posted on Tue 14 Nov 2017 7:01 PM
Renewal of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)

Tomorrow (15 November), the Council is scheduled to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The draft resolution was initially circulated by France on 6 November. Council members met three times to discuss the draft resolution, which largely reflects the recommendations of the Secretary-General in his latest report (S/2017/865). It passed silence today and is now in blue.

The Secretary-General’s report notes that while the mission is trying to adapt to the situation, the escalation and spread of violence across the Central African Republic (CAR) has left MINUSCA overstretched. In light of the security and political situation, the Secretary-General recommends that MINUSCA focus on its “core peacekeeping tasks by prioritizing its support for the political process…[both nationally and locally]…while augmenting its ability to protect civilians and facilitate the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.” According to the report, some tasks should be streamlined and adjusted, taking into account the capacities of other international actors and establishing a clear division of labour.

The priority tasks of the mission outlined in the draft in blue are to include: the protection of civilians; good offices and support to the peace process, including national reconciliation, social cohesion and transitional justice; facilitating the creation of a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and the protection of the United Nations (e.g., tasks such as protecting UN personnel and equipment). The draft in blue outlines additional activities for which MINUSCA will be responsible. Among others, these include: support for the extension of state authority and the national army, the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA); security sector reform; disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation; the promotion and protection of human rights; and support for national and international justice, the fight against impunity, and the rule of law.

The issue of support for the FACA has been a problematic one for MINUSCA as the vetting of military personnel and security sector reform have gone slowly. During consultations on 6 November, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix told Council members that the FACA will deploy in the CAR after areas are cleared by MINUSCA and that it will be beneficial if MINUSCA is involved in supporting the deployment process.

On this issue, differences arose over language in the text requesting MINUSCA to “consider providing support to the progressive and coordinated deployment of FACA units” trained by the current EU training mission, “when feasible and within existing financial and human resources” and in accordance with the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. Egypt considered this language too tentative, asserting that in order for MINUSCA to fulfill its mandate, it should be more involved in the redeployment of the FACA. Some other members were supportive of this position. As a compromise, an amendment was included calling on the Secretary-General to present to the Council recommendations, benchmarks and timelines on MINUSCA’s support for the deployment within six months for its consideration and possible approval.

The resolution in blue will increase the MINUSCA troop ceiling by 900 troops to a total of 11,650 military personnel. This increase is consistent with the Secretary-General’s recommendation in his recent MINUSCA report. While stressing that the increase will not enable the mission to protect all civilians in the country, the Secretary-General maintained that it would provide the force with “greater flexibility to rapidly deploy available troops to address threats…to civilians…while reinforcing its pre-emptive and reactive postures…”. In addition, the report says that the higher troop ceiling would help facilitate better conditions for the establishment of state authority in more areas and convince armed groups to participate in the political process.

When the issue of a troop increase was first raised with Council members by the Secretary-General in August, all Council members agreed that such action was warranted. However, the US conditioned additional troops on the development of clear benchmarks for the performance of MINUSCA’s contingents. In addition, the US insisted that the Secretariat produce concrete plans to address the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR.

On these points, the Secretary-General’s report mentions steps that are being taken to implement the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the CAR. In addition, the Secretary-General intends to carry out a critical assessment of MINUSCA’s contingents in early 2018 to examine possible linkages between their performance and conduct.

The initial draft circulated by France requested the Secretary-General to take all necessary measures to ensure MINUSCA’s full compliance with the United Nations zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council informed through his reports to the Council about the mission’s progress. It further requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council on a performance review of troop contributing countries (TCCs)/police contributing countries (PCCs) no later than the end of the first quarter of 2018, and to notify the Council every time reviews pursuant to resolution 2272 are initiated. (Resolution 2272 requests the Secretary-General to replace a TCC/PCC where it has not taken appropriate steps to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse or when the particular TCC/PCC has not held the perpetrators accountable).

Egypt maintained that requesting the Secretary-General to report to the Council on the initiation of investigations of specific contingents goes beyond what was requested of him in resolution 2272. It further took the view that the language was aimed at public naming and shaming, rather than constructively addressing the substance of the issue. As a concession, the language on reporting about reviews undertaken by the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2272 was amended and information on the initiation and conduct of reviews will be included in the Secretary-General’s reports on MINUSCA rather than separately.

Similar disagreement arose with respect to another paragraph in an early version of the text requesting the Secretary-General to include in his reports to the Council updates on instances which may adversely affect mandate implementation “such as undeclared national caveats, lack of effective command and control, refusal to obey orders, failure to respond to attacks on civilians, and inadequate equipment”. Egypt maintained that this would constitute an inappropriate attempt to unfairly “name and shame” TCCs. A compromise seems to have been found by noting that “undeclared national caveats, lack of effective command and control, refusal to obey orders, failure to respond to attacks on civilians, and inadequate equipment may adversely affect” mandate implementation, instead of requesting updates from the Secretary-General on these matters.

On 13 November, while negotiations on the resolution were still ongoing, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations announced the launch of an independent special investigation into a number of attacks against civilians by armed groups that occurred in close proximity to a presence of MINUSCA in the south-east of the CAR between 1 May and 31 August 2017.