What's In Blue

Posted Mon 24 Nov 2014

Resolution and Briefing on UN Mission in South Sudan

Tomorrow morning (25 November), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for an additional six months. Following consultations on Syria tomorrow afternoon, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous is expected to brief Council members on current developments in South Sudan and the related peace process under “Any Other Business”.

UNMISS Resolution
The UNMISS draft resolution maintains the core elements of the mission’s mandate—protection of civilians, monitoring and investigating human rights violations, facilitating humanitarian access, and supporting implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement—outlined in resolution 2155 of 27 May, the last UNMISS resolution. The text has been updated to reflect security, human rights and diplomatic developments related to South Sudan in recent months. There are some minor but noteworthy differences between the draft and resolution 2155. One addition is that the draft emphasises the importance of effective engagement with communities to help UNMISS fulfill its mandate to protect civilians. There are also amendments calling on the mission to take additional measures to ensure the safety of air operations in South Sudan, possibly prompted by the downing in August of an UNMISS helicopter by unidentified assailants that led to the deaths of three crew members.

The negotiations on the draft resolution were relatively smooth. As penholder on South Sudan, the US circulated the draft on Wednesday evening (19 November) and a short negotiating session was held the next day followed by email exchanges to finalise the text. The resolution was put under silence on Friday (21 November). Russia apparently broke silence early this morning, but after some minor changes, the resolution passed successfully through a second brief silence period this afternoon and is now expected to be put into blue.

It seems that Russia had concerns about language in the draft resolution calling on the Secretariat to provide the Security Council with recommendations on next steps regarding accountability in South Sudan. (While not specified, ostensibly this is a reference to accountability for those who undermine the peace process and commit gross human rights violations.) In the final draft, compromise language was used indicating that the Secretary-General’s UNMISS reports to the Council “could include” accountability issues.

Several Council members have been keen to emphasise the importance of holding those responsible for the violence in South Sudan since the conflict started last December accountable. The notion that there should be reporting on options for accountability is consistent with the UK’s intervention during the Council’s 2 May briefing on South Sudan (S/PV.7168) in which Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said that “it would be helpful for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to set out the different available tracks for accountability in South Sudan.”

There was also a slight revision in the text regarding the findings on South Sudan of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. While the Council expressed concern at her findings of widespread sexual violence in the country, a reference to the Council’s concern with a lack of services for victims has been deleted in the final draft. (Special Representative Zainab Hawa Bangura visited South Sudan from 5 to 11 October.)

There were also substantive discussions during the negotiations on key issues related to the Council’s engagement on South Sudan that were not reflected in the final text. While the draft resolution expresses the Council’s intention to consider “all appropriate measures” against those who undermine the peace process in South Sudan, some members wanted the text to be amended to include explicit reference to sanctions. However, China and Russia noted their preference not to include such an amendment, and the text remained unchanged.

There was also some discussion of the human rights reporting of the mission. Some members expressed the view that the mission could be producing more public human rights reports, and discussed how this message could be conveyed in the resolution more clearly. However, it was decided that the language regarding human rights reporting would not be altered, as it already appears quite clear in terms of calling for regular public reporting.

Ladsous Briefing on South Sudan under “Any Other Business”
It seems Ladsous’s briefing was initiated by the Secretariat to allow it to convey the main findings of the Secretary-General’s most recent UNMISS report, which was published on 17 November (S/2014/821). While the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution tomorrow renewing the UNMISS mandate, South Sudan is not on the Council’s planned agenda next month. Providing Council members an understanding of the current situation is especially important given that the arrival of the dry season allows for greater mobility of military forces and supplies and will heighten the likelihood of increased fighting absent a political solution to the conflict. While the sporadic fighting in recent months has been focused primarily in Upper Nile and Unity states, in his report the Secretary-General expresses concern that it could spread to other regions of the country.

Given the potential surge in fighting and the fluid operating environment, Council members will likely be interested in Ladsous’s overview of the mission’s ongoing efforts to protect civilians. Roughly 100,000 civilians remain sheltered in overcrowded UNMISS sites, primarily in Bentiu (49,000), Juba (28,000) and Malakal (more than 18,000), because they fear the insecurity outside the camps. How the mission is addressing the overcrowding, violence and inter-communal tensions within the sites may be of particular interest to Council members. Considering that those in the UNMISS sites represent only a small fraction of the total of 1.4 million civilians displaced within South Sudan, along with the 467,000 who have fled and became refugees in neighbouring countries, Council members may also be interested in hearing about the mission’s efforts to expand its protection activities beyond the sites, including through various patrolling strategies.
Council members may also be keen to hear about the deployment schedule of additional peacekeepers. According to the Secretary-General’s report there is still a shortfall of over 2,000 troops, as approximately 10,335 have been deployed as of 5 November, well below the 12,500 troop ceiling. An additional 310 Kenyan troops are expected to arrive by the end of the month, and members might inquire whether this is indeed likely to happen. There may also be questions about the deployment schedule of the next wave of peacekeepers from China and Bangladesh, as well as when five helicopters expected to come from Ethiopia and Rwanda will arrive.

Finally, there may be some interest in any information Ladsous might be able to convey about the peace talks in Ethiopia between the South Sudan government and the opposition. On 7 November, the heads of state of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development issued a series of resolutions giving the government of South Sudan and the opposition 15 days to complete negotiations on a transitional government of national unity. This deadline has passed without the parties reaching an agreement.

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