Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to hold a high-level open debate via videoconference (VTC) on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations, focusing on the AU. The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, is expected to chair the debate. Briefings are expected from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and High Representative for the African Union Peace Fund Donald Kaberuka. A presidential statement is a possible outcome.
Background and Key Recent Developments
In the past two decades, the Security Council has increasingly sought to strengthen its cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which encourages the peaceful settlement of disputes by regional arrangements or agencies. In this regard, it has been holding an annual joint consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) since 2007.
The last consultative meeting was held virtually on 30 September 2020, during which members of the two Councils discussed the situation in Mali, the broader Sahel sub-region and Somalia. They also discussed the progress made under the AU Master Roadmap to Silence the Guns in Africa and the implementation of Security Council resolution 2457 of 27 February 2019, which emphasised the importance of tackling illicit arms to achieve a conflict-free Africa and the need for effective implementation of relevant arms control instruments and regimes, in particular those related to small arms and light weapons. The annual consultative meeting was preceded by the fifth joint informal seminar, held on 29 September 2020, during which members of the two Councils exchanged views on enhancing the cooperation between the UN and the AU with regard to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the AU’s own framework for sustainable development, Agenda 2063.
Since 2016, the Security Council has also been holding an annual briefing or debate to discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa. Traditionally, the annual report is considered during the monthly presidency of an African member of the Council. Strengthening ties between the UN, the AU, and African RECs and RMs has been a key focus of the Secretary-General’s reports.
The latest report, which was published on 30 August, highlights several joint initiatives undertaken since the issuance of the previous report in August 2020. According to the report, the UN has been actively engaging with:
- the AU in Libya, Sudan, and Somalia;
- the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the Central African Republic;
- the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in South Sudan;
- the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Mali; and
- the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
October’s annual high-level debate will be the first since the re-elections of the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission. Therefore, it could provide an opportunity for the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission to reaffirm their commitments to the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, signed in 2017.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue for Council members will be how to address some of the pressing peace and security challenges in Africa—such as in Ethiopia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, and Somalia, among other places—through enhanced cooperation and partnership between the UN and the AU across the whole peace continuum, ranging from conflict prevention and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
Another key issue is how to address the longstanding request of the AU for sustainable financing of AU-led peace support operations. Resolution 2378, adopted in 2017, expressed the Security Council’s intention to consider co-funding AU-led peace support operations through UN-assessed contributions “on a case-by-case basis”. However, attempts to negotiate a Security Council resolution on the subject earlier this year were unsuccessful. The Secretary-General has since underscored the importance of reinvigorating discussions between the two Councils on this issue. The AU is developing a common African position; the AU is expected to revive such financing discussions with the Security Council once the AU policy organs consider and adopt this position.
Kenya intends to propose a presidential statement as a possible outcome of the meeting. An option for the Council is to use the statement to build on the recommendations of the Secretary-General, as contained in his latest report. The statement could:
- recall that cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations can improve collective security when carried out on the basis of complementarity and consistent with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter;
- acknowledge that African regional and sub-regional organisations have assumed greater responsibility with regard to addressing threats to peace and security on the continent;
- encourage greater collaboration and coordinated action among the UN Secretariat, the AU Commission, and RECs and RMs in conflict prevention efforts, including by building capacity for accountability for serious violations and strengthening justice systems throughout the continent;
- welcome efforts to clarify the division of labour between the AU and RECs; and
- encourage further consideration of co-financing mechanisms for AU-led peace support operations, such as through UN-assessed contributions.
Council members are generally supportive of the cooperation and partnership between the UN and the AU in the area of peace and security. However, discussions on specific aspects of the relationship, such as co-financing matters, have been marked by disagreement. For example, Council members were divided during negotiations on resolution 2568 of 12 March, which renewed the mandate of the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The A3 plus one (consisting of the three African Council members Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, and the like-minded Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) expressed disappointment that their proposal on UN assessed contributions was not incorporated into the resolution. The UK seemed to prefer a broader discussion on financing, rather than dealing with the issue in mission-specific contexts.
The UK and the US have expressed several reservations on the issue of co-financing of AU-led peace support operations. During the October 2019 briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa, the UK noted that establishing “robust financial reporting arrangements, clear joint planning and coordination structures and strong compliance frameworks for human rights, international humanitarian law and conduct and discipline” would be a key consideration of any future Council decision on the matter. The US also noted that proposals for a co-financing mechanism would require “appropriate safeguards” and “adequate burden-sharing”.
The A3 plus one and France have also been trying to advance the discussion in the context of the support office for the Group of Five for the Sahel Joint Force (FC-G5s). During the June negotiations on resolution 2584, which renewed the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), France proposed adding to the list of MINUSMA’s priority tasks the support that the mission provides to the FC-G5S. After objections from the UK and the US, MINUSMA’s support to the FC-G5S was removed from the list of the mission’s priority tasks, although the resolution retained a request for the Secretary-General to provide a report on both bilateral and multilateral options for support to the FC-G5S.
During October’s high-level debate, the A3 plus one may raise the issue of financing, but substantive discussion on this matter could be deferred pending the adoption of the common African position. The Biden administration is expected to be more amenable than its predecessor to a discussion of this issue.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UN-AU COOPERATION
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 June 2021S/RES/2584||This resolution renewed the mandate of MINUSMA until 30 June 2022.|
|12 March 2021S/RES/2568||This resolution reauthorised the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for ten months until 31 December 2021.|
|20 September 2017S/RES/2378||This was a resolution on UN peacekeeping reform.|
|30 August 2021S/2021/763||The report provides an update on the implementation of the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security.|
|Security Council Letters|
|8 December 2020S/2020/1179||This letter transmitted the transcript of the VTC debate on “Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations: African Union”.|