What's In Blue

Posted Wed 8 Sep 2021

UN Peace Operation Transitions: Vote on Draft Resolution*

Tomorrow (9 September) afternoon, the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution proposed by Ireland on UN peace operation transitions. The resolution is an outcome of today’s (8 September) open debate on UN transitions under the agenda item “UN peacekeeping operations”, which focused on UN transitions as part of the continuum of UN peace operations.

The draft text in blue builds on several previous Council products on peacekeeping operations, including a 21 December 2017 presidential statement that recognised the importance of adequately resourcing the peacebuilding components of UN peacekeeping missions, including during mission transitions and drawdown. It stresses the crucial role peace operations play in the pursuit of sustainable political solutions and building peace. In this regard, the draft text in blue emphasises the need for peace operations to engage at the earliest possible stage in integrated planning and coordination on transitions with the host state and other national stakeholders. It also notes the importance of clear, credible, sequenced, prioritised and achievable UN peace operation mandates based on accurate and reliable information on the situation on the ground and a realistic assessment of threats against civilians and UN personnel, premises and assets.

Another element stressed in the draft resolution in blue is the need to strengthen the planning and management of transition processes and enhance organisational learning and guidance on transitions. The draft text acknowledges the importance of strong coordination and cooperation with the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and reaffirms the Council’s intention to regularly draw on its advice, including to “assist with the longer-term perspective required for peacebuilding and sustaining peace being reflected in the formation, review and reconfiguration of peace operations”.

The draft resolution in blue reiterates the importance of facilitating adequate resourcing for UN peace operations, including during mission transitions, to support the long-term stability and continuity of peacebuilding activities. In this regard, it takes note of the General Assembly’s decision to convene a high-level meeting in its 76th session to consider options for ensuring adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for peacebuilding.

Another significant aspect of the draft resolution is its focus on the protection of civilians during peace operation transitions. The draft text in blue encourages national governments to develop and implement national plans, policies, or strategies to protect civilians, that include national benchmarks, prior to such transitions. It underscores the importance of “a United Nations presence appropriately configured with necessary capabilities and capacities to provide support to protection of civilians efforts during transitions”. The draft resolution further states that building the capacity of “representative, responsive and accountable” security sector and rule of law institutions that adhere to international law is critical to sustainable peace.

A series of reporting requirements on peace operation transitions constitute a key new deliverable in the text. The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to incorporate comprehensive reporting on the status of ongoing transitions in his regular country-specific reporting on relevant UN missions, and to provide updates on the status of transitions across relevant UN peace operations in his comprehensive annual briefing on peacekeeping reform which was mandated by resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017. It also requests the Secretary-General to provide a report on the status of transitions across relevant UN peace operations, including those that have transitioned within the previous 24 months, before 30 June 2022.

Ireland circulated a zero draft of the text in the last week of August. It convened one round of virtual negotiations on 30 August, after which the negotiations were held via email. Following input from Council members, Ireland placed a revised draft under silence on 3 September. During the negotiations, it seems that the deliberations among Council members centred on the definition of UN transitions, the reporting requirements and language related to human rights and climate change. It appears that the most difficult divisions to resolve were on references to human rights and climate change, which led China and Russia to break silence on the text twice. After additional negotiations, compromise was reached by removing the references to climate change and retaining the language on human rights. An amended draft was placed under a short silence procedure yesterday (7 September) and passed. It was subsequently put in blue, and the Council is expected to vote on the text tomorrow (9 September) afternoon.

The draft text in blue contains several references to human rights. It recognises that “states bear the primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons within their territory and subject to their jurisdiction as provided for by international law”. The draft resolution further acknowledges the important role played by actors such as civil society organisations and journalists in the promotion and protection of human rights. However, proposed language that would have asked UN peace operations, resident coordinators and UN country teams to incorporate the security implications of climate change, ecological changes, and natural disasters in their activities to prevent relapse into conflict was not retained in the final version of the text.

Regarding the reporting requirement, it seems that Ireland’s original proposal was for the Secretary-General to provide a comprehensive annual briefing on UN transitions to the Security Council, to be followed by an open debate, but this was met with opposition by China and Russia. The P3 (France, the UK and the US) apparently proposed alternative language, asking the Secretary-General to provide the briefing as part of his country-specific reports and his annual comprehensive report pursuant to resolution 2378. As a compromise, the language proposed by the P3 was incorporated in the text, and it was decided that instead of an annual report to be followed by a debate, the Council will request the Secretary-General to submit one report on the issue by next year.

It seems that Ireland’s objective with this initiative was to consider transitions as part of the continuum of peace operations, including peacekeeping missions and Special Political Missions. The draft text in blue notes that the transitions of these operations are a strategic process which builds towards a reconfiguration of the strategy, footprint, and capacity of the UN “in a manner that supports and reinforces national ownership…and that includes engagement with local community and civil society, and, where relevant, regional and sub-regional organisations, and other relevant stakeholders”. The text also states that transitions should be “informed by the operational context and the national priorities and needs of the host State government and its population” and take place “with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and the inclusion of youth and persons with disabilities”.

*Post-script: On 9 September, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2594 on UN peace operation transitions.

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