In Hindsight: The Relationship between the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council
The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) is the only international body with which members of the Security Council have regular interactions. They have been meeting annually since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters. The practice—originally a joint UK-South African initiative—resulted from the realisation that since conflicts in Africa occupy the bulk of the Security Council’s time and resources, the need for various forms of conflict-prevention and -management had surpassed the capacity of the UN and that new approaches and burden-sharing were needed. The Security Council’s AU counterpart, the PSC, was an obvious candidate for a partnership that could work out ways in which to use the comparative advantages of the two organisations in addressing peace and security issues in Africa.
This relationship, however, has not always been entirely smooth and has experienced its share of tensions and frustrations. The first several meetings were largely focused on the process for the meetings themselves, and the key provisions of the resulting short communiqués in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 were that the relationship would continue and that within a year there would be another meeting in one of the headquarters.
This changed with the consultative meeting held in Addis Ababa on 21 May 2011. The consultations were mostly focused on substantive issues, including Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. The communiqué adopted at the end of the meeting contained detailed sections on each of those situations.
On 12 January 2012, South Africa organised an open debate on strengthening the relationship during its presidency of the Security Council (S/PV.6702 and Resumption 1). The summit-level debate was presided over by South African President Jacob Zuma and resulted in the adoption of resolution 2033. The resolution reiterated the importance of establishing a more effective relationship between the Security Council and the AU PSC and called for elaboration of “further ways of strengthening relations between the two Councils, including through achieving more effective annual consultative meetings, the holding of timely consultations and collaborative field missions of the two Councils”. It furthermore reflected the decision “to follow up on the Communiqués of the annual consultative meetings of the two Councils, including through its Ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa”.
On 13 June 2012 at UN headquarters, Security Council members held their sixth annual consultative meeting with the PSC. Issues discussed included: Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, developments in the Sahel region of Africa and the further strengthening of methods of work and cooperation between the two bodies. The closed informal meeting lasted three hours and, according to participants, was less contentious and more substantive than some of the previous consultations. A detailed communiqué (S/2012/444) from the meeting seemed to signal the consolidation of a shift toward a more substantive and less process-oriented phase in this relationship. The communiqué also expressed satisfaction with the progress made in the cooperation between the two Councils and the determination to improve the effectiveness of consultative meetings in the future. Participants, the communiqué said, “agreed to elaborate further ways of strengthening relations between the two Councils, including through more effective annual consultative meetings and the holding of timely consultations and collaborative field missions of the two Councils, as appropriate, to formulate cohesive positions and strategies on a case-by-case basis in dealing with conflict situations in Africa”.
In the period since the June 2012 meeting, the two Councils as well as some African subregional organisations, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), saw themselves engaged in a number of overlapping issues, including the Central African Republic, DRC, Somalia, Sudan, and, most notably, Mali. Not all of the above situations are examples of growing synergies. The process that led to the adoption on 25 April of resolution 2100 on Mali increased tensions between the Council and the AU and ECOWAS over some issues. Following the adoption of resolution 2100, a PSC communiqué noted “with concern that Africa was not appropriately consulted in the drafting and consultation process”. Several requests made by African stakeholders to address issues of concern to them were disregarded. These issues included authorising a peace enforcement mandate for the peacekeeping force established by the resolution, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); providing a logistical and financial support package to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) authorised by Council resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012; and ensuring the continuity of AFISMA’s leadership in MINUSMA.
The 2012 communiqué said in its final paragraph 35: “The next consultative meeting will be held at the headquarters of the African Union no later than July 2013”. At press time, however, no such meeting had been scheduled. The Security Council has not visited Africa in more than a year, the longest such gap since 2000. Earlier this year, plans to visit Addis Ababa and the Great Lakes region in February and then in May were aborted, largely due to scheduling problems. (Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on the other hand, has undertaken three trips to Africa in 2013, including to Ethiopia on 26-28 January and 23-24 February as well as the DRC, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda on 20-24 May.)
Over the years, one ongoing feature of the PSC-Security Council relationship has been that the annual meetings have been discrete events with last-minute preparations and little follow-up, rather than becoming part of a process leading to greater effectiveness in the maintenance of peace and security in Africa.
An option for the Security Council could have been to establish a timetable for the follow-up to, and implementation of, the understandings included in the 2012 communiqué and use its Ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa as a tool for this work (as per the decision of resolution 2033). While this has not been done in the course of the last year, a more focused approach could take this issue forward in the second half of 2013.