Expected Council Action
In May, the Council will be briefed on aspects of UN peacekeeping by the force commanders of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is also expected to address the Council. The force commander briefings, which have been held annually since 2010, focus on the operational challenges of implementing mission mandates. No outcome is anticipated.
Each force commander will focus on a different aspect of peacekeeping particularly relevant to the mission: robust peacekeeping (MINUSCA), operating under a Chapter VI mandate (UNDOF), and mission drawdown considerations (UNMIL). While the briefings are focused on three specific missions, the themes raised are more broadly applicable: the concept of robust peacekeeping is relevant to a number of UN missions, as MINUSCA is one of 10 UN peacekeeping operations with a protection of civilians mandate; UNDOF is one of five missions with a Chapter VI mandate; and in addition to UNMIL, UN peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti are currently in a drawdown phase.
MINUSCA: Robust Peacekeeping
The security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has continued to be precarious. The government of President Faustin Archange Touadera has limited control outside the capital, Bangui, and efforts to convince various armed groups to disarm have not gained traction, with factions of the Muslim-dominated ex-Séléka and Christian anti-Balaka rebel groups declining to give up their hold on large areas, resulting in a surge of violence over the last few months. MINUSCA, which has 12,208 uniformed personnel as of 31 March, has not been able to eliminate the threat of armed groups in large swathes of the country.
Against this backdrop, the mission’s force commander, Lieutenant General Balla Keïta (Senegal), is expected to address MINUSCA’s ability to take a robust posture, using its limited resources to maximise its ability to protect civilians. One important issue that may be raised are the different strategies—including active patrolling, the establishment of buffer zones, and training newly arrived contingents, among others—employed by the mission to fulfil its protection mandate. Another matter that may be discussed is how the mission can best respond to the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in southwest CAR after the recent withdrawal of Uganda People’s Defense Forces as Uganda terminated its participation in the AU Regional Task Force to combat the LRA. Keïta may also speak about MINUSCA’s efforts to address incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse. MINUSCA has been confronted with several allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse since its establishment in April 2014.
UNDOF: Peacekeeping with a Chapter VI Mandate
A traditional mission operating under Chapter VI, UNDOF has a mandate to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria, supervising the disengagement of their forces and the areas of separation and limitation. However, the spillover of the Syrian civil war into UNDOF’s area of operation over the past five years continues to affect the way in which the mission carries out its mandate. In 2014, the majority of the mission’s peacekeepers were redeployed to the Israeli-controlled side of the ceasefire line as a result of the deteriorating security situation and subsequent to the kidnapping by Al-Nusra Front of more than 40 peacekeepers, who were eventually released. In November 2016, UNDOF began a phased redeployment of its troops to Camp Faouar on the Syrian-controlled side.
Although there have been no major security incidents in the areas surrounding Camp Faouar, the security situation remains fluid because of the presence of a number of armed groups in the Golan Heights. Major General Jai Shanker Menon (India) may brief on the mission’s limitations in being able to carry out its Chapter VI mandate given the dynamic security environment in UNDOF’s area of operations and the threat posed by non-state actors. He is likely to address concerns related to the safety and security of peacekeepers.
UNMIL: Mission Drawdown Considerations
When it was established in 2003, UNMIL was one of the largest UN missions, initially authorised with up to 15,000 troops with a comprehensive mandate to protect civilians and UN personnel, facilitate humanitarian assistance, and promote and monitor human rights, among other tasks. Although temporarily interrupted during the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014, the gradual drawdown of UNMIL has occurred over several years as stability and security have returned to the country. In June 2016, Liberian authorities assumed security responsibilities from UNMIL for the first time in 13 years while the mission continued its drawdown. In December 2016, the Council adopted resolution 2333 with the intention of extending the mandate of the mission one last time, with a reduced military component, until the end of March 2018.
The UNMIL force commander, Major-General Salihu Zaway Uba (Nigeria), is likely to address the importance of ensuring a successful transition to national authorities before UNMIL’s mandate expires. Given that Liberia will hold presidential elections in 2017 and is set to undergo the first democratic transfer of its presidency, it will be important that the government ensures a peaceful and transparent electoral process. Some of the main challenges regarding UNMIL’s drawdown that may be raised in the briefing include the ability of the Liberian government to strengthen security and justice institutions, to address the risk of renewed conflict, and to manage public expectations.
The key issues to be addressed in the meeting include:
- how to improve MINUSCA’s physical protection capabilities;
- how to enhance the security of UNDOF peacekeepers and enable them to fulfil their mandate in an unpredictable security environment; and
- how to ensure that the drawdown of UNMIL occurs smoothly with a successful transference of security responsibilities to national capacities.
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; and
- having the force commanders brief the Council alongside heads of mission on a case-by-case basis, as mission mandates are considered for renewal in the future.
Another option would be for Heads of Military Components (as force commanders are collectively known) to meet with Council members in an Arria-formula meeting or another informal format to exchange ideas about how to make best use of the Military Staff Committee.
In past years, Council members have found the force commanders’ briefing useful because of the substance of the discussions and the interactive format, which allows them to ask questions. The success of these sessions prompted then Council member Australia to organise a briefing with the heads of police components of peacekeeping operations during its November 2014 presidency; since then, the meeting with the heads of police components has also been held annually.
This year’s meeting comes at a time of considerable discussion of peacekeeping reform. On 6 April, at the initiative of the US, the Council held a debate on reviewing peacekeeping operations, and the Secretary-General has tasked an internal review team in the Secretariat with providing him with options for improving the functioning of the UN’s peace and security architecture by June. At the 6 April debate, a number of members emphasised points made by the High-Level Independent Panel of Peace Operations in 2015, referring to the importance of linking peacekeeping operations to overarching political strategies and of ensuring that mandates are clear and implementable, while underscoring that the form of UN engagement should be adapted to the unique circumstances of each context.
UN Documents on Peacekeeping
|Security Council Resolutions|
|23 December 2016 S/RES/2333||This resolution renewed the mandate of UNMIL for a final period until 30 March 2018.|
|19 December 2016 S/RES/2330||The Council renewed the mandate of UNDOF until 30 June 2017.|
|26 July 2016 S/RES/2301||The Council renewed the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2017.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|6 April 2017 S/PV.7918||This was a meeting on peacekeeping operations.|
|17 June 2015 S/PV.7464||This was a briefing by Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and the heads of military components of peacekeeping operations.|