posted on Wed 28 Jun 2017 4:14 PM
UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (29 June), the Security Council is scheduled to renew the mandate of the UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for an additional year. The draft was initially scheduled for adoption on 27 June; however, adoption was delayed due to a lack of consensus. After lengthy negotiations, the draft passed through silence this morning and is now in blue.

The draft text expands UNAMID’s mandate to incorporate peacebuilding activities in currently stable areas, and includes significant reductions in the mission’s force structure. The changes to the mandate and structure are largely influenced by the recommendations in the 18 May 2017 Special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the strategic review of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (S/2017/437). In line with these recommendations, UNAMID will begin a process of restructuring and redeployment to be completed over the course of two successive six-month periods (or phases).

The main focus of the negotiations was whether the Council would need to take further action in January to begin implementation of the second phase, or whether, as ultimately agreed, the second phase would be mandated to begin unless the Council acted to halt it. The AU-UN strategic review made no recommendation in this regard, and some Council members were content to mandate both phases of the drawdown without requiring further review by the Council. Other Council members argued for an opportunity to review the drawdown and emphasised the importance of closely monitoring the restructuring; notwithstanding the recent reports of reduced violence in Darfur, there are concerns that the region remains fragile and that a resurgence of violence is possible. Consensus appears to have been found in the Council requesting that an assessment of the drawdown and redeployment be provided following the first phase. This assessment is to be completed by 1 January 2018.

This assessment will be conducted by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in consultation with UNAMID. It is expected to address progress in implementing phase one of UNAMID’s reconfiguration, the impact of the phase one reductions on areas that UNAMID has withdrawn from, the government’s cooperation with the mission, the removal of bureaucratic obstacles to the mission, and whether conditions on the ground are conducive to further reductions.

The Council will consider the assessment in January 2018, and the second phase is expected to begin on 31 January unless the Council takes action to delay or alter it. The reporting period for UNAMID will be reduced from 90-day to 60-day intervals, as a further reflection of the Council’s need to closely monitor the situation in Darfur during implementation of the restructuring.

Another key focus of the negotiations was on whether to adopt the proposed reductions in troop and police numbers in their entirety. The AU-UN strategic review recommended a 44 percent reduction in the military component and a 30 percent reduction in the numbers of police over the two phrases of the drawdown. UNAMID currently has an authorised force structure of 15,845 troops and 3,403 police. At the end of phase one, the authorised numbers of troops and police would be 11,395 and 2,748 respectively; at the end of phase two, the mission would consist of 8,735 troops and 2,360 police.

The Council appears to have accepted the troop reductions as proposed. While some Council members were prepared to accept the recommended police withdrawals, several other Council members were reportedly concerned that the proposed police reductions were excessive, coming as they would at the same time as the police would be expected to take on an increased role in maintaining law and order in Darfur. As a consequence of these concerns, UNAMID will maintain 140 more police officers than proposed by the strategic review during both phases of the restructuring. As such the authorised police strength of UNAMID will be reduced to 2,888 during phase one and 2,500 during phase two.

The adoption follows the 14 June briefing to the Council by the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, El-Ghassim Wane, on the joint AU-UN strategic review on UNAMID. Wane reported on the changes in UNAMID’s operating environment, and recommended the proposed restructuring, redeployment, and refocusing of UNAMID to reflect the mission’s “new realities”. In particular, Wane focused on the need for greater support for the effective implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, and the need to increase protection of civilians’ activities in the greater Jebel Marra area.

Uruguay and Bolivia spoke following the briefing, with other Council members reserving their engagement for the consultations that followed. Both Uruguay and Bolivia welcomed the recommendations of the review, but highlighted their ongoing concern with persistent intercommunal conflict and the inability of internally displaced persons to return to their villages and land.