What's In Blue

Posted Wed 3 Jun 2020

Resolutions on the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the establishment of a follow-on mission

The Security Council expects to adopt two resolutions related to Sudan. Council members are currently voting according to the written procedures put in place due to COVID-19, and the results will be read out tomorrow (4 June). One resolution extends the mandate of the UN/AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) at its current troop and police ceiling, as outlined in resolution 2495, for two months from 31 October until 31 December 2020. A second resolution establishes a follow-on mission, the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). An initial combined draft resolution was circulated to all Council members by the UK and Germany, the penholders on Darfur, on 16 May that would have both extended the UNAMID mandate and established UNITAMS, but this was subsequently divided into two separate drafts.

Negotiations were held on May 19, 25 and 29. The two separate drafts were put under silence on 29 May until 1 June. Silence was broken, however, with Russia, China, South Africa, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines apparently submitting comments. Following further negotiations, the updated drafts were put in blue yesterday (2 June).


On 31 October 2019, the Council adopted resolution 2495, which extended UNAMID’s mandate until 31 October and decided to maintain the mission’s troop and police ceilings until 31 March, at which time the Council would decide on “courses of action regarding the responsible drawdown and exit of UNAMID” and “adopt a new resolution at the same time, establishing a follow-on presence to UNAMID”. On 30 March, in light of delays due to new Council procedures resulting from COVID-19, the Council adopted resolution 2517, which contained the same language, but extended the deadline for these decisions to 31 May. On 29 May, in order to give members more time to negotiate UNAMID’s drawdown and exit and decide on a follow-on presence, the Council adopted a three day technical rollover for UNAMID. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue stories of 30 October 2019 and 27 March 2020).


At the Council briefing on UNAMID on 24 April, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told members that plans to close UNAMID by 31 October have been rendered impractical by the spread of COVID-19 and challenges envisioned around the June rainy season (S/2020/336).

The initial draft circulated on 16 May would have extended the mandate of UNAMID, as contained in resolution 2495, for seven months from 31 October until 31 May 2021, thus recognising the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UNAMID’s drawdown. It would have maintained the mission’s police ceiling until 31 May 2021 and called for the completion of the drawdown of its military contingents by the same date. This issue was a point of contention in negotiations, with Russia, China and the three African members of the Council expressing the view that UNAMID’s troop and police celling be extended only until 31 October and also calling for two separate resolutions to be adopted, one on UNAMID and the second on its successor mission. On 27 May, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) published a 21 May communiqué, which “appeal[ed]” to the Security Council to consider the situation in Sudan separately from the mandate of UNAMID and stated the AU’s wish for a drawdown by 31 December. It was ultimately agreed that the UNAMID mandate would be extended until 31 December.

The agreed draft resolution on UNAMID also requests the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to provide the Security Council with a Special Report no later than 31 October 2020, assessing, among other things, “the impact of the peace process on the security situation in Darfur, the capacity of the Government of Sudan… to protect civilians in line with the strategy outlined in the Government of Sudan’s letter addressed to the President of the Security Council dated 21 May 2020 (S/2020/429), and recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID”. The Council will take into account the report’s findings when deciding which “courses of action [to take] regarding the responsible drawdown and exit of UNAMID” by the expiration of its mandate on 31 December.

The draft also contains a paragraph dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It requests UNAMID to provide support, within its mandate, capacities and existing resources, to Sudan in its efforts to contain the spread of virus, including in internally displaced persons and refugee camps. It also requests the Secretary-General to inform the Security Council of any development which may delay the drawdown of UNAMID as a result of COVID-19. Finally, the draft requests the Secretary-General to update the Council on the implementation of UNAMID’s mandate and its drawdown as an annex to the 90-day report.


The draft resolution on UNITAMS welcomes positive developments in Sudan over the past several months, including the 17 August 2019 signing of the Constitutional Declaration on the establishment of a new civilian-led transitional government; the cessation of hostilities by many parties to the conflict; and improvements in security conditions in Darfur, while expressing concern that the security situation in some regions of Darfur remains precarious. The draft also reaffirms the primary responsibility of the Government of Sudan to protect civilians across its territory, acknowledging the Government of Sudan’s National Plan for Civilian Protection, which was officially conveyed to the Security Council on 21 May (S/2020/429), two days after the first round of negotiations on the text occurred. Additionally, the draft refers to the need for the government to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and its responsibility to address longstanding drivers of instability and inequality. The initial draft expressed the Council’s intention to consider “imposing additional measures against any party that impedes the peace negotiations or the implementation of future peace agreements”. However, Russia opposed this language, as well as language referring to the ICC, and both references were eventually removed.

The draft takes note of the 12 March special report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the Secretary-General (S/2020/202), requested in resolution 2495, which contained recommendations on the appropriate course of action regarding the drawdown of UNAMID and options for a follow-on UN presence. It also takes note of a letter from Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, dated 27 February (S/2020/221), requesting support from the United Nations in a number of areas, including “assistance to consolidate the gains made in Darfur… through peace-building efforts”. Reference to a 28 January letter from Prime Minister Hamdok to the Secretary-General (S/2020/77)—which called for the establishment of a Chapter VI peace support operation in the form of a special political mission—was removed from the resolution put in blue. This followed both a request by Russia to remove the reference in the initial draft and a subsequent 28 May letter from the chargé d’affaires of the Sudanese mission (S/2020/77/Corr.1) noting that the “Document S/2020/77, dated 28 January 2020, is hereby withdrawn”.

The draft decides to establish UNITAMS for an initial period of 12 months and sets out the following four strategic objectives:

  • Assist the political transition, including through good offices; technical assistance to the constitution drafting process, preparations for elections, legal and judicial reform and support to implementation of the human rights, accountability and rule of law provisions of the Constitutional Document;
  • Support peace processes and implementation of future peace agreements, including through good offices and if so requested by the parties to the negotiations, support to the implementation of any future peace agreements;
  • Assist peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law in Darfur and the Two Areas (that is, South Kordofan and Blue Nile), including supporting Sudanese-led peacebuilding; supporting the government’s capacity to extend state presence and inclusive civilian governance; assisting the government to establish a secure and stable environment within which any future peace agreement can be implemented and providing capacity building support for security authorities; and supporting the strengthening of the protection of human rights in conflict-affected areas, including by supporting protection for women and children from sexual and gender-based violence;
  • Support the mobilisation of economic and development assistance and coordination of humanitarian assistance, including collaborating with international financial institutions and ensuring effective and integrated cooperation of UN agencies, funds and programmes.

The negotiations on these objectives, particularly the first and the third objectives, were difficult. In relation to the first objective on assisting the political transition and progress towards sustainable peace, Russia and China opposed the inclusion of “progress towards democratic governance, in the protection and promotion of human rights”, which was contained in the initial draft. When silence was broken on 1 June, objections were also apparently made to the inclusion of language referencing monitoring and reporting on progress in the implementation of the Constitutional Document and the provision of technical assistance in the areas of rule of law and security sector reform, in addition to language on monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation.

There were also differences of view regarding the third objective of the mission as it relates to the protection of civilians. While a number of members believe that the new mission should have a mandate to protect civilians, others (Russia and China among them) opposed the inclusion of such tasks in the mandate. In this regard, at the most recent UNAMID briefing on 24 April, Russia stated: “it seems obvious that a future UN presence should be based on Chapter VI of the Charter of the UN. Let us leave the task of the protection of civilians to the Sudanese authorities” (S/2020/336). Additionally, some members objected to language mandating UNITAMS to deploy United Nations military and police advisers to provide capacity building to security authorities. This language was removed from the draft in blue and replaced with more general language noting that such capacity building could be done “through United Nations advisors”.

Several members in addition to Russia apparently also expressed the position that UNITAMS should be a Chapter VI special political mission and not a peacekeeping mission. Chapter VI of the UN Charter focuses on the peaceful settlement of disputes and sets out non-coercive measures, which distinguishes it from the coercive measures outlined in Chapter VII. During negotiations, this aspect of the mandate proved to be contentious, with, amongst others, the three African members and Russia arguing for an explicit reference to UNITAMS operating under Chapter VI. The above-mentioned AU PSC communiqué also appealed to the Council to ensure that any future mission deployed in Sudan should be under Chapter VI of the UN Charter. Nonetheless, the final draft does not include a reference to Chapter VI.

The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of Mission of UNITAMS and that a Deputy Special Representative be appointed to serve as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. It requests that the Secretary-General “swiftly initiate the planning for and establishment of UNITAMS, with a view to reaching full operational capacity as soon as possible” and to start delivering its strategic objectives no later than 1 January 2021.

It calls for close coordination of UNITAMS with UNAMID, including “to ensure that the eventual transition from UNAMID to UNITAMS is phased, sequenced and efficient”. It also calls for close coordination with other missions in the region, particularly the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) as well as the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

Finally, the draft requests the Secretary-General to provide the Council “with a suggested structure and geographical deployment within 60 days of the adoption of this resolution”. It also requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every 90 days on the implementation of the UNITAMS mandate and on clear and well-identified key benchmarks, to be provided to the Council in the first 90-day report, to track UNITAMS’ progress against its strategic objectives.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails