Revising the UN Peacekeeping Mandate in South Sudan: Maintaining Focus on the Protection of Civilians
By Lisa Sharland and Aditi Gorur
Civil war has raged in South Sudan for two years. Horrific atrocities continue to be committed against the civilian population by both primary parties to the conflict as UNMISS has struggled to protect civilians within and beyond its protection of civilians (POC) sites. This report by the Stimson Center and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute examines the challenges the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has faced in its efforts to protect civilians from physical violence despite the priority and focus of the revised mandate that was adopted following the outbreak of civil war in December 2013.
The report offers the following recommendations for stakeholders to consider as part of the upcoming mandate review that will take place by December 15, 2015, as well as lessons for future reviews.
Recommendations to the United Nations (UN) Security Council
1.Maintain the mission’s current prioritization of the protection of civilians. This includes protecting civilians under threat of physical violence, deterring violence against civilians, implementing the mission-wide early warning strategy, maintaining the safety and security of POC sites, implementing the POC strategy, and supporting efforts to assist the eventual safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.
2.Revise the authorized troop and police ceiling for the mission. There has been no increase in the authorized number of troops and police since an initial increase after the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013, despite the demands of protecting an unprecedented number of civilians in the POC sites. The Secretary-General’s November 2015 report recognized a need for further military and police resources. The commitments made during the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping in September 2015 present an opportunity to identify further troops, resources, and capabilities to reinforce and support the mission in carrying out its mandate.
3.Maintain both a sequenced and a phased approach to the mission mandate. The model of reviewing the mission mandate requirements on the basis of conditions on the ground should be performed regularly and as required. Gradually reintroduce capacity-building measures into the mission mandate, with a focus on institutional reforms in the security and justice sectors.
Use a comprehensive threat assessment framework that includes atrocity indicators to guide future reviews of the mission mandate. The UN Security Council should also provide the mission with political support to counteract pressure from the South Sudanese government to revert to a pre-civil-war-style mandate, and to avoid the mission being drawn into undertaking additional tasks that could dilute the mission’s capacity to protect civilians.
4.Exert political pressure on the parties to the conflict. The Security Council has an important working relationship with the parties to the conflict in terms of the strategic consent to deploy the peacekeeping mission. It also has power to influence the behavior of the major parties by drawing attention to failure to comply with the peace agreement, ongoing Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) violations, and attacks on mission personnel. This can be done publicly through statements and meetings, but also privately in consultations and demarches on the actors in the conflict.
5.Engage substantively with troop- and police-contributing countries (TCCs/PCCs) on the future direction of the mission and mandate renewal. Routine meetings with TCCs/PCCs take place ahead of mandate renewals, but there is scope for broader consultation. This might include meetings of the UN Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, which could involve more stakeholders beyond TCCs/PCCs (such as major donors and regional organization representatives). This is particularly important as several countries deployed to UNMISS are deploying to UN peacekeeping for the first time.
6.Establish an advisory body external to the mission to develop an integrated strategic vision for security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), in consultation with the parties to the conflict, as well as for the South Sudanese National Police Service (SSNPS) and the security sector more broadly. This will be important to set an overall strategic vision for reforming the security sector, engaging with government officials, and coordinating funding and training support from various international stakeholders. The advisory body could also identify an appropriate party to undertake vetting of security personnel being absorbed into the new state security entities.
Recommendations to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Secretariat
7.Engage with the humanitarian community to identify a way forward to address safe and voluntary returns. Mission leadership should make renewed efforts to meet with the national and international humanitarian community in order to update them on UNMISS’s activities and consult on longer-term efforts to ensure the voluntary return or relocation of civilians in the POC sites. The Humanitarian Country Team could also take the lead in developing an agreedupon set of principles for safe and voluntary relocations with UNMISS.
8.Develop a strategic communications plan explaining UNMISS’s approach to the protection of civilians, including in particular the policy around taking people onto UNMISS bases. This is important to counter disinformation about the decision-making processes involved and to communicate information about alternative protection efforts that are being undertaken outside or near UN bases in some of these instances. It is also essential to managing the expectations of the international community, as well as the local population.
9.Build and actively populate a comprehensive and current database to support implementation of the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP). The human rights division could lead this in cooperation with other sections. This is essential to ensure that the mission is prepared to undertake capacity-building initiatives going forward, and to assist with vetting.
10.Provide the UN Security Council with frank advice and assessments on the needs of the mission.
This should include advice not only on threats, but on where there are mission resource gaps that are threatening security (e.g., security perimeters around POC sites, a lack of enablers threatening mobility).
11.Manage the performance of TCCs/PCCs and put systems in place that will enable the mission to replace and repatriate those that are underperforming. The mission should seize on the political support from the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping to make clear that it will be carefully monitoring the performance of TCCs and that there will be consequences for those that are underperforming.
12.Report on the effect being delivered by mission operations (i.e., qualitative) instead of the number of activities taking place (i.e., quantitative). For example, approaches to patrolling need to be more strategic and assessed on the results and impact they deliver. The Security Council could consider requesting that this reporting be made to the Security Council.
13.Build on the deployment of Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UUAVs) into the mission to strengthen the mission’s information and threat analysis. This should include transparency on how the information gathered from these assets will be used by the mission, as well as ensuring that the mission has appropriate resources to process and analyze the information being obtained (including in UNMISS’s Joint Mission Analysis Cell).
Recommendations to other stakeholders, including troop- and police-contributing countries 14. Engage with the Security Council to establish a Core Group or ‘Group of Friends on South Sudan.’ This might be modeled on the approach of similar groups supporting the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti and former mission in Timor-Leste. It will provide a wider range of stakeholders with the ability to engage substantively in the mandate renewal process to ensure that mandates are phased and sequenced, and will continue to be tailored to conditions on the ground.
15.Troop and police contributors need to be clear about any caveats in advance of deployment.
Several TCCs/PCCs appear to have hidden caveats concerning the activities they are willing to conduct and the locations to which they are willing to be deployed, such as contingents that refuse unofficially to deploy outside Juba. Clarity from these TCCs/PCCs, and frank reporting from the mission, will enable the UN Secretariat to make choices on potential contributors based on their abilities to undertake key mission tasks. Clarity will also assist mission leadership in identifying the appropriate TCCs/PCCs for particular operations.