MINUSCA Mandate Renewal*
Tomorrow (12 November), the Security Council is set to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the authorisation for French forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) to use all means to support MINUSCA at the request of the Secretary-General for another year.
The draft resolution in blue renews MINUSCA for a period of one year within its existing troop limits of 11,650 military personnel and 2,080 police personnel. The priority tasks of the mission remain unchanged from those outlined in resolution 2499 of 15 November 2019 that most recently renewed MINUSCA’s mandate. Resolution 2499 was the first mandate renewal following the signing of the Political Peace Agreement in the CAR between the government and 14 armed groups in Bangui on 6 February 2019. The mission’s priority tasks include support for the extension of state authority to all parts of the country, including through the deployment of security forces, and for the preservation of territorial integrity; the protection of civilians; good offices and support to the peace process, to national reconciliation, social cohesion and transitional justice; and facilitation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The mandate renewal comes in the context of presidential elections in the CAR set to take place on 27 December, with a possible second round of presidential elections in February 2021. Legislative and local elections are also scheduled for early 2021. According to the Secretary-General’s 9 October report on MINUSCA, the CAR’s political environment is “increasingly characterised by tension and mistrust” as the elections approach. It appears that the negotiations on the mandate renewal resolution went smoothly, with all Council members seemingly recognising the importance of sending a unified message to the CAR authorities and the various armed groups in the country that the international community expects the elections to be peaceful and credible. Two rounds of negotiations were held on 5 and 7 November and resulted in only minor changes to the mission’s core mandate.
Council members seemingly sought to respond to the challenging electoral process in the CAR and to express support for the country’s authorities. In this regard, the draft text in blue includes new language noting the CAR government’s “efforts to conduct the electoral process in accordance with the Constitution” and welcoming the “commitments made by President Faustin-Archange Touadéra during the high-level meeting on the CAR he co-chaired with the AU and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on 1 October 2020”. Additional language highlights a recent opinion of the CAR Constitutional Court, which notes that “any change in constitutional timelines should result from a broad national consultation and consensus, stressing that only inclusive, free, fair, transparent, credible, peaceful and timely elections, undisturbed by disinformation and other forms of manipulation of information, can bring lasting stability to the CAR”.
The draft resolution further tasks MINUSCA with “encourag[ing] dialogue among all political stakeholders, in an inclusive manner, to mitigate tensions throughout the electoral period” as part of its existing role of assisting the CAR authorities in the preparation and delivery of peaceful presidential, legislative and local elections.
The draft text includes only one additional amendment to MINUSCA’s tasks: a reference calling on the mission to help “alleviate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic”, as requested in resolution 2532 of 1 July supporting the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire to address the threats of the pandemic.
Despite a largely uncontentious negotiation process and broad support for the MINUSCA mandate, several issues arose that required additional discussions among Council members. The penholder, France, put a first draft of the text under silence on Monday (9 November). Russia and the United States subsequently broke silence the following day. It appears that Russia had insisted that the text include language on humanitarian assistance which recalled the “UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance”. These guiding principles are included in UN General Assembly resolution 46/182 of 19 December 1991. The guiding principles call for the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States” to be fully respected in accordance with the UN Charter. In this context, the guiding principles note that “humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country”. This latter point has been at the centre of Council discussions on other instances of delivery of humanitarian assistance in conflict situations, such as the divisive issue of the delivery of cross-border aid to Syria. Some member states apparently objected to the inclusion of such references in the operative paragraphs of the draft text. A compromise was reached that retains the “guiding principles” reference in a preambular paragraph, while also calling for the “safe, timely, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence”.
Language referencing the role of women in peacekeeping and the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse was another matter of discussion in the negotiations. Indonesia and other members wished to refer to women in peacekeeping, in line with resolution 2538 that was adopted during Indonesia’s presidency in August 2020. Resolution 2538 calls for women’s “full, effective and meaningful participation at all peacekeeping levels and positions”. The United States, in breaking silence, requested that language calling for the “safe working environment for women and addressing threats and violence against them” be removed. It was replaced with a more general reference calling for the “implement[ation of] other relevant provisions of resolution 2538”.
Finally, several members proposed language that built on last year’s MINUSCA mandate renewal on monitoring the implementation of the UN zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. Resolution 2499 called on troop contributors to “take appropriate preventative action, including by vetting all personnel before deployment and through timely investigations of allegations, as appropriate”. The draft text in blue urges troop contributors to hold perpetrators accountable in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. In an apparent effort to recognise Indonesia’s argument that the onus should be on all mission personnel and not only on uniformed personnel, new language was added requesting the Secretary-General to take necessary measures to ensure “full compliance of all personnel in MINUSCA” with the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
*Post-script: On 12 November, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2552 extending the mandate of MINUSCA until 15 November 2021.