Expected Council Action
The Council expects a briefing on UN peacekeeping from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous and force commanders Lieutenant-General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam (Ethiopia) of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Major General Michael Lollesgaard (Denmark) of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Major General Michael Finn (Ireland), who is the chief of staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). No outcome is expected following the briefing.
These briefings have been held annually since 2010, with force commanders briefing on operational challenges related to the implementation of peacekeeping mandates.
The heads of military components will cover three different areas during their briefing to the Council.
Protection of Civilians
Lt Gen Tesfamariam is expected to brief on the challenges faced by UNMISS in protecting civilians in South Sudan. OCHA estimated on 15 May that 1.5 million people have been internally displaced in South Sudan, with approximately 117,000 of the internally displaced sheltering in UN bases. Lt Gen Tesfamariam is expected to describe the efforts by UNMISS’s military contingents to maximise the impact of patrolling in rural areas to increase security, with a view to the eventual safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons sheltered in UN bases. Another issue that might be covered is the ongoing operational cooperation with the South Sudanese police to ensure conditions for a safe return and the challenges posed by tensions on the ground between the army and the police of South Sudan. Lt Gen Tesfamariam might also raise the challenges faced by UNMISS in ensuring law and order in the camps until a sustainable solution is found.
Lt Gen Tesfamariam might also brief the Council on the impact of the recent violations of the Status of Forces Agreement by South Sudan in the implementation of the mission’s protection of civilians’ mandate. These violations have included episodes of staff harassment, delays in equipment delivery and restrictions to humanitarian access.
Operating in an Asymmetric Environment
Asymmetrical attacks in Mali, an issue the Council is familiar with, will be the focus of Maj Gen Lollesgaard’s briefing. As of 30 April, 33 peacekeepers have been killed since the establishment of MINUSMA in April 2013 as a result of hostile acts.
As MINUSMA and international actors (including NGOs) continue to be targeted by Al-Qaida affiliated terrorist groups, Maj Gen Lollesgaard is expected to cover the measures in place to enhance MINUSMA’s equipment to counter asymmetrical attacks. On 2 January, Council members received a letter from the Secretary-General outlining some lessons learned following the re-hatting processes in Mali and the Central African Republic. The letter highlighted the need to enhance the capabilities of AU re-hatted contingents that were below UN standards.
Maj Gen Lollesgaard is also expected to explain to what extent the military personnel deployed in Mali are involved in the implementation of MINUSMA’s protection of civilians’ mandate in comparison to the overwhelming focus on force protection tasks given increased insecurity in the north. Ahead of the renewal of the mission’s mandate in June, he may discuss how the signing of an agreement by only some of the parties affects the perception of the mission’s impartiality and therefore has implications for the safety and security of peacekeepers.
Caveats and Performance
UNTSO military observers are attached to the peacekeeping forces in the Middle East, including the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in addition to a presence in the Sinai Peninsula. Of the 25 troop contributors to UNTSO, almost half now have caveats regarding the places where military experts can be deployed.
Due to the spillover of the Syrian civil war into UNDOF’s area of operations, the mission has significantly altered how it carries out its mandate. UNDOF is a Syria-based mission but as of September 2014 the majority of its peacekeepers redeployed to the Israeli-controlled side of the ceasefire line due to the security situation, except for a contingent of Nepalese peacekeepers deployed to Mt. Hermon on the Syrian side. Maj Gen Michael Finn is expected to brief on the limitations in terms of performance and flexibility that caveats by troop contributors impose on heads of military components when having to react to changed security conditions on the ground.
Issues arising from the situations to be covered include:
- UNMISS’s capability and resources to carry out its protection of civilians mandate;
- addressing the risks to MINUSMA and the implementation of its mandate in a context of asymmetric attacks and absence of a commonly agreed political framework;
- mitigating the effect of caveats in the implementation of Council mandates and whether UNSTO’s mandate and composition need to be reconsidered following the changed security situation in the region.
Options for the Council include:
- taking advantage of the interactive format of the meeting to get a better understanding of the operational challenges to peacekeeping;
- agreeing to have relevant force commanders brief the Council, together with the heads of mission, as mission mandates come up for renewal; and
- increasing the interaction between the Council and the Secretariat in order to ensure military options being considered by the Council are grounded in reality.
Council members have found this a particularly useful briefing because of the substance of the topics discussed and the interaction allowed by the format. The ability to ask questions of the force commanders has allowed members to obtain pertinent information about operational challenges in peacekeeping missions. The success of this format prompted then-Council member Australia to initiate a briefing on 20 November by the heads of police components. Resolution 2185, adopted on the same day, stated the Council’s intention to consider holding an annual meeting with heads of UN police components.
These meetings are an opportunity to have substantial discussions to enhance the Council’s understanding of the Secretariat’s military planning processes as well as provide feedback on difficulties faced in implementing peacekeeping mandates.
|Security Council Resolution|
|9 October 2014 S/PV.7275||This was a briefing on peacekeeping operations by force commanders from MONUSCO, MINUSMA and UNDOF.|