DRC: Resolution Renewing Sanctions Regime*
Tomorrow afternoon (29 June), the Security Council will vote on a draft resolution renewing the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime, which expires on 1 July. As is traditionally the case, the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, which expires on 1 August, will be renewed with the sanctions measures. On 17 June, France, the penholder on the DRC, shared a first draft of the resolution with all Council members, and on 22 June, it convened the only full round of negotiations with all Council members. Shortly thereafter, the text was placed under silence, which it passed on 25 June.
It appears that one of the aims of the penholder in drafting this resolution was to strengthen the humanitarian language in order to maintain the space for humanitarian assistance and to assist the DRC with tackling numerous humanitarian challenges. The humanitarian response plan seeking $1.98 billion to address the needs of 9.6 million people across many areas of the country is funded at only 12 percent. There are some 5 million internally displaced persons country-wide and over half a million refugees. Some 27.3 million suffer high levels of food insecurity. Humanitarian access remains challenging amidst a volatile security situation. As at 28 June, WHO has confirmed 39,758 cases of COVID-19 infections and a total of 59,443 administered vaccine doses to a population of some 92.4 million (based on UNFPA figures). The eruption on 22 May of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano north of the city of Goma in North Kivu has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country—resulting in the deaths of over 30 people, causing over 230,000 persons to become internally displaced and resulting in thousands fleeing to neighbouring Rwanda, and destroying thousands of homes. Council members met on this issue on 15 June under “any other business”. In press elements issued following the meeting, Council members called on the international community to increase its humanitarian assistance and on armed groups “to cease all forms of violence, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance and post-disaster reconstruction”.
The Draft Resolution and Negotiations
The focus on humanitarian needs of the DRC has led to the following new elements in the draft in blue:
- a new designation criteria for individuals involved in attacks on medical and humanitarian personnel;
- measures taken in line with this resolution are in full compliance with international humanitarian law; and
- measures under the sanctions regime are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences.
It seems that during the negotiations humanitarian language in the draft received strong support from Ireland, Mexico and Norway, who appeared to have sought to emphasise the need for the preservation of humanitarian space across the DRC. Similar language features in other sanctions regimes. Resolution 2339 of 27 January 2017 on the Central African Republic (CAR) imposes sanctions on anyone “obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the CAR, or access to, or distribution of, humanitarian assistance in the CAR”. The 751 Somalia sanctions regime signals that sanctions shall not negatively impact humanitarian operations. In this regard, resolution 1916 of 19 March 2010 states that “[sanctions measures] shall not apply to the payment of funds, other financial assets or economic resources necessary to ensure the timely delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Somalia, by the United Nations, its specialised agencies or programmes, humanitarian organizations having observer status with the United Nations General Assembly that provide humanitarian assistance, or their implementing partners”.
The US apparently requested several additions to the draft. One addition pertained to the Follow-on mechanism, which is comprised of a senior official supported by a team of technical experts as well as support staff. It was created by the Secretary-General in 2017 to assist Congolese authorities in investigating the murders of two members of the Group of Experts (an American and a Swedish citizen) and five accompanying Congolese nationals while on mission in the DRC. A second addition seemingly refers to the need for improved weapons and ammunition management.
The swift conduct of the negotiations appears to signal continued broad support for the sanctions measures and the work of the Group of Experts, as was the case during the unanimous adoption of resolution 2528 last year. Ireland, Mexico and Norway, who have supported the expansion of humanitarian space, have either prioritised the protection of civilians or the promotion of respect for international law during their Council tenures.
France intends to organise a briefing on the protection of humanitarian space during their Council presidency in July.
*Post-Script: On 29 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2582, which renewed the 1533 Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sanctions regime.