Two years since its adoption, Security Council resolution 2594 on UN transitions remains as relevant as ever. Adopted by consensus on 9 September 2021, and spearheaded by Ireland during its term as a Security Council member from 2021 to 2022, the resolution was a response to the acute challenges in securing peacebuilding and stabilization gains and in avoiding a deterioration of the protection of civilians’ environment in peace operation transitions. The Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace (NA4P) issued in July 2023 offers strategic opportunities to deepen cooperation around the resolution’s implementation.

Civilian protection dynamics across transition contexts illustrate the urgency of seizing these opportunities. For example, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) transition was accompanied by serious continued protection threats from armed groups and from intercommunal violence. Then, in April 2023, 22 months after the UNAMID withdrawal, major violence broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, plunging the country into large scale conflict with catastrophic consequences for civilians. In Haiti, after a succession of peacekeeping operations, the most recent one of which – the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) – closed in 2019, there has been a descent into lawlessness with dire consequences for civilians. In October 2023, the Security Council authorized the deployment of a multinational security support mission to Haiti to stem the situation. In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the drawdown of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is ongoing, armed group violence against civilians has risen dramatically since the start of the year.

These examples also show the increased complexity of transition contexts. Unlike past peacekeeping transitions, many of today’s transitions happen in contexts of limited state authority, dysfunctional peace processes, and a divided Security Council. Strained relationships between the UN and host governments further exacerbate challenges. Some governments prefer alternate security partners they perceive as more effective while less insistent than the UN on priorities such as human rights and security sector reform. In a stark example, the Malian de facto authorities requested in June the full withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Their request triggered an abrupt withdrawal risking a surge in violations against civilians.

In these conditions, it is increasingly difficult but critically important to implement resolution 2594. Partners committed to successful UN transitions should use the advocacy opportunities around NA4P to address these challenges. The NA4P contains several recommendations for Member States, which are strategically relevant to 2594.

As a start, the NA4P calls on Member States to “reinforce and strengthen UN capacities to undertake diplomatic initiatives for peace” and to “develop national prevention strategies to address the different drivers and enablers of violence and conflict.” These recommendations echo resolution 2594’s reassertion of the primacy of politics and warning that “lasting peace is neither achieved nor sustained by military and technical engagement alone, but through political solutions.” Greater support in the Council and by relevant regional partners to UN political engagement – especially vis-à-vis host states – is fundamental if transitions are to succeed.

The NA4P further highlights that human rights must be at the heart of national prevention strategies. For host-states engaged in UN transitions, such strategies should be aligned with and inform the national transition strategies and plans requested by 2594 that focus on protection of civilians, human rights, and access to justice. The NA4P thus offers an additional tool for the UN, Member States, and regional partners to engage host states in the design of protection-centered strategies.

In addition, the NA4P makes numerous recommendations on financing for sustaining peace. This is another, core 2594 concern, which highlights “that peacebuilding financing remains a critical challenge” in transition contexts. NA4P calls for more “sustainable and predictable financing, including through assessed contributions to peacebuilding efforts.” It also calls to “accelerate implementation of proven development pathways that enhance the social contract and human security”. This is in line with resolution 2594’s emphasis on the “interlinked and mutually reinforcing” nature of development, peace and security, and human rights, especially in support to the restoration and extension of legitimate state authority. Strengthening the UN Peacebuilding Commission is highlighted in both frameworks, with Member State support to the Peacebuilding Fund being key to support transitions. International financial institutions are also called on to do more.

Another important element for advocacy is Action 8 of the NA4P on strengthening peace operations, directly reiterating resolution 2594’s guidance. It reminds the Security Council “not to burden peace operations with unrealistic mandates” and to ensure these are “clear, prioritized, achievable, sufficiently resourced and adapted to changing circumstances and political developments.” The NA4P also calls for peace operations to be “significantly more integrated”, to “leverage the full range of civilian capacities and expertise across the UN system and its partners”, and to plan exit and transition strategies early. These are key 2594 directives, which emphasize the need to strengthen UN integration before, during, and after peace operation transitions.

An integrated approach depends on appropriate capabilities and capacities across the UN system, including to support protection of civilians.

While the NA4P calls on Member States to support these capacities, the UN system still needs to address enduring integration gaps during transitions – including for the protection of civilians. An upcoming CIVIC report on the ongoing MONUSCO transition in eastern DRC shows that, although advances have been made in UN integrated approaches to protection, important gaps remain. The upcoming UN Agenda for Protection – expected before the end of 2023 – should help address these gaps. As called for in 2594 and confirmed by CIVIC research, this should include efforts to enhance shared, gender-sensitive analysis of protection risks and to strengthen UN-wide integrated planning and coordination to pursue collective protection outcomes during transitions.

An essential factor to achieve these results is meaningful civil society engagement in transition and protection processes.

While strongly championed in resolution 2594, civil society engagement comes across less forcefully in the NA4P. The Agenda for Protection, as a UN framework for UN partners, is an opportunity to further reinforce the centrality of civilians in integrated protection efforts by involving them in the design, implementation, and monitoring of joined-up UN protection strategies. Experience across transition contexts consistently shows that civil society participation is one of the most significant, necessary conditions for transitions that effectively protect populations.

Given the continuum between 2594 and NA4P, invested Member States, civil society, and the UN system should ensure that the NA4P and the upcoming 2024 Summit of the Future act as catalyzers to strengthen the resolve to support successful UN transitions. Transitions must be central to the reflections on the future of peacekeeping which the NA4P invites the Security Council and General Assembly to hold. Relevant NA4P recommendations should also be integrated into the anticipated Pact for the Future. In so doing, the UN and Member States can help materialize resolution 2594’s belief that UN transitions be a “unique global partnership.”


(September 2023)

Author: Sabina Stein, CIVIC Senior United Nations Advisor 

Image courtesy of UN / Evan Schneider