December 2011 Monthly Forecast

Posted 1 December 2011
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Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa

Expected Council Action
In December, the Council is expected to receive the annual report of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. It will then likely renew the mandate of the working group, which expires on 31 December, through a note by the president of the Council. No other Council action is expected.

Key Recent Developments
In January, South Africa replaced Uganda as chair of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. (Established on 1 March 2002 to monitor the implementation of recommendations outlined in previous Council decisions regarding conflict prevention and resolution in Africa as well as to propose recommendations on the enhancement of cooperation between the Security Council and key UN agencies dealing with Africa, the working group has always been chaired by an African Council member.)  

The working group has met six times so far in 2011, including an interactive session on 21 November:

  • on 11 March, on “Consultations on the proposed activities of the Ad Hoc Working Group for 2011”;
  • on 31 March, on “Enhancing the role of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Resolution in Africa”;
  • on 3 May, on “UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council Cooperation”;
  • on 13 July, on “Early Warning Tools and Indicators to Assess the Risk of Election-Related Violence in Africa”;
  • on 28 September, on “The Root Causes of Conflict in Africa: New and Emerging Challenges to Peace and Security”; and
  • on 21 November, in an interactive session on “Recent lessons learned in African conflict prevention and resolution: Coordinating response and supporting local capacity”.

The 3 May discussion, on cooperation between the Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), was particularly remarkable, since it represented the first time that the 15 members of the PSC, which sits at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, were invited by the Council in New York to dialogue with Council members in the context of the working group. Rather than focusing heavily on procedural matters as in previous years, the May meeting between the two Councils resulted in a substantive discussion and a communiqué on issues such as Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, and Somalia, perhaps in part as a result of the preparatory groundwork that had been done by the working group. (For more details, please see our 3 June Update Report on Visit of Security Council Delegation to Africa.)

Two additional meetings, which are likely to explore the relationship between peace and justice in Africa and lessons learnt from African countries emerging from conflict, have been planned before the end of the year.

Key Issues
One key issue is how to ensure that the discussions in the working group directly inform and strengthen the Council’s work in Africa. The 3 May meeting was promising in this respect, helping to provide a springboard for the Council’s deliberations with the PSC in Addis Ababa this year.

Another key issue is how to generate less formal and more spontaneous interactive discussion in the working group.  

A further important and related issue is generating enhanced interest among Council members in the working group’s activities.  

The most likely option for the Council is to renew the mandate of the working group. Moving forward, options for the working group’s activities could include:

  • focusing on country-specific cases in Africa that appear at risk of lapsing, or relapsing, into conflict, in keeping with a recommendation made in the Secretary-General’s 7 June 2001 report on the prevention of armed conflict;
  • using the working group as a secretariat for the annual meeting between the Council and the PSC, thus building on this year’s 3 May meeting; or
  • inviting permanent representatives of PSC countries and regional and subregional organisations to participate in interactive discussions with working group diplomats about relevant developments in Africa. 

Council Dynamics
Although lingering concerns remain about the implications of conflict prevention on national sovereignty, most members of the Council, including especially African members, strongly support the Council’s renewed interest in, and engagement with, conflict prevention in Africa over the past couple of years. There are several reasons for the interest, including notably growing concerns about the human and economic impact of conflict and the perceived overstretch and high financial cost of UN peace operations, especially in Africa. In this respect, most members of the Council appear to recognise that effective conflict prevention is more cost-effective than peacekeeping, and most importantly, saves lives. 

South Africa has worked hard to revitalise the working group as chair this year. While it has had some successes, there is nonetheless a sense among some members that the working group could be feeding more directly into the Council’s work on Africa. Additionally, some Council members appear to believe that the discussions in the working group could be more interactive and more strategic in nature.

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UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1625 (14 September 2005) was a declaration on the Security Council’s role in conflict prevention.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2011/18 (22 September 2011) was on preventive diplomacy.
  • S/PRST/2010/21 (22 October 2010) was on assistance to AU peacekeeping.
  • S/PRST/2010/14 (16 July 2010) requested the Secretary-General to submit recommendations on how best to utilise preventive diplomacy tools within the UN system.

Selected Letter

  • S/2010/371 (9 July 2010) was the concept note prepared by Nigeria for the debate it chaired on conflict prevention in Africa.

Selected Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/552 (26 August 2011) was the Secretary-General’s report on preventive diplomacy. 
  • S/2010/514 (14 October 2010) was on support to AU peacekeeping operations authorised by the UN.
  •  S/2001/574 (7 2001) was a report on prevention of armed conflict.  


  • S/PV.6409 (22 October 2010) was the debate on support for AU peacekeeping.
  • S/PV.6360 and resumption 1 (16 July 2010) was an open debate on “optimising the use of preventive diplomacy tools: prospects and challenges in Africa.”
  • S/2010/654 (21 December 2010) was the presidential note extending the work of the working group until 31 December 2011.
  • S/2002/207 (1 March 2002) outlined the terms of reference and mandate for the working group.   

Other Relevant Facts

Chairs of the Working Group

South Africa (January 2011-Present)
Uganda (January 2009 – December 2010)
South Africa (January 2008 – December 2008)
Congo (January 2006-December 2007)
Benin (January 2005-December 2005)
Angola (January 2003-December 2004)
Mauritius (March 2002-December 2002)

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