In Hindsight: The Financing of AU-led Peace Support Operations: Assessing Council Dynamics and Anticipating Future Action
On 21 December 2023, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2719 on the financing of AU-led peace support operations (AUPSOs). In a 22 December statement, Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the Council’s decision and expressed his commitment to working with the AU to implement the resolution. Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat also welcomed it as a major development in the UN-AU partnership and commended the role of the three African members (the A3, then consisting of Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) for their efforts in shepherding the resolution to its conclusion.
Favorable Council Dynamics
Unlike in 2018, when the A3 (then consisting of Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia) last attempted to present a resolution on the financing of AUPSOs, current Council dynamics were considerably more favourable. Constructive engagement by the US, which in 2018 had opposed a substantive resolution, made a huge difference. Had a draft text been ready, the US might have wished to see the resolution adopted during its August 2023 Council presidency.
In 2018, the US, then under the Trump administration, set out stringent conditions that made agreement impossible. Although Washington presented a detailed proposal on human rights compliance during the 2023 negotiations, it apparently relinquished some of these proposed provisions, including the demand for the deployment of “a UN civilian presence to support the implementation of the relevant human rights and conduct and discipline policies, including the UN human rights due diligence policy, and to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the area”. The US also did not insist on language asserting the Council’s authority over command-and-control issues, as it had in 2018. At the time, it sought Council “primacy over planning, development, mandating, oversight, and accountability of any African Union peace support operation receiving financial support through UN assessed contributions, including operational details involving force commanders and the selection of troop- and police-contributing countries.” Instead, the US seemed to focus on finding a compromise, including on the difficult issue of burden sharing.
The vote on the financing resolution came against the backdrop of the Gaza crisis, which has increasingly diminished US diplomatic standing in the Global South. Consequently, it was not surprising that the US threw its weight strongly behind the financing resolution to show its support for Africa. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan welcomed the adoption of resolution 2719 as a significant step demonstrating the Biden administration’s commitment to Africa.
China—whose contribution to the UN peacekeeping budget currently stands at 15.21 percent, second only to the US—was also supportive of UN financing for AUPSOs, despite an initial sense by some Council members that it might be hesitant. Its concerns were mainly related to a reference in the draft text to the UN Human Rights Due Diligence Policy (HRDDP), which it viewed as superfluous to the financing resolution. China argued that the resolution’s reference to the AU Human Rights Compliance Framework (AUCF), which aims to strengthen the AU’s human rights system, was sufficient.
China would also have liked to see the resolution adopted during its Council Presidency in November. The draft text was circulated to Council members only in late November, however, with negotiations concluding on 15 December, allowing its adoption consistent with the AUPSC (AU Peace and Security Council) decision of 23 September 2023 calling on the A3 to present the “resolution for consideration and adoption by the UNSC before the end of December 2023”.
Council members were broadly amenable to the resolution. Although several issues were raised during negotiations, including the decision-making and authorisation process, and human rights compliance, the elephant in the room was always burden sharing, namely, what proportion of AUPSO costs would be financed by the AU. The July 2016 AU Summit in Kigali decided to endow the AU Peace Fund with $400 million to finance its peace and security activities, including 25 percent of its peace operations budget. The Consensus Paper on Predictable, Adequate, and Sustainable Financing for African Union Peace and Security Activities, adopted by the AU Summit in February 2023, explained that the 25 percent contribution was intended to finance all of its peace and security activities, not just AUPSOs mandated or authorised by the AUPSC and the Security Council.
In December 2018, when the A3 (then Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia) last attempted a financing resolution, they outlined the AU’s commitment to funding 25 percent of AUPSO costs in their draft resolution placed in blue. However, in the negotiations on resolution 2719, the A3 (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) pushed for 100 percent UN funding for AUPSOs authorised by the UN Security Council. This was apparently based on instructions from the AU, representing a departure from the AU Consensus Paper. Council members were surprised by this position and insisted on the need for the AU to assume some of the costs, which was a crucial factor in securing agreement on the draft resolution.
During the negotiations, the US initially proposed a formula of 75 percent from UN assessed contributions, 15 percent from the AU, five percent from voluntary contributions, and five percent for pre-deployment costs to be absorbed by troop-contributing countries (TCCs). When the A3 opposed this proposal, the US, as a compromise, offered to refer only to the 75 percent from UN assessed contributions, without specifying how the remaining 25 percent would be funded. The AUPSC discussed this compromise proposal on 7 and 18 December in Tunis, Tunisia, and Oran, Algeria, respectively, but apparently took a rigid stance in part because some members were worried that committing the AU to burden-sharing might increase their financial contributions to the AU budget. In addition, certain AUPSC members, including some TCCs to AUPSOs, did not appear to have a thorough understanding of the underlying context of the financing discussion in New York, namely, partial funding from UN-assessed contributions. This revealed a notable disconnect between the optimistic expectations in Addis Ababa and the actual discussion in New York.
During the Oran meeting, the AUPSC members were apparently critical of the A3 and maintained their position on seeking full funding from UN assessed contributions. At the same time, they apparently thought that the issue should be addressed during the next AU Summit scheduled for February 2024. However, some Council members recognised that deferring the discussion would be problematic: Council dynamics might be less favourable in 2024, given the change in its composition, and the 2024 US presidential election risked bringing fresh complications to the negotiations.
High-level consultations among some African leaders ensued (although not the urgent meeting of the AUPSC at Heads of State and Government level that some members had wished). In New York, the A3 did not have much room for maneuver, and indeed, they decided to proceed with the vote on the draft text in blue without addressing all of the Council members’ concerns, notably the issue of burden sharing. This led the US to propose an amendment to the text in blue to advance its compromise proposal on financing. The amendment “[d]etermines that AU-led peace support operations that are authorised by the Security Council will have access to funding from the UN assessed contributions not exceeding 75 percent of their annual budgets, with the remaining amount to be jointly mobilized by the African Union and United Nations from the international community as extra-budgetary resources and commits to consider all viable options in the event of significant shortfalls in resource mobilization”. The amendment garnered nine affirmative votes, the minimum required for adoption, with the A3, China, France, and Russia abstaining. Subsequently, with the amendment incorporated, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2719.
That the A3 maintained unity and cohesion until the end, despite intense pressure both from Addis Ababa and New York, contributed to clinching this important decision. Some AUPSC members were disappointed, notably those who pushed strongly for 100 percent UN funding, but the adoption of this resolution in response to the AU’s longstanding request will undoubtedly shape the future of UN-AU cooperation.
What Lies Ahead?
The adoption of resolution 2719 is a major step towards the financing of AUPSOs from UN assessed contributions. Nevertheless, difficult discussions lie ahead when specific cases are presented for Council authorisation and support. The issue of burden sharing is likely to resurface, as the sourcing of the remaining 25 percent of AUPSO costs was left intentionally vague. France—which abstained on the US amendment—had proposed language during the negotiations that provided a breakdown of pre-deployment costs and other costs related to civilian personnel that it believed could be absorbed by the AU. While ultimately not incorporated in the resolution, its proposal may attract attention in future discussions. The AU Consensus Paper also indicates the possibility of progressively covering some of the costs related to the preparation stage of AUPSOs.
The EU has been a major financial partner of the AU in supporting AUPSOs. Unlike 2018, however, the EU did not seem closely involved in consultations on resolution 2719, although it welcomed the adoption of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by many EU member states. The EU is expected to play a critical role in supporting the AU to cover the 25 percent of costs that will not be financed by UN assessed contributions. The EU-AU ministerial meeting anticipated later this year could offer an opportunity for the AU to secure a commitment in this regard.
The decision-making and authorisation process for AUPSOs, as outlined in operative paragraph 3 of the resolution, is also a likely focus of future discussions. Here, the immediate priority is completing a joint planning document expected to guide the process. Regarding cases that could be presented to the Council for support and authorisation under resolution 2719, discussions have started in earnest in respect of a follow-on mission to the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which is intended to have a new name and smaller footprint. At the Somalia Security Conference held in New York on 12 December 2023, participants voiced support for the follow-on mission, which is anticipated to be funded from UN assessed contributions; however, all the necessary conditions, including a joint strategic assessment, may not be fulfilled before the next mandate renewal of ATMIS in June.
Sub-regional organisations may also seek support for deploying their forces to address conflicts and crises in their respective regions. For instance, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has already requested support from the UN for the SADC Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC), which started deploying in eastern DRC on 15 December 2023. But this may be a challenge: resolution 2719 indicates that the Council will consider requests for support from UN assessed contributions only to those AUPSOs under the AU’s direct and effective command and control.
Pursuant to resolution 2717 of 19 December 2023, which renewed the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the Council expressed its intention to evaluate the conditions under which “limited logistical and operational support may be provided to an AU-mandated regional force deployed within the area of MONUSCO’s deployment, in furtherance of MONUSCO’s mandate, and within existing resources”. The Council’s decision on this matter is likely to be informed by the Secretary-General’s upcoming June report and recommendations, pursuant to resolution 2717.
There are two other cases of potential AUPSOs that, at this stage, still appear distant. The Secretary-General has been vocal in his support for a new generation of AUPSOs under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and with guaranteed, predictable funding, including through assessed contributions, emphasising the relevance of such initiatives for West Africa and the Sahel region, which faces a severe security challenge. On 25 September 2022, the UN, AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S) jointly launched a high-level independent panel led by the former president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, to conduct a strategic assessment of “the underlying challenges in the Sahel”. The Panel’s report was expected to provide recommendations, including a possible AU-mandated regional response, but its work has been complicated by the Niger coup and other subsequent regional developments, such as the dissolution of the FC-G5S and the formation of a new alliance by the military juntas of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger; it is unclear when the report and recommendations will appear. In his 11 January briefing to the Council, Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Leonardo Santos Simão said that “the possible deployment of an African Union standby team as part of addressing regional security needs is to be welcomed” in the context of implementing resolution 2719.
Another potential case is the deployment of an AUPSO in Sudan, contingent upon progress in the ongoing mediation efforts. A ceasefire or cessation of hostilities agreement between the conflict parties could necessitate the deployment of a third-party force tasked with monitoring implementation. Considering recent tensions between key Sudanese political actors and the UN, the deployment of an AUPSO might be an option. This prospect may prompt Council discussion, especially as some members tend to view AUPSOs through a limited lens, focusing on enforcement actions or counter-terrorism operations, although the AU doctrine on AUPSOs emphasises their multifunctional and multidimensional nature. In this regard, it says that AUPSOs may utilise various modalities and processes, including “dialogue and reconciliation, security initiatives as well as institutional capacity building and peacebuilding measures” to implement their mandate.
 United Nations, “Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General – on Financing of African Union-led peace operations,” 22 December 2023.
 African Union Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat, “Statement on United Nations Security Council Resolutiton 2719,” 22 December 2023.
 United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations, “Copy of the US proposal on AU Human rights compliance,” 2023.
 United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations, “Copy of the US eleven-point proposal on the A3 draft resolution,” 2018.
 US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, “Statement on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2719,” 23 December 2023.
 African Union Peace and Security Council, ‘Communiqué of the 1175th meeting,” 23 September 2023.
 African Union, “Consensus Paper on Predictable, Adequate and Sustainable Financing for African Union Peace and Security Activities,” 8 February 2023.
 High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelle, “Statement on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2719,” 22 December 2023.
70 UN member states, including five Council members (then Brazil, China, Malta, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates) co-sponsored the resolution.
 Southern African Development Community, “Deployment of the SADC Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” 4 January 2024.
 United Nations, “Secretary-General’s remarks to the Opening Ceremony at the 36th ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly [as delivered],” 18 February 2023
 United Nations, “Note to Correspondents: High-Level Meeting on the Sahel: The United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS and the G5 Sahel formally launch the Independent Panel on Security and Development,” 24 September 2022.
 United Nations Security Council, “Meeting records of the 9529th meeting of the United Nations Security Council,” 11 January 2024.
 African Union, “Draft African Union Doctrine on Peace Support Operations,” 21 October 2019.