What's In Blue

Posted Wed 28 May 2014

Mandate Renewals for UN Missions in Abyei, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia

Tomorrow (29 May) the Security Council is scheduled to adopt three resolutions renewing the mandates of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).

The Council will renew the UNISFA mandate for an additional four months. The initial draft was circulated to Council members on 19 May by the US, the penholder on UNISFA. Following two negotiating sessions the draft resolution was put into silence on 27 May, and then into blue earlier today. It seems there was little disagreement over the text and negotiations were smooth.

While the resolution leaves the fundamental mandate of the mission unchanged, the draft does include strong language expressing concern over the volatile situation in the Abyei region and the lack of progress by Sudan and South Sudan in honouring security and political commitments regarding the disputed region, which straddles the Sudan-South Sudan border, and the border areas more generally. The draft resolution notes with concern the stalled efforts by Sudan and South Sudan to demilitarise the Safe Demilitarised Border Zone and to make operational the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism along their mutual border. The draft also reiterates previous demands that Sudan remove its police around the Diffra oil field, and that South Sudan fully remove its security personnel from Abyei. It further urges that a peace conference including leaders from the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka communities be organised. (The two communities have clashed in Abyei in recent years.)

There is frustration among several Council members with the lack of cooperation exhibited by Sudan and South Sudan in addressing the challenges they face with regards to Abyei. A strategic review of UNISFA’s mandate, carried out from 11-25 April by UNISFA, UN Secretariat officials and representatives from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Development Programme, provided a grim assessment of the security and political situation in Abyei, as well as of the efforts of the parties to fulfill their agreements. The Secretary-General’s recent report on Abyei notes with alarm that “the conflict over Abyei still has the potential to bring Sudan and South Sudan back to war. The political processes, which were designed to resolve the dispute over its final status and restore confidence between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities, are now in total paralysis” (S/2014/336).

Tomorrow, the Council is also expected to renew the UNIOGBIS mandate for six months. The Council has held two negotiating sessions-on 23 and 27 May-since Nigeria, as penholder, circulated the initial draft on 21 May. The first draft called for a three month technical rollover. However, some Council members preferred renewing the mission for one year and requesting the UN to conduct a review of the mandate in the first quarter of 2015, since this was the recommendation of the Secretary-General in his latest report on UNIOGBIS (S/2014/633). A new draft circulated on Saturday by Nigeria, sought to strike a compromise between these two positions by extending the mission for six months, and having the UN conduct and report to the Council on the review by the end of October. Yesterday, despite some concern that this timeframe would overlap with an expected donor conference for Guinea-Bissau to be held in the fall, the six month proposal was accepted by members.

At yesterday’s negotiation, the main issue of contention was the language on natural resources. The Secretary-General’s latest report on the restoration of constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau (S/2014/632) highlights the “unprecedented destruction” of the forests over the last two years and a rise in illegal logging, along with issuance of illegal fishing licenses and the excessive exploitation of natural resources overall during the reporting period for the benefit of a few individuals. In the draft circulated by Nigeria on 24 May, language on “illegal logging, deforestation and the excessive exploitation of natural resources” were added to the already existing preambular and operative paragraphs about illegal fishing. China and Russia, however, strongly opposed specific references to illegal logging and deforestation. Instead, the draft to be adopted tomorrow only adds language that condemns and calls for the international community to support efforts to combat “illegal exploitation of natural resources”.

Other changes in the draft resolution mostly reflect recent and upcoming developments pertaining to Guinea-Bissau. The draft includes the Council’s first reference to the expected donor conference scheduled for later this year and the Governance Efficacy Amelioration Programme, a plan for reforming public administration. It also welcomes the holding of successful presidential and legislative elections in the country. (On 23 May, the National Elections Commission confirmed José Mario Vaz, of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, as the winner of the 18 May presidential run-off election with 61.9 percent of the vote, defeating independent candidate Nuno Gomes Nabiam.)

The draft resolution that is expected to be adopted tomorrow will renew UNSOM for one year. An initial draft was circulated by the UK on 23 May and a brief round of negotiations was conducted yesterday. The draft resolution was put under silence earlier today, but Russia broke silence regarding humanitarian language. At press time, the draft resolution was about to go into blue, following a compromise between Russia and the UK, the penholder on Somalia.

UNSOM’s mandate, which is due to expire on 3 June, will be essentially unchanged from the five components first authorised in resolution 2102 on 2 May 2013: “good offices” in support of peace and reconciliation; providing advice on peacebuilding and statebuilding; coordination of international donor support; government capacity building on human rights; and human rights monitoring and reporting.

In terms of revisions to the draft resolution following the first round of negotiations, the most significant changes appear to be the addition (at the initiative of two elected members) of a preambular paragraph and two operative paragraphs on human rights. The draft text expresses concern at reports of human right violations, reiterates the importance of adherence to the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and the UN Zero-Tolerance Policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and calls upon the government to protect human rights and ensure accountability for violations (including those within the context of military operations).

Several paragraphs of the draft resolution also seem particularly salient in light of a joint statement issued yesterday by the envoys to Somalia of the UN, EU, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which calls upon the Federal Government of Somalia to take action to resolve the country’s current political crisis. The draft resolution as well as yesterday’s joint statement stress in addition to improving security, the need for progress on developing a federal system, reviewing the constitution, and preparing for elections in 2016.

The draft resolution also changes the cycle of the Secretary-General’s reports on UNSOM from 90 days to 120 days, with the first report due by 25 September. The decision to increase the reporting period (and thus reduce the number of reports per year from four to three) was apparently uncontroversial among Council members.

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