The question of UN peacekeeping in Somalia
Welcome from your Chair
We are delighted to welcome you to Benenden for the 14th annual BMUN conference.
My name is Marianne and I am the President of Security Council. This is my fourth and final year doing MUN so I’m really hoping for a great day with great debate. Security Council is my favourite committee because it is the most powerful committee and we tackle some the most pressing and complex issues in depth. I look forward to meeting all of you and to an exciting day of debate and diplomacy.
Head Chair and President of the Security Council
Introduction to the Committee
The General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, and is the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. The broad scope of its mandate had led the General Assembly to divide its workload among six different committees.
Security Council is one of the 6 committees and is ‘charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new UN members to the General Assembly, and approving any changes to the UN Charter.’ Security Council has 5 permanent members: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. Although with the recent question of should India join the ‘P5’, this might change in the near or far future. The powers that the Security Council holds can, start peacekeeping operations, acts on international sanctions and also authorizing military action. The Security Council also has the authority to issue binding resolutions on member states, with it being the only committee having the permission to do so.
In this conference we will be doing clause by clause debate, so fully written resolutions are not required
This year, the committee will be dealing with the following topic: The question of UN peacekeeping in Somalia.
Somalia is commonly characterised as a ‘failed state’. Historically, Somalia has faced turbulent political change, from being colonised by European powers in the 19th century, to gaining independence in 1960, to a civil war following the assassination of President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke in 1969 and the subsequent seizure of power by Major General Siad Barre. Below are brief overviews of past peacekeeping operations in Somalia:
UNOSOM I was dispatched in 1992, the first of two UN peacekeeping and humanitarian missions intended to support Somalia through civil war and drought. Their mandate was limited as the central government of Somalia had collapsed as the UN had not received consent for troops. Even though over 4,000 troops received authorisation, local warlords presented an obstacle and ultimately, under 1,000 were deployed. The mission, which entailed distribution of humanitarian aid after the famine, suffered from bad management and disorganisation – troops did not accept orders from UN commanders and the mission was further impacted by miscommunication. The intervention cost $43 million but the result was poor.
Operating in Somalia from December 1992-May 1993, the United States-led and UN-sanctioned Unified Task Force (UNITAF) was more successful as a multinational peace-enforcement mission, with 24 countries contributing an estimated 37,000 troops. This was more heavily armed than UNOSOM, successfully disarming several warring Somali clans – although this can also be attributed to warlords fearing the US troops’ force, its limited-time mandate, and the lack of threat the operation posed to the civil war’s political balance.
UNOSOM II (1993-95)
UNOSOM II cost $1.6 billion and was highly ambitious, extending the limits of traditional, neutral peacekeeping missions. The troops were called upon to disarm Somali civilians, bring order to Somalia, and begin the establishment of a stable government. To incentivise support for the mission, humanitarian aid was distributed as a reward, instead of to those in need. There was also an attempt to arrest Muhammed Farah Aydid, the most powerful warlord, who was profiting from the volatile situation and resistant to rebuilding operations. UNOSOM II did not meet its lofty ambitions – UN resolutions establishing the mission were vague, not enough attention was dedicated to stable cease-fires, and the UN made a mistake by failing to gain consent from warring parties in Somalia. The United States and European participants withdrew forces in 1994 after attacks on UN troops by Somali militias killed 18 US soldiers. The protection of civilians and distribution of humanitarian aid were undermined by over 140 UN fatalities and millions of dollars were lost, stolen, or wasted in a mission filled with bad management and corruption. These missions have implicated the UN peacekeeping operations that follow it. For example, it led to the coining of ‘the Mogadishu effect’ or ‘the Somalia syndrome’, used to describe the fear of casualties, which are politically unpopular, in civil conflict intervention situations. The failure of UNOSOM may have contributed to reluctance from the international community to intervene in future civil conflicts, notably the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) began operation in 2007 as a regional peacekeeping mission by the African Union, with the approval of the Security Council. It supports the transition of governmental structure, the implementation of a national security plan, the training of Somali security forces, and assistance in delivering humanitarian aid. Moreover, it assists the Federal Government’s forces in the battle against al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgent group based in Somalia. In 2005, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys (Union of Islamic Courts) told peacekeepers were unwelcome in Somalia and threatened to ‘fight fiercely to the death any intervention force that arrives in Somalia’ In 2007, the US pledged $40 million towards deploying a peacekeeping force for Somalia, which was followed by the EU’s pledge of 15 million euros. Initially, the peacekeeping mission only gathered half of the initial proposal of 8,000 troops, but its mandate and number of troops have since expanded – in 2012, the Security Council increased the number of deployed troops from 12,000 to 17,731.
Established in 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2102, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) provides policy advice to AMISOM and the Federal Government. They are mandates to advise on peacebuilding and state-building, security sector reform and rule of law, the formation of a federal system, constitutional review, democratisation, and organising international donor support. Furthermore, UNSOM is working with the Federal Government to promote human rights, child protection, and the empowerment of women, as well as preventing conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. It also has a role in the investigation of human rights violations, international humanitarian law abuses in Somalia and feeding back to the Council. Recently, on November 5, UNSOM urged the Somali government to hasten their election process, expressing concern over several delays. Their statement was backed by AMISOM, the EU, Arab League, and 19 individual countries.
A report on the ‘Situation in Somalia’ by the Security Council was published in May of 2020. It detailed a security situation which remains volatile, with over 200 monthly incidents. It noted an overall decrease in civilian casualties but an increase in high-profile attacks by al-Shabaab.
In August 2021, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2592, extending Somalia Mission Mandate until mid-2022 and calling for a strong presence ‘as the security situation allows’. They further called on Somali leaders to hold their parliamentary elections in a ‘free, fair, credible, and inclusive’ manner, cultivate political pluralism, and uphold rights. The Security Council pushed for a collaborative union between the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in the hopes of strengthening safety for all.
The Council also condemned misappropriations of humanitarian assistance and emphasised the need for effective solutions to internal displacement including local integration and resettlement. In response to the renewal of UNSOM’s mandate, the Russian Federation representative expressed concern over the Council’s inclusion of climate and human rights issues, emphasising ‘Colleagues from Somalia do not need to be mentored by the Security Council on how to defend human rights.’ The United States representative felt positively about the mandate renewal, stating ‘we remain committed to Somalia’. The US and other actors in the international community continue to have a strong presence in Somalia – the US particularly is one of its key security partners and is playing an integral role in establishing a strong national army.
Considerations for debate
To guide your research and proposed solutions, consider these questions from the perspective of your country:
- To what extent was peacekeeping successful in Somalia? Which areas have been more successful and why?
- Why did peacekeeping operations in Somalia fail/succeed?
- Is UN peacekeeping necessary? What level of intervention should the UN have?
- Is Somalia becoming self-sufficient a goal? If so, how can it be achieved?
- What lessons should the UN take from peacekeeping in Somalia – what does the future of humanitarian intervention look like?
- How should peacekeepers handle the return of refugees and internally displaced persons?
- Should the Council be involved in climate issues and human rights defense in Somalia?
- Should there be more/less peacekeepers in Somalia?
- What responsibilities do the international community have in civil conflicts?
Further reading & Bibliography