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Investing in Peace Around the World, MINUSMA the UN Peacekeeping mission in Mali

 Deconinck MINUSMA Mali

26 May 2017 – On Monday, 29 May, we celebrate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. The theme for this year’s observance is “Investing in Peace Around the World”. Every year, thousands of women and men are deployed across the world under the UN banner as part of international peacekeeping missions. We decided to look at one of them, MINUSMA.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013. The MINUSMA has three main objectives, the first of which is implementation of peace agreements in the country. The second to create a sufficiently good security situation to redeploy Malian authority and its security forces throughout the territory, as well as to establish development-related activities. Finally, the mission aims to protect populations and United Nations staff.

Deconinck MINUSMA Mali image2

On April 11, 2017, Major General Jean-Paul Deconinck of Belgium was appointed as the Force Commander of MINUSMA. He underlined the interest of Belgium in participating in the operation: “It is first and foremost important from a security-framework perspective. It is crucial for Europe, including Belgium, to take part in different security missions in the Sahel and in Mali to ensure that security problems do not engulf the entire Sahel region and cause repercussions in Europe. In addition, Belgium has numerous projects in the region, as well as soon to be launched development projects in the region, and in particular the Sahel.”

One of the keywords of the MINUSMA mission is cooperation. Indeed, Jean-Paul Deconinck and his troops work together with many other organisations: “In the field, my mission has a cooperation component with different security actors in Mali such as the Malian armed forces themselves, the European Union training mission in Mali (EUTM) for the training of the Malian army, and Operation Barkhane.” In the next months, MINUSMA will also be required to work with the operational concept created by the five countries of the Sahel including Mali, also known as G5 Sahel. These different partners operate in fields that are not included in MINUSMA’s current mandate such as training or the fight against terrorism.

Given that a mission is always composed of peacekeepers from different participating member states, cooperation also plays a key role within Deconinck troop of soldiers. This is being done by learning a common culture, transcending the diverse nationalities. “Everyone here has a common military culture. We refer to methods used during a fight, how you behave in difficult circumstances, the sense of discipline, etc. It is, however, also important to have a good knowledge of each other’s culture outside of the military context.” Deconinck’s knowledge of English, French and Dutch proves to be a real asset in dealing with the diversity of nationalities among the troops. Deconinck uses French to interact with francophone contingents and English when he has to command all of his troops. Every soldier is fully aware of the risks of the mission. Since the beginning of the mission, more than sixty soldiers were killed.  This is a priority concern for Jean-Paul Deconinck, even if risks are an integral part of the military profession, he tries to reduce these risks as much as possible, given that zero risk does not exist.


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