Prioritizing and Sequencing Security Council Mandates in 2023: The Case of UNMISS

The UN Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in March 2023. The upcoming negotiations among council members will unfold as South Sudan enters a crucial phase of its extended political transition, which is now expected to culminate in national elections by December 2024. Hot spots of localized violence persist across the country, which could escalate should political or security conditions deteriorate. Significant humanitarian concerns, multifaceted threats to civilians, and the limited presence of state institutions to provide basic services or security amplify the magnitude of the challenges confronting South Sudan.

In this context, the International Peace Institute (IPI), Security Council Report, and the Stimson Center co-hosted a roundtable discussion on January 25, 2023. This roundtable offered a platform for member states, UN officials, civil society stakeholders, and independent experts to share their assessments of the situation in South Sudan in a frank and collaborative manner. The discussion was intended to help the Security Council make more informed decisions with respect to the prioritization and sequencing of UNMISS’s mandate and the mission’s strategic orientation and actions on the ground.

Participants largely agreed that the Security Council’s three-year strategic vision for UNMISS and the mission’s priority tasks remain fit for purpose and that the mandate’s broad structure is still valid in light of the current country context. The dialogue focused on identifying ways to refine the mandate and ensure that UNMISS has both the direction and the flexibility needed to support the country over the coming year. In renewing UNMISS’s mandate, the council will likely need to consider the following issues:

  • Encouraging unified international support to South Sudan during this next phase of its political transition while communicating the urgency of South Sudan accomplishing critical legislative milestones before December 2024;
  • Affirming the centrality of UN support to protecting civilians and encouraging UNMISS to continue prioritizing flexible and proactive approaches to the protection of civilians (POC);
  • Expanding UNMISS’s support to preparations for the upcoming electoral process in ways that are consistent with the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan’s (R-ARCSS) provisions on free, fair, and peaceful elections;
  • Continuing support to South Sudanese justice, rule of law, and security institutions, as well as considering the potential expansion of conflict-sensitive capacity-building assistance, in line with South Sudanese priorities; and
  • Considering ways to integrate the emerging issues of climate change, misinformation and disinformation, and early transition planning into the mandate.