On June 28, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) for another year with the adoption of Resolution 2480. The creation of a second strategic priority that directs the Mission to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive, politically-led Malian strategy in central Mali is undoubtedly the most eye-catching change. This addition and two subtler amendments to MINUSMA’s tasks should have significant implications for how the Mission plans for and allocates resources to the protection of civilians in Mali.

The first of this two-part series looks at how the new mandate affords greater priority to the protection of civilians and how Member States must ensure the Mission has the necessary resources to accomplish its tasks. The second part will analyze how the new mandate clarifies the ways in which MINUSMA should protect civilians, in particular how the Mission can do more to track and mitigate the risk of unintentional harm to civilians arising from its presence, activities, and operations.

Prioritizing Protection

Violence against civilians has sharply escalated in Mali over the past three years. In 2016, 71 civilians lost their lives as the result of conflict. This figure climbed to 192 in 2017, but even worse was to come. Last year, conflict-related incidents in Mali accounted for a staggering 815 civilian deaths – more than a 10-fold increase in the space of two years.1(ACLED data export tool, July 2019)

This spike is primarily due to rising levels of intercommunal violence in the central regions of Mopti and Ségou, which have been plagued by rampant criminality, weak governance, and a growing extremist threat. The Malian government’s own counter-terrorism campaigns in the region have also contributed to the civilian death toll.2(Human Rights Watch, “Mali: Deaths, Torture in Army Detention,” April 9, 2018.)

Despite this deteriorating situation, MINUSMA’s mandates during this period have only included one strategic priority: to support the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali. The strategic priority was accompanied by six priority tasks that provided some flexibility for allocating resources to the protection of civilians in both the center and the north.3In 2015, MINUSMA’s mandate became more focused on supporting, monitoring, and supervising the implementation of ceasefire arrangements, supporting the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, Security Council Resolution 2227 (2015). However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the Security Council designated support to the Agreement as the Mission’s strategic priority. The Mission’s mandates since 2016 did task the Mission with helping the Malian authorities to stabilize the key population centers and other areas where civilians are at risk, notably in the North and Centre of Mali. See paragraphs 16 and 19(c)ii in Security Council Resolution 2295 (2016). But a peacekeeping mission must align it resources with its strategic priorities, and all of MINUSMA’s previous mandates required a focus on Mali’s northern region. Moreover, MINUSMA lacked sufficient capabilities to simultaneously supply all of its bases in the country, protect its own personnel and equipment, and implement its mandated tasks. Without explicit language in the mandate to direct resources to the center and to protect civilians, it was difficult to make a case within the Mission to do so.

This has now changed. The new mandate, passed on June 28, adds a second strategic priority for the Mission “to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive politically-led Malian strategy to protect civilians, reduce intercommunal violence, and re-establish State authority, State presence and basic social services in Central Mali….”4Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 20.

Note that this second strategic priority focuses on central Mali and its first two objectives are to protect civilians and reduce intercommunal violence. Although the mandate states that the Mission should prioritize using capacity and resources to pursue the mission’s first strategic priority – to support the implementation of the Agreement – it adds that the Mission “should ensure that sufficient mission resources are allocated to the implementation of the second strategic priority.”5Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 21.

The new mandate also elevates protection in two less prominent but important ways. The mandate includes six priority tasks for the Mission. The second priority task now includes an explicit direction “to support Malian authorities in reducing violence and intercommunal violence.”6Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 28 (b)i. By adding this new language, the Security Council has raised the importance of protecting civilians within the mandate and recognizes that Mali’s government has been unable to curb the sharp rise in inter-communal violence. Furthermore, the new mandate has moved the protection of civilians from the fourth priority task to become the third priority task among the six. It will be interesting to see if the Mission’s leadership will see this as another signal from the Security Council to allocate more resources to the protection of civilians.

Matching the New Mandate with Resources

Although the Security Council has helpfully directed the Mission to give more priority to protecting civilians, it has not removed any of the existing priority tasks from the previous mandate. This raises questions about whether the Mission has sufficient resources to deliver on the new mandate, especially given the addition of a second strategic objective. At the same time as the Security Council passed the mandate, the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee – the Member State body that approves peacekeeping budgets – authorized an operating budget for MINUSMA that was $11.3 million below what the Secretary-General had requested. It is therefore essential that MINUSMA’s leadership and the Secretary-General analyze and monitor whether the Mission will require additional resources to implement its new mandate.7“Report of the Secretary-General, Budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020,” A/73/760, disseminated 22 February 2019 and “Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020,” A/C.5/73/21, disseminated 3 July 2019. Resolution 2480 specifically requests the Secretary-General to assess the situation in northern and central Mali and the Mission’s configuration in relation to the implementation of the two strategic priorities six months after the passage of the new mandate.8The Security Council’s requests to the Secretary-General for a six-month assessment is outlined in Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019) paragraph 21. The Secretary-General should use this six month assessment, along with the Security Council’s requests for quarterly reports and bi-annual letters on the Mission’s progress in implementing its mandate, to provide Member States with a frank and accurate picture of what MINUSMA needs to deliver on its mandate.9The Security Council’s requests to the Secretary-General for these three documents are outlined in Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraphs 21, 64, and 65. This will allow Member States to determine whether they have set the Mission up to fail or succeed.

The fact that the Security Council has afforded greater priority to the protection of civilians in the mandate is certainly a welcome step – at least on paper. But to ensure these changes can have a meaningful impact in reducing the number of civilian casualties in Mali, Member States must evaluate at the earliest opportunity whether MINUSMA has the necessary capabilities. The 150 endorsers of the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping must then act quickly to live up to their commitments to match mandates with resources.10Paragraph 5 of the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping states, “5. As Member States, we commit to pursue clear, focused, sequenced, prioritized and achievable mandates by the Security Council matched by appropriate resources; to seek measures to enable greater coherence between mandates and resources; and to support the implementation of Security Council resolutions through our bilateral and multilateral engagements.”

This article was co-authored by Seán Smith and Alison Giffen


[1] ACLED Data Export Tool, July 2019, available at https://www.acleddata.com/data/.

[2] Human Rights Watch, ‘Mali: Deaths, Torture in Army Detention’, April 9, 2018, available at https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/09/mali-deaths-torture-army-detention.

[3] In 2015, MINUSMA’s mandate became more focused on supporting, monitoring, and supervising the implementation of ceasefire arrangements, supporting the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, Security Council Resolution 2227 (2015), available at https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11950.doc.htm. However, it wasn’t until 2016, that the Security Council designated support to the Agreement as the Mission’s strategic priority. The Mission’s mandates since 2016 did task the Mission with helping the Malian authorities to stabilize the key population centers and other areas where civilians are at risk, notably in the North and Centre of Mali.  See paragraphs 16 and 19 (c)ii in Security Council Resolution 2295 (2016), available at https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12426.doc.htm.

[4] Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 20, available at https://undocs.org/S/RES/2480(2019).

[5] Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 21, available at https://undocs.org/S/RES/2480(2019).

[6] Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 28 (b)i, available at https://undocs.org/S/RES/2480(2019).

[7] “Report of the Secretary-General, Budget for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020,” A/73/760, disseminated 22 February 2019, available at https://undocs.org/en/A/73/760 and “Approved resources for peacekeeping operations for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020,” A/C.5/73/21, disseminated 3 July 2019, available at: https://undocs.org/A/C.5/73/21.

[8] The Security Council’s requests to the Secretary-General for a six-month assessment is outlined in Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraph 21, available at https://undocs.org/S/RES/2480(2019).

[9] The Security Council’s requests to the Secretary-General for these three documents are outlined in Security Council Resolution 2480 (2019), paragraphs 21, 64, and 65, available at https://undocs.org/S/RES/2480(2019).

[10] Paragraph 5 of the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping states, “5. As Member States, we commit to pursue clear, focused, sequenced, prioritized and achievable mandates by the Security Council matched by appropriate resources; to seek measures to enable greater coherence between mandates and resources; and to support the implementation of Security Council resolutions through our bilateral and multilateral engagements.”

Image courtesy of MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko
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