posted on Wed 11 Mar 2020 4:29 PM
UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Mandate Renewal

Tomorrow (12 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, on 2 March. Two rounds of formal negotiations were held on 4 and 6 March. A draft was put under silence on Monday (9 March) until Tuesday afternoon (10 March); however, silence was broken by Russia. A revised draft was put in blue this morning, reflecting certain compromises in an effort to achieve consensus. (Russia abstained on the adoption of resolution 2459 renewing the UNMISS mandate last year.)

The adoption follows the establishment on 22 February of the Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan, marking the start of a 36-month transitional period leading to elections, in accordance with the terms of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) signed on 12 September 2018. While the establishment of the transitional government represents a notable positive development in the peace process, following several months of uncertainty, many pre-transitional tasks required under the R-ARCSS remain outstanding, including the cantonment and training of a unified army and other transitional security arrangements. In this regard, the draft contains an operative paragraph that calls on the parties to implement fully the R-ARCSS and “establish its institutions without delay”. The paragraph also welcomes “encouraging developments in South Sudan’s peace process”, “demonstrations of political will by the parties”, and the reduction in political violence; this language was proposed by the penholder following requests from some members for more positive language on the peace process.

Mandate

The draft extends the mandate of UNMISS until 15 March 2021, maintaining the overall force levels at the troop ceiling of 17,000 troops and the police ceiling of 2,101 police personnel. The four core elements of the mandate remain largely unchanged, namely protecting civilians, creating the conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, supporting the peace process, and monitoring and investigating human rights, with broad agreement from Council members on each of these components. (One departure from previous years is that support to the peace process now precedes monitoring and investigating human rights in the order of mandated responsibilities.)

Taking into account the recent positive political developments, but also the uncertain security situation, it seems that members agreed that limited changes to the mandate were required at this time. Members also recognised the need for UNMISS to be able to respond to a variety of different potential outcomes over the coming year, including in relation to the political and security situations.

Regarding the protection of civilians aspect of the mandate, some minor amendments were proposed and ultimately retained. Reference to uniformed and civilian Gender Advisers was included on the list of positions which should be filled expeditiously, despite at least one member requesting to delete this, with the US asserting that these positions are critical for community engagement. The draft also requests UNMISS to strengthen implementation of its mission-wide early warning strategy, and to include incident tracking and analysis in doing so.

The language on the other three core elements of the mandate remains essentially unchanged. All references to the Regional Protection Force (RPF), which was first authorised in resolution 2304 in August 2016, were deleted in previous drafts and replaced with references to UNMISS. However, in the draft in blue, the penholder reinserted a reference to the RPF as being included within the UNMISS troop ceiling.

The draft contains the addition of a new sub-paragraph requesting UNMISS to “prioritize enhanced force mobility to better execute its mandate in areas of emerging protection risks and emerging threats, including remote locations…within existing financial resources”. In relation to the existing request for UNMISS to intensify its presence and active patrolling in high risk areas, the draft requests that this provision be extended to include areas “where there are emerging protection risks or threats such as high rates of sexual and gender-based violence”.

The draft also bolsters the existing paragraph on performance in UN peacekeeping with additional language. An existing paragraph on the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse is expanded, including with a reference to sexual harassment. It also refers to conducting investigations of all allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and for the Secretary-General to keep the Council fully informed through his reports about the mission’s progress in this regard.

During negotiations, Belgium, along with other members, requested to highlight women, peace and security issues including through the addition of an operative paragraph on this issue. Several other members opposed the inclusion of such an operative paragraph. It seems the penholder proposed an operative paragraph, which was retained, that:

welcomes the commitment to the inclusion of women in the [R-ARCSS], including the 35% minimum for women’s representation, and calls on all parties to do more to ensure that these minimum commitments are achieved and to ensure the full, effective, and meaningful participation and involvement of women in all spheres and levels of political leadership, the peace process, and the transitional government, and requests UNMISS to assist in these efforts.

Some additions were also made to an existing operative paragraph on sexual violence, including encouraging the government and opposition “to adopt a survivor-centred approach in preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations and to establish internal disciplinary mechanisms including a confidential reporting mechanism” as well as demanding “the prompt investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, as well as reparations for victims as appropriate…and requests UNMISS to assist the parties with these activities”.

Reporting

The draft requests the Secretary-General to conduct “an independent strategic review of UNMISS assessing the challenges to peace and security in South Sudan and providing detailed recommendations for the possible reconfiguration of the UNMISS mandate and its civilian, police, and military components to account for developments in the peace process, based on broad consultations, including, but not limited to, relevant transitional government bodies and humanitarian, development actors and civil society organizations.”  It specifies that this be provided to the Council by 15 December 2020. It seems that France, with the support of other Council members, requested that the review be independent.

The draft retains the existing request for the Secretary-General to submit a report on UNMISS every 90 days, with the addition of reporting on community engagement; analysis of the mission’s engagement on the issue of participation of women in the peace process, and analysis of troop and police performance and rotations. When it broke silence, Russia objected to the addition of strengthened reporting on conflict-related sexual violence, which was then removed from the draft in blue.

Preambular Paragraphs

As was the case during negotiations last year on resolution 2459, Council members expressed various proposals and positions during negotiations in relation to the preambular paragraphs.

Similar to last year, reference to the South Sudan sanctions regime, and the arms embargo in particular, were contentious during negotiations. When it broke silence, Russia requested the deletion of new language recalling “that the territory of South Sudan is subject to an arms embargo” and instead sought reference only to “the measures” (rather than the arms embargo) adopted by the Security Council in resolution 2428 and renewed in 2471. This request was accommodated in the draft in blue apparently as a compromise in an effort to achieve a consensual adoption. Text in past resolutions recalling the Council’s “willingness to impose targeted sanctions” was removed in earlier drafts during negotiations, but ultimately reinserted in the draft in blue, it seems as a result of the compromise over the arms embargo language. The draft also includes language reaffirming that the Council will be prepared to adjust existing sanctions measures “in light of progress achieved in the peace, accountability, and reconciliation process”, as previously set out in resolution 2428.

Preambular language was also added recognising “the need to protect women’s rights organizations and women peacebuilders from threats and reprisals”, apparently as proposed by the UK.

In breaking silence, Russia objected to the inclusion of a reference to restrictions on patrols and UNMISS efforts, specifically in relation to combating sexual and gender-based violence, although this language was supported by a number of members. Russia’s request was accepted in the draft in blue.

Some amendments were made to human rights language in the preambular part, with members expressing differing views on this. Language was added demanding an end to “obstructions that hamper UNMISS carrying out its mandate to monitor and investigate human rights”.

Finally in relation to climate and security, Germany, with support from multiple members, sought the addition of a new preambular paragraph on this issue. Although some other members, including the US, opposed this, a new preambular paragraph was ultimately added and retained in the draft in blue recognising “the adverse effects of extreme weather events on the humanitarian situation and stability in South Sudan” and emphasising the need for risk assessment and management strategies by the UN and the government of South Sudan in this regard. Russia sought the deletion of the need for adequate risk assessments and risk management strategies by the government and the UN relating to these events. However, this was not removed in the draft in blue.