Over the past decade, thousands of civilians in Mali have been killed as a result of ongoing conflict, and almost a million people have been forced to flee their homes as violent attacks have plagued large swathes of the country.
In 2012, armed rebels allied with jihadist groups defeated the Malian army in a series of battles across the country’s northern regions. A subsequent coup d’état in Bamako further destabilized the situation, as the authorities lost control of two-thirds of the country’s territory. In late April 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation, known by its acronym MINUSMA, with a mandate to protect civilians. However, the Mission has consistently struggled to implement this mandate, especially as the security situation has sharply deteriorated in Mali’s more populated central regions since 2015. Indeed, the number of civilian casualties has risen every year for each of the past four years.
Since 2013, CIVIC has been undertaking independent research, analysis, and advocacy to support MINUSMA’s efforts to strengthen its ability to protect civilians. Currently, CIVIC’s peacekeeping research in Mali is looking at how MINUSMA’s newly developed early warning and rapid response (EW/RR) procedures seek to improve the protection of civilians through the Mission’s ability to make decisive and timely interventions.
In addition, CIVIC ensures that the following issues are integrated in all our UN peacekeeping-related activities:
- The protection of civilians remains a priority for UN peacekeeping missions;
- Peacekeeping performance is strengthened by ensuring that mandates are matched with adequate means and resources.
- Communities at risk of violence are safely and effectively engaged in mission planning and activities to protect civilians;
- UN peacekeeping missions mitigate the risks to civilians that could result from their own presence, activities, and operations (a practice called civilian harm mitigation);
- Peacekeeping missions integrate a gender-sensitive approach to the implementation of protection of civilians mandates;
- Mission planning and decision-making is linked to assessments of threats to civilians; and
- Accountability systems for underperformance are improved.
This work builds on CIVIC’s previous research in Mali, which has highlighted:
- How MINUSMA’s ability to evacuate casualties in MINUSMA is linked to the protection of civilians and steps the mission has taken to improve its CASEVAC systems
- How MINUSMA has taken steps to improve its early warning and rapid response system to protect civilians
- How the lack of military helicopters and other air assetssignificantly undermines MINUSMA’s ability to protect civilians
- How MINUSMA’s Strategic Planning Unithelps the Mission foster a more integrated approach to threat analysis and decision-making
- How the first three years of the conflict affected the civilian population
CIVIC is also championing the protection of civilians in Mali and the wider Sahel through its G5 Sahel Joint Force program.