What's In Blue

Posted Sun 29 Aug 2021

Somalia: Vote on UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow (30 August), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for a period of nine months, until 31 May 2022. The UK, the penholder on Somalia, circulated a first draft on 13 August, and convened a read-through session on 17 August. Two rounds of virtual negotiations took place on 19 and 24 August, followed by bilateral consultations between the penholder and individual Council members. A revised draft was then placed under silence on 25 August. Silence was broken three times on 25 August, on 26 August and on Friday (27 August), before the draft was put in blue on Friday evening.

The negotiations on the draft text in blue were informed by recent developments in Somalia, including political turmoil surrounding the holding of elections. On 27 April, facing intense domestic and international pressure, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” reversed his 13 April decision to extend his presidential term and the term of the House of the People, Somalia’s lower house, for another two years. This paved the way for indirect elections to be held this year. The subsequently established electoral timeline scheduled upper house elections from 25 to 28 July, lower house elections from 10 September to 2 October, and the presidential election on 10 October. The upper house elections commenced with delays in the federal member states Galmudug and Jubaland (29 July), South-West State (3 August) and Puntland (11 August). Hirshabelle has yet to open polls.

The draft resolution in blue retains UNSOM’s core mandated tasks and role, which were set out in resolution 2158 of 29 May 2014 and most recently extended in resolution 2540 of 28 August 2020. These include electoral support and the promotion of reconciliation and dialogue between the federal government and its member states. The draft text contains new paragraphs addressing recent developments, such as language calling on Somalia to swiftly organise free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and to finalise outstanding electoral preparations. New preambular paragraphs apparently reaffirm the Council’s expectation that one-person-one-vote elections will be held in the future.

While UNSOM’s mandate already included tasks relating to the provision of electoral support to the federal government through technical, operational and logistical assistance, the draft resolution in blue apparently expands UNSOM’s mandate to also provide such support to the federal member states and the recently established Technical Electoral Support Team, the Federal Electoral Implementation Team, the State Electoral Implementation Teams, and the Election Dispute Resolution Committee. The draft text further expresses the view that such assistance should be provided for one-person-one-vote elections at the federal member state and district levels in 2025.

It seems that one area of discussion among Council members during the negotiations was how UNSOM can help to facilitate inclusive electoral and political processes in Somalia. The language in UNSOM’s current mandate asking it to provide technical advice and capacity-building to support the government and its members states to enable full, equal and meaningful participation of all Somalis now appears to contain more specific language on the involvement and representation of women at all levels of decision-making in the areas of elections, peacebuilding and reconciliation. It further asks UNSOM to continue its advocacy for increased investment in the women, peace and security agenda. Language from last year’s resolution mandating UNSOM to support government and federal member states to accelerate Somali government-led inclusive politics now appears to specify that such inclusion encompasses the participation of all stakeholders, including women, youth and all Somali clans—the latter reference having replaced the phase “minority clans” throughout the draft.

It appears that divisions emerged between Council members over the envisaged mandate length and the timing of a strategic review to inform how UNSOM can best support a newly elected Somali government and possible security structure, following the renewal of the mandate of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which is expected in December. In addition to proposing a mandate renewal until 31 May 2022, it seems that the penholder suggested asking the Secretary-General to conduct the strategic review after the conclusion of the election process, to “initiate the development of an Integrated Strategic Framework”, and to report to the Council by the end of March 2022. A later iteration of the draft text added that the Secretary-General should consult the government prior to undertaking the strategic review and that the review should include recommendations for “clearly defined, measurable and realistic” benchmarks to track UNSOM’s progress; similar language was used in resolution 2524 of 3 June 2020, which established the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

Some members, including Estonia, apparently preferred for UNSOM’s mandate to be extended for a longer period, until June 2022, and for the review to take place in April 2022. It seems that these members maintained that longer timeframes would allow the new government to settle in and for the new security set-up to be determined. China and Russia apparently supported renewing the mandate for a shorter period, until February 2022, and for the review to take place in January 2022. They maintained that these timelines would allow UNSOM to swiftly adjust to the requirements of a new government and security arrangements on the ground. It seems that the penholder placed a draft under silence reflecting the March strategic review and May mandate extension timeframes. China and Russia apparently broke silence on the draft several times over this issue.

It seems that there were also discussions on cross-cutting themes. Several Council members apparently sought to expand existing language on climate change, human rights, and children and armed conflict. However, China and Russia opposed such additions, apparently arguing that some of them may divert attention from the mission’s previously mandated provisions. Proposed language was not retained in the draft that would have: welcomed the government’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism (the recurring Human Rights Council’s review of member states’ human rights record), encouraged the adoption of child rights legislation in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and requested members to take steps towards becoming a State Party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It seems that Ireland suggested language that was not retained that would have urged the government to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute all reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence, including those perpetrated by security personnel.

*Post-script: On 30 August, Council members unanimously adopted resolution 2592, which renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) until 31 May 2022 and asked the Secretary-General to conduct a strategic review of the mission by March 2022. The resolution maintained UNSOM’s core mandated tasks while calling on the mission to extend its electoral support also to Somalia’s federal member states and expressing the Council’s expectations for the holding of one-person-one-vote elections in 2025 at the federal member state and district levels.