Cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States
Expected Council Action
In June, there will be a briefing on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States (LAS). A senior UN official, the LAS Secretary-General Abdoul Gheit, and an Arab youth civil society representative are the anticipated briefers. Khalifa Shaheen, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is expected to chair the meeting.
Key Recent Developments
During the first presidency of its 2022-2023 Council term, the UAE organised a briefing on 17 March 2022 regarding the cooperation between the UN and the LAS. Shaheen chaired the meeting, and Guterres, Gheit, and Razan Farhan Alaqil, a youth civil society representative, briefed. Guterres expressed concern about the adverse economic and political effects of the war in Ukraine, noting that increased food and fuel prices could lead to political instability. Without explicitly mentioning Ukraine, Gheit said that he hoped that “this significant conflict situation” would not distract the Council from other conflicts and crises across the globe, including in the Arab world. He also spoke favourably about the Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda, saying that it could provide a pathway for improved international cooperation “provided that there is genuine political will and that we…focus on our common interests in the future”. Alaqil emphasised the importance of including young people in the UN’s work on conflict prevention and resolution, conflict management, and peacebuilding.
As an outcome of the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement that welcomed the close cooperation between the UN and the LAS and reiterated the Council’s intention to consider further steps to enhance UN-LAS coordination in areas such as conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peacebuilding, and sustaining peace. The statement also reaffirmed the important role that young people play in maintaining international peace and security, including in the prevention and resolution of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The Council of Ministers of the Interior of the LAS adopted an Arab counter-terrorism strategy on 2 March 2022 in Tunis. Designed to align with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, it maps out conflict resolution, educational and development measures that can be pursued to combat the spread of terrorism. The UN’s Counter-
Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) met with the newly designated Director of the LAS Counter-Terrorism Department to exchange views on areas of cooperation.
On 7 May, the LAS met at the ministerial level in Cairo. Thirteen of the LAS’s 22 member states were represented at the meeting and voted unanimously to readmit Syria to the LAS following nearly 12 years of exile. Syria was suspended from the League in November 2011, soon after civil war erupted in the country.
On 19 May, the LAS convened its 32nd summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At its conclusion, the participants issued the “Jeddah Declaration”. Among other things, the declaration:
- reaffirmed the centrality of the Palestinian issue as one of the key factors of stability in the region and stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement;
- expressed deep concern at the ramifications of the crisis in Sudan for the security, safety and stability of LAS countries and people;
- welcomed the decision of the Arab League Council to resume the participation of Syria in LAS meetings;
- advocated for the UN and regional efforts seeking a comprehensive political solution to the crisis in Yemen; and
- called for an end to foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries.
Key Issues and Options
The overarching issue is how the UN and the LAS can work together more effectively to promote international peace and security.
In this regard, key issues for the Council include exploring ways to:
- develop joint and coherent approaches to conflict prevention and mediation that leverage the comparative advantages of the UN and the LAS;
- strengthen coordination between the LAS and the UN in countering terrorism and violent extremism;
- enhance cooperation between the UN and the LAS in including women and youth in efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts; and
- promote international coordination in addressing humanitarian crises in the Middle East related to conflict.
In the future, the Council could consider adopting a product encouraging regular trilateral coordination meetings among the UN, the AU, and the LAS. The statement could also request the Secretary-General to report annually on ways to strengthen relations and cooperation between the UN Security Council and the LAS Council and on the activities of the UN Liaison Office to the League of Arab States (UNLOLAS) in Cairo, which was established in June 2019. According to the Secretary-General’s most recent report on the UN-LAS relationship, the UNLOLAS regularly coordinates meetings between UN and LAS officials that promote “information exchanges and consultation, as well as follow-up mechanisms, strengthening cooperation and partnership between the UN and the LAS”.
Council members recognise the importance of strengthening relations between the UN and the LAS, especially given the rise in conflicts in the Arab world since 2011. In this regard, the Council’s March 2022 presidential statement welcoming the “strong cooperation” between the UN and the LAS reiterated its intention to promote closer coordination between the two organisations in areas such as early warning, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and sustaining peace. In this month’s briefing, members are likely to discuss how the two organisations can work together to address the situations in Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among other crises. There may also be a focus on collaboration between the UN and the LAS in promoting the rights of women and children and mitigating the adverse effects of climate change in the region.
While there is widespread concern in the Council about the peace and security challenges in the region, members hold contrasting views about how to approach these challenges. This is illustrated by the frequent vetoes cast over the years by the US and Russia on Israel-Palestine and Syria, respectively, which have complicated the ability of the UN and the LAS to work together. In recent months, while some Council members (for example, Russia and the UAE) have supported efforts to normalise relations with Syria, others, including the UK and the US, have remained sceptical.
China has played a growing political role in the Middle East, as reflected by its mediation efforts with Saudi Arabia and Iran earlier this year, which led to the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COOPERATION BETWEEN THE UN AND THE LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|23 March 2022S/PRST/2022/1||This presidential statement welcomed the cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States and reiterated the Council’s intention to consider further steps to promote closer cooperation and strategic coordination between the two Organisations.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|23 March 2022S/PV.9001||This was the briefing on cooperation between the UN and the LAS.|
|10 May 2023S/2023/331||This was a report on cooperation between the UN and the LAS.|