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Mali: The Case for a Permanent UN Intervention Force?

Matthew Willis
Occasional Papers, 17 July 2013
United Nations, International Institutions, Africa
Would a permanent UN force capable of undertaking rapid-reaction operations have made a difference in Mali?

January’s French-led intervention pulled Mali back from the brink, but the crisis that precipitated it could have been avoided. In the ensuing months, diplomats spoke of the need for a well-armed and well-trained force that could consolidate gains and finish the job. In its absence, the UN peacekeeping mission that took responsibility for Mali’s security on 1 July is likely to be of the usual sort – adequate for preventing a complete backslide but inadequate for achieving much more. Would a permanent UN force provide a solution?

For close to seven decades, the idea of a military force belonging to the United Nations and able to prevent or smother armed conflict has exercised the imaginations and pens of politicians, statesmen, generals and academics alike. Despite the many obstacles to its establishment, a ‘UN army’ retains its appeal because the supply of conflicts which the international community struggles to resolve appears far from exhausted. Some, such as the civil war in Syria, are too complex for any external humanitarian intervention, but others would be candidates for a rapid-response mission if the means of mounting an effective one existed.

About the Author

Matthew Willis is a Research Analyst in RUSI’s International Security Studies Department. His research in 2012–13 has encompassed security in the South Caucasus, the politics of the Arctic and the Arab Spring in the Persian Gulf. Matthew completed his Bachelor’s at the University of Toronto, studied at the Sorbonne and completed his Master’s at the London School of Economics. In 2013, he was awarded the Marvin Gelber Prize for his research into Canada’s 2005 deployment to Afghanistan, published in the International Journal.

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