What's In Blue

UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal

Today (28 August), the Security Council president (Indonesia) is expected to announce the results of the written voting procedure on a draft resolution to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

The draft has gone through several rounds of negotiations, led by the UK, the penholder on Somalia. There have been two main points of divergence. The first was how to refer to Somalia’s upcoming elections in the draft resolution. In recent resolutions, the Council has included language explicitly supporting one-person-one-vote elections. In resolution 2461 (2019), the last resolution before a series of technical rollovers this year, the Council acknowledged the Somalia government’s commitment to conducting one-person-one-vote elections in 2020 or early 2021 and expressed appreciation for UNSOM’s support to the government in preparing for such an election. Universal, direct suffrage is intended to move Somalia away from the clan-based system of indirect voting used in the past.

Members’ positions were influenced by recent developments on the elections issue. On 20 August, Council members were briefed by James Swan, the Special Representative and head of UNSOM, on Somalia’s constitutional crisis that has been triggered by the likelihood that one-person-one-vote elections will not be held within the expected timeframe. Somalia’s constitution includes provisions that stipulate that elections need to have both universal suffrage and take place every four years. He indicated that at this point it would not be possible to do both.

On 21 August, following a meeting of Somali leaders in Dhusamareb, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” announced that a compromise had been reached on elections between his government and three of the five leaders of Somalia’s federal member states. In the proposed model, election constituency caucuses each consisting of 301 delegates will vote for a seat in parliament. It was also announced that the National Independent Election Commission (NIEC) will preside over the election. Although further steps need to be taken before this model becomes a reality, including getting buy-in from the other two federal member states, it marks a significant step towards holding elections in line with the timeframe mandated by the constitution.

The compromise coming out of the meeting in Dhusamareb helped Council members reach agreement on this issue. Initially, a few Council members were reluctant to eliminate the language of past resolutions that explicitly supported and underlined the need for one-person-one-vote elections. However, following the Dhusamareb meeting these members were more amenable to amended language on this issue. The draft in blue includes language noting that the parties had agreed to improve cooperation and modified language on the nature of the election, which appears to be an acknowledgement of the role the Somali leaders in creating the conditions for the elections to take place within the timeframe required by the constitution and given the challenges faced in making universal suffrage a reality.

The second difficult issue during the negotiations was the length of the mandate. The UK proposed a nine-month mandate extension, on the basis that a shortened mandate would provide an opportunity to adapt UNSOM’s mandate after elections are held. This idea was apparently supported by a majority of Council members. A shorter mandate would allow for UNSOM’s tasks to be revised shortly after the election, taking into account the changed circumstances. However, at least four member states opposed the shorter mandate and instead preferred 12 months, breaking silence on this issue. These member states felt that a nine-month mandate could put too much pressure on the Somalis and preferred keeping to the traditional 12 months. Following further negotiations, the UK agreed to a 12-month mandate.

Language on human rights, climate change, and rule of law also needed some negotiation. As has been the case in past UNSOM negotiations, some members attempted to streamline such language while others opposed any changes at all. On climate change, it seems the US wanted to add new language around the concept of “energy poverty”, an apparently new concept that several other Council members did not believe belonged in the UNSOM resolution. The draft in blue does not include this new language.

The UK also proposed adding additional human rights reporting language. This was a problem for China and Russia, which broke silence over this new language, indicating that that they were opposed to any additional responsibilities for UNSOM on human rights. Resolution 2461 requested UNSOM “to support United Nations entities to ensure system-wide implementation of the HRDDP [UN’s Human Rights Due Diligence Policy] across all United Nations support to AMISOM and the Somali security sector” but did not include a reporting requirement. As it was not possible to get agreement on having UNSOM provide reporting on the human rights situation, the draft in blue decides that UNSOM is to “monitor and include information on the human rights situation in the Secretary-General’s reporting”.

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