Updated on 4 October 2015
Chapter 8: SUBSIDIARY BODIES
Section 1: Military Staff Committee
Military Staff Committee missions to the field
Beginning in 2014, the Military Staff Committee (MSC) has expanded its activities relating to the consideration of mandates of UN peacekeeping operations by embarking on missions to the field. Such visits require the consensus of all five members of the MSC – China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The first such mission took place from 28 September to 1 October 2014, when the five MSC representatives traveled to Haiti. The purpose of the visit, as set out in the Military Staff Committee’s updated internal Handbook of 2015, was to review the proposed drawdown plan for the Military Component of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The MSC had as reference the Secretary-General’s report of 7 March 2014 (S/2014/162). In that report, the Secretary-General, as encouraged by resolution 2119 (2013), set out five options for configuring the UN presence in Haiti to perform the political and peacekeeping functions likely to remain relevant during and after the phased reduction of MINUSTAH’s Military Component.
While in Haiti, the MSC members received briefings from the SRSG, the UNPOL Police Commissioner, the MINUSTAH Force Commander, and Force staff. In addition, they travelled outside of Port-au-Prince to assess aviation and engineering capabilities and to accompany UN peacekeepers on patrol in a high-risk area.
After assessing the information gleaned from their visit to Haiti, the MSC members endorsed proposed drawdown plan option 4.5, while pinpointing deployment and equipment issues which would need to be addressed to make this option viable. Through their visit, the MSC members also ascertained that significant gaps remained in Haiti’s police capacity and security sector reform. It is considered that the new MINUSTAH force levels endorsed by resolution 2180 (2014), adopted by the Security Council on 14 October 2014, were consonant with the conclusions drawn by the MSC following its visit to Haiti.
The second mission to the field undertaken by the Military Staff Committee was to Côte d’Ivoire, from 14 to 16 April 2015, to review the activities of the Military Component of the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI). According to the MSC’s 2015 Handbook, the purpose of the visit was to assess the capacities of UNOCI in relation to the presidential elections scheduled for October 2015 and the renewal of the Operation’s mandate. As was the case during its prior mission to Haiti, the MSC visit to Côte d’Ivoire included both in-depth briefings at headquarters and visits to other areas of deployment, in this case, both Sector East and Sector West.
In its report, the Military Staff Committee observed that its visit had enabled the MSC to discern diverging views between the respective threat assessments of DPKO and UNOCI’s military leadership. Whereas DPKO foresaw higher risk in Sector West, the MSC supported UNOCI’s assessment that Abidjan was likely to be the main potential hotspot during the elections. While noting weaknesses with respect to in-mission communication, the condition of vehicles, and progress on SSR and DDR, the MSC highlighted the assessment that there was low risk of an upsurge in violence during the elections. It also reported favourably on the implementation by UNOCI of a force training plan designed to deter aggression, as well as the modalities of the Regional Quick Reaction Force.
In conclusion, the MSC deemed that UNOCI, at its current strength, had sufficient capacity to support the electoral process, as well as the national police and armed forces, at their demand. Moreover, provided there was no major outbreak of violence, the MSC recommended that a UNOCI drawdown plan begin three to four months after the presidential elections, and be concluded by the end of 2016. A number of these issues figured in resolutions 2219 (2015) and 2226 (2015) subsequently adopted by the Security Council concerning the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.
The book observes (page 471) that the Military Staff Committee does not, as a practice, report directly to the Council. Rather, any consensus reached is presented by the MSC military advisers to their individual permanent representatives. In this connection, the MSC Handbook observes that the Military Staff Committee, through its recommendations, provides a unique P5 perspective on military questions. It further underlines that the MSC is at liberty to provide the Security Council with advice and a second opinion that may differ from the recommendations of the UN Secretariat. As noted above, this was in fact the case with respect to the threat assessments regarding Côte d’Ivoire. The Military Staff Committee has also pointed out its capacity, as the Council’s military advisory body, to provide a unique perspective on military feasibility and to help bridge potential gaps between Security Council mandates and implementation in the field.
The usefulness of the two missions to the field taken by the MSC in 2014 and 2015 can be seen in this light. However, as mentioned in the book (pages 531 and 556), because funds for the travel of the Security Council’s subsidiary bodies have been very limited, most missions to the field by subsidiary bodies, other than certain sanctions or counter-terrorism committees, have been paid for by the participating delegates. Such budgetary constraints may impact on the frequency with which representatives of the Military Staff Committee undertake future missions to the field, unless UN funding for such travel becomes available. (This update supplements pages 467-472 of the book.)