UN Transitions: Improving Security Council Practice in Mission Settings

Research & Publications | January 21, 2020 | ,

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UN Photo / Albert Gonzalez Farran

This policy paper covers the role of the UN Security Council in mandating and overseeing UN transitions, typically as peace operations are drawn down or significantly reconfigured. Based on an extensive literature review and interviews with UN experts and Council members, the paper explores the evolution of Council practice over the past thirty years. Drawing from this practice, it offers concrete recommendations how Council-led transitions processes can be planned and managed in a proactive, integrated and forward-looking manner, better positioning the UN to provide support to host countries in often fragile moments.

The paper is divided into four sections: (1) the evolution of Security Council practice on transitions from the early 1990s to present; (2) recurring challenges in transition processes in the Council, including financial cliffs, elections and risks of relapse; (3) a framework for mandating a transition process, drawing from past practice; and (4) conclusions about the future of UN transitions in the field.

In addition to more general lessons and considerations, it offers eleven concrete recommendations for the Security Council. Finally, the paper provides suggestions for improving the daily working methods of the Council, including around informal problem solving, finding unity within the E-10, the practice of joint penholders, greater contact with the field, and engagement with the broader UN family in country.

This project was developed in partnership with the UN Joint Project on Transitions and supported by the Government of the United Kingdom. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) and United Nations Department of Peace Operations (DPO) – supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office – launched the UN Transitions Project in 2014 to improve the way in which UN transition processes are being planned and managed across the organization. Since its inception, the UN Transitions Project has contributed to a more timely, forward-looking and integrated approach to UN transitions that positions the UN to consolidate peacebuilding gains and sustaining peace after mission withdrawal.

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