Thank you very much, Mr. President. And many thanks to Under-Secretary-General Lacroix for his briefing and a welcome to Foreign Minister Coulibaly. Ça fait plaisir de vous avoir ici a New York.
Mr. President, we are gravely concerned about the continued deterioration in the security situation and the corresponding worsening of the humanitarian situation in Mali. We are alarmed that in the past six months, nine peacekeepers and seven MINUSMA contractors have been killed and 36 peacekeepers injured. The ongoing attacks against MINUSMA across central and northern Mali present a serious challenge to the meaningful implementation of MINUSMA’s mandate. The number of casualties, coupled with the limited progress on the ground, highlight the need to think carefully about what we are asking of MINUSMA.
The strategic review that the Under-Secretary-General briefed us on has provided an opening for a difficult conversation. Looking at the Council’s observations over time and the helpful and specific recommendations provided by the review team, it is time to take action. This month, it is incumbent on this Council to contemplate how we can enable MINUSMA to support a more secure Mali and ensure it makes substantive progress towards implementation of the Algiers Accord.
First, we look towards July, when we expect free, fair, credible, and transparent elections, with the full and meaningful participation of women. Successful elections will be essential to securing the gains Mali has achieved so far. Establishing a meaningful dialogue between the government, the political opposition, and civil society, and ensuring that political space is open for peaceful demonstration, are important to ensuring all parties see the elections as credible. We urge all stakeholders to resolve any disputes through established mechanisms in accordance with the law.
We express our sincere appreciation to the Prime Minister and leadership of the signatory armed groups for their efforts over the last few months to find common ground and build momentum toward implementation of the peace agreement. But all the parties have wasted far too much time over the last three years when little progress was made. We share the Secretary-General’s concern that there has not been enough meaningful progress on implementation of the peace agreement and agree that MINUSMA should focus more of its efforts and limited resources on the political process. This Council should use all available means to bring a sense of urgency to the process and encourage quick progress in uniting the Malian people around a common project. And if we do not see progress, we should seriously consider how long we can sustain this mission without serious and active partnership of the parties.
Mr. President, MINUSMA operates in an incredibly challenging security environment, with few resources available to focus on initiatives beyond protection of the mission itself. Given that reality, it is time to streamline the mandate to increase support to political engagement and scale down the mission’s focus on less critical activities. Such streamlining necessitates tough choices as we seek to eliminate, refine, or sequence mandated tasks that are either not directly supporting the political process or have stalled altogether.
We are also worried about growing instability in central Mali, like others, and we support the review’s recommendation that some reconfiguration of the force in the north is necessary. The consolidation of bases could reduce troop exposure and free MINUSMA resources to complete tasks beyond force protection. Such an undertaking ought to be conducted at the discretion of mission leadership, with the safety of mission and personnel in mind. We also share the assessment that failure to contain the crisis in the central region could have a significantly detrimental impact on the stabilization and social cohesion of the country, risking a reversal of the small gains realized so far. We want to see MINUSMA prioritize the expansion of the force’s footprint and its community engagement in central Mali to better address protection of civilian concerns.
The strategic review also raises the concern, which we share, about parameters of service provision to non-UN entities. The report rightly points out that support to non-UN entities risks jeopardizing the mission’s impartiality and its legitimacy in the political space.
Finally, the United States applauds the UN for its continued attention to human rights incidents, especially investigations into numerous and credible allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law We would like to echo concerns regarding the Malian security forces, and we urge the Government of Mali to swiftly investigate allegations of human rights violations by its forces and hold accountable those responsible. For Mali’s peace process to succeed and its population to unite around its government, the people must not fear the very security forces sent to protect them.
Mr. President, as elections approach, Mali is at yet another crossroads. We in this Council are united in our support of Mali and in our desire to see the country’s leaders come together to make peace, govern the entire country, and ensure the Malian people’s well-being, safety and opportunity.
I thank you very much.