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Research Report

Europe’s Return to UN Peacekeeping in Africa?: Lessons from Mali

Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2015
Pages: 28

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. ii-iii)
  3. (pp. iii-iv)
  4. (pp. 1-2)
  5. (pp. 3-4)

    As of March 31, 2015, fourteen European countries, led by the Netherlands and Sweden, were contributing 1,087 troops and thirty-two police officers to MINUSMA.² The largest European contingent is the Dutch contribution of nearly 700 troops, which includes special forces; an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unit; a combined helicopter unit consisting of three Chinook and four Apache helicopters; police officers; and civilian experts. Sweden’s contribution consists of a roughly 220-person intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unit, with a national support element (not counted in UN troops statistics) bringing the total to nearly 320 personnel. Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland, and Estonia each...

  6. (pp. 4-5)

    In early 2012, the Tuareg Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad and its Arab counterparts led an operation to oust the Malian defense and security forces and took control of the northern half of Mali. On April 6, 2012, the rebels proclaimed the independence of the “Republic of Azawad.” Unable to maintain control of the northern cities of Mali, they were defeated by the Islamist groups al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. By March 2013, the Islamists were pushed back by the French Operation Serval with the support of...

  7. (pp. 5-14)

    As should be expected, a number of challenges have surfaced when integrating European capabilities into MINUSMA. These challenges largely arise from the discordance that emerges when European TCCs that are accustomed to NATO standards and a high-tempo environment as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan encounter a somewhat unfamiliar UN peacekeeping system that has its own set of complicated financial and administrative bureaucratic rules and, operationally, is still largely designed to support traditional, static peacekeeping deployments and operations.⁸ It should also be noted that these European contributors entered into one of the more complex and frustrating...

  8. (pp. 14-14)

    For European member states, the importance of the domestic political calculus involved in contributing military capabilities to UN peacekeeping should not be underestimated. Support of the public, the parliament, and the media are all important to examine and enhance, if possible. This is sometimes, but not always, the case for the UN’s traditional TCCs, whose publics and parliaments are more accustomed to UN peacekeeping participation. For those TCCs, experience has created a better understanding among the public of the rationale, frustrations, and risks involved in peacekeeping participation. However, for much of Europe, especially following the unfortunate experiences with UN peacekeeping...

  9. (pp. 15-15)

    UN missions essentially rely on “shoulder-toshoulder” partnerships between TCCs to ensure force protection and implement their mandates. In Timbuktu, the Swedes will be dependent on the Salvadoran tactical helicopters and the Burkinabé troops for critical transport and intelligence from the ground. Similarly, the Dutch work closely with the Bangladeshi, Chinese, and other troops in Gao. Yet communication and collaboration between European TCCs and MINUSMA’s other TCCs still need significant strengthening. Communication can be a problem at critical points between the European units and other TCCs. For instance, the ability of the Dutch Apache helicopters to provide close air support to...

  10. (pp. 15-16)

    The experiences from MINUSMA have highlighted a number of challenges but also possible ways to overcome them. MINUSMA has shown that European TCCs can contribute niche capabilities and enablers to meet pressing UN peacekeeping needs. Their contributions do not only provide sorely needed capabilities on the ground, but they also can strengthen the overall legitimacy of peacekeeping, reducing the divide between those that finance and mandate UN peace operations and those that provide the boots on the ground.

    However, the experience also shows that this will not happen without a significant effort from both sides. MINUSMA is a story of...

  11. (pp. 16-21)

    Early engagement with potential TCCs is important. Develop opportunities for strategic force generation engagement and conduct formal and informal indicative force generation meetings with TCCs;

    TCCs (and even potential TCCs) want to be more involved in planning. Consider ways to gather more TCC input into the development of concepts of operations, force requirements, statement-of-unit requirements, etc.;

    Provide more predictable and faster mission support during mission start-up, e.g., encourage and reimburse contributions that are selfsupporting, expand mission support components, and/or facilitate the use of UN agencies (UNOPS, WFP, etc.);

    Consider decentralizing authority in-mission and at headquarters in New York to speed...

  12. (pp. 22-22)