Virtual Head of State and Government-level Debate on Cooperation Between the UN and AU
Expected Council Action
As president of the Security Council in December, the last month of its two-year term as an elected member, South Africa is organising a high-level videoconference (VTC) debate on cooperation between the UN and the AU peace and security architectures. President Cyril Ramaphosa (who also heads the AU in 2020) is expected to chair the debate, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat will brief. During the meeting, the Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the cooperation between the UN and the AU. A presidential or press statement is a possible outcome.
Key Recent Developments
The 14th annual meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council was held on 30 September. During the meeting—conducted via a virtual platform because of the COVID-19 pandemic—members of the two councils discussed some of the conflict situations overlapping both bodies’ agendas: Mali, the Sahel and Somalia. They also talked about ways to enhance coordination on their respective approaches to conflict situations and means to generate strong support from the international community to address the difficult challenges to peace and security facing countries in Africa.
The 14th annual meeting, like the four previous ones, was preceded by an informal seminar during which members exchanged views on strengthening cooperation between the UN and the AU in the context of the UN’s 75th anniversary and the AU’s marking its 57th anniversary.
The Secretary-General has submitted an annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on peace and security in Africa since 2016, and each year the Council has discussed this report in a briefing or a debate. His most recent report, submitted in August, highlighted several joint initiatives and described the work of the UN Office to the AU. The Secretary-General also underscored the importance of the collaboration in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key Issues and Options
The upcoming annual discussion about cooperation between the UN and the AU peace and security architectures will be the first to be held with the participation of top African political leaders. Leaders of some of the African countries on the Security Council agenda will be invited, as will those contributing troops and police to peace operations on the continent, along with the heads of the sub-regional African organisations. Such a gathering of representatives of states and entities with practical experience of this relationship may create an opportunity for an in-depth discussion.
Among the topics South Africa has suggested for discussion in its concept note are:
- the impact of cooperation between the AU and the UN on the efforts to resolve conflicts in Africa;
- the challenges to the Security Council’s ability to execute its mandate on the African continent;
- the impact of the Security Council’s use of Chapter VI tools for conflict prevention and the pacific settlement of disputes in Africa and whether and how this can be refined;
- whether the UN-AU partnership can be leveraged to further advance the Women, Peace and Security and the Youth, Peace and Security agendas on the African continent; and
- what specific contribution UN-AU cooperation could make in addressing the impact of health emergencies on the maintenance of peace and security in Africa.
The debate may also provide an opportunity to bring up concerns about some recent and current developments on the African continent—in places such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique or Western Sahara—and discuss ways to address them through the partnership between the two bodies.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members have acknowledged the importance of the partnership with the AU in maintaining international peace and security. They have praised and frequently deferred to the AU and other regional organisations’ initiatives in mediation and peacebuilding. Over the years, however, a particularly divisive and as yet unsettled issue has been predictable and sustainable UN funding for AU peace support operations.
In its 2014 presidential statement establishing the annual reporting mandate, the Council recognised that “one major constraint facing the AU, in effectively carrying out the mandates of maintaining regional peace and security is securing predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”. The subsequent report devoted considerable space to the topic, and during the debate in which it was discussed the Council adopted resolution 2320, stressing “the need to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for African Union-led peace support operations authorized by the Security Council” and also welcoming the AU Assembly decision to fund 25 percent of AU peace support operations, to be phased in incrementally over five years. In resolution 2378 adopted in 2017, the Council signalled its intention to consider partially funding AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Council through UN-assessed contributions “on a case by case basis”.
In December 2018, a vote was scheduled following weeks of negotiations on a draft resolution on the financing of AU peace support operations put forward by the three African members (A3) at the time, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea, and co-sponsored by 57 member states. But the draft in blue was withdrawn at the last moment in anticipation of a lack of support from the US and following the introduction of an alternative text by France trying to salvage the initiative. The A3 turned to the AU Peace and Security Council for direction, and the issue was not discussed in the Council in 2019. Late last year, it had been expected that the AU common position on its plans for funding AU peace support operations would be articulated during the AU’s summit in February. It appears, however, that the AU common position has not been elaborated—possibly due to some AU members’ wariness about discussing funding matters amongst the challenges caused by the COVID–19 pandemic—and that the current A3 (Niger, South Africa and Tunisia) have put pursuing a resolution on hold.
South Africa chairs the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|20 September 2017S/RES/2378||This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.|
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|16 December 2014S/PRST/2014/27||This was a presidential statement acknowledging the progress in the ongoing cooperation between the UN and the AU in peace operations.|
|31 August 2020S/2020/860||This was a report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa.|
|13 September 2016S/2016/780||This was the annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on peace and security in Africa.|
|Security Council Letters|
|30 September 2020S/2020/962||This was the joint communiqué following the 14th annual joint consultative meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.|
|10 November 2016S/2016/966||This was a concept note circulated by Senegal for the debate on “Strengthening the UN-AU partnership in peace and security”.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|30 October 2020S/PV.8650||This was a meeting on the Secretary-General’s 2019 annual report on ways to strengthen the partnership between the UN and AU on issues of peace and security in Africa.|
|18 November 2016S/PV.7816||This was a debate on “Strengthening the UN-AU partnership in peace and security”.|