Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali (S/2016/498)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
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Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Mali (S/2016/498)

Code: S/2016/498

Date: 28 March 2016

Topic: The report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali as well as on the efforts of MINUSMA to support it, and a strategic assessment with proposed adjustments to the mission.

Women, Peace and Security

Pursuant to Resolution 2227 (2015), the Secretary-General report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) mandate, information on progress made in the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, including MINUSMA efforts to support the Agreement, as well as a strategic assessment of the situation with proposed adjustments to the mission. References to WPS issues have stayed the same when compared to the last report (S/2016/281), both in terms of quantity and scope; however, the strategic assessment makes one additional WPS reference to women’s participation in the peace process. In the general report, references to women broadly focus on protection concerns. Women’s participation is only noted in the configuration and deployment of the mission’s components (S/2016/498 para. 56, 65, 68). Similarly to previous reports, the Observation section calls on the Malian Government to ensure “more proactive outreach initiatives and enhanced participation by women” in the peace process (S/2016/498 para. 85), which is a critical section for shaping future developments of the mission.Unfortunately, there are several WPS issues highlighted in the mandate for which the report fails to provide sufficient information or analysis.The report also does not offer any analysis on the gender dynamics of the conflict itself.

There is a notable difference in focus between the Strategic Assessment and the general sections of the report. The Strategic Assessment focuses on participation concerns whereas the general report information details protection concerns. While ideally balance between the protection and participation aspects of the WPS agenda would be reflected in the report, the strategic assessment highlights issues areas for participation that should be incorporated into general report information, particularly given MINUSMA mandate to consider gender as a cross cutting issue (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 23). However, reporting could be overall improved by ensuring reference to women’s participation provide analysis, rather than remain descriptive.

Protection of Civilians

The report provides no information on women’s protection, despite the fat that the MINUSMA mandate includes women’s “specific” protection (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 14 d (iii)). Noting that armed banditry continues to constitute the most significant threat to civilians, the report misses an opportunity to detail women’s protection concerns in regards to armed banditry, including whether or not sexual and gender-based violence is a threat. Additionally, the report fails to provide any sex-disaggregated data on civilian casualties (S/2016/498 para. 19), injuries, and displacements. Considering the increasing threat from violent extremisms and terrorisms, the report would have benefitted from highlighting their impact on women’s protection, including in regards to restriction of women’s movement and public participation.

The report also fails to highlight women’s participation in security-related activities, despite MINUSMA mandate to consider gender as a cross cutting issues, including in stabilization and disarmament (S/2016/498 para. 19). Although the report cites the Mine Action support sensitization of more than 16,668 people about explosives in conflict-affected areas in the central and north regions (S/2016/498 para. 21), the report does not provide information on women’s inclusion. Additionally, the report notes an increase in violent protests, in which demonstrators have presented a series of demands, including the removal of international forces and cessation of “harassment and arbitrary detention by French forces (S/2016/498 para. 15);” however, the report fails to note whether or not women were among the demonstrators and/or made any specific gender-related demands.

Demilitarization and Arms Management/ Support to Police and Military

In assisting Malian authorities in developing programmes for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants, the report notes that the mission completed construction on three new cantonment sites in Timbuktu, Gao region, and Meneka region, all of which include “special arrangements” for female combatants (S/2016/498 para. 9). Although the provision of this information is positive, the report should have provided more details on what specific arrangements have been developed for women, including whether or not women have separate facilities from men and/or whether women personnel will assist in protecting and patrolling the sites. Additionally, the report misses an opportunity to provide sex-disaggregated data on the newly revised total number of combatants identified by the government, which increased the number of combatants from 6,000 to 10,000 (S/2016/498 para. 9). Ideally, the report also would have specified what services are available to women combatants at these newly constructed sites, particularly the provision of medical care, ongoing psychosocial counseling, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.

The report misses an opportunity to provide any information on women in the military and police forces, and/or discuss how gender-specific needs are being taken into account in security sector reform processes. Most alarmingly, the report notes that CMA and Platform, former opposition groups to the Government, handed over lists of their personnel to join the mixed patrols in Gao, while those for Kidal and Timbuktu remain pending (S/2016/498 para. 10). However, the report fails to provide any information on whether or not these proposed patrol offices will be vetted. Given the relationship between gender-based violence and violent conflict in Mali, particularly the use of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), it is imperative that MINUSMA ensure the establishment of dedicated vetting procedures to cover all categories of misconduct, including allegations of SGBV, for these proposed officers, as MINUSMA is mandated to ensure women’s specific protection, including to address to address SGBV (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 14 d(iii)). As national forces will continue to subsume previously hostile forces, the report should advocate for trainings of all Malian military and police force personnel to include gender and human rights, particularly the rights of women. In addition, the Secretary-General should advocate for a recruitment strategy that professionalized and retains women in all Malian national forces within the Observation section.

Humanitarian Support and Economic Development

The report does not provide analysis of either the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation, or the ways in which the humanitarian response, including emergency responses and contingency planning, are responding to gender-specific needs. The report does provide some basic sex-disaggregated data on the number of displaced persons, noting that the number of internally displaced persons remains at 52,000, of which 25 percent are women (S/2016/498 para. 30). The provision of this data is positive, but there should on whether MINUSMA or any partner organization has conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify whether and how IDP women are affected differently in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their needs. Additionally, the report fails to detail whether or not health services provided by UN agencies and partners include the provision of medical care, ongoing psychosocial counseling, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Further, given that the majority of the humanitarian section provides a narrative summary of limitation of services and the closure of facilities as the result of a deteriorating security environment, the report would have benefitted from a discussion of how women’s specific services are impacted by violence (S/2016/498 para. 27, 28). Ultimately, the report misses an opportunity to provide a gender lens to the humanitarian situation, particularly in regards to IDPs and threats to those insecure. At a minimum, sex and age disaggregated data should be provided for all statistical points, including information on those served by health and safe drinking water as well as those affected by school closures.

In regards to economic development, the report also notes that MINUSMA supports women’s livelihoods in Timbuktu through “quick-impact projects” (S/2016/498 para. 31). The reference would have been much stronger if the report detailed how women’s livelihoods were supported in Timbuktu and whether or not needs assessment for women had been conducted in the provision of such support. Ideally, the report also would have provided some analytical context to discuss how this particular group of women’s lives had been impacted by conflict and how these quick impact projects would serve their needs.

Human Rights (WPS / CAAC)

The report fails to provide sufficient information on the protection provisions of the MINUSMA mandate in regards to the protection and promotion of human rights. In addition, no gender analysis is provided on the relationship between conflict and human rights abuses; however, the report does provide some statistical evidence to the continued violation of human rights.

In regards to gender-based violence (GBV), the report notes MINUSMA received reports of 46 incidents, a notable decrease from the previous 78 incidents for the previous reporting period (S/2016/498 para. 25). Similarly, the report cites continued recruitment of children by armed groups, with MINUSMA documenting the recruitment of 27 children, 14 of which were girls, by the Groupe d’autodéfense des Touaregs imghads et alliés (GATIA), part of the Platform coalition, during the reporting period (S/2016/498 para. 22). The report’s information would have been much stronger if it had been provided in a protection lens and exemplified how MINUSMA considered the differential impacts and needs of men, women, girls and boys. In specific, the report should have detailed the kinds of gender-based violence experienced, particularly by women, and outlined what existing strategies are currently used by MINUSMA to address survivors needs in accordance with the mandate to specifically protect women (S/RES/2227 (2015) Op. 14 d(iii)). Likewise, the report should have considered the specific and differential protection concerns for girls, particularly by discussing how girls, who in this case make up the majority of child recruits, are recruited by armed forces and for what military purposes. Given MINUSMA mandate to provide specific protection to children, including from sexual and gender based violence (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 14 d(iii)), the report should have proved information on strategies to protection girls as well as to address their needs in the event of sexual and gender-based violence. Ideally, the report would have further detailed whether or not there are specific reporting mechanisms available for sexual and gender-based violence, including in instances of child recruitment, and how such mechanisms are made aware to the public, including women and girls, to ensure access and honest reporting.

The report also misses an opportunity to report on MINUSMA’s assistance to monitor, investigate and report on sexual violence in armed conflict as per the mandate (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 14 e (ii)). The only reference made to sexual violence involves the agreement between the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SViC) and the Government of Mali on a joint framework for cooperation (S/2016/498 para. 25). The report would have been much stronger if it provided details on the key action areas of cooperation, particularly what kinds of service provision and legislative reforms the Government and SViC office would work to provide as well as the details of action plans for security forces. Ideally, the report also would have detailed whether official action will be taken to enhance SGBV reporting mechanisms by this cooperation, as the success of these measures are largely dependent on the knowledge brought forward by survivors and the respect for survivors integrity, including through ensuring that no action will be taken without their consent.

Political Process and Electoral Assistance

The report misses an opportunity to provide any information on women in politics and/or discuss how gender-specific needs are being taken into account in political processes, including the implementation of the decree on a 30 percent quota for women’s representation (S/2016/281 para. 12). As the previous report noted that progress in women’s participation is limited (S/2016/281 para. 12), the report would have highly benefited from the provision of analysis on the specific challenges women face in participation in the political sector. As MINUSMA is directly mandated to ensure women’s full and equal participation in all levels of stabilization and in the implementation of the Agreement (S/RES/2227 (2015) OP. 23), the provision of information of women’s challenges may have highlighted key action areas for MINUSMA. Further, at a minimum, the report should have provided information on how MINUSMA is implementing gender considerations as a cross-cutting issue in the political sector, particularly in regards to supporting women’s participation as well as whether or not MINUSMA regularly consults with civil society, including women’s civil society organizations, on how to enhance women’s participation.


The report also provides information on women’s inclusion in MINUSMA. The report notes that women make-up 1.78 per cent of the 10,407 military personnel, and 25 percent of the civilian staff (S/2016/498 para. 68). In addition, the report notes that MINUSMA has a police strength of 1,145 personnel (S/2016/498 para. 56), including 276 individual police officers, of which 35 are women, and 869 formed police unit officers, of which 41 are women (S/2016/498 para. 65). Although the provision of this sex-disaggregated data is positive, as it provides insight into the inclusion of women in peacekeeping, the provision of the data would have been much stronger if it had been married with analysis women’s limited participation. In addition, in instances in which only percentages are provided, the report should have discussed what positions the majority of women hold in the mission to evaluate whether or not women hold leadership positions in the mission. Ideally, the Secretary-General would have called on the mission to committ to ensure greater participation of women in the mission and to appointing more women to leadership positions.

In addition, the report provides an update on MINUSMA conduct and discipline, noting that no allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) had been registered with the mission during the reporting period (S/2016/498 para. 32). In addition, MINUSMA conducted seven SEA risk assessment visits to military camps to sensitize personnel about discipline and the zero tolerance policy (S/2016/498 para. 32). The report also notes that for the allegation reporting in the last reporting period, the Member State concerned conducted an investigation, but was unable to substantiate the claims of abuse (S/2016/498 para. 32). The report would have been stronger if it noted whether or not all investigations by this Member State were conducted in accordance to international standards and provided information on the sensitization of UN staff in regards to SEA.

Ideal Asks

At a minimum, future reports on the implementation of MINUSMA mandate must include specific provisions OP 14 (c) on facilitating and promoting the engagement of civil society, including women’s organizations, and OP 14 (d)(iii) on the protection of civilians mandate, which calls for specific protection provisions for women, including the deployment of Women Protection Advisors,  and OP 14 (e)(ii) on the implementation of reporting, monitoring and investigation mechanisms for sexual violence, as well as OP 23 on mainstreaming gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout the mandate. Future reports also must reflect the Security Council’s commitment to the WPS agenda, providing a balance between the the protection and participation aspects. Applying a gender lens throughout the statement would also ensure that all genders and gender dimensions of foreign terrorist fighters are adequately represented. In the context of the implementation of the Agreement on Peace, reports must advocate for the active participation of women at all levels of stabilization and implementation processes, especially in the context of government reforms and future elections. Future reporting must also include a comprehensive discussion of SGBV with a focus on access to justice for survivors and protection concerns for IDP and refugee women. Reporting should also systematically engage women’s civil society as consultants and participants in humanitarian, security, and political processes. Finally, reports should acknowledge internal inequalities and advocate for a gender balance among MINUSMA staff, at both the officer and troop levels.