UN Mission in Mali: Armed Forces Deployment - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:03 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 9:03 pm, 14th December 2020

The noble and gallant Lord raises a very important point. We very much hope our Armed Forces remain safe and that they will not come under threat of loss of life or of injury. He is right to inquire why they are there, what we expect them to do and how we expect them to do it. As I said earlier, this is part of our contribution to the security response. We recognise that security interventions alone will not address the instability in the Sahel and continue to advocate for state-led progress in the peace process in Mali. As I said earlier, that involves political and institutional reform in the wider region.

We believe it is very important the United Kingdom supports the United Nations in attempting to deal with this area of instability. It matters because if that instability is not addressed then it has an effect of contagion. Instability is a threat that can spread. It can allow hostile operators to flourish and can encourage them to take their unwelcome activities to other countries. That could include the United Kingdom. There is an underlying purpose and we believe it is important that the United Kingdom supports the United Nations in this important mission.

I said earlier that the mission, being a United Nations mission, is led by a civilian—a special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General. The peace- keeping force element involves our own military and highly trained soldiers. Because it is a peacekeeping mission, and our forces are principally concerned with reconnaissance, this is clearly slightly different from an operation such as Operation Barkhane. But our force will provide critical capabilities at a vital time. MINUSMA was selected as a mission on the basis that it was where the UK could provide maximum benefit based on the expertise the UK Armed Forces have to offer. I reassure the noble and gallant Lord that this is a carefully constructed contribution from the UK; it is for a specific period; it involves an identified, set number of personnel; and it is a contained contribution.