What's In Blue

Liberia Resolution Adoption

On Monday morning (17 September), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The adoption follows a briefing which took place on Tuesday (11 September) by Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia and head of UNMIL, on the latest developments and the 15 August report on the mission (S/2012/641). That briefing was followed by consultations among Council members.

It seems that the draft resolution on UNMIL was circulated among the Council’s P5 members on 4 September, but was shared with elected members more than a week later, last Wednesday (12 September). As with last year’s renewal (resolution 2008 of 16 September 2011), it seems the current draft extends the mandate of the mission for another year, until 30 September 2013. However, there appear to be some important differences, both in its emphasis and in its substance.

The new resolution is expected to endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his 16 April special report on UNMIL (S/2012/230) to decrease the mission’s current military strength from seven to three infantry battalions. This would mean a reduction of approximately 4,200 personnel from the current authorised strength of 7,952 and take place in three phases between September 2012 and July 2015. (UNMIL’s military strength would accordingly total approximately 3,750 personnel by July 2015.) This drawdown, however, would be subject to conditions on the ground. The draft resolution also endorses the Secretary-General’s recommendation to implement the first phase of reducing the military component by 1,990 personnel by September 2013.

While last year’s resolution 2008 merely welcomed the “efforts of the Government of Liberia to further national reconciliation and economic recover and economic recovery, and to combat corruption and promote efficiency and good governance,” the new resolution will likely call on the Liberian government to do so. This wording (which could be taken as implicit criticism of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government), seems to have been sought by the Europeans among the Council members, but also reflected concerns of the UN secretariat. (The Secretary-General’s 15 August report on UNMIL was unusually critical of the Liberian government’s shortcomings in the areas of governance and reconciliation, including persistent corruption and nepotism, all of which have a direct impact on the country’s longer term peace and security.)

The draft resolution emphasises the Liberian government’s responsibility for the country’s security and recognises that it must “prioritise” in order to best utilise its available resources. It also stresses that UNMIL’s primary tasks are to continue to support the government to solidify peace and stability and to protect civilians. UNMIL would also support the transition of complete security responsibility to the Liberia National Police by strengthening its capabilities to manage existing personnel, and improve training programmes to expedite its readiness to assume security responsibilities.

The draft also addresses the volatile border between Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire and mentions the joint challenges and linkages in the two countries. The text calls on both UNMIL and UNOCI (the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire) to enhance their support for the stabilisation of the border area, including through increased cooperation and the development of a shared, strategic plan in support of the governments of Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Additionally, the resolution seems set to acknowledge the earlier endorsement of the Secretary-General’s recommendation that three armed helicopters be transferred to UNOCI to be used in the Liberia-Côte d’Ivoire border area. In addition, there is a request for the Secretary-General to provide the Council with a midterm report by 28 February 2013 and a final report no later than 15 August 2013 on the situation in Liberia.

For a few years now, some Council members, in particular members of the EU keen to cut down peacekeeping costs, have been insistent on the need to downsize parts of UNMIL’s military. Intense negotiations took place last year over the duration of the mission’s mandate extension and there were calls to limit the renewal to eight months.

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