UN Support to Regional Peace Operations: Lessons from UNSOA

Foodstuffs from the UN Support Office for the AU Mission in Somalia are offloaded from a UN helicopter as part of a support package to troops from the Somali National Army supporting the AU mission. (AU/UNISTPHOTO/Mohamed Guled)

Authorized in January 2009, the UN Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA) was an unprecedented operation. Through UNSOA, the Department of Field Support used the UN’s assessed contributions to directly support a non-UN regional peace operation (AMISOM). Although this significantly enhanced AMISOM’s capabilities and increased its overall effectiveness, UNSOA faced numerous challenges that severely inhibited its ability to deliver on all its mandated tasks.

This report analyzes five sets of challenges that UNSOA faced from 2009 through to 2015. These challenges revolved around the expanding scope of UNSOA’s tasks, the clash between the UN and the AU’s organizational cultures, the highly insecure operating environment, the size of the theater of operations, and some of AMISOM’s idiosyncrasies.

On the basis of these challenges, the report offers several lessons for future UN support for regional peace operations:

  • It is unwise to separate control over logistics from control over operations.
  • The UN’s current bureaucratic rules and procedures are not quick or flexible enough to support forces dispersed over large distances in conducting sustained maneuver warfare.
  • Regional organizations must put in place mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency when using the UN’s assessed peacekeeping contributions.
  • All stakeholders must share information better.
  • The UN should explore how best its field missions can support the development of host-state national security forces.
  • UN and AU field operations and planning processes need to be better linked.