What's In Blue

Posted Mon 14 Mar 2022

UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS): Vote on Mandate Renewal Resolution*

Tomorrow (15 March), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for one year. The US, the penholder on South Sudan, circulated an initial draft of the text to the full Council on 26 February. Two rounds of formal negotiations were held on 1 and 8 March. A draft was put under silence until 1 pm on Friday (11 March). Silence was subsequently broken by India, then by China and Russia, followed by the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya).

It seems that India broke silence regarding language on climate change. When Russia and China broke silence, they proposed substantial changes to the draft and expressed disappointment that language they had requested to be deleted was not removed by the penholder. From the outset of the negotiations, Russia and China apparently sought the deletion of previously agreed language in several areas, particularly on issues such as climate change, human rights and women, peace and security. The A3 broke silence with comparatively smaller edits, including on capacity-building. Following the breaking of silence by these members, several other members, such as Albania, Brazil, France and the UK, submitted additional comments. The US engaged in bilateral discussions and placed a slightly revised draft in blue on Friday evening. At the time of writing, it seemed that China and Russia might abstain tomorrow.

Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue extends UNMISS’ mandate until 15 March 2023, maintaining the troop ceiling of 17,000 personnel and a police ceiling of 2,101 personnel. It retains the four core elements of the mandate: protection of civilians; creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; supporting the implementation of the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and the peace process; and monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights. It also retains the three-year strategic vision first outlined in resolution 2567, which renewed the mission’s mandate in March 2021.

In relation to the mission’s mandate, language was added and amended, including with reference to elections and the constitution-making process. It seems that during the negotiations, members were particularly divided over proposed new provisions on sexual and gender-based violence and climate change.

On protection of civilians, references to protection within the context of elections were added, apparently at Norway’s request. Language was also added by the penholder with input from Ireland on facilitating access to organisations that provide services and support to survivors, including medical, sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, mental health, legal, and socioeconomic services. The draft also contains new provisions on support for community-led peace dialogue processes, noting the need for those to be informed by gender-sensitive conflict and political analysis. It seems that proposed new language on supporting certain political parties in South Sudan to implement commitments and action plans on preventing conflict-related sexual violence was removed at the request of the A3.

As was the case last year, language on climate change was contentious during the negotiations. As a result, proposed language calling on UNMISS to assist in developing mitigation measures against increasingly frequent and extreme weather, which may exacerbate communal violence, was removed at the request of Brazil, China, India and Russia. Among other things, it appears that these members opposed this language because they rejected the direct linking of climate and security. However, the draft text in blue includes new language specifying that UNMISS’ support to the delivery of humanitarian assistance should include provision of gender-sensitive risk assessments on the adverse effects of climate change. This language was retained by the penholder, apparently over the objections of several members.

On supporting the peace process, the draft includes new references to equal participation in transitional justice and the constitution-making process, as requested by Norway. The draft contains new language on capacity-building—including support to South Sudan’s efforts regarding the constitution-drafting process and transitional security arrangements—which was suggested by the A3. A new paragraph was added mandating the mission to provide technical assistance—including capacity-building—as well as security and logistical support for the electoral process, in coordination with the UN Country Team and regional and international partners, to facilitate the electoral cycle and support the drafting of a permanent constitution. The paragraph also refers to the full and meaningful participation of women, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees during the electoral process and notes that “UNMISS support will be continually assessed and reviewed according to the progress made by the South Sudanese authorities”.

The fourth pillar on human rights remains largely unchanged. The penholder added reference to ensuring timely action to deter, prevent and respond to sexual violence.

Substantial amendments and additions were made to the section addressing the South Sudan peace process. These additions include expressing deep concern about delays in implementing the R-ARCSS; the need to establish free and open civic space; the importance of an inclusive constitution-drafting process, economic transparency and public financial management reform, as well as recognising the detrimental effect of corruption and misuse of public funds.

Two new paragraphs were added by the penholder, including one stressing that free, fair and inclusive elections will be critical and that an inclusive and transparent constitution drafting process will need to precede the elections. The second paragraph includes calling on the government and all relevant parties to ensure an environment conducive to a free, fair, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and timely electoral process. These paragraphs were edited to reflect input from China, Russia and the A3.

As was the case last year, the draft calls on the government to fulfil a series of priority measures before the end of UNMISS’s mandate. These remain largely the same as last year, with the addition of making progress on key milestones in the preparations for free and fair elections, in line with the presidential statement adopted by the Council on 27 October 2021 (S/PRST/2021/20).

UNMISS Operations

A proposed addition to include climate security analysis was not included in the draft, apparently at the request of Brazil, China, India, and Russia. A new reference to countering disinformation and misinformation that might hinder the mission’s ability to implement its mandate was added, as suggested by Brazil. The penholder also added three new sub-paragraphs, namely in relation to improving UNMISS’s peacekeeping-intelligence and analysis capacities; implementing more effective evacuation procedures; and improving UNMISS’s safety and security facilities.

Reporting

The draft in blue requests the Secretary-General to continue to report to the Security Council on implementation of the UNMISS mandate every 90 days. Proposed language requesting detailed reporting on human rights violations and abuses within as short a timeframe as possible contained in earlier drafts was ultimately not included following concerns expressed by the A3, China and Russia.

Preambular Paragraphs 

The draft in blue contains several updates and amendments to preambular language. In new language added to the text, the Council expresses concern over the effects of the illicit trafficking and diversion of arms, including the potential to undermine respect for international humanitarian law and impede the provision of humanitarian assistance. This was added at the suggestion of Mexico. A new preambular paragraph was added on the importance of strategic communications to peacekeeping operations, as requested by Brazil, with input from the US and UK as well as India.

In previous years, references to the South Sudan sanctions regime and the arms embargo were contentious, with China and Russia being particularly critical of such references. The draft in blue ultimately retains previously agreed on language on these issues. Council members are expecting further discussions on the sanctions regime in the coming months. Resolution 2577, which renewed the sanctions regime until 31 May, requested the Secretary-General to conduct an assessment by 15 April of progress achieved on key benchmarks established in that resolution to review the arms embargo.

A previously agreed preambular paragraph, contained in resolution 2567, on the adverse effects of climate change was retained in the draft in blue without any changes. Last year, Russia broke silence on language relating to climate change.

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*Post-script: On 15 March, the Council adopted resolution 2625, extending the mandate of UNMISS for one year, with 13 votes in favour. China and Russia abstained. (The last time a resolution renewing the mandate of UNMISS was not adopted unanimously was in 2019 when Russia abstained.)

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