attacking MINUSMA, French and Malian forces. All possible measures must be adopted to strengthen the Mission, he said, calling on all parties to the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation to make all efforts to implement it in a spirit of trust and a with shared vision of restoring peace and security. He emphasized the need for a common political strategy with necessary support from the international community, and underscored the role of La Francophonie in preparing for the upcoming elections, which would start a new chapter in Mali’s political life.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that swift progress in the inclusive implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation was urgently needed, and he applauded the supportive and mediating role played by the international community, the European Union and MINUSMA in achieving progress. The appointment of the independent observer and the Council’s sanctions regime were vital in achieving tangible results in 2018. The centre of Mali had become a hotbed of terrorism, intercommunal violence, irregular migration and organized crime. That posed an enormous threat to the stability of Mali, as well as to the broader Sahel region and Europe. The crisis in the centre of Mali placed additional strains on the capacities of MINUSMA, and it was still the peacekeeping mission with the highest number of casualties among peacekeepers. That amplified the need for high-end capacities and well-trained troops.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said it was her country’s priority to see enduring peace and security in Mali. The upcoming elections should not prevent or delay the Government or signatory parties from implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, which was Mail’s best hope of creating a future stable enough to support a peaceful political transition. Her delegation was encouraged by the absence of ceasefire violations and called on all parties to take advantage of the existing momentum. Nevertheless, the United States was disappointed by the lack of progress on substantive parts of the Agreement; as Mali had yet to see the fruits of effective governance in the regions. The continuing standoff over the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration effort reflected the lack of trust between parties and suggested a need for additional confidence-building measures. Parties must adopt a renewed sense of urgency to make progress on key security provisions of the Agreement, and in that context, Mali’s collective security must be reached through collaboration between all parties. The Agreement was Mali’s road map for peace and unilateral measures outside of that deal could result in mistrust. If there was no progress before the Council’s next quarterly meeting, members must be prepared to consider action through the sanctions regime. The large number of peacekeeping troop deaths was cause for concern, she said, calling for a review of the current Mission configuration in Mali. The United Nations must work together with troop-contributing countries and all Member States to take steps that would save peacekeepers lives and bring peace closer in Mali.
STEPHEN BENEDICT HICKEY (United Kingdom) said his country strongly supported the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation and welcomed the adoption of a revised timetable last week. Further, the United Kingdom strongly encouraged all parties to reaffirm their commitment to the Agreement and work together to implement the outstanding actions as outlined in the timetable. The United Kingdom was frustrated by the lack of meaningful, substantive progress made in implementing the peace deal. The Malian people’s patience was not infinite and it was incumbent upon all parties to follow through, in good faith, on the commitments made in the Agreement. His country would work with the international community to identify those that sought to block or prevent the full implementation of the Agreement. Elections were crucial to delivering on decentralization in Mali. In that connection, it was disappointing that local elections had been delayed and crucial that elections on all levels take place in 2018. The security situation in Mali remained poor and stabilizing the region was urgently required. The United Kingdom had recently announced it would be deploying three Chinook helicopters to the Sahel and would provide another $70 million in aid to the region, including life-saving humanitarian support. He recalled that the G-5 Sahel was not established as a military endeavour, particularly as only a political solution would bring peace to the region.
PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said delays in implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, including the cantonment process and security sector reform, were worrying. Implementation of the timetable agreed earlier in January would be important. Noting increased activity over a wider area by terrorist groups, and casualties among Malian security forces and United Nations peacekeepers, he called for the latter to be provided with more equipment, including armoured personnel carriers and transport and attack helicopters. He went on to warn of the collateral effects of sanctions, expressing hope that they would not generate more mistrust among the Malian parties.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said that the full and inclusive implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation should be prioritized, and he encouraged all parties to comply with the recently revised timeline for implementing the remaining provisions of the Agreement. Assistance from MINUSMA and the international community was crucial to ensure the transparent and peaceful conduct of the 2018 elections. It was also necessary to establish, through reform, the foundations for a stable rule of law, reinforced by independent and accountable judicial and security institutions. He was alarmed by the deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation, and called on international partners and donors to provide the pledged humanitarian aid.
TIÉMAN HUBERT COULIBALY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, underscored the quality of cooperation between MINUSMA and his Government, which fully shared the Secretary-General’s analysis of the situation in the country. He reaffirmed the determination of the President of Mali to do everything possible to speed up implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, for which there was no alternative to resolving its complex crisis. Together with implementing the Agreement, the Government would in 2018 continue its efforts to maintain a climate of confidence between the signatories and introduce legislation to rebuild national unity. That legislation would, among other things, exonerate those involved in armed rebellion who had no blood on their hands, address reparations and create a programme to reintegrate those who give up arms and publicly renounce violence.
With time being in short supply, the Government would also strive to speed up political and institutional reforms, he said, recalling the Agreement Monitoring Committee’s recent meeting. A major challenge on the road to stabilization would be the upcoming elections, which the Government had postponed from December 2017 to April 2018 to ensure inclusivity and transparency. In the same vein, the Government would spare no effort towards the effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants. Criteria and quotas for the integration of former combatants into the national army would be concluded by 2 February.
Turning to the security situation in the north and centre of Mali, he said repeated attacks were undermining efforts by the State to assert its authority. The Government would therefore step up implementation of a security plan to restore effective administration, enable children to go to school and to let people resume their occupations. An inclusive dialogue on security in central Mali would also be held. On human rights, he said the Ministry of Justice had instructed judicial authorities to open investigations into alleged violations, including forced disappearances, arrests and arbitrary detention. On the humanitarian front, the Government was committed to overcoming challenges related to the return of refugees and displaced populations, as well as improving access to basic social services for those affected by the crisis.
He said the Government of Mali was renewing its demand for MINUSMA’s operational capacities to be strengthened, thus enabling the Mission to fully carry out its mandate. At the regional level, Mali welcomed progress in the operationalization of the G-5 Sahel joint force and acknowledged the Council’s support for that entity.
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