Conflict Prevention and Regional Organizations
Expected Council Action
In April, Viet Nam plans to convene a high-level open debate on enhancing cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations. The meeting is expected to focus on the importance of confidence-building measures and dialogue in the context of conflict prevention and resolution. Secretary-General António Guterres and former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are expected to brief. A presidential statement is likely to be pursued as an outcome.
Background and Developments
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter envisions cooperation and partnership between the Council and regional organisations in the maintenance of international peace and security. Under Article 52 (3), the Council “shall encourage the pacific settlement of local disputes through…regional arrangements or by…regional agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council”. Article 53 (1) indicates that the Council can use regional arrangements for enforcement actions under its authority, although this is not to be done without Council authorisation. Article 54 states that the Council shall be fully informed of actions “undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements or by regional agencies for the maintenance of international peace and security”.
In the last decade, there has been a growing recognition of the opportunities for a productive relationship between the Council and regional organisations. The AU has perhaps the most established relationship with the Security Council, with peacekeeping a principal area of their institutional cooperation. In Europe, regional organisations such as the EU and the Organization for Security and Co–operation in Europe (OSCE) play key roles in conflict and post-conflict environments. For example, the OSCE closely monitors the situation in Ukraine, serving as an important source of information for the Council about developments there.
Briefings on the relationships with different organisations have become a regular feature of the Council’s programme of work over the years. Council members have held annual joint consultative meetings with members of the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) since 2007, and the Council has met to discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the AU-UN relationship since 2015. It has also met annually for a briefing by the incoming chairperson-in-office of the OSCE and on UN-EU cooperation since 2001 and 2010, respectively.
In addition to these annual meetings, Council presidents have chosen to hold briefings or debates on the relationship between the Council and regional organisations. In this respect, since January 2020, the Council has met to discuss its relationships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Organization of La Francophonie, and the League of Arab States.
Confidence-building measures are occasionally raised in Secretary-General’s reports and discussed in Council meetings, but frequently without much specificity. The Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, has regularly called for the large-scale release of detainees and abductees as a potential confidence-building measure in the Syria conflict, albeit without much success. Several Council members have echoed his call for such releases. One example of support by the UN and a regional organisation for a confidence-building measure on a Council agenda item is the bi-communal technical committees in Cyprus. The Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities on the island established these committees—which address education, health care, crime, and other matters of common concern—to promote enhanced understanding between their communities. The bi-communal technical committees operate under the auspices of the UN and receive financial support from the EU.
Key Issues and Options
An underlying issue is how the Council can work most effectively with regional and sub-regional organisations to promote confidence-building measures to prevent and resolve conflicts.
A presidential statement is an option that could be pursued. Such a statement could:
- highlight the importance of confidence-building measures in supporting conflict prevention and mediation efforts;
- encourage the mediation work of the UN’s envoys, including ways in which they have cooperated with regional and sub-regional organisations with regard to conflict prevention and resolution; and
- request a special report from the Secretary-General on ways in which the Council and regional entities can work together to build confidence and promote dialogue among parties to disputes and best practices in this regard. The report could examine particular situations where enhanced cooperation on confidence-building measures could be explored.
Another possible option is for a chair’s summary of the meeting to be produced. This could serve as a useful reference to highlight ideas for cooperation between the Council and regional and sub-regional bodies in promoting confidence-building measures. In recent years, such summaries have been helpful in capturing the key issues raised in Council meetings.
In the future, Council members might consider convening an informal interactive dialogue with UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs officials and heads of various regional organisations to discuss ways to build synergies between the mediation structures in the UN system and regional organisations. For example, such a meeting would allow for an exchange of ideas with organisations such as ASEAN–which has been committed to confidence–building in security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region through its ASEAN Regional Forum—and the OSCE, which could share useful information on its experience in working with the EU and the UN on joint confidence-building measures in Georgia. As an informal, closed meeting, an informal interactive dialogue might allow for a freer exchange of ideas than is possible in an open meeting.
Most Council members emphasise the importance of conflict prevention and mediation at the thematic level. There is also clear support for enhancing the relationship between the UN and regional organisations in this regard. Interest in strengthening the interaction between the Council and regional organisations is reflected by the high number of formal meetings that are held in the Council on these relationships. The April meeting will present an opportunity to explore an issue—confidence-building measures—that is rarely discussed in depth in the Council.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COOPERATION WITH REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|4 December 2020S/PRST/2020/11||This statement further underscored the importance of developing effective partnerships between the UN and regional organisations, in particular the African Union.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|30 January 2020S/PV.8711||The Council heard a briefing on the cooperation between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This was the first Council meeting focused on cooperation with ASEAN.|