Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Mali

Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
January 23, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, for your briefing. And welcome to Foreign Minister Coulibaly. I’d like to congratulate you on your appointment – or, should I say, reappointment –on behalf of the United States, and we look forward to working with you closely.

As Ambassador Haley has said, it is our priority to see enduring peace and security for all of Mali’s citizens and stability in the region. The upcoming local and presidential elections should not prevent or delay the government and signatory parties from pursuing implementation of the peace agreement. We believe the peace agreement remains Mali’s best hope of building a future stable enough to support peaceful political transition.

The United States takes positive, yet cautious, note of the September commitments reached by signatory parties to not return to the battlefield. We are encouraged by the absence of ceasefire violations and call on all signatory parties to take advantage of the momentum.

However, we are disappointed by the lack of substantive progress on major elements of the peace agreement. Interim authorities may be operational, but we have yet to see the fruits of effective governance in the regions. Mixed patrols took place in Gao, but do not provide regular security backup there. The continuing standoff over the criteria and numbers of combatants to be submitted for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration reflect a serious lack of trust between parties and suggest a need for additional confidence-building measures. In a country fraught with a growing regional threat of violent extremism and transnational organized crime, parties must adopt a renewed sense of urgency to make progress together on key security provisions of the agreement.

Mali’s collective security must be arrived at collectively, with input and collaboration among all parties. The peace agreement is the signed road map for the parties to get there, and the agreement’s deliberative bodies provide the fora for debate on issues related to security and much more. Unilateral endeavors outside those fora can lead to misunderstanding and mistrust.

The parties’ latest timeline for progress agreed to earlier this month – in particular on the security provisions of the agreement over the next few weeks and months – is a positive sign. However, if there is still no progress by this Council’s next quarterly meeting, we should be prepared to consider action through the sanctions regime we unanimously adopted last September.

Unfortunately, we must also take note of the increased frequency, magnitude, and lethality of attacks on both UN and Malian targets, which rose by one-third compared to the previous reporting period. This unacceptable number of troop deaths demands that we take a long, hard look at the UN’s current configuration in Mali. We hope the Secretary-General’s strategic review, in tandem with the Council’s request in Resolution 2364 for a strategic prioritization plan for the mission, will deliver recommendations ahead of the mission’s renewal that will bolster mission security, elevate its most crucial tasks, and increase its operational effectiveness. The mission’s ongoing efforts to implement recent recommendations to improve security, crucial in light of MINUSMA’s unacceptably high casualty rate, will assist that effort.

However, MINUSMA’s chronic shortage of forces and resources remain of concern. We must find an enduring solution for the most critical capabilities gaps, such as those related to combat convoy battalions, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers. In this most dangerous of peacekeeping missions, the UN, troop and police contributors, and all Member States must work together to find a sustainable solution that will save peacekeepers’ lives and bring peace closer in Mali. The United States applauds the efforts of the Group of Five Sahel in standing up their joint force.

We are also pleased to hear of the UN’s progress in development of the technical agreement. Pledges already made, and those to be made at the upcoming February 23 donors’ conference in Brussels, will be critical to reimburse MINUSMA’s support through the agreement. We want to reiterate the Council’s appeal in Resolution 2391 that the technical agreement be a temporary measure to bring about the G5’s self-sufficiency and not adversely impact MINUSMA’s operations and personnel. The United States’ pledge of $60 million, specifically for the operationalization of the joint force, will continue through our robust bilateral security assistance to the G5 states, security assistance that totals $1 billion in the last five years.

We also applaud the efforts of the UN and the G5 toward the development of a human rights compliance framework as a key component in respecting human rights and avoiding alienating local communities in the battle against the violence and recruitment of violent extremists.

Mr. President, Mr. Minister, the United States believes that even in a challenging electoral year with the continued regional threat of terrorism, the parties to Mali’s peace agreement, along with the United Nations Mission in Mali and partners, can work together to achieve concrete progress in the coming weeks and months. That progress, or lack thereof, will be of paramount interest to the United States and to the Security Council. For the people of Mali, and for Mali’s friends in the region and beyond, the stakes are too high to delay progress any longer.

Thank you, Mr. President.