What's In Blue

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

This afternoon (29 April), 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 Council members on 12 April after discussing the draft with the other permanent members (China, France, Russia, and the UK). The penholder convened a reading of the text on 16 April, followed by the first round of negotiations involving all Council members on 22 April. The US shared a revised draft text on 24 April, with the second round of negotiations taking place the following day (25 April). It then circulated a second revised draft of the resolution later the same day, placing it under silence procedure until 26 April. Silence was broken by China, after which several other delegations—including members of the “A3 plus one” grouping (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana), France, Russia, Switzerland, and the UK—submitted additional comments. Following consultations with some members, the US placed the draft text in blue without a further silence procedure on Saturday (27 April).


This year’s mandate renewal comes at a critical juncture, as South Sudan prepares for its first post-independence elections. On 4 August 2022, all signatories to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) agreed to a roadmap extending the transitional period by 24 months to implement its key outstanding tasks. The original transitional period agreed to in the R-ARCSS ended on 22 February 2023, while the extended transition period is scheduled to end on 22 February 2025. National elections are planned for December 2024.

The Secretary-General’s most recent report on South Sudan, dated 26 February, noted that implementation of critical benchmarks outlined in the R-ARCSS, necessary for holding elections at the end of this year, remains behind schedule. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s report noted that “an assessment as to whether a critical mass of compliance has been achieved will be made in April 2024”. (For more information and background, see the brief on South Sudan in our April 2024 Monthly Forecast and 4 March What’s in Blue story.)

On 14 March, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2726, renewing the mandate of UNMISS until 30 April. This technical rollover was pursued to allow the Council sufficient time to review the conclusions of the UN Secretariat’s assessment regarding South Sudan’s election preparedness and then to have a substantial discussion on UNMISS’ mandate renewal, especially on the mandate’s technical electoral assistance component. (For background, see our 13 March What’s in Blue story.)

On 9 April, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom briefed Council members under “any other business” on the assessment report, which was submitted to the Council on the previous day (8 April). This assessment aimed at determining whether the minimum political and technical preconditions for a peaceful electoral process exist and, if not, what political decisions and resources would be required to achieve that objective. It described delays and lack of progress on the implementation of the outstanding tasks, including the constitution-making process, an integrated election security plan, an electoral dispute resolution mechanism, determining the type and number of elections, voter registration modalities, and the holding of a census. The report also expressed concerns about the widespread intercommunal violence and the presence of small arms and light weapons across the country. It welcomed the inter-party dialogue on the election process among South Sudanese political parties and urged the South Sudanese leaders to display political will and allocate the required resources to support the institutions necessary for a democratic transition.

Negotiations on the Draft Resolution

The draft resolution in blue extends UNMISS’ mandate until 30 April 2025, maintaining the mission’s overall force levels at a ceiling of 17,000 troops and 2,101 police personnel. The draft retains the four core elements of the mission’s mandate: (i) protection of civilians (PoC); (ii) creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance; (iii) supporting the implementation of the R-ARCSS and the peace process; and (iv) monitoring, investigating, and reporting on violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights.

This year, the US sought to update the language on the strategic vision guiding the overall long-term goals of the mission, first outlined in resolution 2567 of 12 March 2021 for three years. The draft resolution in blue decides that UNMISS will advance a multiyear strategic vision to prevent a return to civil war and an escalation of violence in South Sudan, to enable the self-reliance of South Sudan, to address the critical gaps towards building durable peace at local and national levels, to support inclusive and accountable governance, and to support elections.

The key issue during this year’s negotiations pertained to the mandate’s technical electoral assistance component. Although Council members share concerns about delays in the implementation of critical benchmarks outlined in the R-ARCSS, the US has been critical about what it perceives as the South Sudanese government’s lack of political will to implement the agreement. During the Council’s latest briefing on UNMISS, held on 5 March, the US said that in the absence of urgent action from the South Sudanese government, “allocating further financial resources for election preparations…sends a wrong message”. It added that future funding for the elections must be accompanied by a renewed push on the South Sudanese peace process and improved humanitarian access. On the other hand, several other members—such as China, Russia, and the “A3 plus one”—have traditionally advocated for enhanced international financial support to assist South Sudan in its political transition and for strengthening its capacity-building.

Considering the lack of progress outlined in the Secretary-General’s 8 April assessment report, the US sought to recalibrate the language on UNMISS’ electoral assistance. The initial draft text circulated by the penholder apparently authorised the mission to “provide limited technical assistance and advice” to the South Sudanese government and other relevant parties, including on technical aspects of the conduct of elections; voter education programmes for prevention and response to election violence; and continued trainings and dialogues among all political stakeholders, with the full, equal, meaningful, and safe participation of women, youth, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to mitigate tensions throughout the electoral period. However, several Council members—including the “A3 plus one” and Russia—expressed reservations about limiting the scope of UNMISS’ electoral assistance ahead of the envisioned general elections. Some of these members apparently stressed the need to keep the mandate comprehensive and flexible, in order to allow the mission to tailor its support according to evolving circumstances. In the subsequent version of the draft resolution, the US rephrased the text authorising the mission to provide technical assistance and advice “that are focused exclusively” on certain tasks. Nevertheless, several Council members reiterated their concerns during the second round of negotiations. In an apparent attempt to address these members’ concerns, the US removed from the draft resolution in blue all language that could be perceived as narrowing UNMISS’ electoral assistance mandate. The penholder also included text in the draft resolution in blue, based on language suggested by the “A3 plus one” members, extending UNMISS’ support to providing technical assistance and logistical support for creating conditions conducive to free and fair elections.

The other area of disagreement during the negotiations related to proposed language modifying UNMISS’ mandate, over which China apparently broke silence. In the initial draft text, the US suggested language calling on the mission to “take all necessary measures” to implement its mandate, including PoC, modelled on resolution 2717 of 19 December 2023, which last renewed the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). China, Russia, and the “A3 plus one” members apparently strongly opposed this suggestion. China has traditionally expressed reservations about strengthening PoC language in UNMISS’ mandate. In its remarks during the 5 March Council meeting on UNMISS, China said that “in recent years a certain country has been pushing for expanding the Mission’s mandate, including by overemphasizing the use of force as a means for protecting civilians…[t]hat not only interferes with the primary responsibility and mandate of peacekeeping operations but also increases the strain on the resources at UNMISS’s disposal”. Similar dynamics were visible during last year’s negotiations on UNMISS’ mandate. (For background and more information, see our 14 March 2023 What’s in Blue story.)

The draft resolution in blue retains language from resolution 2677 of 15 March 2023, which most recently extended UNMISS’ mandate, calling on the mission to “use all necessary means” to implement its mandate, including under its PoC obligations to ensure effective, timely, and dynamic protection of civilians under threat of physical violence through a comprehensive and integrated approach. The draft text in blue updates language allowing the mission to undertake its tasks in areas of emerging or ongoing violence that require urgent attention.

This year, the US apparently sought to shorten the length of the text by streamlining some of the language in the preambular paragraphs as well as from the operative part, largely the “UN and International Support” section. The draft resolution in blue incorporates a new paragraph in the preambular section recalling resolution 2677, including with reference to the security, humanitarian, economic and human costs of the conflict in all its forms, the many challenges facing UNMISS and the people of South Sudan, and the critical role, functions, and operations of UNMISS. Several Council members, however, pushed for stronger language on thematic issues such as international humanitarian law, climate change, transitional justice, women, peace and security (WPS), and youth, peace and security (YPS), as some of the details around such issues were apparently lost in the streamlining process. The US accommodated these members’ concerns by reinstating and mainstreaming such language in the relevant parts.

The draft resolution in blue retains the Secretary-General’s monthly reporting on violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) as well as the 90-day reporting cycle on UNMISS set out in resolution 2677. During the negotiations, the US proposed a new reporting requirement, requesting UNMISS, in coordination with the Secretary-General, to report on the security situation, encompassing PoC and force protection evaluations, including on the threat of intercommunal violence on the security situation and addressing any shortcomings as necessary, at 90, 60, and 30 days ahead of any election. It appears that many members supported this language, underlining the importance of closely monitoring developments due to increased risks of violence closer to elections and of preventing relapse into conflict. However, some other members—including China and Russia—expressed reservations about the utility and frequency of such reporting. This language was ultimately retained in the draft resolution in blue over these members’ objections.


*Post-script: On 29 April, the Security Council adopted resolution 2729, renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until 30 April 2025. The text received 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).

Several Council members made statements following the vote. Speaking on behalf of the “A3 plus one” members (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana), Ambassador Pedro Comissário Afonso (Mozambique) said that as South Sudan “prepares to hold its first democratic elections, it is also compelled to address several compounding challenges”, referring to the economic crisis, deteriorating humanitarian situation, influx of refugees and returnees from Sudan, intercommunal violence, and the effects of climate change. These challenges, he added, have limited the country’s ability to effectively carry out activities necessary to hold elections. In this regard, he stressed the need for continued and strengthened assistance from UNMISS.

Ambassador Dai Bing (China) said that resolution 2729 “puts undue pressure on the Government of South Sudan”, adding that it “makes harsh accusations” against the g]overnment “on issues such as general elections and even judges on the internal affairs of South Sudan, which clearly goes beyond reasonable limits”. He further argued that “repeated push by the penholder to give UNMISS an offensive mandate will not only put peacekeepers at risk, but also will ultimately jeopardize the [m]ission’s cooperation with South Sudan”.

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