For the last five years, in the autumn, DPA has presented the Secretary-General’s report on Special Political Missions (SPMs) to the General Assembly. SPMs are flexible and versatile operations that allow the UN to respond to situations ranging from incipient peace negotiations to potential violent conflict. The peace processes in Syria, Libya and Yemen, for example, are SPMs, as are the field missions in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. DPA oversees these SPMs and provides support to another type of political mission, namely the sanctions committees established by the Security Council.
Introducing the latest SPM report on 31 October, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun said that over the past year, SPMs have played a vital role in “advancing political transitions, supporting governance, strengthening institutions and enabling democratic processes; and in identifying early risks and crafting effective preventive responses.”
The report lists, among others, the following key developments from 1 August 2016 to 31 July 2017:
- In 2016, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) provided good offices support and technical and logistical support in relation to a process that saw 12,594 selected delegates voting for members of the House of the People, while members of state assemblies elected the members of the Upper House. The members of both Houses elected Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo as President of Somalia on 8 February 2017. UNSOM played a key role in coordinating international community support for the political process and for its overall engagement in Somalia.
- The Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region continued to lead, monitor and report on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region. The Office contributed to regional efforts to advance the implementation of the Nairobi Declaration of Commitments of 12 December 2013 at the conclusion of the Kampala Dialogue; resolve the situation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition fighters currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and address the threat posed by the Allied Democratic Forces and other armed groups, among other developments.
- Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2248 (2015), a United Nations office in Burundi was established in Bujumbura in January 2016 to support the efforts of my Special Envoy to lead and coordinate the political efforts of the United Nations in Burundi to work with its Government and other concerned stakeholders in support of an inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue, as well as in support of national efforts to build and sustain peace.
- During the reporting period, South Sudan and Uganda withdrew their troops from the African Union Regional Task Force fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the United States of America ended the mandate of its Special Forces supporting the Regional Task Force. In the light of the renewal by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union of the Regional Task Force’s mandate until 22 May 2018, taking into account the need to realign the concept of operations of the Regional Task Force with the latest developments on the ground, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) will work with regional partners, including the African Union, to review and revise the United Nations regional strategy to combat the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
- A strategic assessment of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) conducted in May and June 2017 will help adjust the concept of operations and structure of the Mission to the changing realities on the ground. Those efforts will include a phased ramping up of the rotational presence of international staff in Libya while maintaining an office in Tunis. Through an integrated electoral assistance programme, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme, UNSMIL provided advice and support to the High National Elections Commission, including technical advice for the electoral elements of the constitutional drafting process and assistance with the coordination of international electoral assistance.
- In Colombia, the consolidation of the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities that followed the signing of a peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) on 24 November 2016, and the historic completion of the laying down of weapons, represented major milestones in peace implementation. The strong commitment of the parties kept the peace process on track despite numerous challenges. The United Nations Mission in Colombia has verified the ceasefire. The Mission also monitored the movement of more than 7,000 FARC-EP members to the 26 assembly zones and points. On 10 July, following a request by the parties, the Council adopted resolution 2366 (2017) establishing a follow-on mission – the now-established United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia -- to verify the reintegration of FARC-EP members and the implementation of security guarantees for the group and for conflict-affected communities. By supporting the crucial reintegration phase, the second mission can play an important role in helping consolidate peace in Colombia.
- The reporting period witnessed a high level of activity and unprecedented progress, but also stagnations and serious challenges in talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders, which were facilitated by the United Nations. The January 2017 Conference on Cyprus aimed to discuss the sixth and last chapter of the negotiations on security and guarantees, with the participation of the guarantor Powers and in the presence of the European Union as an observer. However, in early July, after intense negotiations, and in consultation with the participants, the Secretary-General closed the Conference without an agreement having been reached. The United Nations, as facilitator of the process, remains at the disposal of the parties.
- During the reporting period, the Special Envoy for Syria held four rounds of intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva on the basis of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué of June 2012. The talks were guided by the substantive agenda regarding political transition issues, which was approved by the Council in March 2017.
- In Iraq, the completion of the military campaign in Mosul sharpened the expectations and role of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). UNAMI must now focus on a number of pressing issues, in consultation with the Government of Iraq, including: promoting bilateral dialogue between key actors from Baghdad and Erbil; facilitating efforts to reach a process of national and societal reconciliation; assisting the development of processes for holding elections; supporting accountability and justice for human rights violations and war crimes; and advising on security sector reform as well as assisting the voluntary, dignified and safe return of 3 million internally displaced persons to liberated areas.
- On 15 June 2017, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on Yemen (S/PRST/2017/7) calling on all parties to engage constructively with the latest proposals of the Special Envoy for Yemen with regard to: (a) increasing commercial and humanitarian shipments through Red Sea ports, including new arrangements for the management of Hudaydah port and city; and (b) resuming government salary payments and preserving essential government services in all areas of the country. The Special Envoy has continued to engage with the parties in line with the presidential statement and with a view to reviving political negotiations.
- The conflict in Afghanistan continued unabated during the reporting period. In 2016, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented a total of 11,418 civilian casualties, the highest since 2009. Some 650,000 individuals were newly internally displaced by the conflict, and 620,000 Afghans returned from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan. The Government of Afghanistan secured pledges of military and civilian financial assistance from international partners through 2020 and signed a peace agreement with an opposition armed group, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin. However, there was no progress towards a peace process with the Taliban. Among its core activities, UNAMA supported the preparation of the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan; provided assistance to the electoral management bodies; supported regional initiatives to enhance economic, political and security cooperation; reported on human rights; and advocated for the implementation of the Afghan national plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security.
- In relation to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Security Council expanded existing sanctions measures in its resolutions 2270 (2016) and 2321 (2016), and introduced new measures on coal, minerals and aviation fuel. In its resolution 2356 (2017), the Council designated for sanction 14 additional individuals and 4 entities.
Title picture: Somali women hold white cards as symbols of peace, at a ceremony to mark International Sports Day for development and peace in Mogadishu on April 06, 2017. UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed