posted on Tue 15 Sep 2015 3:38 PM
Resolution Renewing Mandate of UN Mission in Liberia

On Thursday (17 September), the Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The penholder, the US, first circulated a draft text on Thursday, 10 September, following a briefing on UNMIL by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden), chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Liberia country-specific configuration, and Benedict Sannoh, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, also addressed the Council at the 10 September meeting. Expert-level negotiations were held on Friday afternoon, a revised text was circulated, and after clearing a silence procedure today the draft resolution is expected to be put into blue.

In line with the recommendation of the Secretary-General in his 13 August report on UNMIL, the resolution will renew the mandate of UNMIL until 30 September 2016. UNMIL’s new mandate will consist of four main tasks: protection of civilians, reform of justice and security institutions, human rights promotion and protection, and protection of UN personnel. The draft resolution streamlines the mandate of UNMIL, removing the component regarding support to humanitarian assistance. It also deletes a reference to assisting the government of Liberia in extending justice and security sector services throughout the country through training and capacity building. While UNMIL will retain a mandate for reform of justice and security transitions, it seems the geographic scope of the mission’s work may be reduced with fewer resources. During negotiations, an elected member questioned why UNMIL’s mandate will remain the same during the periods before and after 30 June 2016, when the government is expected to assume full responsibility for security. However, it seems that the general consensus among Council members was that it would be good to emphasise the continuity of UNMIL’s approach, rather than either renewing the mandate only up to 30 June or creating a separate post-30 June mandate in the current draft resolution.

As recommended by the Secretary-General, the draft resolution continues the drawdown of UNMIL that had resumed in April with the adoption of resolution 2215. UNMIL’s authorisation will be further reduced from 3,590 to 1,240 military personnel and from 1,515 to 606 police personnel by 30 June 2016. The draft resolution specifically requests UNMIL as of 1 July 2016 to support the Liberian security agencies in protecting civilians if the security situation deteriorates to a point that could “risk a strategic reversal of peace and stability in the country” while also taking into account UNMIL’s “reduced capabilities and areas of deployment”. (The core of UNMIL’s authorised deployment will then consist of just an infantry battalion and three formed police units.)

In comparison to the last resolution extending UNMIL’s mandate, resolution 2190 adopted in December 2014, the draft resolution includes new content in two main areas: the upcoming security transition on 30 June 2016, and critical tasks for the government of Liberia to achieve in the interim. The draft resolution encourages member states and multilateral organisations to continue to support the government of Liberia with the financial and technical assistance required for the security transition, an issue raised by Minister Sannoh during the UNMIL briefing on 10 September. It also urges the government of Liberia to accelerate efforts toward effective management of arms and ammunition, including enacting relevant domestic legislation, monitoring Liberia’s border regions, and the registering and tracking of arms imported and used by its security forces. This point was also emphasised by the Panel of Experts in its final report and by the Secretary-General in his 31 July letter to the Council. Lastly, the draft resolution requests UNMIL to continue communicating with the people and government of Liberia to raise awareness regarding the security transition.

In terms of next steps, the draft resolution states the Council’s intent to consider the possible withdrawal of UNMIL and a transition to a future UN presence. This would be contingent upon appropriate security conditions on the ground and a successful security transition. For the purpose of informing the Council’s future decision-making in this regard, the draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to conduct a technical assessment mission and make recommendations by 15 November 2016. The Council would then review Liberia’s state capacity in relation to the security situation by 15 December 2016. This schedule apparently presupposes UNMIL’s mandate will be renewed again before expiration on 30 September 2016.