What's In Blue

Posted Thu 16 Sep 2021

Afghanistan: UNAMA Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow (17 September), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which is due to expire on 17 September. The co-penholders, Estonia and Norway, circulated a first draft on 8 September. Following several rounds of negotiations and at least two revised drafts, a draft was put under silence until 10 am on 16 September. Silence was broken by China, and several other Council members then provided additional comments, which led to a further revised draft being placed under silence until 4 pm on 16 September. Silence was not broken, and this draft was put in blue.

In the draft resolution to be voted on tomorrow, Council members have decided to renew UNAMA’s current mandate for six months and give careful consideration to the rapidly unfolding situation on the ground before making any decisions on the future configuration or responsibilities of the mission. The difficulties in the negotiations do not appear to have arisen in relation to this approach, but rather language on counter-terrorism, human rights, women, peace and security, and other issues.

The draft in blue extends UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2022 and requests the Secretary-General to prepare a written report by 31 January 2022 that outlines “strategic and operational recommendations for the mandate of UNAMA in light of recent political, security, and social developments” in Afghanistan. Earlier drafts of the resolution asked the Secretary-General to provide “strategic and operational recommendations for the mandate of UNAMA, in light of recent political, security and social developments, including the situation of women and girls”. This reference to the situation of women and girls was apparently removed at the insistence of China and Russia. It seems that several countries fought to retain language on the participation of women and the draft in blue includes a reference to the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.

The initial draft of the resolution asked the Secretary-General to deliver this report by 17 February 2022. The date was initially brought forward to 17 January 2022 after some Council members expressed concern that 17 February 2022 was too close to the expiry of UNAMA’s extended mandate. The final due date appears to reflect a compromise among Council members in relation to this issue.

The draft in blue also asks the Secretary-General to brief the Council on the situation in Afghanistan and the work of UNAMA every other month until 17 March 2022. The initial draft requested that the Secretary-General provide this briefing every month; however, it appears that some Council members felt that a monthly briefing was not necessary.

It seems that references to establishing an inclusive government and human rights were particularly contentious issues. The initial draft emphasised that sustainable peace can only be achieved by an Afghan-led political process that aims at a political settlement that establishes an inclusive government that upholds human rights. This was removed, and in its place, a subsequent draft emphasised the importance of establishing an inclusive government that upholds human rights. This language was also not accepted, as China and Russia apparently opposed drawing a link between Afghanistan’s new government and human rights. The draft in blue emphasises the importance of establishing an inclusive government, and further emphasises the importance of upholding human rights, including for women, children and minorities.

The draft in blue includes preambular language that reaffirms that effective humanitarian assistance requires full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and refers to the importance of ensuring that Afghanistan’s territory is not used as a base for terrorism. In this respect, the text reiterates concerns raised by the Council in resolution 2593, which was adopted by the Council on 30 August in response to the challenging security, humanitarian, and human rights situation in the country. It seems that Russia sought to include references to specific terrorist organisations in the text, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh), its affiliates, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Other Council members were not supportive of this proposal, and it was not incorporated in the final text. Apparently, several members had differing views regarding the appropriate references to terrorism which needed to be addressed.

The initial draft of the resolution included additional preambular language that was not included in the draft in blue. One of these paragraphs expressed concern about the violence and security situation in Afghanistan and referred to reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. This paragraph also called on all parties to uphold international human rights law and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including those related to the protection of civilians. Another paragraph which referred to the interrelationship between COVID-19, Afghanistan’s food crisis and climate change was also removed from the final draft.

*Post-script: On 17 September, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2596, which extended UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2022 and requested that the Secretary-General submit a written report on strategic and operational recommendations for the mission’s mandate in light of recent political, security and social developments by 31 January 2022. The resolution also asked the Secretary-General to brief the Council on the situation in Afghanistan and UNAMA’s work every other month until 17 March 2022.