September 2010 Monthly Forecast

Posted 25 August 2010
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Expected Council Action
In September the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping operation in Liberia, UNMIL, which expires on 30 September. A briefing by Ellen Løj, the Head of UNMIL, is also expected. The Secretary-General’s progress report on UNMIL was submitted to the Council on 11 August.

Key Developments
On 11 August the Secretary-General submitted his recommendations for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). He indicated that over the reporting period civil society and other national stakeholders in Liberia intensified preparations for the 2011 legislative and presidential elections. The report noted that the overall security situation in the country remained generally stable, but fragile. Ethnic and communal tensions, disputes over access to land and resources, and a general lack of confidence in the criminal justice system continued to affect security.

The Secretary-General advised that UNMIL had completed the third stage of its drawdown between October 2009 and May 2010, with a total of 2,209 military personnel being repatriated during the period (adjustments made to the mission in 2006, September 2008, March 2009 and May 2010 have now reduced UNMIL’s troop strength from 15,250 to the current authorised strength of 8,102). Regarding possible timelines for the end of UNMIL, the Secretary-General concluded that it was still too early for this. He indicated that future recommendations for further reductions in the UN peacekeeping force would be based on the findings and proposals of a comprehensive UN technical assessment mission to be sent to the country after the 2011 elections and which will assess preparations for the handover of security responsibilities from UNMIL to the Liberian authorities.

The Secretary-General recommended that:

  • UNMIL’s current military and police levels should be maintained until after the 2011 elections, in view of the number of potentially destabilising factors and the limited capacity of national security institutions to handle such challenges independently of UNMIL; and
  • the Council should extend UNMIL’s mandate for another year, at its current strength.

(For further key developments over the past six months, please see our August Monthly Forecast.)

Human Rights-Related Developments
Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded its work on 29 July. Its chairperson, Jerome Verdier, expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of implementation of the TRC’s recommendations contained in its final report of December 2009. “We disagree that Liberia’s nightmare is over. If we ignore the TRC recommendations, we do so at our own peril,” Mr Verdier said at the body’s closing ceremony. He said that the Commission was under no illusions as to the sensitivity of issues associated with the implementation of the recommendations. Like reconciliation, it would take years before full implementation was achieved. But Verdier noted, “we need to commit ourselves to the implementation and begin in earnest a process or framework for implementation”. Stemming from the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2003, the TRC was tasked to investigate gross human rights violations, violations of international humanitarian law and other abuses that occurred during the period from January 1979 to October 14, 2003.

In its submission to the Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review of Liberia, scheduled for 1 November this year, Human Rights Watch urged Liberia’s government to “establish an accountability mechanism as recommended by the TRC that can fairly and effectively ensure justice for the worst crimes committed, including by promoting the independence of such a mechanism from influence by any external actors”.

Key Issues
A key related issue is the future of UNMIL at this stage, bearing in mind resolution 1885’s acceptance that the conduct of free and fair, conflict-free elections should become a core benchmark for UNMIL’s future drawdown and the Secretary-General’s recent recommendations.

A second issue is whether there is a need for UNMIL’s role in the period leading up to the 2011 elections for UNMIL’s mandate to be modified.

A third issue is whether the Council should take the opportunity of its September renewal resolution to act on some of the recommendations of the sanctions Panel of Experts on Liberia in its midterm report submitted to the Liberia Sanctions Committee in May. (The Panel recommended that the Council renew the elements of the mandate requiring UNMIL to provide assistance to the Liberian government in re-establishing proper administration of its natural resources and authority in mining and forestry areas, and that UNMIL support the creation of a specialised explosive-ordnance disposal unit as part of the Liberian National Police and gradually hand over this activity to the Liberian authorities.)

A fourth issue, given the recommendations to the Council from the facilitators of the Peacebuilding Review in July (see our August 2010 Forecast for details on this issue) is how to adapt Council processes when discussing Liberia to reflect the proposal that it should seek wider input in its decision making, including seeking the advice of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) structures when peacekeeping mandates are being reviewed.
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Underlying Problems
Major socioeconomic challenges coupled with weaknesses in state institutions relating to democracy and the rule of law, youth unemployment and ex-combatants, the slow pace of security sector reform in restoration of effective state control over the national territory, as well as the menace of illicit drug trafficking seem to continue to threaten the stability of Liberia. The wider in the region is also a worrying factor.

Options include:

  • renewing UNMIL with existing force levels;
  • adjusting the mandate to reflect the Secretary-General’s proposals on electoral-assistance tasks and the mission’s third phase drawdown plan;
  • implementing the Panel recommendations, including adding to the mandate of UNMIL the task of providing assistance to the Liberian government in re-establishing proper administration of its natural resources and authority in mining and forestry areas;
  • renewing the mandate without any modification;
  • not renewing or substantially downsizing UNMIL; and
  • seeking the advice of the PBC structures in reviewing UNMIL’s mandate, following the Council’s 14 July request to the PBC for advice on Liberia.

Council Dynamics
At press time Council members were still studying the Secretary-General’s report, without any detailed discussions having yet taken place among them. However, the sentiment among many Council members seems to support the Secretary-General’s recommendation on force size.

It remains to be seen whether there is also support for any modifications to the mandate, especially regarding UNMIL’s support of Liberia’s electoral needs and the recommendations of the Panel. However, many Council members remain committed to the view that the 2011 elections are a core benchmark for determining the mission’s eventual drawdown and withdrawal.

It also remains to be seen if the Council will take up the recommendations of the facilitators of the Peacebuilding Review in July, by seeking the PBC’s input into its review of the mandate of UNMIL.

The US is the lead country on this issue in the Council.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1903 (17 December 2009) renewed the sanctions regime for Liberia for a further 12 months and extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 20 December 2010.
  • S/RES/1885 (15 September 2009) renewed UNMIL’s mandate for 12 months

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2010/429 (11 August 2010) was the latest report on UNMIL.
  • S/2007/479 (8 August 2007) was the initial drawdown plan for UNMIL.


  • A/64/868-S/2010/393 (19 July 2010) was a letter from the three co-facilitators in charge of the 2010 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture communicating their final report on the review process.
  • S/2010/319 (17 June 2010) was the latest report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General

Ellen Margrethe Løj (Denmark)

UNMIL Force Commander

Lieutenant-General Sikander Afzal (Pakistan)

UNMIL: Size, Composition and Cost

  • Strength as of 30 June 2010: 9,307 personnel, including 7,810 troops, 1,364 police and 133 military observers
  • Key contributing countries: Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ghana
  • Cost: 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011: US$524,052,800 million

UNMIL: Duration

September 2003 to present; mandate expires 30 September 2010

Chairman of the Liberia Sanctions Committee

Ivan Barbalić (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Panel of Experts on Liberia

  • Rowan Bosworth-Davies (UK)
  • Wynet V. Smith (Canada, expert on natural resources and coordinator of the Panel)
  • Hervé Gonsolin (France, expert on arms)

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