May 2015 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 May 2015
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AFRICA

Liberia

Expected Council Action

In May, the Council is scheduled to receive a briefing from Karin Landgren, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), on events covered in the latest bi-annual Secretary-General’s report on UNMIL and other recent developments. Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and its country-specific configuration on Liberia, who travelled to the region in April, is also likely to brief. Minister of Justice Benedict Sannoh may also attend.

Key Recent Developments

On 16 March, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous briefed Council members in consultations regarding the impact of the Ebola outbreak on Liberia’s stability and options for resuming the drawdown of UNMIL. A midterm report had been requested in resolution 2190 of 15 December 2014. Ladsous concluded that the political and security situation had stabilised sufficiently to resume the drawdown of UNMIL. In line with his recommendations, the Council adopted resolution 2215 on 2 April, authorising the reduction of UNMIL’s military personnel from 4,811 to 3,590 and of its police from 1,795 to 1,515 by September 2015.

According to the latest World Health Organization report available at press time, the rate of Ebola transmission has dramatically declined in Liberia, with no new cases identified since 20 March. The person who was the last confirmed case in the country died on 27 March. Cumulatively, there have been 10,212 reported cases of Ebola and 4,573 reported deaths due to Ebola in Liberia, representing approximately 40 percent of the total cases (26,079) and deaths (10,823). Neighbouring countries Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to report new cases of Ebola, with 21 and 12 in the week up to 19 April, respectively, indicating the need for continued efforts toward eradicating Ebola within the region.    

On 15 April, US President Barack Obama met at the White House with presidents Alpha Condé of Guinea, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. Obama called for renewed international efforts to rebuild the health systems of the three countries to prevent future pandemics within the region. On 17 April, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim hosted a high-level meeting on Ebola recovery that included the three West African heads of state, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and representatives of UN agencies, states, regional development banks, NGOs and foundations. The World Bank announced it would provide $650 million for Ebola recovery in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in addition to earlier pledges of nearly $1 billion and more than $2 billion in debt relief.     

Peacebuilding Commission-Related Developments

On 6 April, Ambassador Skoog, chair of the PBC and its Liberia country-specific configuration, met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia to discuss the country’s Ebola recovery process. The meeting was part of a 4-10 April trip, during which Skoog also visited Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal. On 14 April, the PBC held a special meeting on Ebola. Skoog briefed on his trip to West Africa, a representative of the UN Development Programme provided an update on Ebola recovery and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco noted that delayed Peacebuilding Fund projects are now being reviewed for implementation within a post-Ebola context. The permanent representatives of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone also addressed the meeting. On 23 April, Skoog transmitted a report on his trip to the Council. 

Key Issues

The principal focus for the Council during the current mandate period ending 30 September will be on how to proceed with the scheduled drawdown of UNMIL without increasing the risk of instability in Liberia. More specifically, this should entail attention to the sequencing of UNMIL’s drawdown and how the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Liberian National Police (LNP) will assume progressively greater responsibility for maintaining peace and security.

Options

No formal Council action is expected following the May briefing. Council members could, however, hold an Arria-formula meeting concerning lessons learned during peacekeeping operation drawdowns to better understand the different types of challenges UNMIL is likely to encounter.

Council and Wider Dynamics

As shown by the consensus on the adoption of resolution 2215, there is broad support among Council members for resuming the drawdown of UNMIL, which had been paused since September 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak. The drawdown process has been strongly supported by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in the past. Council members and DPKO believe that after nearly a dozen years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Accra on 18 August 2003, which ended Liberia’s second civil war, the AFL and LNP need to assume much greater responsibility for security in the country. There is also a sense that the UN’s scarce peacekeeping resources should be transferred from comparatively stable post-conflict peacebuilding contexts to more urgent conflict situations, such as the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

On the other hand, the poor performances of the AFL and LNP during the Ebola outbreak raise questions regarding their capacity and effectiveness. While the government of Liberia had been resistant to scaling down UNMIL’s presence in the past, this position seems to have shifted. On 6 March, the National Security Council endorsed the government of Liberia’s plan for UNMIL transition with an estimated budget of $105 million. In her broadcast address to the nation on 1 April, Sirleaf stressed the importance of maintaining efforts toward security sector reform and assuming national responsibility for peace and security as UNMIL draws down.

The US is the penholder on Liberia, and Jordan is the chair of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Resolutions
2 April 2015 S/RES/2215 This resolution authorised a drawdown of UNMIL to 3,590 military personnel and 1,515 police by September 2015.
15 December 2014 S/RES/2190 This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2015 and adding a good offices role for the Special Representative and a mandate for UNMIL to provide electoral assistance.
Security Council Letter
23 April 2015 S/2015/282 This letter transmitted a report from the PBC chair to the Council.
Secretary-General’s Reports
23 April 2015 S/2015/275 This Secretary-General’s report was on UNMIL.
15 August 2014 S/2014/598 This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL.
USEFUL ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Ebola Situation Report, World Health Organization, 22 April 2015.

Chairperson’s Summary, Peacebuilding Commission, 14 April 2015.