What's In Blue

Libya: Council to Renew UNSMIL Mandate

Tomorrow (15 September), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution in person renewing the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for another year until 15 September 2021.

It seems that the UK, the penholder on Libya, shared a first draft of the resolution with all Council members on 4 September and one meeting on the text took place on 8 September; further negotiations took place via email. On 10 September, the UK put a text under silence, which was broken by China. It seems that the issue was resolved bilaterally, and a draft was put in blue on 11 September.

The negotiations were apparently not contentious and a unanimous adoption is expected. Disagreements between Council members appeared to have taken place primarily around cross-cutting issues such as human rights and women, peace and security, which are routine sticking points in Council negotiations.

The core of UNSMIL’s mandate remains unchanged. There is no longer a prioritisation among UNSMIL’s responsibilities, as had been the case in prior years; some tasks are specified and a few responsibilities added to the mandate. With regard to the envisioned ceasefire, UNSMIL is now tasked with helping to achieve it “and, once it is agreed by the Libyan parties, provide appropriate support to its implementation”. The Council also asks UNSMIL to “coordinate and engage closely with international actors including neighbouring countries and regional organisations”. UNSMIL’s support, “upon request”, for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is now anchored in its mandate as well. Its monitoring and reporting on human rights is described in more detail in the draft resolution: UNSMIL will “monitor and report abuses and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including sexual violence in conflict, notably through the effective deployment of women and child protection advisers”.

Resolution 2510, adopted on 12 February, endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya and requested the Secretary-General to report on several aspects, including on “proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the UN”. The draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to submit that information “no later than 60 days after the adoption of this resolution”.

Another new element of the draft is a request to the Secretary-General to conduct an independent strategic review of UNSMIL and to present it to the Council before 31 July 2021. Aspects that the Council wants to see included in the review are, for example, the efficiency of UNSMIL’s structure, UNSMIL’s capacity to implement its mandate, the priority of tasks, and options for ceasefire monitoring.

On 2 March, Ghassan Salamé, then the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, announced his resignation, citing stress-related health reasons. So far, candidates put forward by the Secretary-General have not been able to garner unanimous support from Council members. Moreover, the US was advocating that the role be divided into two positions: head of UNSMIL and a Special Envoy for Libya. The result was a stalemate among the permanent members of the Council (P5) over the appointment. A new paragraph in the draft resolution manifests the split of the role, which seems to be agreeable to the P5. UNSMIL will now be headed by a “Special Envoy of the Secretary-General”, who is tasked to “exercise overall leadership of UNSMIL with a particular focus on good offices and mediation with Libyan and international actors to end the conflict”. UNSMIL will report to the Council through the Special Envoy. The “day-to-day operations and management” are now within the purview of an “UNSMIL Coordinator”, who works “under the authority of the Special Envoy”. Consequently, every mention of the “Special Representative” from previous resolutions was replaced by “Special Envoy”. During the negotiations, no Council member opposed this change in UNSMIL’s leadership structure. It seems that Council members expect the appointments to happen swiftly.

On 22 June, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution (A/HRC/43/L.40) requesting the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Libya to “establish the facts and circumstances of the situation of human rights […] and to collect and review relevant information to document alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties”. In the zero draft of the UNSMIL resolution now in blue, a paragraph had been included welcoming the establishment of the fact-finding mission as a means of ending impunity and promoting accountability. In an apparent compromise with China, after it had broken silence, the paragraph was removed.

Language from the women, peace and security agenda was strengthened throughout the resolution. The Council urges “all parties to implement the relevant resolutions on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” and requests stronger reporting on these issues by UNSMIL. The draft in blue also recognises “the need to protect women’s rights organisations, and women peacebuilders from threats and reprisals”. The initial draft circulated by the UK included women human rights defenders in that sentence. It appears that this was not acceptable to China and Russia. Mentioning women human rights defenders has been difficult during Council negotiations in the past, most prominently during the negotiations of resolution 2493 of 29 October 2019 on women, peace and security. As a compromise, resolution 2493 references “those who protect and promote human rights”.

In the context of the Council calling upon member states to cease UN sanctions violations, the draft in blue includes language on “ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel”. The Secretary-General’s latest UNSMIL report (S/2020/832) mentions the continued recruitment of mercenaries by both the UN-backed and internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). The Secretary-General reports on accusations by the LNA that Syrian mercenaries are fighting for the GNA and accusations by the GNA that Sudanese and Wagner Group mercenaries are fighting on the side of the LNA.

Another new paragraph was added addressing grave violations against children in Libya as described in the latest Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict (A/74/845–S/2020/525).

The draft also welcomes “UNSMIL’s role in supporting an independent audit of the Central Bank”. The audit was requested by the head of the GNA, Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, in a letter to the Secretary-General in July 2018. The audit was launched on 1 August.

New language was further added condemning “the forced shutdown of oil facilities”. Since the beginning of the year, militias and mercenaries allied with the LNA have blockaded the country’s major oil facilities, resulting in a complete loss of revenue from oil products, according to the Libyan National Oil Cooperation. The Secretary-General reports that this has led to a loss of $7.5 billion for Libya.

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