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Updated on 4 October 2015


Section 1:   Military Staff Committee


Assessments prepared by the MSC on specific peacekeeping operations 


In recent years, the Military Staff Committee (MSC) has prepared specific written assessments with respect to two peacekeeping operations:  the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2012, and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in 2014.  


The MSC’s assessment on AMISOM was prepared at the direct request of the Security Council’s five permanent members for the purpose of assisting decision-making in response to a proposal by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) for increasing AMISOM’s strength from 12,000 to 17,731 troops and expanding its area of operation outside of Mogadishu.  This new AMISOM Strategic Concept would require adoption of an authorizing resolution by the UN Security Council. 


For the purpose of its review, the Military Staff Committee established its own subsidiary body, a Working Group, as the MSC is enabled to do under its revised Draft Statute as currently interpreted.  On the basis of the deliberations of the Working Group, the MSC adopted an “Observations Paper” on 17 February 2012.  That paper examined a number of aspects of the AUPSC proposal, including its strategic end state, its strategic assumptions, a threat assessment, force requirements, and UN support to AMISOM.  In its conclusion, the MSC deemed the new AMISOM Strategic Concept to be feasible.  Nevertheless, the MSC underscored the risk of a subsequent phase of counterinsurgency operations that could impact against the declared strategic end state, i.e., a significantly depleted military capacity of Al Shabaab and pirates.  Accordingly, the MSC recommended that AMISOM and the African Union address the specific issues raised in the Observations Paper, and that the plan for building the capacity and capability of the Transitional Federal Government and the National Somali Forces be circulated with the supportive plans developed for the Strategic Concept.


On 22 February 2012, the Security Council adopted resolution 2036 (2012), by which it decided that AMISOM’s tasks would include those set out in the Strategic Concept, and to that end, authorized the African Union to increase AMISOM’s force strength to 17,731.  A number of aspects relating to the Strategic Concept covered in the MSC Observations Paper were also addressed in the resolution.


In 2014, based on the deliberations of another working group, the Military Staff Committee set out its review of the deployment of MINUSCA in a “Memorandum for Record”.  The scope of this non-paper was broader than the MSC’s AMISOM Observations Paper, in that the Memorandum for Record used the MINUSCA deployment and the re-hatting of the prior AU mission, MISCA-CAR, as a case study for military-specific observations and for recommendations for the improvement of UN peacekeeping operations overall.


The Memorandum of Record identified a number of general systemic weaknesses, including the following:


  • The UN planning system is neither flexible, agile, responsive, nor integrated in its production of operational concepts and capabilities;
  • UN force generation methodology is insufficiently responsive to crises;
  • Logistics across the continuum from strategic to tactical are not responsive to operational commanders’ needs; and
  • Recommendations by the Secretary-General for a given mandate, developed within the Secretariat, have often been overly ambitious and have led to disappointment.


To address these weaknesses, the MSC recommended that the Security Council should consider authorizing the UN Secretariat to plan in advance for contingencies where peacekeeping operations are likely to emerge.  The MSC also recommended annual force generation conferences to identify possible troop contributors; greater reliance on regional troop contributors which have ready, standing units; franker assessments from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to the Council of instances when the force generation process is challenged in its Missions; combining the efforts of the Department of Field Support and DPKO at key points in the planning process; and involving the Council in the selection process for Logistics executives, as is the practice for Force Commanders and SRSGs.  In addition, the Memorandum of Record raised issues of basic troop sustainment needs.


In its conclusion, the Memorandum of Record states that the MSC remains at the service of the Security Council to provide both military specific assessments for Council consideration and advice on the military feasibility of mandates.  Moreover, the Military Staff Committee recommends that the Council, either through the MSC or directly, should encourage interactive dialogues with DPKO to ensure that Secretariat plans are consistent with the Council’s intentions as expressed in the mandates which the Council establishes. 


It will be recalled that Article 47 of the Charter provides for the MSC “to advise and assist the Security Council on all questions relating to the Security Council’s military requirements for the maintenance of international peace and security”.  However, in the Articles by which the UN Charter established the Military Staff Committee, it did not set out any formal reporting procedure from the MSC to the Security Council itself.  The Memorandum for Record represents a possibility for filling this gap, in that it states that the paper may, in the future, be used to constitute military advice to the Security Council as a whole and to individual members in accordance to the UN Charter.  (This update supplements pages 467-472 of the book.)



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