December 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 November 2020
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Expected Council Action

In December, the Council is expected to receive a briefing on the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) and the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). The briefing is expected to cover the Secretary-General’s 90-day report on both missions due in December as requested in resolutions 2524 and 2525, as well as the joint AU/UN special report on UNAMID, requested in resolution 2525, which members received on 13 November. The Council will also receive the semi-annual briefing of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, related to the Court’s work on Darfur. The chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia), is expected to provide the quarterly briefing on the committee’s work.

The mandate of UNAMID expires on 31 December while the mandate of UNITAMS expires on 3 June 2021.

Key Recent Developments

On 3 October, the transitional government of Sudan, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi signed a peace agreement in Juba that was facilitated by South Sudan. Council members welcomed the agreement in a press statement on 9 October and encouraged its swift implementation. It also urged those who have yet to join the peace process with the government of Sudan to do so “immediately, constructively and without pre-conditions to conclude swiftly negotiations on a comprehensive peace agreement”.

On 3 June, the Security Council adopted resolution 2524, establishing UNITAMS for an initial period of 12 months and setting out four strategic objectives for the mission. These are: assisting Sudan’s political transition; supporting peace processes and implementation of future peace agreements; assisting peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile); and supporting the mobilisation of economic and development assistance and coordination of humanitarian assistance. The resolution requests the Secretary-General to report to the Security Council every 90 days on the implementation of the UNITAMS mandate.

Resolution 2525, also adopted on 3 June, extended UNAMID’s mandate until 31 December, maintaining its troop and police ceilings. It requested the Secretary-General to continue reporting to the Council on the implementation of UNAMID’s mandate every 90 days, but to do so as an annex to the regular 90-day reporting requested on UNITAMS in resolution 2524. It also requested the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to provide the Security Council with a joint special report no later than 31 October, assessing, among other things, “the impact of the peace process on the security situation in Darfur, the capacity of the Government of Sudan…to protect civilians in line with the strategy outlined in the Government of Sudan’s letter addressed to the President of the Security Council dated 21 May (S/2020/429), and recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID”. The Council will take into account the report’s findings when deciding which “courses of action [to take] regarding the responsible drawdown and exit of UNAMID” by the expiration of its mandate on 31 December.

The Secretary-General informed the Council in a letter on 5 November that a meeting of the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism, involving the AU, UN and the transitional government of Sudan was held in Khartoum on 25 October to discuss the future of UNAMID. The letter informed the Council that the publication of the joint special report, requested in resolution 2525 by 31 October, would be delayed until 13 November. The report recommends “the termination of the UNAMID mandate by 31 December 2020 and the full operationalization of the UNITAMS presence in accordance with resolution 2524”. The report estimates that the removal of UNAMID’s footprint and the repatriation of staff, troops and police will take six months, subject to COVID-19 and the rainy season. On 30 November, the AU Peace and Security Council held a session to consider the joint special report.

On 25 September, the Council held an in-person briefing on Sudan in the ECOSOC chamber. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo and Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed on UNITAMS and UNAMID.

Human Rights-Related Developments

Addressing the attendees at the Hernán Santa Cruz Inaugural Dialogue on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—which focused on strengthening social protection—at Khartoum University in Sudan on 20 October, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted the legacy of Santa Cruz, who participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She observed that his support for economic and social rights despite “considerable opposition” made him a lynchpin of the current United Nations human rights system. Bachelet emphasised that a strong and independent national human rights institution with a broad mandate could address the lack of economic and social rights, the absence of which has been at the root of several conflicts and grievances.

Key Issues and Options

The Council will need to continue to closely assess several key issues—including the overall situation in Darfur and the impact of the broader political situation—in relation to the expiration of UNAMID’s mandate on 31 December. An option is to consider the observations and recommendations made in the 13 November joint special report. Members may also evaluate the progress report on the implementation of Sudan’s national plan for the protection of civilians in Darfur, transmitted to the Council on 14 September.

The transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS is also a priority for the Council. According to resolution 2524, the Secretary-General was expected to “swiftly initiate the planning for and establishment of UNITAMS, with a view to reaching full operational capacity as soon as possible” and to start delivering the mission’s strategic objectives by 1 January 2021. The “suggested structure and geographical deployment” that the Secretary-General is scheduled to report on will also be of keen interest, as will the impact on the mission’s build-up of COVID-19 and of delays in the appointment of critical UNITAMS leadership positions. Resolution 2524 requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative for Sudan and head of Mission of UNITAMS and a Deputy Special Representative to serve as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. An option would be for members to again highlight the need for such appointments to be made, as was done by several members at the briefing on 25 September.

The impact that COVID-19 is having, and may continue to have, on Sudan, UNAMID and UNITAMS will also be an important issue for the Council to consider.

Council Dynamics

The drawdown and exit of UNAMID and the establishment of UNITAMS have been contentious issues for some time. Despite the unanimous adoption of resolutions 2524 and 2525 in June, there were clear disagreements during the negotiations over references to monitoring and reporting on progress in the implementation of Sudan’s Constitutional Document, the provision of technical assistance in the areas of rule of law and security sector reform, and reporting on the human rights situation. There were also strong differences on the new mission’s potential tasks relating to protection of civilians. While several members believed that the new mission should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (Russia, China and the three African members among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mandate.

Members seem to agree on the significance of the 3 October peace agreement and view positively steps taken by the transitional government over the past several months. However, the statements made by members following the briefing on 25 September suggest that divisions persist in assessing the situation in Darfur. For example, several members, including the UK and Germany, expressed concern over the situation in Darfur, while other members, such as China and Russia, emphasised the need for the drawdown and exit of UNAMID.

The UK and Germany are co-penholders on Sudan. Ambassador Sven Jürgenson (Estonia) chairs the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.

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Security Council Resolutions
3 June 2020S/RES/2525 This resolution established UNITAMS and renewed UNAMID until 31 December 2020.
3 June 2020S/RES/2524 This established the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).
Secretary-General’s Reports
13 November 2020S/2020/1115 This was the joint special report on UNAMID and a follow-on presence, requested in resolution 2525.
17 September 2020S/2020/912 This was the 90-day report of the Secretary-General.
Security Council Letters
5 November 2020S/2020/1096 This was from the Secretary-General informing the Council that the publication of the joint special report requested in resolution 2525 would be delayed.
14 September 2020S/2020/901 This was from Sudan, transmitting the first periodic progress report on the implementation of the national plan for the protection of civilians in Darfur.
21 May 2020S/2020/429 This was from Sudan, transmitting the plan for the protection of civilians after the exit of UNAMID.
Security Council Meeting Record
25 September 2020S/PV.8761 This was an in-person briefing on Sudan in the ECOSOC chamber.
Security Council Press Statement
9 October 2020SC/14323 This was a press statement that welcomed the signing of the 3 October 2020 peace agreement in Juba between the transitional government of Sudan and an opposition group, the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minawi.