UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire Mandate Renewal
Tomorrow morning (25 June), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution that will renew the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which is due to expire on 30 June. France, the penholder on Côte d’Ivoire, circulated the first draft in the middle of last week, followed by an initial read through of the text on Friday (19 June). Negotiations were held on Monday (22 June) and, following some bilateral exchanges, the draft passed through a brief silence period and was put into blue earlier today. UNOCI’s mandate will remain essentially the same, with one additional task related to the upcoming presidential elections added to the mission’s political support role.
Although the negotiations were generally smooth, there were some differences of perspective. One area of disagreement was over how to characterise the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire. Some members thought the preambular language on human rights in the original draft was too positive, while others, including at least one African member, believed that it was important to highlight progress achieved. As a compromise, rather than welcoming improvements in human rights, the draft that has been put into blue welcomes “efforts to improve the human rights situation,” which have “led to progress in this field.”
Another area of disagreement related to how to refer to the future of the mission. An operative paragraph on the force structure of the mission, which was also in last year’s UNOCI resolution, refers to UNOCI’s “possible termination” following the October 2015 elections, security conditions permitting and so long as the government has the capacity to assume UNOCI’s security responsibilities. The term “possible termination” is again repeated in the penultimate paragraph of the draft, requesting that the Secretary-General report to the Council by 31 March 2016, with recommendations on the mission’s drawdown. New Zealand, supported by several elected members, proposed that this phrase not be repeated, believing that it emphasises the possibility of the mission’s departure at a time when the need for security and stability should be underscored. However, the P3 and Russia supported reiterating this phrase, with some arguing that it is important to signal the eventual departure of the mission. Ultimately, the use of the phrase “possible termination” was retained in both places in the draft.
There was widespread agreement on several areas. In keeping with the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his recent report on UNOCI, the mandate of the mission will be extended for an additional year until 30 June 2016 and the authorised force structure of the mission will remain at 5,437 military and 1,500 police personnel. Although the mission’s force structure has been downsized over the past three years, members recognise the importance of maintaining current authorised levels to help promote security during the upcoming electoral period, given concerns about potential political instability and in light of the violence following the 2010 polls.
The draft resolution extends the Council’s authorisation of French forces in Côte d’Ivoire to “support UNOCI, within the limits of their deployment and their capabilities.” According to the recent Secretary-General’s report, “support to UNOCI continues to be necessary, particularly during the electoral period…”.
The core elements of the mandate are unchanged. These include: the protection of civilians; political support; addressing remaining security threats and border-related challenges; disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and the collection of weapons; reconstitution and reform of security institutions; monitoring of the arms embargo; support for compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law; support for humanitarian assistance; public information; and the protection of UN personnel. Regarding UNOCI’s political support role, the draft resolution gives the mission the additional task of assisting the government by providing limited logistical support, particularly in remote areas, with regard to the presidential elections scheduled for October. Members widely supported mandating the mission with this additional activity, which had been recommended in the Secretary-General’s recent UNOCI report.
Moving forward, the mission’s political support role—including efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation among political actors and civil society—will be critical in promoting peace and security in the country. As Special Representative Aïchatou Mindaoudou cautioned in her 9 June briefing to the Council “certain political stakeholders are still tempted to use inflammatory rhetoric”; as a result, these actors “must continue to be encouraged to act responsibly and comply fully with the law…”. With this in mind, some Council members may request a briefing on the situation on Côte d’Ivoire in the lead-up to the October elections, although this is not mentioned in the draft.