UN-AU Cooperation on Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In October, Security Council members will hold their 13th annual consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Members of both bodies will also hold informal consultations ahead of this meeting. Following this, 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.
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 New York on 19 July 2018, at which the situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan were discussed. Other issues discussed included progress in further strengthening the cooperation between the two organisations in the area of peace and security, and funding for AU peace and security activities. The joint communiqué was transmitted on 19 July 2018 by then-Security Council member Ethiopia, which took the lead in drafting the communiqué in its capacity as chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. In previous years, there have been difficulties and delays in agreeing on the joint communiqué, with the communiqué for the September 2017 joint meeting transmitted to Council members on 7 June 2018, and that for the joint meeting on 23 May 2016 issued one year later, on 23 March 2017.
The agenda for the upcoming joint consultative meeting may consist of Libya, South Sudan, implementation of the Central African Republic Political Agreement, and the Sahel region, although it was not yet finalised at press time. Also at press time, the informal consultations, which are being held for the fourth consecutive year, are expected to focus on: “Silencing the Guns in Africa”; modalities for joint UN Security Council-AU PSC field missions; and financing of AU-led peace support operations. The UN Security Council was expected to travel to Juba, South Sudan, following its trip to Addis Ababa. South Africa, as president of the Security Council in October, and the US, as penholder on South Sudan, are expected to co-lead the mission.
On 18 July 2018, the Special Representative to the AU and head of the UN Office to the AU, Sahle-Work Zewde, and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaïl Chergui, briefed the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s 2018 annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU. Zewde underscored the “unprecedented collaboration” between the UN and the AU, including the more regular exchange of information, joint briefings by special representatives and envoys of the two organisations, and joint field visits by senior officials, among other examples. She also identified areas where further collaboration was required, such as the need to align and harmonise early warning indicators. Chergui emphasised the importance of collaboration between the UN and AU in countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. Both Zewde and Chergui raised the issue of sustainable and predictable financing for AU peace support operations. Zewde said that this issue should be framed within the context of a common political strategy agreed to by the two Councils. Chergui expressed hope that the Security Council will consider providing assessed contributions to AU peace support operations.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue continues to be the need for sustainable and predictable funding for AU peace support operations. An option would be to adopt a resolution on the issue. The African members of the Security Council (A3) circulated a draft resolution in August, which consisted of a revised version of a draft circulated by the then-A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) at the end of 2018, which was ultimately never put to a vote. At press time, negotiations were ongoing. On 17 September, a subsidiary body of the AU PSC (the Committee of Experts) considered the draft resolution. At press time, it seemed possible that the AU PSC could release a statement presenting its views on the issue.
An issue over the years has been the scripted nature of most of the joint consultative meetings. However, the practice of holding an informal session ahead of the meeting has allowed for more substantive discussion, particularly on more controversial topics. Interaction during the formal session may be improved by moving away from reading prepared statements to a more free-flowing discussion.
Sensitivities in the past regarding the agenda of the consultative meeting have related to the inclusion of 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 additional country-specific situations in the informal session. A related issue is how to mutually strengthen the two Councils’ work on issues common to both their agendas and allow for mutual reinforcement and more effective and timely interaction on specific African conflicts.
Another difficult issue in the past has been the inability of the two Councils to agree on a joint communiqué in a timely manner, arguably reducing the usefulness of the communiqué. An option would be to take a similar approach to last year and issue the joint communiqué on the day of the meeting.
A further issue is revisiting the option of conducting joint field missions. Last year’s meeting communiqué “affirmed the intention to consider joint visits”, stating that the “modalities of such visits will be discussed and agreed upon on a case-by-case basis by the two Councils”. To date, no joint field mission has been conducted. An option would be to reach agreement on the timeline for a joint visit in the upcoming communiqué.
The African members of the Security 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.
Security Council members have expressed divergent views on the financing issue in the past. Those who are major financial contributors, and the US in particular, 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. In December 2018, following several postponements that month, a vote on a draft resolution circulated by the then-A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) spelling out the conditions for financing AU-led peace support operations through UN-assessed contributions, was cancelled following US indications that it might veto the resolution. (For more details, see our What’s In Blue story of 18 December 2018.)
The US has said that it would not consider the use of UN assessed contributions for AU peacekeeping operations without the demonstrable implementation of benchmarks for financial transparency, conduct and discipline, and human rights. The issue is likely to feature prominently in the meetings between the two Councils in October and in negotiations over the joint communiqué.
South Africa chairs the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa.
UN DOCUMENTS ON AU-UN COOPERATION
|Security Council Resolution|
|18 November 2016S/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.|
|19 September 2019S/2019/759||This was the annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU.|
|Security Council Letter|
|19 July 2018S/2018/736||This was the joint communiqué following the 12th annual joint consultative meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council at which the situations in South Sudan and the DRC were discussed.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|18 July 2018S/PV.8314||This was a meeting 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. The Council was briefed by Special Representative to the AU and head of UNOAU Sahle-Work Zewde and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui.|