Expected Council Action
In September, the Security Council will hold its annual debate on peacekeeping reform pursuant to resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017. The Irish presidency plans to hold the meeting at ministerial level with a particular focus on peacekeeping transitions. Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs and minister for defence, Simon Coveney, is expected to chair the debate. Secretary-General António Guterres, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and a civil society representative are the anticipated briefers.
A resolution on peacekeeping transitions is a planned outcome.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Resolution 2378 requested the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive annual briefing to the Security Council on reform of UN peacekeeping every 12 months, to be followed by a debate. Under-Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix provided the first comprehensive briefing to the Council on this issue in September 2018 in which he elaborated on the Secretary General’s reform of the UN peace and security architecture and his Action for Peacekeeping Initiative (A4P). In September 2019, Lacroix again briefed the Council on the progress and challenges of peacekeeping reform. In his briefing to the Council in September 2020, Lacroix outlined the eight priorities of peacekeeping reform in 2021 and beyond, which is referred to as A4P+. Among others, these priorities include coherent action to serve an overarching political strategy, the safety and security of peacekeepers, and the application of a gender lens to peacekeeping activities.
This year, Ireland plans to take advantage of the annual debate to advance discussions about peacekeeping transitions. With several drawdowns and exits of long-standing UN peacekeeping missions planned for the coming years, understanding transition processes has become critical. The Secretary-General identified the facilitation of successful transitions as a priority for the entire UN system when he briefed the Council at the 18 July 2019 debate on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: Strengthening Partnerships for Successful Nationally Owned Transitions”. The closure of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in 2017 and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in 2018 were considered successful examples of the UN’s engagement in assisting countries that were making the difficult transition from conflict to peace. There are also other recent examples of transitions, such as in Haiti from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) and then to the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and in Sudan from the UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).
Some peacekeeping missions are in the process of planning their transitions, such as the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The Secretary-General is expected to present his transition plan in September on MONUSCO pursuant to resolution 2556 of 18 December 2020. The UN and the AU have done their own separate independent assessments outlining their respective options for the future of AMISOM post-2021. Following a recent AU delegation visit to Mogadishu to address the reservations expressed by the Somali government on the AU independent assessment, the AU announced that agreement had been reached with the Somali government on the modalities for a follow-up mission to AMISOM post-2021. The two sides are expected to finalise the details of their agreement for subsequent consideration by the AU Peace and Security Council and the Security Council.
Over the years, the Council has held discussions on transitions in mission-specific contexts. It has also conducted field missions to observe the management and implementation of transitions. For instance, the Council conducted a visiting mission to Haiti in June 2017 to review the transition from MINUSTAH to MINUJUSTH. A similar visit to west Africa in February 2019 also provided a useful opportunity for Council members to hold round-table discussions with the relevant UN officials in the field on what lessons and best practices could be drawn from the transitions in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. In July 2019, Peru organised a briefing on peacebuilding and sustaining peace with a particular focus on strengthening partnerships for nationally-owned transitions.
In a 21 December 2017 presidential statement, the Security Council recognised the importance of adequately resourcing the peacebuilding components of UN peacekeeping missions, including during mission transitions and drawdown, and emphasised the need to draw upon the advice of the Peacebuilding Commission in discussions on mission mandates and transitions.
Key Issues and Options
Key issues relevant to the issue of peacekeeping transitions that may be raised in the ministerial-level debate include how to:
- promote the primacy of politics as a hallmark of transition processes;
- foster cooperation and partnership between host countries, various UN entities, troop- and police-contributing countries, and other partners;
- address the threat of violence against civilians during the transition and reconfiguration of peacekeeping missions;
- foster coherence among all relevant stakeholders in effectively implementing transitions;
- support the protection of civilians in transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding operations;
- support the engagement of civil societies as well as promote the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and youth in transition planning; and
- support the long-term economic and developmental needs of countries in transition.
A likely option is pursuing a resolution on peacekeeping transitions. Possible elements could include:
- underscoring the importance of political solutions in guiding transition processes;
- emphasising the need for the protection of civilians to be a key focus of attention in moving from peacekeeping to peacebuilding missions;
- appealing to member states and partners to scale up financial support for post-conflict states, while underlining the need for predictable and sustainable financing of the peacebuilding activities of countries in transition;
- highlighting the importance of crafting precise and clear benchmarks and timelines that can be implemented in a prioritised and sequenced manner;
- highlighting the role of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) in fostering coherence amongst stakeholders; and
- requesting a dedicated report of the Secretary-General on how the UN system is handling transitions.
Council members recognise that properly managed and executed transitions can help to avoid a relapse into another conflict, sustain the gains made in the management and resolution of conflicts, and pave the way for durable peace. Ireland’s objective for the ministerial-level debate in September is to facilitate discussion on how to make transitions strategic and how to manage them well. In this regard, it would like the Council to consider transitions as part of the continuum of peace operations and place the debate within the framework of the sustaining peace agenda.
While Council members are generally supportive of discussion on peacekeeping transitions as a thematic item, some past negotiations on transitions and reconfigurations of peacekeeping missions have been contentious. Specific language proposed on the protection of civilians, human rights, the rule of law, security sector reform, peacebuilding, and climate change have been divisive. The draft resolution to be proposed by Ireland may require negotiation on some of these issues.
Some members may underline the need to take into account the needs and priorities of host states. Others may point out the importance of implementing timelines and benchmarks in a flexible manner based on the evolving security situation on the ground.
As witnessed in previous negotiations, members have proposed reporting requirements on discrete aspects of different agenda items. In this regard, some members may support an effort to call for a standalone reporting requirement on peacekeeping transitions. However, others may oppose this to avoid additional budgetary implications. A proposal that the Secretary-General brief the Council on peacekeeping transitions as part of his annual comprehensive report pursuant to resolution 2378 might be more acceptable to most Council members.
UN DOCUMENTS ON PEACEKEEPING
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 June 2020S/RES/2524||This established the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).|
|20 September 2017S/RES/2378||This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|19 April 2018S/PRST/2018/8||This was a presidential statement on the closure of UNMIL.|
|21 December 2017S/PRST/2017/27||This was a presidential statement that laid out the elements related to peacebuilding and sustaining peace to be considered when reviewing the mandates and configuration of peacekeeping missions.|
|30 June 2017S/PRST/2017/8||This was a presidential statement welcoming the closure of UNOCI.|
|Security Council Letters|
|30 April 2021S/2020/911||This was a letter from the president of the Security Council addressed to the Secretary-General and the permanent representatives of Council member states containing the record of the 14 September 2020 meeting on UN peacekeeping operations.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|18 July 2019S/PV.8579||The Council held a briefing on “Strengthening partnerships for successful nationally-owned transitions”, under the agenda item Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace.|
|12 September 2018S/PV.8349||This was a Council debate on peacekeeping reform.|