Cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States
Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold a ministerial-level briefing on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States (LAS). Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah will chair the meeting. Secretary-General António Guterres and LAS Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit may brief.
Improving partnerships and cooperation with regional organisations has become an increasingly prominent theme for the Council and other parts of the UN system. Since 2007, the Security Council has held an annual consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council, and in 2001 and 2010, respectively, it started holding an annual briefing on the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and on UN-EU cooperation.
Such cooperation is less developed with the League of Arab States. Representatives of the LAS addressed the Council on several occasions with the onset of the “Arab Spring” uprisings and subsequent proliferation of conflicts, especially in Syria, where the LAS was involved in the initial mediation efforts. The position of Joint Special Envoy for Syria on behalf of the UN and the LAS was created, filled first by Kofi Annan and then by Lakhdar Brahimi. In September 2012, during Germany’s presidency, the Council held a high-level meeting on peace and security in the Middle East focusing on the relationship between the Council and the LAS. Its outcome was a presidential statement in support of the LAS’s contribution to collective efforts for the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the Middle East, expressing the Council’s determination to take effective steps to further enhance cooperation between the two organisations. The 2012 session was held under the Council’s “Middle East” agenda item, whereas next month’s meeting will be organised under the agenda item on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations in maintaining international peace and security.
In May 2016, the Council held its first consultative meeting with members of the LAS in Cairo during the Council’s visiting mission to Somalia, Kenya and Egypt. The meeting focused on the Middle East peace process, Somalia, Libya, and developments in the Syrian conflict. Members of both bodies called for greater cooperation between the two organisations on issues pertaining to international peace and security and to stability in the Arab region. Some members called for institutionalising the relationship and making this type of consultative meeting a regular occurrence. But since the 2012 presidential statement and 2016 consultative meeting, progress towards an enhanced relationship has been limited. An anticipated Council briefing in August 2017 on cooperation with the LAS, scheduled during Egypt’s presidency, did not take place.
More broadly, the Secretary-General’s August 2018 report on cooperation between the UN and regional organisations says that the UN supports the LAS to strengthen its capacities in relation to conflict prevention, management, mediation and negotiation, and peacekeeping; maintains contacts on different country situations, including Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and the question of Palestine; and has sought to cooperate on water-related issues, human rights, global refugee and migration challenges, and counter-terrorism. It also says efforts are continuing to open a UN liaison office to the LAS in Cairo, which was agreed in 2016. A General Assembly resolution adopted in December 2018 on cooperation between the UN and the LAS requested that the UN coordinate with Egypt to expedite the opening of the liaison office.
In March, the Secretary-General addressed the 30th ordinary session of the Council of the LAS. He highlighted that the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Yemen, Libya and Syria, along with the terrorism threat, are situations that could benefit from a comprehensive regional approach. He noted that the UN liaison office to the LAS would open soon.
Key Issues and Options
The upcoming meeting is being organised to further enhance the cooperation between the UN and the LAS in resolving conflicts, as many of the situations on the Council’s agenda are wars in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Organising the meeting is also seen as a way to implement the Council’s September 2012 presidential statement. Key issues include how to encourage cooperation between the two organisations across the conflict cycle: from prevention and peacebuilding to peace-making and post-conflict reconstruction. An option, and objective of Kuwait, is to establish the practice of an annual meeting on cooperation with the LAS, which future Arab Council members could organise, similar to the Council practice related to the EU, OSCE and AU PSC.
No product is envisaged, but as steps towards advancing cooperation, members may encourage the Secretary-General to appoint the head of the UN liaison office. In this regard, they may welcome the 28 May appointment of Khaled Mohamed Khiari, as the Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regional division created as part of his reforms of the UN peace and security architecture.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COOPERATION BETWEEN THE UN AND THE LAS
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|26 September 2012S/PRST/2012/20||Welcomed the intensifying cooperation between the UN and the Arab League, reiterated the Council’s commitment to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace and welcomed the appointment of the Joint Special Representative for Syria.|
|17 August 2018S/2018/592||This was the bi-annual report on cooperation between the UN and regional and other organisations.|
|Security Council Letter|
|10 April 2019S/2019/306||This transmitted to the Council the Tunis Declaration and Statement on Golan from the 30th ordinary session of the Council of the League of Arab States.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|26 September 2012S/PV.6841||A high-level meeting on the Middle East and enhancing cooperation between the Arab League and the UN. The Council was briefed by the Secretaries-General of the UN and the Arab League.|
|General Assembly Document|
|22 December 2018A/RES/73/267||This was a General Assembly resolution on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States.|