What's In Blue

Posted Mon 13 Sep 2021

Libya: Vote on UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow (15 September), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for another year, until 15 September 2022. The vote was originally scheduled for 14 September, but was postponed until 15 September.

The UK, the penholder on Libya, circulated a first draft on 1 September and convened one round of negotiations on 3 September. The draft was then placed under silence until the morning of 8 September. Silence was broken twice, in the afternoon of 8 September and on a revised draft on 9 September. It appears that the penholder subsequently engaged in bilateral consultations and put a revised draft in blue on Friday (10 September).

The negotiations on the draft text were informed by an independent strategic review of UNSMIL, which the Council requested in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 that renewed UNSMIL’s mandate. The Secretary-General shared a report of the review with Council members in a 6 August letter. Among other things, the strategic review recommends for UNSMIL to strengthen and intensify its good offices, mediation efforts and engagement with Libya’s neighbouring countries, especially regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces. It recommends that UNSMIL’s Special Envoy be relocated from Geneva to Tripoli and for his position to revert to that of a Special Representative, supported by two Deputy Special Representatives, one for political affairs and the other serving as the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. (Resolution 2542 replaced the position of the Libya-based Special Representative with a Geneva-based Special Envoy and introduced a Libya-based UNSMIL Coordinator in charge of managing the mission’s day-to-day operations.) Although some Council members had apparently voiced concerns during the negotiations about the full endorsement of the strategic review’s recommendations, the draft text in blue welcomes the strategic review and requests UNSMIL to fully implement its recommendations. It also requests UNSMIL to explore “all avenues to increase efficiency and redeploy existing resources, including through prioritisation and the reconfiguration of tasks and resources, as needed and where appropriate”.

It seems that Council members acknowledged the strategic review’s conclusions on the need for UNSMIL to increase its mediation efforts and on the importance of the mission leadership’s physical proximity to Libyan and regional actors. As such, the draft resolution in blue apparently reverses the structural changes made to the mission in 2020 pursuant to resolution 2542 and re-introduces the Tripoli-based Special Representative position. The draft text stipulates that the restructuring should take effect once a new Special Representative is appointed. According to the findings of the strategic review, such changes would “help ensure a renewed focus on the political dynamics of the various aspects of the conflict in Libya while ensuring complementarity and integration between UNSMIL and the UN Country Team”.

The draft resolution in blue also emphasises the importance of engagement with regional actors. It recognises the key role of neighbouring countries and the region, and new language, which was apparently proposed by the penholder, underscores the role of regional organisations in support of the UN. The draft text also expresses concern over the “destabilising accumulation and misuse of weapons” and of the flow of armed groups and mercenaries. In that regard, the text contains language from a presidential statement on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) adopted on 17 August, which encourages “international support and regional cooperation between Libya, neighbouring countries in the Sahel and relevant United Nations bodies”.

It seems that divisions arose during the negotiations on language in the operative section regarding the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. In an earlier iteration of the draft, a provision on UNSMIL’s coordination and cooperation with international actors noted that such cooperation would aim to facilitate the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya. It seems that China and Russia opposed this reference, which was removed. In its place, language was added from resolution 2570 of 16 April, which strongly urges member states to “respect and support the full implementation of the [October 2020] ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”. In addition, a preambular paragraph that recognised the “need to plan for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed groups” was expanded by the penholder to also include “all relevant non-state armed actors, including the return of their members to their countries of origin”. It appears that the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) requested the addition of language underlining that such efforts should include regional coordination.

The draft text in blue readjusts UNSMIL’s core activities to address recent developments in the country. It includes provisions calling on the mission to support the implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement—including the “scalable and incremental deployment of UNSMIL ceasefire monitors”—and to support the implementation of the political roadmap adopted on 15 November 2020 by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). (The LPDF is an assembly of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies which is responsible for identifying a constitutional basis for elections that are set to take place in December.) UNSMIL is now also requested to play a supporting role in national reconciliation processes. In a similar vein, the preambular section includes a call to all relevant authorities and institutions to take actions set out in the LPDF roadmap to facilitate the 24 December presidential and parliamentary elections.

It appears that another divisive issue during the negotiations was language relating to human rights. Some Council members sought to include references to enforced disappearances in the preambular paragraphs and to call on the Libyan authorities to investigate violations of international human rights law and human rights abuses. However, China and Russia apparently argued that UNSMIL should focus on political developments at this crucial stage in the Libyan peace process. It seems that while the proposed language on enforced disappearances and the investigation of violations of international human rights law was not retained, references to protection— including of children and women— were included in the draft text in blue. The draft resolution calls for the swift deployment of women and child protection advisors—posts created through resolution 2542, which have remained unfilled to date. In addition, a paragraph requesting UNSMIL to assist Libyan authorities in their efforts to protect women includes a new reference to the need to protect women participating in public spaces from threats and reprisals.

*Post-script (14 September 11:00 am): In the morning of 14 September, after the publication of this story, the vote on the draft resolution was postponed until 15 September. It seems that at least one Council member asked for further time to discuss the text.

**Post-script (14 September 5:30 pm): In the afternoon of 14 September, Council members agreed to vote on a new draft resolution on 15 September. The draft text is a straightforward renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate, until 30 September.

***Post-script (15 September ): On 15 September, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2595, extending until 30 September UNSMIL’s mandate as set out in resolution 2542 (2020) and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 (2021). It appears that on the morning of 14 September, Russia indicated that it would not be able to either vote in favour or abstain on the resolution which was put in blue by the penholder, the UK, on 14 September. Subsequently, the UK requested the adoption to be postponed to the following day. As no agreement could be reached by that time, the UK tabled a technical rollover text, which was adopted as resolution 2595, to allow time for further discussions. Russia and the US delivered explanations of vote, with Russia expressing hope to achieve a common understanding on the future structure and tasks of UNSMIL, while the US urged the full implementation of the strategic review’s recommendations.