What's In Blue

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal

This afternoon (22 June), the Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which expires on 30 June, until 31 August. The resolution in blue will be the second technical rollover of UNSOM’s mandate since March.

Council members began the written voting procedure on Friday (19 June), and the results will be read out by the Council president, France, on Monday afternoon. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to continue to inform the Council regularly on implementation of the resolution through oral updates and written reports addressing the situation on the ground and progress towards achieving key political benchmarks. The draft resolution further notes that the next report of the Secretary-General on UNSOM is due by 13 August.

The first technical rollover of UNSOM’s mandate was adopted in March. The UK, the penholder on UNSOM, pursued a text calling for a mandate extension until 30 June, due largely to the impact of COVID-19 on the Council’s negotiations. Some members were also wary of renewing the mandate, unchanged, for the standard one-year period until there was more clarity on what role the mission could play in supporting Somalia’s planning for its elections, envisioned for late 2020 or early 2021.  The short extension would also allow the Council to reconsider the UNSOM mandate after it reauthorised the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mandate in May. While permanent members were able to meet in person to discuss the UNSOM text ahead of the general shutdown of UN headquarters in March, there were no substantive negotiations among all 15 Council members.

Last week the UK proposed another technical rollover until 31 August, and Council members readily agreed to this. It seems that the main reason, yet again, is the wish for the Council to give fuller consideration to the mission’s mandate before renewing it for a full year and also to do so prior to the upcoming elections. The expectation is that the Council will determine how best UNSOM can provide strategic support and advice to the electoral process, and adjust the mission’s mandate as appropriate, at a time when the Somalia government is further along in its planning for the elections.

COVID-19 in Somalia is a complicating factor that appears to be affecting electoral preparations. Somalia has been heavily affected by COVID-19, with over 2,700 cases as of 20 June, and there has been no progress towards the establishment of an electoral timetable. A particularly critical step is for the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) to submit a report detailing the path toward elections. On 27 June, NIEC chair Halima Ismail is scheduled to appear before the Federal Parliament to give a report setting out the road ahead; this event has, however, already been delayed by several weeks.

Council members last discussed Somalia in an open videoconference (VTC), followed by a closed VTC, on 21 May. The briefers were James Swan, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia; Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and Head of the AU Mission in Somalia; and Agnès Marcaillou, Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service.

Council members have repeatedly stated that Somalia is at a “critical juncture.” They have called on Somalia to take action to lay the foundations for successful elections.  Several maintain that elections should take place as planned in late 2020 or early 2021, and some have stressed their concerns that Somalia is falling behind schedule.

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