posted on Wed 14 Mar 2018 6:20 PM
UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS): Renewal of Mandate

Tomorrow (15 March), the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for an additional year. The initial draft was circulated by the US, the penholder on South Sudan, to the full Council on Wednesday (7 March). Negotiations were held on Friday (9 March), and a revised draft was circulated on Monday (12 March). A second round of negotiations on the revised draft was held on Tuesday (13 March), after which a draft incorporating some additional changes was put under silence until this morning. The draft passed silence and was put into blue today (14 March), following a final minor change this morning.

Tomorrow’s renewal comes after the UNMISS mandate was rolled over on 14 December 2017 until 15 March to allow for the completion and consideration of the independent review of UNMISS initiated by the Secretary-General in October 2017, one of the eight major reviews of peacekeeping operations to be undertaken by August.

The Secretary-General’s Special Report (S/2018/143) of 20 February presented a summary of the review team’s findings, as well as observations and recommendations. The review team found that the mission should increase the protection of civilians to the maximum extent possible within existing resources; adjust the mandate of the Regional Protection Force (RPF), as the threat of military conflict in Juba has considerably diminished; and reinforce the protection of civic space.

The Secretary-General’s observations and recommendations included that the current UNMISS mandate remains valid and should be extended for another year, with some modifications. These modifications included the addition of capacity-building and training of security and government institutions, and the strengthening of outreach and advocacy to raise the visibility of the human rights situation. The Secretary-General further recommended that the Security Council should continue supporting the peace process, including by holding the parties accountable for violating their agreements.

Troop levels and the RPF
The draft in blue extends the mandate until 15 March 2019, maintaining the overall force levels at the troop ceiling of 17,000 troops and the police ceiling of 2,101 police personnel. The mission will continue to include the RPF, which was first authorised in resolution 2304 in August 2016. The initial draft removed language from the previous mandate stating that the RPF would consist of 4,000 troops. (To date the RPF only comprises approximately a quarter of the authorised number of troops.) During negotiations, Council members such as the US, the Netherlands and Sweden, were in favour of removing reference to the number of RPF troops. However, other members, including Russia and China, wanted a clear reference to the RPF’s troop ceiling. It seems a compromise was reached by providing RPF “levels to be set by the Secretary-General but not to exceed 4,000”. This replaced previous wording delegating this task to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, after some members expressed concern over this.

The draft in blue incorporates language that recalls resolution 2304, which initially authorised the RPF, and indicates that “the RPF has the responsibility of providing a secure environment in and around Juba and in other parts of South Sudan as necessary”; as well as language that “affirms the critical importance of the ability of UNMISS to use all of its bases without restrictions in order to execute its mandate including, but not limited to, its base in Tomping”. This was likely added following disagreement last year between the South Sudanese government and the mission regarding the positioning of the RPF in relation to Juba airport, including at the mission’s adjacent Tomping base.

Protection of Civilians
The protection of civilians aspect of the mandate remains largely unchanged. Language added to the initial draft, which was accepted, related to support to police services, security and government institutions, and civil society actors in relevant and protection-focused activities. This includes “technical assistance or advice, within existing resources, on international humanitarian law, investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, as well as other serious human rights violations, in order to strengthen protection of civilians.” The addition of this language is line with the recommendation in the Special Report, as was the addition of language “welcoming the intention of the Secretary-General to conduct a military and police capability study, as expressed in the Special Report, and noting the relevance of reviewing the current model for providing security to the protection of civilians’ sites.”

Peace Process
According to the Special Report, “the main factor determining the ability of UNMISS to fulfil its mandate and eventual exit strategy is progress in the political process towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.” In line with this emphasis, the draft resolution includes substantial additional language related to the peace process, which has seen progress over the last three months. The first phase of the of the South Sudan High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, took place from 18-22 December and resulted in the signing of the 21 December 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA). The second phase took place from 5-16 February and included a recommitment to the CoHA. The third phase of the Forum is scheduled to take place later this month and is expected to involve the continuation of discussions around contentious transitional governance and security arrangements. Fighting has continued in South Sudan since the signing of the CoHA.

The initial draft resolution added language, which was accepted, welcoming the commitment and efforts of IGAD, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the AU, the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN “to continue engaging with South Sudanese leaders to address the current crisis, and encouraging their continued and proactive engagement.” Text was also incorporated “calling on South Sudanese parties to demonstrate the political will to peacefully resolve the conflict,… and noting that timelines for the implementation schedule of the [2015 Peace] Agreement should be amended to reflect the need to create an environment conducive to post-transition elections”. The draft in blue recalls the Council’s 14 December 2017 presidential statement “that there must be costs and consequences for those who undermine the High Level Revitalization Forum process”. This was added to the existing paragraph “recalling that individuals or entities responsible for or complicit in, or having engaged in, directly or indirectly, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan, may be designated for targeted sanctions”.

There are a number of new references to the role of UNMISS in supporting the peace process. UNMISS is tasked with “using good offices to support the peace process, in particular the High Level Revitalization Forum”, and “facilitating and supporting” the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), which is the body mandated to monitor violations of the CoHA. The Council further “stresses that the peace process only remains viable with the full commitment by all parties,” and “notes its intention to keep the tasks and composition of UNMISS under active review, based on the possible outcomes of the High Level Revitalization Forum”. These additions largely follow the findings and recommendations of the Special Report.

Arms Embargo
The initial draft included the addition of language in which the Council “expresses its intention to consider all appropriate measures, including an arms embargo, to disable the parties’ ability to procure weapons and ammunition so that the peace process can proceed”. In response to concerns from Russia, this language was later amended to “consider all measures, including an arms embargo, as appropriate, to deprive the parties of the means to continue fighting and to prevent violations” of the CoHA. There has been a long-standing divide in the Council over whether to impose an arms embargo and further targeted sanctions. Some Council members, including France and the UK, have called for an arms embargo for several years. The US joined them in supporting the call for an embargo following the outburst of violence that gripped Juba in July 2016. On 23 December 2016, the Council voted on a draft to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and targeted sanctions (assets freezes and travel bans) on three key government and opposition figures (S/2016/1085). The draft resolution failed to be adopted, receiving seven affirmative votes (France, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, the UK and the US) and eight abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Senegal and Venezuela).

It seems that during negotiations on the current draft, Ethiopia, supported by Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea, were initially reluctant about the inclusion of references to a potential arms embargo. However, the US managed to retain the language, with support from other Council members, and in so far as it serves as a reminder of existing options at the Council’s disposal.

Reporting
While the draft removes the request for the Secretary-General to report on a monthly basis on the RPF, it requires the continuation of reporting on violations of the status of forces agreement or obstructions to UNMISS on a monthly basis. These have been submitted to the Council in the form of a confidential document.

The draft does not change the current 90-day reporting cycle, despite some members seeking to shorten the period to a 60-day cycle, which the US opposed. Language was added underscoring that the 90-day report should include certain performance-related aspects. This includes “specific and detailed reporting on how UNMISS is working toward fulfilling its protection of civilians duties, including but not limited to troop responsiveness and performance and new patrol areas and proactive deployment” and “steps that have been taken to address performance concerns reflected in…the initiatives undertaken by the Secretary-General to standardize a culture of performance in UN peacekeeping…”. This language reflects the priorities of the US regarding the performance of peacekeeping missions.

Requests for reporting on progress in implementing the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy and “strengthened reporting on human rights issues” were also listed among areas to be included in the 90-day report. The latter was apparently included as a compromise after Russia, China, Ethiopia and Bolivia rejected the inclusion of language in the initial draft requesting the Secretary-General to provide regular thematic reporting on the human rights issues in South Sudan and brief updates on the human right situation in South Sudan every 60 days. Although several members were unhappy with the removal of this paragraph, it seems this compromise was viewed as satisfactory.