What's In Blue

Posted Tue 28 Jun 2016

AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (29 June), the Security Council is scheduled to renew the mandate of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for an additional year. The initial draft was circulated to Council members by the UK, the penholder on Darfur, on 17 June. After two lengthy negotiations, the draft passed through silence this afternoon and is now in blue.

The draft text does not make fundamental changes to the UNAMID mandate. As over the past several years, it emphasises that the mission must continue to prioritise decisions about the use of its capacity and resources with regard to specific objectives. These include the protection of civilians, humanitarian access, and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel and activities. The draft further requests that the mission implement its mission-wide strategy to achieve these objectives.

One new element in this year’s text is the request to the Secretary-General to make recommendations within 120 days of the adoption of the resolution on practical steps that can be taken by all Sudanese parties with the support of UNAMID to achieve the mission’s benchmarks. This is critical with regard to the future of the mission because several Council members view the achievement of the benchmarks – which include an inclusive peace process between the government and the non-signatory movements of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur; the protection of civilians, unhindered humanitarian access and the safety and security of humanitarian workers; and the prevention or mitigation of community conflict—as a prerequisite for UNAMID’s exit, which Sudan continues to advocate.

This year’s draft specifies additional information that the Secretary-General should transmit to the Council in his quarterly UNAMID reports. In the context of reporting on status of forces violations, the draft calls on the Secretary General to report on “access restrictions and significant operational obstacles such as those related to customs clearances and visas.” With regard to reporting on progress toward UNAMID’s benchmarks, the draft requests that the quarterly reports include information on progress made in response to the Secretary-General’s recommendations on steps that can be taken by the parties in Sudan to help the mission achieve its benchmarks.

Language in the draft text on the evolving political and humanitarian situation and the relationship between the government and the mission exposed different views. Disagreements arose in the negotiations on a number of issues, including how to characterise the security situation, how to refer to restrictions placed on the mission’s operations by the government of Sudan, and how to refer to the role of the Joint Working Group, which is tasked with developing an exit strategy for UNAMID and includes representatives of the UN, the AU and the government of Sudan. It should also be noted that the government of Sudan circulated a document to Council members on 17 June in which it made suggested amendments and deletions to a draft of the UNAMID resolution, affixing a non-paper explaining these changes. It is unclear what impact, if any, this correspondence had on the negotiations.

One specific area of disagreement was how to characterize the Darfur referendum that was held on 11-13 April to determine whether Darfur would remain as five administrative units or become one administrative unit. The initial draft circulated by the UK expressed concern at the timing of the referendum and the disenfranchisement of displaced persons unable to participate. Although this view was supported by several Council members, other members that tend to be more sympathetic toward the government of Sudan maintained that this perspective was too critical. As a compromise, the language on the referendum is more neutral. On the one hand, the final text welcomes that the referendum “took place peacefully;” on the other hand, it notes concerns expressed in the 2 June special report of the UN Secretary-General and the AU Chairperson on UNAMID regarding voter eligibility and the timing of the vote. It is telling that the concern expressed is through a reference to the UN-AU report, apparently a concession to those supportive of the government of Sudan’s conduct of the referendum as it attributes criticism of the conduct of the vote to others (i.e., the AU and the UN) rather than directly to the Council.

Divergent views were expressed in the negotiations on the timing of Secretary-General’s recommendations on practical steps that can be taken by all Sudanese parties with the support of UNAMID to achieve the mission’s benchmarks. The initial draft called for the recommendations to be provided within 90 days of the adoption of the resolution, or by late September. Some members–including China and Russia, among others—preferred that they be provided after a longer period of time. It appears that the rationale for this view was that the Council should have time to receive input on the achievement of the benchmarks from the Joint Working Group, which is also expected to reconvene by late September. The language in the final draft requesting the Secretary-General to submit the recommendations to the Council within 120 days, rather than within 90 days, and to build on any agreed recommendations of the Joint Working Group, would appear to be a concession to China, Russia and others. Nonetheless, the final version seems to prioritise the Secretary-General’s input over that of the Joint Working Group by noting that the Council will consider the Secretary-General’s recommendations in due course.

Council members spent time refining the language regarding Sudan’s cooperation with the mission. Text in the initial draft on delays in clearing shipments of rations and equipment for UNAMID from Port Sudan was augmented to indicate the number of containers that have recently been cleared, as well as those whose clearance is pending. By demonstrating partial cooperation from the government, this language allows Council members who support Sudan to say that it is cooperating and those who are less inclined to do so to argue that its cooperation is only partial and not consistent.

The draft resolution “recognises the Government of Sudan’s commitment to cooperate on all logistical issues” related to the mission’s operation (i.e., access for UNAMID and humanitarian personnel, visas, and customs clearances) and calls on it to “continuously honour its commitment.” The qualifier “continuously” was an amendment proposed by one of the permanent members that was incorporated into the final text, and perhaps reflected concerns about the government’s lack of consistent follow- through on its commitments.

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