What's In Blue

Posted Thu 28 Jun 2012

Liberia Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (29 June), Council members are set to discuss the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) following a briefing by Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). The briefing will focus on the Secretary-General’s special report (S/2012/230) on UNMIL. (The report was prepared following an assessment mission deployed by the Secretary-General on 20 February, and led by DPKO.)

Although the special report was submitted on 16 April, Council members decided to wait until after their visit to West Africa from 19-23 May to discuss the report. (The three-country tour which covered Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone began in Monrovia on 19 May.) A key purpose of the visit to Liberia was to follow-up this report and assess the implementation of UNMIL.

One of the key points from the special report that will likely be discussed tomorrow is the recommendation for a very careful adjustment of UNMIL’s security presence over the next three years. The report recommended the repatriation of 4,200 troops in three phases between August 2012 and July 2015, leaving the mission’s military strength at approximately 3,750 troops for the foreseeable future. (UNMIL’s total troop strength at the time of the report was is 7,950.) It also recommended the addition of three formed police units to UNMIL’s police component over the next three years. (UNMIL police’s current strength is 498 advisers and 845 officers in seven formed units.)

This recommendation concerning UNMIL troop numbers was clearly on Council members’ minds during the mission in May particularly during their meeting with Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and members of the cabinet as well as during their visit to the National Police Training Academy. While Council members may generally agree on the proposed timeframe for the drawdown and the troop numbers, there is some concern that Liberia may not be ready to take over responsibility for security in three years.

Council members are likely to agree with the special report’s view that the fragility of the peace in Liberia and the significant economic and political gains made so far are “vulnerable to disruption.” Although Council members appeared generally optimistic about Liberia’s future following their visit, it also highlighted the challenges Liberia is still facing. These include high unemployment among those under 35 (and the need to create opportunities for them), as well as strengthening government institutions and building up the security sector.

Council members may also want to discuss the development of the justice and security sectors given that UNMIL is expected to hand over its security responsibilities over the next few years. While in Monrovia Council members had frank discussions on these two sectors and may want to highlight the need for a strong national security capacity.
It seems likely that Council members will begin negotiations on a resolution reflecting the key recommendations of the 16 April special report on UNMIL sometime next month. The UNMIL mandate does not come up for renewal until 30 September, but there may be interest in bringing forward the extension of the mission’s mandate if there is agreement on the key recommendations.

Tomorrow’s UNMIL discussion will be followed by consultations on the Liberia Sanctions Committee’s midterm report (S/2012/448), which was submitted on 15 June. There have been discussions among Council members about whether there was a need to review the Liberia sanctions list following the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s recent conviction of former President Charles Taylor. Although the midterm report does not appear to have made any recommendations for removal of individuals or entities, the issue of whether certain designations are still warranted may arise during the discussions tomorrow.

The report also covers the troubles in the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border, where seven UN peacekeepers were killed on 8 June and some Council members may be interested in having further information on the situation there.

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