What's In Blue

Posted Fri 12 Apr 2013

Meeting on Prevention of Conflicts in Africa

On Monday, 15 April, the Security Council will receive a briefing from the Secretary-General on “Prevention of Conflicts in Africa: addressing the root causes”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, is expected to preside. It seems that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has also been invited to brief the Council, but at press time his attendance had not been confirmed. The chairs of African subregional organisations are also anticipated to attend. Rwanda is keen to have a presidential statement adopted during the meeting but negotiations on the draft have been difficult and at press time it remains unclear whether Council members will reach consensus by Monday.

If adopted, the draft presidential statement is expected to trigger a report from the Secretary-General with recommendations on how best to address the root causes of conflicts in Africa within the UN system and in cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations and other actors.

There have been at least four meetings on the draft presidential statement. Earlier in the week additional language on children and armed conflict and the responsibility to protect, as well as on the International Criminal Court (ICC), was suggested by some Council members. It seems that while Rwanda was able to accept the language on the responsibility to protect and children and armed conflict, this was not the case with regard to the reference to the ICC. Things appear to have come to a head on Thursday (11 April) when Rwanda circulated a new draft text that did not include any language regarding the ICC. This is now the main point of contention as the seven Council members who are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC- Argentina, Australia, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea, and the UK – object to the absence of references to the ICC. It appears that some Council members have made it clear that they will not agree to a presidential statement that does not include language on the ICC. Apparently Rwanda has the support of a number of Council members on excluding ICC language.

As outlined in the concept note distributed to the Council on 2 April (S/2013/204), Rwanda intends the briefing to focus on structural prevention addressing the underlying social, economic, and political causes of armed conflict in Africa. Additionally, the preferred emphasis seems to be on national conflict prevention capacities, partnership between the UN and regional and subregional organizations, and the AU peace and security architecture. Issues related to the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa and the annual dialogue between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council may also come up.

Past meetings by the Council on conflict diplomacy have failed to translate into innovations in policymaking or improved implementation in the field. The most recent debates focusing on preventive diplomacy (July 2010 under Nigeria and September 2011 under Lebanon) or on the interdependence between conflict and development (February 2011 under Brazil) resulted in presidential statements but their utility for Council practice remains unclear.

The one innovation in the area of preventive diplomacy regarding the Council in recent years was the initiative of the UK to have “horizon scanning” briefings by the Department of Political Affairs. Starting in November 2010, with the sole exception of the US presidency of the Council in December 2010, it was on the programme of work of the Council throughout 2011 and through March 2012. However, as of the US presidency in April 2012, this imperfect but potentially useful tool, has barely been used due to objections from some Council members who were not entirely comfortable with the style or substance of the “horizon scanning” briefings.

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