What's In Blue

Liberia Mission Renewal: Phase Two of the Drawdown Begins

On Wednesday afternoon (18 September), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution, which was put in blue yesterday, extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for another year. It seems that Council members are keen to continue the implementation of the drawdown plan of the mission while encouraging the government to make further progress, especially in the security sector. Negotiations over the draft resolution were smooth and swift. The draft text was circulated on 11 September and Council members met to discuss it the following day. Apparently, most Council members agreed on the broad contours of the text, but there was discussion over the appropriate language and placement for some of the new elements. A second draft was circulated on 13 September including most of the edits proposed. It was placed under silence procedure on 16 September and put in blue the same day.

The draft resolution extends the mandate of the mission until 30 September 2014. It also authorises the Secretary-General to continue to implement the drawdown plan envisaged in three phases in his 2012 report and endorsed in resolution 2066 adopted last September. The draft resolution authorises the Secretary-General to implement the second phase reducing the military component by 1,129 personnel between October 2013 and September 2014. (The first phase was completed on 30 June as 2,026 military personnel departed the mission and UNMIL handed over some facilities and security responsibilities to national authorities.) In the draft resolution, UNMIL’s police component is maintained to its current authorised strength including ten formed police units. Last year, resolution 2066 decided to increase the number of UNMIL’s authorised formed police units by three additional units from its then-strength of seven formed police units and requested the additional units to be deployed as soon as available, with the first unit deploying by January 2013. Since the adoption of the resolution, a formed police unit from Nepal has arrived on the ground while the second unit from China is due to deploy in October.

The draft text was circulated following a briefing and consultations on Liberia on 10 September. Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia and head of UNMIL, and Ambassador Staffan Tillander (Sweden), the chair of the Liberia configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, updated the Council on the latest developments in Liberia along with Brownie Samukai, Liberia’s Minister of National Defense (S/PV.7029). During her briefing Landgren said that the Liberian security forces have not been able to scale up their presence and operational effectiveness in order to assume the increased security responsibilities. Addressing the limited resources allocated for the police, she stressed that it was essential for the government of Liberia and its partners to redouble their efforts to develop capable and accountable justice and security.

Landgren also updated the Council on developments regarding the constitution review committee, the national reconciliation road map, the issue of corruption, the situation along the Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia border, and land reform. On the latter issue, she emphasised that land and the exploitation of Liberia’s abundant natural resources remain powerful sources of potential conflict. Tillander, addressing peacebuilding challenges, highlighted the need to accelerate progress on national reconciliation, the security sector and the rule of law.

Council members’ concern over the challenges facing the transition of security responsibilities from UNMIL to the Liberian authorities is reflected in the draft resolution. While welcoming the overall progress toward restoring peace, security and stability in Liberia and commending the cooperation between the government of Liberia and UNMIL in implementing the drawdown of the mission, the draft text urges the government of Liberia to prioritise the effective and rapid development of the security agencies. It also emphasises that the government needs to develop and sustain a self-sufficient, capable, and competent security sector to build the confidence of all Liberians.

The draft also encourages the Liberian government to enhance respect for human rights and the effective oversight and accountability of its security sector. Further efforts in terms of national reconciliation are also encouraged. Additionally, the draft resolution includes stronger language on sexual and gender-based violence. It expresses concern at the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence particularly against children and encourages the government to reinforce its commitment in this regard.

Finally, the draft resolution contains a number of tasks for the Secretary-General in preparation for UNMIL’s anticipated departure in 2015. There is a request for the Secretary-General to identify the comparative advantages of UNMIL and the UN country team and to report on his findings in his report prior to the 2014 renewal of UNMIL. The Council also expressed its intention to request the Secretary-General to deploy a technical assessment mission to Liberia by the end of 2014 that would focus on the security transition. Following this mission the Secretary-General would then provide a report by March 2015 with detailed options and timelines for the further transition of UNMIL after the three-phased reconfiguration is completed in July 2015.

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