Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which is due to expire on 31 December, as well as a resolution regarding sanctions measures, which are due to expire on 10 December. Prior to the sanctions adoption, Council members will hold consultations on the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee.
Key Recent Developments
The Ebola crisis has continued to be a key international concern with respect to Liberia. On 12 November, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and Ambassador Per Thöresson (Sweden), representative of the chair of the Liberia PBC configuration, briefed the Council. Ambassador Marjon Kamara (Liberia) also participated. The briefing was held in response to the Council’s request in resolution 2176, adopted on 15 September, for an update on the situation in Liberia by 15 November. As resolution 2176 was a rollover resolution renewing UNMIL’s authorisation for an interim period of three months, the purpose of the briefing was to provide analysis to the Council prior to another resolution renewing (and potentially modifying) UNMIL’s mandate. Ladsous recommended extending UNMIL’s mandate until September 2015, adding certain political components (i.e. electoral assistance and good offices) as previously suggested by the Secretary-General in his report of 15 August, but deferring consideration of troop and police drawdowns (also originally recommended in the August report) until the Ebola crisis subsides. Kamara, too, suggested UNMIL’s mandate should be extended but differed with Ladsous regarding any reconfiguration. Thöresson discussed a 3 November meeting held by the PBC country configurations for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, particularly regarding the economic impact of the Ebola crisis and its implications for peacebuilding. The briefing was followed by consultations.
There have been some signs of progress regarding the political and security situation. Following an investigation by the Independent National Commission on Human Rights of the 20 August shooting death of a 15-year-old boy, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on 10 November ordered that five government soldiers be punished for having fired shots into a crowd protesting the Ebola-related quarantine of the West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia. In terms of accountability, this represents a change in course for the government, as the military had previously conducted an internal inquiry and cleared itself entirely of responsibility for the incident. On 13 November, Sirleaf announced an end to the national state of emergency imposed in August in response to the Ebola outbreak. The measures had included a curfew, the closing of schools, restrictions on freedom of movement and the quarantine of certain communities. On 18 November, the two houses of the legislature agreed on 16 December as the date for holding the Senate elections originally scheduled for 14 October. Soon after that, the National Electoral Commission announced that the campaign period would officially begin on 20 November.
According to a 19 November report by the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 7,069 cases of Ebola in Liberia and 2,964 deaths due to the disease, while the global total has increased to 15,145 cases and 5,420 deaths. The vast majority of those infected with Ebola have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which collectively account for all but 32 cases and 14 deaths thus far (these occurred in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the US). On 29 October, WHO announced that the rate of Ebola transmission appeared to be declining in Liberia. This conclusion was supported by decreased demand for clinic beds, lower numbers of confirmed new cases and fewer Ebola-related burials. Media reports from Monrovia and other locations have provided additional anecdotal evidence that the intensity of the outbreak may be subsiding, but health professionals have also warned of a risk of resurgence in transmission rates if containment procedures are not systematically implemented. At the initiative of the US, the Council held a debate on Ebola on 21 November, where a presidential statement was adopted.
Ebola has had a devastating economic impact on Liberia, with significant implications for the humanitarian situation in the short term, peacebuilding in the medium term and development in the long term. According to a recent assessment by the UNDP, the Ebola outbreak has reduced fiscal revenue, increased expenditure and increased the fiscal deficit, which constrains the government’s ability to provide health and social services. UNDP has also found that the prices for basic food items have greatly increased, partly due to lower domestic production and partly due to higher import costs, which both threaten to exacerbate food insecurity in Liberia. The World Bank estimated that the Ebola outbreak could cause a loss of $300 million in gross domestic product (GDP) for Liberia through the end of 2015 and a loss of as much as $32.6 billion in GDP to the West Africa region under a low containment scenario. On 15 November, the G20 issued a statement welcoming the IMF’s initiative to stem the Ebola outbreak by making a further $300 million available to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone through debt relief, loans and grants.
The primary issue facing the Council in December is determining the parameters for the expected renewal of UNMIL’s mandate. Associated elements include the duration of the renewal, the force structure and schedule for a potential drawdown, any specific modifications that may be required in response to the Ebola outbreak and whether or not certain political components should be added (i.e. good offices and electoral assistance).
Another issue concerns aspects of the Liberia sanctions regime that are due to expire on 10 December: the mandate of the Group of Experts, the arms embargo on non-state actors and the travel ban. Likewise, the asset freeze, which is not time-limited, could also be subject to modification or termination by the Council.
Perhaps the most likely option for the Council is for it to follow the recommendations regarding UNMIL made by Ladsous in the 12 November briefing: renew UNMIL’s mandate until September 2015, incorporate electoral assistance and a good offices role for the Special Representative as initially proposed by the Secretary-General on 15 August and defer drawdown of troops and police until the Ebola crisis is over. Alternatively, the Council could choose to defer adding new political components to UNMIL as suggested by the representative of Liberia.
Regarding sanctions, the most likely option for the Council is for it to follow the recommendation made in a 29 September letter from the Secretary-General: defer modification of the sanctions regime for a period of six months or until the situation in the country stabilises and the government is better able to implement relevant capacity-building measures. In practice, this would mean retaining the asset freeze and renewing the arms embargo on non-state actors, the travel ban and the Group of Experts’ mandate.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Ebola outbreak has had a considerable impact on the Council’s approach to Liberia. The policymaking momentum seems to have shifted from a scheduled drawdown of UNMIL and a probable phasing out of sanctions toward maintaining the force levels of UNMIL and retaining sanctions measures until the health crisis has subsided. The US has dedicated substantial financial and human resources to combatting the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, which would strongly suggest an equivalent degree of commitment in its ongoing capacity as penholder.
One nascent split, which is perhaps better understood as a new manifestation of old divisions between DPKO and the government, regards whether or not UNMIL incorporates political functions such as electoral assistance and a good offices role (the former supports these measures, but the latter opposes them). Hypothetically, there could also be differences between the government and UNMIL should the peacekeeping operation be compelled to intervene in order to protect civilians (although this now seems less likely than it did a few months ago as the Liberian security force’s initially heavy-handed response to the Ebola outbreak has been tempered). Lastly, troop- and police-contributing countries have maintained their deployments in Liberia with the one exception of the Philippines, but this could be a future area of tension if there are further Ebola cases in UNMIL.
The US is the penholder on Liberia, and Jordan is the chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBERIA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|15 September 2014 S/RES/2176||This was a resolution which requested an update on the situation in Liberia by 15 November and renewed the mandate of UNMIL for a period of three months.|
|10 December 2013 S/RES/2128||This resolution modified the Liberian sanctions regime.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|21 November 2014 S/PRST/2014/24||This was a presidential statement that reiterated grave concern over the epidemic, that Ebola constitutes a threat to international peace and security, recognised progress in scaling-up international assistance and called for further strengthening of response efforts.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|21 November 2014 S/PV.7318||This was a debate on Ebola.|
|12 November 2014 S/PV.7310||This was a briefing on UNMIL.|
|Security Council Letters|
|29 September 2014 S/2014/707||This letter transmitted an assessment of the Liberia sanctions regime.|
|28 August 2014 S/2014/644||This was a letter from the Secretary-General recommending to adopt a technical rollover of UNMIL’s mission in light of the ebola outbreak in Liberia.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|19 November 2014 S/2014/831||This was the final report of the Liberia Panel of Experts.|
|15 August 2014 S/2014/598||This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL.|
USEFUL ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report Update, WHO, 19 November 2014.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Outbreak and Price Dynamics in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNDP, 9 November 2014.
The Economic Impact of the 2014 Ebola Epidemic: Short and Medium Term Estimates for West Africa, The World Bank Group, 7 October 2014.