Remarks on the Situation in Mali and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)

Ambassador Cherith Norman
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 15, 2020


Thank you Mr. President and thank you Under-Secretary-General Lacroix for your briefing as well.

Last June, the Council approved Resolution 2480. Its aim was to encourage the Government of Mali and the Signatory Armed Groups to show follow-through and progress towards the benchmarks in the Algiers Agreement. Six months later, the progress we had hoped for has yet to materialize—a stark illustration of how little meaningful progress has been made in the peace process. The inaction of signatories is not without consequence: Malian civilians are being killed, maimed, and abducted with impunity. The country’s displaced population doubled last year. And today millions suffer from food insecurity, with fully 30 percent of the population malnourished. Furthermore, physical insecurity and criminality constrain UN and NGO access to vulnerable populations to deliver life-saving assistance. This lack of access raises significant concerns with respect to humanitarian principles, and potentially under International Humanitarian Law.

In this environment, terrorist groups are taking advantage of ungoverned spaces, exploiting grievances, and fueling intercommunal conflict. UN peacekeepers face extraordinary dangers, as the wounding of 18 last week in Tessalit reminded us, and the Malian Armed Forces are suffering critical losses. Ambassador Konfourou, we appreciate your country’s continued commitment to achieve peace and security and we extend our condolences to this loss of life and to the families. The United States honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and we commend MINUSMA, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, and international security forces for their fight against this escalating regional crisis. Ambassador De Rivière, we also commend and recognize France’s unwavering commitment in Mali. Your country’s sacrifices do not go unnoticed, and the United States values your leadership in the region.

This Council though has spent years asking the signatories to make meaningful progress toward implementing the Agreement, even providing them with achievable benchmarks. Despite our robust support, we continue to witness inaction and a deteriorating security environment.
And so, it is time for this Council to begin developing an alternative approach to address growing instability in Mali. To that end, I would like to offer a few observations.

First, we must recognize that peacekeeping missions are not the answer to growing terrorist threats in Mali. A clear-eyed assessment of MINUSMA is needed to determine how the mission most effectively complements other security activities in the region.

Second, we must reevaluate MINUSMA’s role in supporting the implementation of the Algiers Agreement. MINUSMA’s success is dependent on the Government of Mali and the Signatory Armed Groups, but since 2015, both have proven unwilling to implement the Agreement. We should consider de-prioritizing MINUSMA’s support in implementing the Agreement and instead focusing the mission on protecting civilians. This will allow MINUSMA to direct its resources to the more densely populated and strategically important Center, where it can have an immediate impact. Additionally, the mission can reduce its size, allowing member states to apply resources toward a more effective efforts in the region. If the signatories are serious about MINUSMA’s continued support to the Agreement, they can demonstrate their resolve by implementing the benchmarks in Resolution 2480 before June 29, when MINUSMA’s mandate expires.

Third, the Sanctions Committee must sanction individuals and entities on all sides of the conflict, including government officials and armed group members who meet sanctions designation criteria.

Fourth, we must ensure MINUSMA receives high-performing troop and police contingents. The United States is concerned by reports of training and capability shortfalls, undeclared caveats, and commanders unwilling to take risks or comply with orders. These types of challenges, especially in a mission as complex and dangerous as MINUSMA, hinder the mission, increase the risk of both peacekeeper and civilian casualties, and support a narrative of peacekeeping ineffectiveness.

We call on the Secretary-General to increase reporting on MINUSMA’s troop and police performance, in line with requirements from Resolution 2436 to ensure the memorandums of understanding accurately reflect the requirements of the mission, and to swiftly hold poor performers accountable.

Finally, any changes to MINUSMA’s mandate must be considered as part of an integrated and transparent regional security strategy. The United States commends current initiatives by our European and African partners, including ECOWAS members, to coordinate security activities and expand counterterrorism capacities. We look forward to seeing how these initiatives enhance regional security and complement MINUSMA.

The United States desires peace, security, and a brighter future for the people of Mali, the Sahel and West Africa. We are committed to this future, which is why we are the largest financial contributor to MINUSMA and the largest supporter of pre-deployment training for its contingents. But it is past time for Malian citizens to benefit from our commitment, and from the tireless work of the peacekeepers. I look forward to working with members of the Council between now and June to develop a new approach that disrupts the status quo and prepares the way for a future the Malian people deserve.

Thank you.