In the wake of security concerns, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will slice its troops down from its current strength of 8000 to 3,750 with the first phase which consists of 1,990 troops to be implemented by September this year.
The Security Council resolution 2066 nevertheless mandates an increase in UNMIL's police component to a total of 1,795 police to support the transition. While the government supports the drawdown, media reports suggest there is some apprehension over how it will fill the gaps in security following UNMIL's departure.
The Security Council March 2013 Monthly Forecast also reveals that there has been increasing attention to the issue of the reduction of UNMIL troop levels and the drawdown of the mission.
The Council last discussed UNMIL on 11 September 2012 (S/PV.6830), following which resolution 2066 was unanimously adopted on 17 September (S/PV.6834), renewing its mandate for another year. On 12 December the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2079 renewing the mandate of the 1521 Liberia Sanctions Committee as well as its Panel of Experts until 12 December 2013.
On 27 November 2012, the Secretary-General appointed Aeneas Chapinga Chuma (Zimbabwe) as his new Deputy Special Representative for Recovery and Good Governance as well as UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative. On 7 February, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Tamrat Samuel (Eritrea) as his Deputy Special Representative for Rule of Law.
From 11-15 February, a PBC mission visited Liberia with the aim of meeting with different stakeholders engaged in peacebuilding in the country. The mission specifically focused on the issues of police reform in the context of the UNMIL transition, PBC contributions to security sector reform, rule of law and national reconciliation, including the reconciliation roadmap developed in April 2012. It also reviewed progress made on the implementation of the Liberia Peacebuilding Programme as well as on the implementation by the government and the international community of commitments contained in the Statement of Mutual Commitments.
The inauguration of the first of five regional justice and security hubs in Gbarnga on 12 February was a notable milestone in the decentralisation of the justice and security sector. Supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, the hubs represent a step forward in the peacebuilding process and are expected to increase access to justice and security by co-locating police, courts and immigration departments, serving as a "one-stop shop" for their services.
Following the scathing resignation of Leymah Gbowee--co-winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf--as head of the Peace and Reconciliation Commission on 8 October 2012, Sirleaf appointed former opposition presidential candidate George Weah to the position in early December. A popular national figure due to his success in football, his appointment may add legitimacy to Sirleaf's claims to be acting on behalf of all Liberians by demonstrating her willingness to work with past opponents.
Despite continuing allegations of corruption and nepotism within the Sirleaf administration, Liberia has become less corrupt according to Transparency International, an international anti-corruption watchdog group, coming in 75th place in 2012 compared to 91st in 2011 out of 176 countries surveyed.
The issue of security along the border with Côte d'Ivoire remains a concern, with governments and peacekeeping missions in both countries working together to address the issue. Inter-mission cooperation between UNMIL and the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire continues, including sharing assets such as helicopters and monitoring security along and across border areas. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, head of ECOWAS, met with Sirleaf on 18 December, with both agreeing on the need for concerted measures to secure border areas and praising coordination efforts between the two countries to date. On 8 January, Liberian Defence Minister Bernie Samukai announced that army units would be withdrawn from border posts by 13 January--where they had been deployed since June 2012 following repeated raids by armed gangs--declaring the border safe and secure.
Vulnerabilities persist among both Liberians and Ivorian refugees in Liberia, resulting in unrelenting humanitarian needs for half a million people at risk of hunger and illness. The UN launched an appeal on 19 February calling for $36.7 million to implement the 2013 "Critical Humanitarian Gaps" response plan, prompted by a funding shortfall in a 2012 humanitarian appeal.
A key issue for the Council is the drawdown of UNMIL and its transition to a smaller presence, while ensuring sufficient national capacity to fill any gaps, particularly in the security sector.
A related issue is that of reconciliation and the peacebuilding process, ensuring that such initiatives continue during and beyond the drawdown of UNMIL.
One option is for the Council to receive the briefing and take no action.
A second--and less likely--option is for the Council to issue a press statement highlighting the importance of reconciliation and peacebuilding, and calling on the government to take on increasing security responsibilities.
Council members are largely in agreement on the issue of Liberia and are keen to see through the implementation of the drawdown plan. There are, however, some divisions among the permanent members on the pace of UNMIL's drawdown, with those more heavily invested in Liberia preferring a more gradual withdrawal.
While there has been some progress, Council members are of the view that this progress is not as swift as it could be and feel that it is time to apply pressure on the government to assume more responsibility for security, thereby relying less on UNMIL, which clearly still plays an important stabilizing role.