On Tuesday, 19 January, the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) announced in Havana their decision to request the Security Council to establish a political mission in the country to monitor and verify a future agreement on “a bilateral and definitive ceasefire and cessation of hostilities and the laying down of arms.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the decision and called it “yet another significant step toward the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict”.
Council members are now working on a resolution that would establish the latest UN special political mission (SPM). The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) manages over 40 SPMs around the world. SPMs vary in their functional roles and characteristics, but they can be broadly defined as United Nations civilian missions deployed for a limited time to support Member States in good offices, conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding. They can be created by the Council or the General Assembly.
SPMs can be grouped under three main categories: field-based missions (Somalia and Iraq, for example); special envoys (such as the Special Envoys for Syria and Yemen); and sanctions panels and monitoring groups established by the Security Council.
Although the term “SPM” is relatively new, political missions have been at the heart of the UN’s efforts to maintain peace and security since the Organization’s establishment. From the deployment of Count Folke Bernadotte to the Middle East in 1948 to the establishment of the Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi in 2015, political missions have played an important role in helping countries prevent and overcome conflict and build peace.
See the interactive map and tables below for an overview of the history of SPMs since the late 1980s.
* The Secretary-General’s Good Offices in Cyprus started in 1964 (Security Council resolution 186 of 4 March 1964). In 2008, the then leader of the Greek Cypriot community, Demetris Christofias, and the then Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, agreed to restart full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General.