posted on Wed 13 Nov 2019 4:13 PM
UN Interim Security Force for Abyei Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (14 November), the Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) until 15 May 2020. An initial draft was circulated to Council members by the US, the penholder on UNISFA on 5 November. One round of formal negotiations was held on 7 November. A draft was placed under silence on Friday (8 November) until Monday (11 November). However, Russia broke silence in relation to language on gender. A revised draft passed silence at 5pm yesterday (12 November) and is now in blue.

Unlike in previous years, the US did not put forward a troop reduction in the initial draft circulated, making negotiations far less contentious. The draft maintains the authorised troop ceiling at 3,550 and decides to allow a postponement in the withdrawal of the additional 295 troops currently on the ground above this ceiling until 15 May 2020. (Withdrawal of these troops was requested in resolution 2469, but has not yet taken place.) This approach is in line with the recommendation contained in the Secretary-General’s most recent report (S/2019/817), with May 2020 coinciding with the end of the dry season.

The draft also maintains the authorised police ceiling at 640 police personnel, including 148 individual police officers and three formed police units. On 25 September, the strength of the mission’s police component stood at thirty-four officers against the authorised total of 640 police personnel.  According to the Secretary-General’s report, this gap is attributable to Sudan’s non-issuance of visas to police personnel. In this regard, the draft expresses concern that the delayed full deployment of UN police prevents UNISFA from fulfilling its security mandate and may create a security vacuum in Abyei. It also expresses concern about efforts by Sudan and South Sudan to impede UNISFA from executing its mandate fully, including by withholding visas for police and blocking the appointment of a civilian Deputy Head of Mission. In relation to the latter, the draft reiterates the request to the Secretary-General to appoint a civilian Deputy Head of Mission for UNISFA, which was first requested in resolution 2469 adopted on 14 May.

The draft also extends the mission’s support for the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), established in 2011 to conduct monitoring and verification activities along the Sudan-South Sudan border, until 15 May 2020. On 15 October, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2492, extending the mission’s support to the JBVMM until 15 November. This resolution was an initiative of the US, supported by Council members, to consolidate what had been two separate Council decisions since November 2017: on the renewal of UNISFA’s mandate, and on the mission’s support to the JBVMM. As in previous resolutions, this draft decides that this will be the final such extension unless the parties demonstrate measurable progress in relation to seven specific measures on border demarcation, including in relation to UNISFA and JBVMM patrols, JBVMM team sites, border crossing corridors and border demarcation. These seven measures are the same as those contained in resolution 2465, adopted on 12 April, with minor adjustments.

Language on gender was slightly amended after Russia broke silence. The draft requests the Secretary-General to seek to increase the number of women in UNISFA, a request contained in resolutions extending UNISFA’s mandate since resolution 2416 adopted on 15 May 2018. The final draft specifies that the increase should be in line with resolution 2242, adopted on 13 October 2015, which among other things urges the Secretary-General to integrate gender expertise within mission staffing structures and addresses the need to have a better gender balance in UN military and police contingents.  It also includes new language referring to the implementation of a gender mainstreaming plan in line with resolution 1325 and calls on UNISFA to sustain adequate expertise on women and child protection. Language on the latter had originally referred to adequate expertise on gender and protection.

Regarding reporting, the draft requests the Secretary-General to inform the Council of progress in implementing UNISFA’s mandate in a note no later than 31 January 2020, including on progress with the increase in police, appointment of a civilian Deputy Head of Mission and the issuance of visas. In addition, it requests a written report by 15 April 2020, including on the engagement by the AU and the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) on political mediation of the Abyei dispute and Sudan and South Sudan border issues, and the efforts of the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa to support the AU and help the parties establish temporary administrative and security arrangements for Abyei and resolve the status of Abyei. It also requests that, as with the note expected by 31 January, the report likewise include progress made on troop reduction, increase in police, appointment of a civilian Deputy Head of Mission and the issuance of visas, among other matters.