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Posted Fri 19 Oct 2018

AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (22 October), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the Secretary-General’s 90-day report (S/2018/912). The briefing will be followed by consultations.

The Secretary-General’s report, covering 11 June to 3 October, is the first since the 13 July adoption of resolution 2429, which extended UNAMID’s mandate until 30 June 2019. The resolution reduced UNAMID’s troop ceiling from 8,735 to 4,050 military personnel, while maintaining the authorised police personnel ceiling at 2,500. It requested UNAMID to focus on both peacekeeping and long-term solutions to conflict drivers in Darfur “with a view towards the exit of the mission on 30 June 2020, and liquidation by December 2020, provided there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur”, and asked that the Secretary General’s first 90-day report include a detailed, clearly benchmarked exit strategy for UNAMID, as well as how progress on these benchmarks should be monitored. It further requested the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Commission to conduct a strategic review of UNAMID by 1 May 2019.

Lacroix is expected to give an overview of the security, humanitarian and human rights situations in Darfur, as outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. According to the report, the security situation has “remained relatively stable” except for intermittent clashes in the Jebel Marra area between government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid and the persistence of intercommunal conflict and disputes over land and resources. Lacroix may express concern about food security in Darfur and instances of access restrictions of UNAMID patrols by the government, mostly in the Jebel Marra area, as detailed in the report. While noting that there has been a decrease in human rights incidents during the reporting period, Lacroix may nonetheless note that attacks against civilians, particularly internally displaced persons, have continued with impunity and that sexual and gender-based violence has remained a serious concern.

Another issue that may be raised is the financial difficulties facing the UN Country Team in Sudan. According to the report, the “mission and its partners have the challenge of overcoming the chronic funding and personnel shortfall that the UN country team has increasingly faced as Darfur has moved out of the global spotlight.” Support for the UN County Team is especially important as the UN strives to transition to a post-peacekeeping presence in Darfur.

Lacroix is expected to brief Council members on the proposed “benchmarks and indicators of achievement” for the exit of UNAMID, set out in an annex to the Secretary-General’s report. There are three main benchmarks for the mission:
(1) “The protection of civilians; monitoring and reporting on human rights, sexual and gender-based violence and grave violations against children; the facilitation of humanitarian assistance; and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel
(2) Support for the mediation of intercommunal or other local conflict that could undermine the security situation, including through measures to address its root causes, in conjunction with the Government of the Sudan, the United Nations country team and civil society [and]
(3) Mediation between the Government of the Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur”.

A total of 53 individual indicators are categorised under these three benchmarks. Among others, individual indicators include the following:

  • no increase in conflict-related displacement;
  • the government providing “a suitable environment for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees”;
  • a cessation of conflict-related sexual violence;
  • the government engaging with OHCHR on the establishment of a country office; and
  • the government demonstrating its commitment to participate in direct negotiations on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and to conclude a comprehensive ceasefire.
  • Several of the indicators are associated with set periods of time, and the Secretary-General’s report recommends that the May 2019 strategic review include an assessment of their implementation. According to the report, the “new set of indicators reflects the positive changes in the security situation in Darfur and political developments in Sudan since 2014, when UNAMID benchmarks and indicators were most recently adjusted…[and] are intended to be (a) government of the Sudan-centred, (b) measurable and (c) realistic in terms of time frame.”

    Council members continue to differ in their assessment of the situation in Darfur. Some members seem to view more guarded recognition of progress as appropriate, while others are generally more positive in their assessment, as reflected during the July negotiations on the resolution renewing UNAMID’s mandate. China, Ethiopia, Russia and others were comfortable with the pace and scope of the mission’s reduction, as recommended in the joint UN-AU special report of 1 June (S/2018/530), but some members maintained that it was too severe. As a compromise, troop levels were reduced, but the police ceiling was maintained at 2,500. A related source of disagreement was how to characterise the timeframe for the mission’s withdrawal. While some members emphasised that the mission should withdraw by June 2020, France, the US, the UK and others indicated that such a timeline should not be absolute but should be conditioned on success in addressing the drivers of conflict in Darfur. As a result, language was added in resolution 2429 requesting the Secretary-General’s report to set out benchmarks and indicators for the eventual exit of the mission, as are contained in the most recent report. Most Council members are supportive of the proposed benchmarks and indicators, in part given the Secretariat’s consultation with all 15 members ahead of the report’s release. However, some members are of the view that they could be more specific regarding implementation.

    The Council last met on Sudan-related issues on 3 October, when Ambassador Joanna Wronecka (Poland), chair of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee, provided the quarterly briefing to Council members on the committee’s work (S/PV.8366). She highlighted aspects of the interim report of the Panel of Experts presented to the committee on 17 August (which, unlike the final report, is not made public), including that the Sudanese government continued to transfer weapons to Darfur without the required approval of the committee; that the Panel is investigating instances of potential violations of the arms embargo by rebel groups; and that there is a growing presence of Darfuri armed groups in Libya.