What's In Blue

Posted Sun 30 Oct 2022

Somalia: Vote on UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Mandate Renewal*

Tomorrow morning (31 October), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for one year, until 31 October 2023.

The Council last renewed UNSOM’s mandate through resolution 2632 of 26 May, which extended the mission’s mandate for five months. Members apparently chose this duration to give time for the formation of a new government following the conclusion, in May, of the protracted Somali electoral process and to allow for a strategic review of the mission to be conducted. A new Somali federal government is now in place and has laid out its national priorities. The Secretary-General has also submitted the outcome of the strategic review to the Security Council on 26 September (S/2022/716).

It seems that the negotiations on the draft resolution went smoothly. The UK, the penholder on Somalia, circulated a first draft of the text on 24 October and convened one round of negotiations on 26 October. A revised draft was placed under silence on 27 October until 28 October. China and Russia broke silence, including about language on climate change and humanitarian issues. The penholder made further revisions and placed the text in blue on Friday afternoon (28 October).

The mandate renewal process was informed by the outcome of the UNSOM strategic review conducted pursuant to resolution 2592 of 30 August 2021 and resolution 2632 of 26 May. The independent review team, led by former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya Ian Martin, visited Somalia and Ethiopia between 1 and 9 August to hold consultations with representatives of the Somali federal government, regional states, UN agencies, the AU, the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), international partners, as well as women and youth civil society representatives. The review stressed UNSOM’s significant role for state-building in Somalia and the need for the mission’s continued presence in the country. It recognised the federal government’s request for a clear “end state” towards the transition from a special political mission to a UN country team and underscored the need for the mission to start a planning process to that end.

While noting that UNSOM’s mandate remains relevant and is aligned with the federal government’s priorities, the review stressed the need for the mission’s leadership to prioritise and sequence the mandate elements, and conduct a staffing and reconfiguration review to match the mission’s capacities with its key priorities and to strengthen its core political functions. It recommended that UNSOM provide support to the federal government and federal member states to agree on the model of federalism they want to implement in Somalia. Other important priorities highlighted by the review include support for reconciliation, democratic participation, security sector reform (SSR), human rights, the rule of law, and the women, peace and security agenda. Moreover, the review emphasised the significance of UNSOM’s close cooperation with ATMIS and recommended the establishment of joint co-located teams on substantive overlapping mandate areas. It also stressed the need to start planning for the security transition and drawdown of ATMIS in accordance with resolution 2628 of 31 March, which endorsed the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to reconfigure the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) into ATMIS.

The draft resolution in blue does not make substantive changes to UNSOM’s core mandated tasks as set out in resolution 2158 of 29 May 2014 and resolution 2592 of 30 August 2021. It welcomes the outcome of the strategic review and endorses its proposed benchmarks and recommendations to monitor the mission’s timely execution and achievement of its mandate. It also requests UNSOM to maintain and strengthen its presence across Somalia and to continue enhancing its cooperation with the federal government and ATMIS to support state-building and peacebuilding efforts in the country.

The draft text in blue expresses grave concern over the continued threats posed by Al-Shabaab to the peace, security and stability of Somalia and the wider region. The federal government has intensified its military operations against Al-Shabaab in recent months, making significant gains in removing the group from several villages and towns in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states. In this regard, the draft resolution in blue recognises these renewed operations and encourages UNSOM to provide the necessary assistance, including by “ensuring timely, balanced support to areas newly, or recently recovered from Al-Shabaab”. It also emphasises the need to accelerate the implementation of the Somalia Transition Plan, which outlines steps towards the gradual handover of security responsibilities from international forces to the government. By the end of December, ATMIS is expected to reduce the number of its uniformed personnel by 2,000 (currently, the mission has an authorised strength of 19,626 uniformed personnel).

Somalia is facing one of the worst droughts it has experienced in decades. In this regard, averting a looming famine has been a major priority for the Somali federal government and its humanitarian partners. The draft resolution in blue expresses serious concern about the humanitarian situation in Somalia and calls on member states to scale up their humanitarian support to the country.

During the negotiations, it seems that there was some discussion on language related to humanitarian guiding principles. In recent years, some members have insisted on including references to the UN guiding principles for humanitarian assistance adopted by the General Assembly through resolution 46/182 in 1991, which stressed state sovereignty and the consent of the concerned member state. This issue has affected negotiations on several Council products. The draft resolution in blue underscores the need to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance in line with applicable international humanitarian law, and in a manner consistent with the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance (UN General Assembly resolution 46/182). (For more information, see our 31 August 2021 In Hindsight on Humanitarian Space and the Security Council.)

The other issue that apparently elicited some discussion was language related to climate change, which was seemingly tweaked by the penholder to address some members’ concerns. The draft resolution in blue recognises “the adverse effects of climate change, environmental degradation, other ecological changes, natural disasters, among other factors on the stability of Somalia, including through floods, drought, desertification, land degradation and food insecurity”. It also requests the UN, the Somali federal government and the federal member states to consider these factors in their programmes in Somalia, including through comprehensive risk assessments and risk management strategies. Furthermore, the draft resolution in blue contains new language which notes the efforts by the UN to expand renewable energy use in missions.

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*Post-script: On 31 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 2657, renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) for one year. Fourteen members voted in favour and one abstained (China). The Security Council maintained UNSOM’s core mandate and tasks and requested the mission to provide regular updates every 120 days after its first report on the implementation of its mandate based on the benchmarks outlined in the strategic review, which is due by February 2023.

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