Peacekeeping missions often struggle to acquire the resources they need to accomplish the growing range of tasks they are mandated to perform. In this respect, the peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is no exception. Indeed, the Mission has lacked military air assets in critical areas for several years. The deterioration of the security environment in central Mali since 2015 and the subsequent expansion of the Mission’s mandate have further exacerbated these deficits. The shortage of military air assets greatly limits MINUSMA’s ability to protect civilians in areas where they are most at risk of being attacked.

Protecting Civilians in Mali: Why Air Assets Matter for MINUSMA’ examines the numerous ways in which helicopters, planes, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft enable the Mission to undertake its mandate to protect civilians. The report includes several studies that demonstrate the value of air assets to MINUSMA. It also details how the lack of military helicopters and ISR aircraft based in central Mali is compelling MINUSMA to draw air assets from the north to fulfill its expanded mandate—an action that risks leaving the Mission exposed in key areas.

The report highlights how MINUSMA has developed an Adaptation Plan to respond to these challenges, which proposes that the Mission become more mobile to implement its expanded mandate. As this plan requires the acquisition of additional helicopters and ISR aircraft, the report also discusses the challenges that the UN must overcome to persuade Member States to contribute highly-prized air assets to MINUSMA.

Finally, the report offers recommendations to MINUSMA, the UN Secretariat, UN Member States, and the Government of Mali as to what can be done to help the Mission better protect civilians. Without additional air assets, MINUSMA’s capacity to identify, deter, and respond to potential threats to civilians—especially in central Mali—will remain extremely limited.

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