January 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2011
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UN-AU Strategic Partnership

Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to hold an open debate on the strategic partnership between the UN and the AU with respect to maintenance of peace and security in Africa. South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to preside and the President of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in January 2012 (Kenya) is likely to address the Council. The Secretary General is likely to brief on the UN’s strategic vision for UN-AU cooperation.   A likely outcome will be a resolution underlining the importance of the relationship and stressing the need to create mechanisms for a more effective strategic partnership.

Background and Key Recent Developments
Since 1990, about 44 percent of Council meetings have dealt with situations in Africa. From 1990 to 2011, the Council mandated 25 operations in Africa; in 2011 alone the Council authorised two complex military actions in Africa—in Côte d’Ivoire by resolution 1975 of 30 March and in Libya by resolution 1973 of 17 March. 

Despite some divergences, the UN and the AU have made important strides over the years in building a functioning partnership. The Council has long recognised that the various forms of conflict prevention and management needs in Africa, including most prominently peacekeeping, surpass the UN’s capacity. While UN peacekeeping has registered some marked successes, there is general recognition within the Council that its conflict prevention and mediation efforts in Africa have been less effective.

This recognition is shared by the AU, which, on its creation in 2002, crafted plans for an “African Peace and Security Architecture” and two years later established the PSC. Following these developments, the Council, meeting in Nairobi in 2004, adopted a presidential statement that among other things welcomed the establishment of the PSC and called on the international community to support the efforts of the AU to strengthen its peacekeeping capacity. This was followed by several other presidential statements and Council documents on the evolving relationship.

An important development in this respect was the Council’s 2007 open debate, organised by South Africa during its debut membership on the Council as an elected member, on the UN’s relationship with regional organisations, in particular the AU. That led to a presidential statement which, among other issues, asked the Secretary-General to provide a report on specific proposals for how the UN could better support arrangements for further cooperation and coordination with regional organisations. (For more detail, please see our Special Research Report of 10 May 2011, Working Together for Peace and Security in Africa: The Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.)

The UN has long recognised that productive burden-sharing between the UN and regional and subregional organisations could be the key to addressing many of the problems. (Chapter VIII of the UN Charter acknowledges the scope for contributions by regional organisations to the settlement of disputes.) The proliferation of crises in Africa requiring outside intervention gave focused attention to this. In January 1992, the Council, meeting for the first time at the level of Heads of State and Government, asked the Secretary-General to recommend ways to strengthen and make the UN more efficient for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. The result was that in June 1992, the Secretary-General issued his report, An Agenda for Peace, in which he highlighted the role that regional organisations could play in preventive diplomacy, early-warning systems for crisis prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding.

To date, the Council and the PSC have cooperated on several initiatives, including the AU-led AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Since 2007, members of the two councils have held annual meetings, alternating between their respective headquarters, Addis Ababa and New York.

Following an open debate on 22 October 2010 which discussed the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to AU peacekeeping operations, the Council adopted a presidential statement requesting a report from the Secretary-General defining the UN Secretariat’s strategic vision for UN-AU cooperation in peace and security and taking into account the lessons learnt from the various experiences of joint cooperation between the two bodies. The report was expected to be made available in 2011 but has been delayed and is now likely to be issued in early 2012.

At the 16th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in January 2011, the chairperson of the AU was asked to submit to the PSC a report on the AU’s “strategic vision of the cooperation between the African Union and the UN on peace and security matters.” The report would be a “contribution to the consideration by the Security Council of the next report of the UN Secretary-General on this issue, bearing in mind relevant AU decisions and the need for flexible and creative interpretation of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.” The report is expected to be issued later  this month  and is likely to stress the development of the relationship to the level of a strategic partnership that emphasises mutual respect, African ownership and priority-setting on issues involving peace and security on the continent; high-level dialogue between the PSC and the Council; and clarification of the principle of subsidiarity.

Key Issues
A key issue is how to ensure that the relationship is effective on a strategic, as well as operational level.

Another key issue for the Council is to devise an effective working method on African issues that would benefit from the partnership with the PSC.

Underlying Issues
A key area of unease in the relationship between the Council and the PSC concerns the putative issue of equality of status. The UN’s Charter mandates the Council as having the primary responsibility for international peace and security. Chapter VIII, though recognising the role of regional organisations, merely underlines this mandate.

Consequently, there is anxiety, especially among the P5 members, about diluting this mandate by appearing to defer to the PSC on African peace and security issues. This is the reason why, though the two organs have held several annual consultations to date, the Council has presented these meetings as between individual members of the Security Council—not the Council itself—and the PSC.

The PSC, on the other hand, has held that its understanding of and interest in peace and security issues in Africa far surpasses that of the Council and should therefore enable it to take the lead on such issues with financial and diplomatic support from the UN Security Council.

Council Dynamics
This is one of the more contentious thematic issues on the Council’s agenda, for it goes to the core of the Council’s mandate: primacy on matters relating to maintenance of international peace and security. Almost all the P5 members appear largely inflexible on this point, though they recognise the important role that the AU plays, and can potentially play, in Africa.

On the other hand, some of the elected Council members, including South Africa and India, and exiting members Gabon and Nigeria, appear to prefer deference to the greater knowledge and interest of the PSC concerning emerging issues relating to peace and security in Africa that are not already on the Council’s agenda.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1809 (16 April 2008) encouraged increased engagement between the AU and the UN and called on the UN Secretariat to develop a list of needed capacities and recommendations on ways that the AU could further develop its military, technical, logistic and administrative capabilities.
  • S/RES/1631 (17 October 2005) addressed the issue of cooperation between the UN and regional organisations.
  • S/RES/1625 (14 September 2005) was a summit declaration on the effectiveness of the Security Council’s role in conflict prevention, calling for the strengthening of cooperation and communication between the UN and regional and subregional organisations in accordance with Chapter VIII.
  • S/RES/1318 (7 September 2000) focused on peacekeeping and peacebuilding as a means of addressing challenges to peace and security in Africa.
  • S/RES/1197 (18 September 1998) was on the need for the UN to provide support to regional and subregional organisations and to strengthen coordination between the UN and those organisations.
  • S/RES/1170 (28 May 1998) established the Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. 

Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2010/21 (22 October 2010) reaffirmed Council commitment to strengthening its partnership with the PSC and said members looked forward to receiving within six months a report from the Secretary-General which would define the UN Secretariat’s strategic vision for UN-AU cooperation in peace and security
  • S/PRST/2009/26 (26 October 2009) reiterated the importance of a more effective strategic relationship between the UN and the AU, underlining the importance of expediting the implementation of the UN-AU Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme. 
  • S/PRST/2009/3 (18 March 2009) requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on practical ways to provide effective support for the AU when it undertakes UN-authorised peacekeeping operations.
  • S/PRST/2007/31 (28 August 2007) requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the options for further implementation of resolution 1625.
  • S/PRST/2007/7 (28 March 2007) was on relations between the UN and regional organisations, particularly the AU.
  • S/PRST/2007/1 (8 January 2007) requested the Secretary-General to provide the Council with more regular analytical reporting on regions of potential armed conflict and stressed the importance of establishing comprehensive strategies on conflict prevention.
  • S/PRST/2004/44 (19 November 2004) recognised the importance of strengthening cooperation with the AU in order to help build its capacity to deal with collective security challenges.
  • S/PRST/2002/2 (31 January 2002) indicated that the Council would consider establishing the ad hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention in Africa. 

Secretary-General’s Reports

  • S/2011/54 (2 February 2011) was the review of the Ten-Year Capacity-Building program for the AU.
  • S/2010/514 (14 October 2010) was on support for AU peacekeeping.
  • S/2009/470 (18 September 2009) was on support to AU peacekeeping operations authorised by the UN.
  • S/2008/186 (7 April 2008) was on the relationship between the UN and regional organisations.
  • S/2008/178 (14 March 2008) included contingency peacekeeping plans.
  • S/2008/18 (14 January 2008) was on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1625 on conflict prevention, particularly in Africa. 
  • S/1998/318 (13 April 1998) was on the causes of conflict in Africa.
  • S/1995/1 (25 January 1995) was the supplement to An Agenda for Peace.
  • S/24111 (17 June 1992) was the report An Agenda for Peace.

Meeting Records

  • S/PV.6409 (22 October 2010) was an open debate at which the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to AU peacekeeping operations was discussed.
  • S/PV.6257 (13 January 2010) was a thematic debate on cooperation with regional and subregional organisations, presided over by China.
  • S/PV.6206 (26 October 2009) was a debate on the report of the AU-UN panel which covered modalities for support to AU peacekeeping operations.
  • S/PV.6092 and Res. 1(18 March 2009) was the debate on the AU-UN Panel’s report on modalities for support to AU operations.
  • S/PV.5837 (15 February 2008) was an AU briefing to the Council.
  • S/PV.5749 (25 September 2007) was a meeting on peace and security in Africa chaired by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • S/PV.5735 and  Res. 1(28 August 2007) was the discussion on the role of the Security Council in conflict prevention and resolution, in particular in Africa.
  • S/PV.5649 (28 March 2007) was a Council debate under the South African presidency on relations between the UN and regional organisations, particularly the AU.


  • S/2011/350 (8 June 2011) contained the communiqué adopted at the 21 May 2011 the consultative meeting between the members of the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.
  • S/2010/392 (20 July 2010) contained the joint communiqué issued after a consultative meeting at UN headquarters with the AU PSC and top AU Commission officials.
  • S/2009/303 (11 June 2009) was the report of the Council mission to the AU, Rwanda, the DRC and Liberia, which contained the communiqué of 16 May 2009 from the consultative meeting between the members of the Security Council and the AU.
  • S/2007/421 (11 July 2007) was the report of the Security Council visit to Addis Ababa, Accra, Abidjan, Khartoum and Kinshasa containing the joint communiqué from the 16 June 2007 meeting.
  • S/Agenda/5084 (18 November 2004) was the provisional agenda for the 5084th meeting of the Security Council featuring the item “Institutional Relationship with the African Union.”

Full forecast 


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