What's In Blue

Posted Thu 27 Oct 2022

Libya: Vote on a Draft Resolution Renewing UNSMIL’s Mandate*

Tomorrow morning (28 October), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for one year, until 31 October 2023. The draft text in blue maintains UNSMIL’s core mandated tasks, as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.

The UK, the penholder on Libya, circulated an initial draft text on 13 October and convened one round of negotiations on 18 October. It then placed a revised draft under silence procedure on Monday (24 October). Silence was broken by Russia, supported by China, including on preambular language related to human rights. Some minor amendments were made by the penholder, and a draft was put into blue on Tuesday evening (25 October).

Negotiations seem to have gone relatively smoothly compared to previous deliberations on UNSMIL’s mandate, which were difficult. Between September 2021 and July, the Council renewed UNSMIL’s mandate five times through short-term extensions because of disagreements among Council members, including concerning the length of the mandate, the restructuring of the mission, and the appointment of UNSMIL’s leadership. (For background, see our 13 September 2021, 1 October 2021, 31 January, 29 April and 28 July What’s in Blue stories.)

As was the case in April and July, the initial draft circulated by the UK called for a one-year mandate renewal. It requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council every 90 days, rather than the monthly briefings requested in resolution 2629 of 29 April. During the negotiations, Russia apparently again expressed its preference for retaining a 30-day reporting cycle. In an apparent compromise, the draft resolution in blue extends the mandate for one year and stipulates a 60-day reporting cycle.

The length of the mandate has been contentious in the recent past. During the negotiations in April and July, most Council members—including the UK, the US, the European Council members and the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya)—were strongly in favour of a one-year mandate renewal. However, Russia had made clear at the time that it would only support a shortened mandate duration until a Special Representative is appointed. The A3 abstained on resolution 2647 of 28 July because of their position that the mandate should have been renewed for longer than three months (S/PV.9103).

Following a protracted and contentious process, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal as his Special Representative for Libya and head of UNSMIL on 2 September. (The position of Special Representative replaced the role of Special Envoy, as decided in resolution 2629. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021.) Bathily officially assumed his duties on 25 September and arrived in Tripoli on 14 October. As a result of the appointment, it seems that Russia did not oppose the one-year mandate renewal during the negotiations. The draft in blue welcomes the appointment of Bathily and urges all Libyan parties and key stakeholders to engage with him constructively and fully.

Beyond this, the draft resolution in blue largely reflects the language agreed to in resolution 2647 with some additions and amendments. It reiterates a request, made in resolution 2629 of 29 April, for the mission to implement the recommendations of the Independent Strategic Review of UNSMIL (S/2021/716) and in doing so to explore all avenues to increase efficiency and redeploy existing resources. In this context, the draft text in blue includes a new reference to strengthening the use of strategic communications to support the mission’s activities. The draft in blue contains an additional request, which was included in the initial draft, for the Secretary-General to update the Council on the implementation of the recommendations of the strategic review in his regular reporting to the Council. (The delays in appointing UNSMIL’s leadership complicated the Council’s approach to the implementation of the strategic review, of which Bathily was the team leader.)

The need to convene elections is another issue emphasised in the draft resolution in blue. Following the postponement of the national elections planned for 24 December 2021, a stalemate has persisted between two rival political factions in Libya. In his first briefing to the Council on 24 October, Bathily emphasised the importance of holding legislative and presidential elections and said that the Security Council must stress to Libyan actors the need to work together to this end (S/PV.9162). The draft text contains a new paragraph in its operative section that welcomes the support provided by the UN to the Libyan High National Elections Commission (HNEC), and encourages the continuation of this support to enable the HNEC to deliver free, fair, transparent and inclusive national presidential and parliamentary elections across Libya. It also notes, in the preambular section, that all Libyan stakeholders previously gave strong guarantees to support and respect the independence and integrity of the electoral process, as well as the election results.

The draft in blue includes a new reference welcoming the efforts of the Presidential Council—a body formed under the Libyan Political Agreement of 17 December 2015 as part of the Government of National Accord—to launch the national reconciliation process, including to facilitate a meeting on national reconciliation in Libya in the coming months. It also contains language calling on all parties to refrain from violence or any other actions that could escalate tensions, exacerbate conflict, and undermine the political process. The protracted political stalemate continues to generate security threats, including fighting in Tripoli that erupted in late August and resulted in civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure. The draft text in blue expresses concern about these violent clashes, based on language from a press statement issued by Council members on 1 September (SC/15015).

Several members made suggestions for additional language in the course of the negotiations, some of which was retained in the preambular section of the draft resolution in blue. Based on a proposal by Albania and Norway, which was supported by the penholder and others, the draft text in blue strongly encourages all parties to create a safe and enabling environment for members of civil society, including those who promote and protect human rights. Based on language proposed by Norway (the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict), which was supported by the penholder and others, the draft in blue expresses concern about reported violations and abuses against children in Libya and recalls the importance of the protection of children. The draft also urges all parties to implement the relevant resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, another proposal put forward by Norway.

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*Post-script: On 28 October, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2656, extending the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for one year, until 31 October 2023. The A3 members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) made separate statements following the adoption, including to express support for the one-year mandate renewal.

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