UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) Mandate Renewal

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

On  13 July 2018, the Security Council adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) until 30 June 2019. This follows the 29 June adoption of resolution 2425, a technical rollover of the mandate of UNAMID until 13 July. This technical rollover was to allow more time to consider possible changes to the force configuration and mandate, particularly those proposed in the 1 June joint special report of the UN Secretary-General and the AU Commission Chairperson (S/2018/530). The draft was initially circulated last week by the UK, the penholder on Darfur. Following several rounds of negotiations and bilateral discussions, it passed silence earlier this evening.

Consistent with a proposal in the special report, the draft requests UNAMID to consolidate a “whole-of-system” approach to Darfur that focuses on both peacekeeping and long-term solutions to conflict-drivers in Darfur in order to prepare for the eventual exit of the mission. While the mission is in the process of drawing down, the draft in blue underscores “the need to keep the situation in all areas of Darfur under review” and “to maintain the flexibility within UNAMID to respond to developments throughout Darfur as the situation requires”. It further supports the special report’s call for the establishment of joint UNAMID-UN Country Team offices in the capitals of the states of Darfur, “except for where Mission sites would remain”, during the envisaged two-year draw-down period.

As in previous years, the mandate continues to prioritise the protection of civilians, the facilitation of humanitarian access, mediation between the government and armed groups, and inter-communal mediation. Nevertheless, the priorities have been slightly revised. For example, with regard to the protection of civilians, new language has been added calling for “monitoring and reporting on human rights, sexual and gender-based violence and grave violations against children”. The priority related to intercommunal mediation has been expanded to include a focus on mediation with regard to “other local conflict that could undermine the security situation”.

Some of the more difficult aspects of the negotiations related to the proposals in the joint AU-UN report. The report said that security conditions had improved in Darfur and called for a reduction in UNAMID’s troop strength from the current 8,735 to 4,050 by 30 June 2019 and reduction of police from 2,500 to 1,870 personnel. China, Ethiopia, Russia, and others were comfortable with the pace and scope of this reduction, but some members maintained that it was too severe. As a compromise, UNAMID will draw down its troop strength to 4,050 over the next year, but maintain its police strength at its current level.

A related source of disagreement was how to characterise the timeframe for the mission’s withdrawal. The report proposed a two-year transition strategy during which the mission and the UN Country Team would collaborate to promote “sustainable solutions to the drivers of conflict” by:

•           supporting the government’s ability to extend the rule of law,

•           working with local communities and state authorities to promote livelihoods for displaced persons;

•           enhancing the delivery of services to displaced persons; and

•           promoting human rights.

While some members emphasise that the mission should withdraw by the end of the two-year period, the P3 and others underscore that this timeline is not absolute, and should be conditioned on success in addressing the drivers of conflict in Darfur. Finding language to address the timeline question was one of the more difficult areas of discussion on the draft. In this regard, the draft in blue notes that the mission will exit on 30 June 2020 and liquidate by December 2020, “provided that there is no significant change in the security situation in Darfur and key indicators are fulfilled”. (These indicators are in the areas of security sector reform, the rule of law, durable solutions for displaced host communities, the immediate delivery of services for internally displaced persons, and human rights.) In addition to conditioning UNAMID’s withdrawal on the achievement of indicators, the draft calls for the Secretary-General in his initial 90-day report following the adoption of the resolution to “include a detailed and clearly benchmarked exit strategy for UNAMID”. Furthermore, the draft requests that the Secretary-General report in all of his 90-day UNAMID reports on progress made with regard to strategic priorities, benchmarks, and indicators in preparation for the mission’s exit. It stresses that the mission’s drawdown “should be based on progress against the indicators and benchmarks…and the conditions on the ground”.

Guest Editorial