Expected Council Action
In March, the Council expects a briefing by Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Liberia and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), on the situation in Liberia, followed by consultations. In line with Council practice, Staffan Tillander (Sweden), Chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), may also brief the Council following the recent PBC mission visit to the country.
No outcome is expected.
The mandate of UNMIL expires on 30 September.
Key Recent Developments
The Council last discussed UNMIL on 11 September 2012 (S/PV.6830), following which resolution 2066 was unanimously adopted on 17 September (S/PV.6834), renewing its mandate for another year. On 12 December the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2079 renewing the mandate of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee as well as its Panel of Experts until 12 December 2013.
There has been increasing attention to the issue of the reduction of UNMIL troop levels and the drawdown of the mission. Resolution 2066 stipulates that UNMIL’s current military strength will be reduced from almost 8,000 to 3,750 troops by July 2015, with the first phase—consisting of a reduction of 1,990 troops—to be implemented by September 2013. The resolution nevertheless mandates an increase in UNMIL’s police component to a total of 1,795 police to support the transition. While the government supports the drawdown, media reports suggest there is some apprehension over how it will fill the gaps in security following UNMIL’s departure.
On 27 November 2012, the Secretary-General appointed Aeneas Chapinga Chuma (Zimbabwe) as his new Deputy Special Representative for Recovery and Good Governance as well as UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative. On 7 February, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Tamrat Samuel (Eritrea) as his Deputy Special Representative for Rule of Law.
Developments in the Peacebuilding Commission
From 11-15 February, a PBC mission visited Liberia with the aim of meeting with different stakeholders engaged in peacebuilding in the country. The mission specifically focused on the issues of police reform in the context of the UNMIL transition, PBC contributions to security sector reform, rule of law and national reconciliation, including the reconciliation roadmap developed in April 2012. It also reviewed progress made on the implementation of the Liberia Peacebuilding Programme as well as on the implementation by the government and the international community of commitments contained in the Statement of Mutual Commitments.
The inauguration of the first of five regional justice and security hubs in Gbarnga on 12 February was a notable milestone in the decentralisation of the justice and security sector. Supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, the hubs represent a step forward in the peacebuilding process and are expected to increase access to justice and security by co-locating police, courts and immigration departments, serving as a “one-stop shop” for their services.
Following the scathing resignation of Leymah Gbowee—co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—as head of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission on 8 October 2012, Sirleaf appointed former opposition presidential candidate George Weah to the position in early December. A popular national figure due to his success in football, his appointment may add legitimacy to Sirleaf’s claims to be acting on behalf of all Liberians by demonstrating her willingness to work with past opponents.
Despite continuing allegations of corruption and nepotism within the Sirleaf administration, Liberia has become less corrupt according to Transparency International, an international anti-corruption watchdog group, coming in 75th place in 2012 compared to 91st in 2011 out of 176 countries surveyed.
The issue of security along the border with Côte d’Ivoire remains a concern, with governments and peacekeeping missions in both countries working together to address the issue. Inter-mission cooperation between UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire continues, including sharing assets such as helicopters and monitoring security along and across border areas. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, head of ECOWAS, met with Sirleaf on 18 December, with both agreeing on the need for concerted measures to secure border areas and praising coordination efforts between the two countries to date. On 8 January, Liberian Defence Minister Bernie Samukai announced that army units would be withdrawn from border posts by 13 January—where they had been deployed since June 2012 following repeated raids by armed gangs—declaring the border safe and secure.
Vulnerabilities persist among both Liberians and Ivorian refugees in Liberia, resulting in unrelenting humanitarian needs for half a million people at risk of hunger and illness. The UN launched an appeal on 19 February calling for $36.7 million to implement the 2013 “Critical Humanitarian Gaps” response plan, prompted by a funding shortfall in a 2012 humanitarian appeal.
A key issue for the Council is the drawdown of UNMIL and its transition to a smaller presence, while ensuring sufficient national capacity to fill any gaps, particularly in the security sector.
A related issue is that of reconciliation and the peacebuilding process, ensuring that such initiatives continue during and beyond the drawdown of UNMIL.
One option is for the Council to receive the briefing and take no action.
A second—and less likely—option is for the Council to issue a press statement highlighting the importance of reconciliation and peacebuilding, and calling on the government to take on increasing security responsibilities.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are largely in agreement on the issue of Liberia and are keen to see through the implementation of the drawdown plan. There are, however, some divisions among the permanent members on the pace of UNMIL’s drawdown, with those more heavily invested in Liberia preferring a more gradual withdrawal.
While there has been some progress, Council members are of the view that this progress is not as swift as it could be and feel that it is time to apply pressure on the government to assume more responsibility for security, thereby relying less on UNMIL, which clearly still plays an important stabilising role.
The US is the lead on Liberia in the Council.
UN Documents on Liberia
|Security Council Resolutions|
|12 December 2012 S/RES/2079||This resolution renewed for a year both the sanctions regime on Liberia and the mandate of the Panel of Experts.|
|17 September 2012 S/RES/2066||Extended the UNMIL mandate for one year and authorised the reduction of the mission’s military strength in three phases between October 2012 and September 2013.|
|15 August 2012 S/2012/641||This report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL provided an update on developments since 16 April 2012.|
|Security Council Letters|
|10 January 2013 S/2013/12||This letter concerned the appointment of three members of the Panel of Experts.|
|27 November 2012 S/2012/886||This letter was on the appointment of Major General Leonard Muriuki Ngondi of Kenya as the Force Commander for UNMIL.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|31 December 2012 S/2012/980||This letter transmitted the report of the 1521 Sanctions Committee, containing an account of the Committee’s activities from 1 January to 31 December 2012.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL
Karin Landgren (Sweden)
UNMIL Size, Composition and Budget
Strength as of 31 December 2012: 7,430 troops; 126 military observers; 1,306 police; 230 UN volunteers; 470 international civilians; 989 local civilians
September 2003—30 September 2013
Chair of the Liberia Sanctions Committee
Ambassador Masood Khan (Pakistan)
Chair of the Liberia Configuration of the PBC
Ambassador Staffan Tillander (Sweden)