posted on Thu 16 Mar 2017 6:34 PM
UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (17 March), the Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) until 17 March 2018. The adoption was initially to take place during the debate on Afghanistan on 10 March; however disagreements over several issues led to its postponement. Council members met yesterday afternoon (15 March) in an attempt to bridge the gaps before UNAMA’s mandate expires tomorrow.

The draft resolution was circulated by the penholder, Japan, with a view to streamlining considerably the previous 20-page mandate resolution. Detailed language on several issues was omitted, causing a backlash from certain members. It seems that one such issue concerned human rights. Although the general mandate of UNAMA to monitor and report on human rights was not impaired, specific language on related to violations against children in armed conflict and detention centres was taken out of the initial draft. Ultimately most of these elements were restored and compromises were found whereby the language on these issues was condensed but their essence was retained in a manner acceptable to those members who had expressed concerns.

Another disagreement that arose during negotiations concerned the conduct of a strategic review of the mission. The US, as part of a wider policy, took the position that the Secretary-General should undertake a strategic review of the mission, in particular to see where efficiency can be enhanced, with the objective of reducing expenditure. Council members generally agreed to insert this request but felt that the Secretariat should be afforded a significant amount of time to undertake this task. The US, for its part, insisted that this process should be finalised quickly. It seems that the final draft requests the strategic review to be completed by July 2017, at the insistence of the US.

The third issue of disagreement related to a desire by China and Russia to insert several references to the Taliban, along with Al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), as a terrorist group. Other permanent members viewed this as problematic, considering that the resolution also encourages reconciliation with the Taliban and supports regional efforts to convene direct talks with the group to achieve this purpose; they noted that for this reason the current UNAMA resolution (resolution 2274) distinguishes between terrorist groups and terrorist activities performed by the Taliban (among others). It seems that the draft in blue retains this distinction.

Several elected Council members found the overall negotiating process lacking in transparency and inclusivity. Some may choose to address this concern in explanations of vote tomorrow.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains very fragile and continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan security forces and the civilian population. During the 10 March debate, in which the latest UNAMA report (S/2017/189) was discussed, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said that the National Unity Government – now almost halfway through its five-year term – has made visible advances regarding anti-corruption measures, the electoral process and women’s economic empowerment. However, he added that the deteriorating security situation remains of great concern, and particularly emphasised the impact of attacks by foreign fighters, including ISIL/Da’esh. He urged the Taliban to enter peace talks without preconditions, as clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces have intensified. At present, the Taliban controls about 10 percent of the country’s districts and contests another 33 percent of them. Yamamoto added that as a result of fighting, last year UNAMA recorded the highest number of civilian casualties since it began keeping records on this issue nearly a decade ago.