Mission Leadership, Coordination and Integration
Sustaining the Mission and its Mandate
MINUJUSTH: Delegation of authority
Integrated missions are designed to facilitate a coherent system-wide approach to assisting countries in – or emerging from – conflict on their path to peace and post-conflict recovery. However, the financial rules and regulations that govern the use of assessed resources sometimes appear to be in conflict with achieving the desired level of integration. Leadership, creativity and innovation are needed to effectively achieve mandates within the regulatory framework.
The UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) completed its peacekeeping mandate in October 2019. The UN Security Council mandated a follow-on special political mission, the UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), to “work in an advisory capacity with Haitian authorities and the UN Country Team (UNCT) to further the consolidation of the stability, security, governance, rule of law, and human rights gains achieved since 2004”. The Security Council noted that the UNCT would assume MINUJUSTH programmatic and technical assistance roles and encouraged MINUJUSTH to collaborate with the UNCT for a seamless transition.
To achieve the UNCT mandate, the World Food Programme (WFP) as lead agency in Haiti proposed establishing a “One UN” facility and requested MINUJUSTH to gift several million dollars of assets and materials to WFP in Haiti. According to the UN’s financial rules, MINUJUSTH could sell its assets to WFP at a “nominal price” if it determined that the “interests of the United Nations will be served” and if the equipment was “not required for current or future peacekeeping operations or other United Nations activities funded from assessed contributions”.
Since it was unclear that gifting the specific equipment requested would serve the interests of the UN, the ensuing discussion focused on balancing the seemingly conflicting principles of complying with the Financial Rules and facilitating UN integration in Haiti.
The wrong decision could either deprive UN Member States of their appropriate financial credit or reduce the collective resources available for furthering overall UN objectives in Haiti. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) had delegated authorities for the disposal of UN property while complying with UN Financial Rules and Regulations. After considerable discussions between and among the WFP team in Haiti, MINUJUSTH, the UN Department of Operational Support, and WFP headquarters, a servicelevel agreement was negotiated for WFP to provide certain services to BINUH on a cost-recovery basis. It was agreed that this arrangement provided significant benefits to the UN and thus justified the gifting or sale at nominal cost of a subset of equipment originally requested by WFP. This seemingly mundane administrative question became the catalyst for a broader discussion about responsibilities related to delegation of authorities and backstopping by UN Headquarters. It was important for the entire Mission Leadership Team to engage in discussions regarding the contrast between the mission’s obligation to recoup as much of the assessed funding provided by Member States as possible with the operational imperatives of meaningful integration. The MINUJUSTH SRSG, the Deputy SRSG (Resident Coordinator/ Humanitarian Coordinator), the Chief of Mission Support, the Chief of Staff and the Police Commissioner were all engaged in these discussions, and in lively discussions with their respective counterparts in UNHQ and the UNCT.
Stephen Liebermen, former Special Adviser to the SRSG, MINUJUSTH, 2019
UNAMID: Negotiating undeclared national caveats during crisis
There are instances when mission leadership must weigh the credibility of the mission in delivering its mandated task to protect civilians against the security of UN personnel. A critical question for mission leadership is negotiating undeclared national caveats by troop-contributing countries (TCCs) and police-contributing countries (PCCs) that come up during an operation or crisis.
For example, at one point during the mandate of the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), fighting between rebel groups and Sudanese security forces led to approximately 50,000 people fleeing towards the UNAMID Saraf Umra Team Site. The Team Site had a Military Company, 32 Individual Police Officers and several Military Observers and civilian staff. There was a risk that the displaced persons could force their way into the camp, and a threat of further attacks on the civilians. There was also a need for inner perimeter protection to identify the actual number of people and humanitarian needs.
During MLT deliberations on how to address the situation, several tensions arose. The MLT decided to deploy an additional Military Company to the Team Site as well as a platoon of formed police unit (FPU) personnel to assist with inner perimeter protection, and crowd management.
The FPUs had not previously deployed in such situations and when the decision was made to send a detached platoon, the PCC resisted and indicated that FPU platoons could not be detached from their unit. The political implications of potentially failing to protect civilians in Saraf Umra were significant and the mission would lose trust and any credibility with the local population it was mandated to serve.
Taking into consideration the protection needs on the ground and the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the PCC, the MLT decided that the FPU platoon could be deployed after all for detached duties within a specific timeframe. As part of the security arrangements the FPU personnel moved together with the Military Company to provide inner perimeter protection and crowd management, while the military focused on outer perimeter protection and the gradual return of the displaced persons.
It was important for UNAMID to have considered the implications and consequences of the situation. Several questions arose, for example regarding the interpretation of detached duties of an FPU and the MOU between the UN and the PCC, while credibly implementing the mission mandate. All this was when time for MLT decision-making was short. It was therefore important for the MLT to have a deep understanding of the competing issues and in the face of such polarities to make appropriate and timely decisions.
Brig. Gen. Hester Paneras, Police Commissioner, UNAMID, 2013–15
Facilitating and Supporting the Peace Process
Creating a Secure and Stable Environment
MINUSCA: Red lines and the use of force
A critical question for the leadership of a UN peace operation is how far a mission can go in using force, and when it is right to do so. While the grounds for the use of force are likely to be fairly well defined in the mandate (usually in terms of the need to protect civilians, probably also to protect the mission and humanitarian actors, and to defend the mandate) and reflected in the military Concept of Operations and Rules of Engagement, much will depend on the interpretation of, for example, what constitutes a threat to civilians, or when it is justifiable for a mission to defend its mandate by force.
For example, in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), when certain ex-Seleka groups were threatening to march on Bambari (the second biggest city in the country), the mission decided that its protection of civilians (POC) mandate meant that it could set “red lines”, beyond which armed groups would face the use of force. When some rebels breached these red lines, the mission justified air strikes in terms of protecting civilians.
UN peace operation must not be a party to the conflict, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which acts as the guardian of international humanitarian law, was clear that the airstrikes would have compromised the mission’s status were it not for the specific warnings given that this was how we would interpret our POC mandate.
It was important for MINUSCA to have thought through the implications and consequences of the airstrikes. These questions of interpretation are likely to arise during a crisis situation and a mission leader may have little time to decide what they can do. So, having a sound understanding of the limits, and indeed of how far those limits can be stretched, is essential.
Diane Corner, DSRSG, MINUSCA, 2014–17
UNMIS: Maximizing operational effect of the military component
With increased threats in peacekeeping environments and attacks on UN bases and personnel, there has been a growing demand for more troops for force protection. An emerging dilemma for mission leadership is ensuring a balanced military deployment that secures static installations while retaining sufficient mobility to respond to developing critical situations.
UNMIS had a mandated strength of approximately 10,000 troops to support the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. While South Sudan supported UNMIS operations, looking forward to the 2011 Independence Referendum, operational consent was selective in the north, especially in Darfur and Abyei. Many UNMIS troops were thus hesitant to maneuver.
Since surface mobility was confined to mine-cleared roads, cross-country movement was being conducted by daytime aviation effort. The mission had limited access to outer reaches, mostly being provided by military observer long-range patrols with limited staying power.
There was a necessity to infuse maneuver culture in the mission to sustain control of far-flung areas, which was crucial for effective monitoring of the 1956 border Trans Line redeployment of the Sudanese Armed Forces and South Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
Thus, UNMIS pioneered the concept of a temporary operating base (TOB) – a light footprint deployment for conducting need-based tasks. There was initial resistance from troop-contributing countries as well as the Director of Mission Support, as this required effort.
TOBs were provided with field scale accommodation, rations and medical support. They became additional pivots for gaining access to the entire geographical space. Initially two TOBs were deployed, one each in Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal.
Later each sector developed the capability to deploy one TOB. TOBs can be an effective way for the mission to establish freedom of movement and dominate space economically.
Lt. Gen. Jasbir Lidder, Force Commander (2006–08) and DSRSG (2011–12),
Strengthening the Rule of Law
Supporting Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Development
UNMIL: An accelerated, yet prudent and responsible exit
When I arrived in Liberia in July 2015, the country was already fairly advanced along the path of peace consolidation. Achieving the long-awaited UN strategic goal in Liberia – attaining a steady state of security with national institutions able to maintain security independently of a peacekeeping mission – seemed closer than ever before. The democratically elected government had been in office for nearly 10 years, and the process of institution-building in the rule of law and security sector was at an advanced stage. Yet, fragility was palpable.
The UN Security Council had been considering the drawdown and withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) since 2007. In my pre-deployment bilateral meetings with key members of the Security Council, most made it clear to me that the closure of the mission before the October 2017 general elections was a priority, and that preparation for that eventuality constituted the core of my mandate. They expressed frustration over a “wasteful mission creep”, in terms of both mandated timeframe and expanse, leading to an “acute and chronic dependency syndrome”.
However, the common narrative in Liberia – whether in the government or civil society, cities or countryside, the mission and other UN entities, or neighbouring, subregional and regional diplomatic representations – was running in the opposite direction. They argued that while there was significant progress in the area of security, the state of stability was still vulnerable, and people remained deeply weary of a dangerous relapse, which the government might not be able to handle in the absence of peacekeepers.
They pointed out that the electoral campaign, which is always accompanied by heightened levels political tension, had the potential to lead to widespread violence. As such, they argued that the mission should remain in place until Liberia was ready to stand on its own.
It was obvious that UNMIL must rapidly and fully concentrate on helping prepare the country, psychologically and operationally, for a post-UNMIL future. The task of completing the UNMIL mandate in an accelerated manner had to be implemented in tandem with the mission’s further drawdown as we moved closer to its closure. Our actions included extensive dialogue and engagement with the government, political parties and civil society leaders, as well as massive outreach campaign with (and through) the media and the general public, with a view to instilling self-confidence and national pride in assuming full responsibility for their future.
In the meantime, we accelerated the transfer of residual responsibilities in human rights monitoring, rule of law, national reconciliation and security sector reform to the government institutions, civil society and the UN Country Team. Given the critical significance of ensuring that transfer of power from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to a new president took place through free, fair and peaceful elections, the mission successfully supported the joint appeal by the President and her Côte d’Ivoire counterpart, as well as many regional and subregional voices, for the Security Council to extend the mission’s mandate until after the elections and the inauguration of the new president.
Furthermore, the mission enhanced its assertive engagement with the three branches of government to expedite full implementation of the transition agenda and the preparation of a peacebuilding plan.
Farid Zarif, SRSG UNMIL, 2015–18