UN-AU Cooperation on Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s annual report on ways to strengthen the partnership between the UN and AU on issues of peace and security in Africa, including on the work of the UN Office to the AU. Following this, Council members will hold their 12th annual consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). Members of both bodies will hold informal consultations ahead of this meeting.
Key Recent Developments
Security Council members and PSC members have held annual joint consultative meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters. A joint communiqué has generally been issued following these annual meetings. The last meeting between members of the two Councils was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 8 September 2017, at which the situations in Somalia, South Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin were discussed. Other issues discussed included funding for AU peace and security activities and ways of further strengthening cooperation in the area of peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. The important role of women and youth in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peacebuilding was also reaffirmed, as was the importance of their meaningful participation in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace. Members of both bodies also resolved to forge a more coherent and effective partnership. The joint communiqué for the September 2017 meeting was transmitted to Council members on 7 June. It seems that during negotiations on the communiqué, there were considerable differences, particularly over language on the financing of AU missions and on South Sudan. There was a similar delay following the tenth annual joint meeting on 23 May 2016, the communiqué for which was not issued until 23 March 2017.
The agreed agenda for this year’s consultative meeting will be the situations in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The informal consultation preceding the meeting is expected to cover various thematic issues, including partnerships between the two bodies, financing, and progress on the AU’s “Silencing the Guns by 2020” initiative and its related roadmap.
On 12 September 2017, the Council was briefed on the 2017 annual report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU, Haile Menkerios. During the briefing, Menkerios highlighted several points arising from the joint consultative meeting earlier that month, including that the partnership between the Security Council and AU PSC could be deepened through more frequent interactions, such as joint field missions to conflict situations on both Councils’ agendas; that the two Councils could interact ahead of mandate decisions to facilitate common approaches; and that Security Council briefings could be enriched by briefings from AU special representatives and envoys alongside their UN counterparts. He also stressed the need for the AU and UN to strengthen their collaboration with regional economic communities and by engaging non State actors. Financial burden-sharing should be in line with Security Council resolution 2320, he said, recalling that African countries had argued that they already carried the heavy burden of deploying to areas that the UN was unable to reach.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue continues to be the need for sustainable and predictable funding for AU peace support operations. A frank discussion of the limitations of the current structures in supporting AU peace support operations could help clarify positions on both sides and develop a better understanding of next steps, along with assessments of the observations and recommendations related to financing contained in the Secretary-General’s annual report.
An issue over the years has been the scripted nature of the joint consultative meeting. However, the informal session ahead of the consultative meeting has allowed for more substantive discussion, particularly on more controversial topics. Interaction during the formal session may be improved by moving away from statements to a more free-flowing discussion.
Sensitivities in the past regarding the agenda of the consultative meeting have related to the inclusion of more controversial issues, such as Western Sahara. Reaching agreement on the agenda this year appears to have been relatively smooth, but some members may want to raise more controversial country-specific situations in the informal session. A related issue is how to mutually strengthen the two Councils’ work on issues common to their respective agendas and allow for mutual reinforcement and more effective and timely interaction on specific African conflicts.
Another difficult issue is the inability over the past few years for the two Councils to agree on a joint communiqué in a timely manner and the effect this has had on the relevance and usefulness of the joint communiqué once issued. An option would be to reconsider this approach with a view to adopting a different outcome.
A further issue is revisiting the option of conducting joint field missions. As with the communiqué from the 2016 meeting, the most recent one does not refer to conducting joint field missions. The 2015 communiqué agreed to conduct a joint field mission that year, but it was never carried out.
Although there has been increasing acknowledgment of the importance of working with regional organisations in the area of peace and security, particularly in relation to conflict prevention, agreeing to and implementing joint communiqués has not always been easy.
The African members of the Council have been proactive about keeping alive matters of importance to the AU despite sometimes having divergent views on specific issues. They have consistently made clear that pursuing a substantive resolution on financing of AU support operations is a priority, with the possibility of proposing such a resolution before the end of this year.
Council members have disparate views regarding operations carried out by the AU. Those who are major financial contributors have concerns about committing UN assessed contributions to AU peace support operations, and are likely to take a cautious position on anything related to financing. Of the permanent members, China has been particularly supportive of the need to strengthen the capacity of the AU in peace and security.
At the 12 September 2017 briefing, the US emphasised it would not consider the use of UN assessed contributions for AU peacekeeping operations without the necessary financial, human rights and accountability benchmarks. While the Secretary-General’s most recent annual report was not available at press time, it is expected to focus on steps the AU has taken in developing and implementing such benchmarks. The extent of positive findings reflected in the report in this regard, as well as recent significant contributions made by AU member states, may influence Council members to reconsider their positions on the long-standing issue of financing.
UN Documents on AU-UN Cooperation
|Security Council Resolution|
|18 November 2016 S/RES/2320||This was a resolution which welcomed the AU Assembly decision to fund 25 percent of AU peace support operations, to be phased incrementally over five years. Senegal circulated a concept note ahead of the meeting.|
|30 August 2017 S/2017/744||This was the annual report on strengthening the partnership between the AU and the UN on peace and security.|
|Security Council Letter|
|7 June 2018 S/2018/552||This was the joint communique agreed to after the 11th annual joint consultative meeting between members of the Council and the AU PSC held in Addis Ababa on 8 September 2017.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|12 September 2017 S/PV.8044||This was a briefing by the Special Representative to the AU and head of the UN Office to the AU, Haile Menkerios, on the Secretary-General’s annual report on the partnership between the AU and UN on peace and security.|