Lauren Spink

Policy and Research Papers

A Challenge for Peacekeeping: Balancing Static Protection with Mobility in South Sudan

Since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan in December 2013, UNMISS has provided protection to several hundred thousand civilians who sought shelter on their bases around the country. With limited resources, UNMISS has struggled to provide protection to civilians that reside in the POC sites, and to also project resources to provide protection for the many more civilians outside of the sites.

Like its predecessor, the new UN Security Council mandate recognizes the important role that UNMISS plays providing protection to the POC sites and directs the Mission to continue to “maintain public safety and security of and within UNMISS protection of civilians sites.” However, the mandate also includes new language that emphasizes the need for UNMISS to “support the facilitation of the safe, informed, voluntary, and dignified return or relocation” of displaced persons and imposes a 180-day deadline for the mission to complete an assessment of each POC site, including the model for providing security to the sites and steps necessary to foster a secure environment for the safe, informed, voluntary, and dignified returns and relocations of displaced persons.

Nuanced and location specific assessments of POC sites could help UNMISS better understand security threats to civilians in and around the sites and plan to address them. However, the timeline for the assessments is short and setting a deadline on assessments could inadvertently create pressure on Mission officials to begin supporting population movements that are potentially risky given the conflict environment.

This report examines the challenges the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) faces in adopting a more mobile and flexible approach to peacekeeping in South Sudan. It provides reflections on the balance the Mission should try to reach between increasing mobility and continuing to provide static protection to civilians sheltered in Protection of Civilians (POC) sites on UNMISS bases. These reflections are particularly important in light of UNMISS’s already stretched resources and new mandate language, which focuses on UNMISS’s role in facilitating returns and relocations for displaced persons.

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