Annual Meeting with Members of the AU PSC
Tomorrow (6 June), members of the Security Council and members of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold their eighth annual consultative meeting. Security Council members and PSC members have held joint meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters each year. The last meeting between members of the two councils was held at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on 8 October 2013, resulting in a joint communiqué (S/2013/611).
At press time, the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting had not yet been finalised. Security Council members proposed an initial draft agenda in a letter dated 19 May, PSC members responded with a slightly revised draft agenda in a letter dated 27 May, and then Security Council members replied with another draft agenda for consideration by PSC members on 3 June. In its current iteration, which is subject to change, the draft agenda apparently includes the following items: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, the AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, cooperation combating terrorism in Africa, strengthening cooperation between the Security Council and PSC, and other matters.
It seems that “other matters” could allow for discussion of certain country-specific situations not otherwise on the list. One country could be Burundi, which had been on the initial draft agenda proposed by the Security Council on 19 May; another situation could be Abyei, which had been included on the draft agenda proposed by the PSC on 27 May. Other critical situations which could be discussed under “other matters” include increasing insecurity in Libya and protracted conflict in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile in Sudan.
The format for the meeting has been established by Russia, in its capacity as President of the Security Council this month. Following opening remarks and adoption of the draft agenda, each item on the agenda is allocated a total of 20 minutes. With three speakers anticipated for each side, they would thus be limited to approximately three minutes each. While some of the past consultative meetings suffered from inadequate advance planning of the agenda, there now could be a risk that with a highly structured agenda there may be insufficient room for open debate and a free exchange of ideas among the members of the two councils.
Nigeria, in its capacity as Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, which is a subsidiary body of the Security Council, took the lead on drafting a joint communiqué. The eight-page draft communiqué covers each of the agenda items, as well as other cross-cutting thematic issues. After agreement on the text among Security Council members, the draft communiqué was transmitted to PSC members on 3 June. PSC members sent a revised version of the draft communiqué to Council members at mid-day today. At press time, the text remains under discussion. Pending agreement on a final text among members of the two councils, the joint communiqué will be issued at the meeting tomorrow.
Implementation is an aspect that has often been previously overlooked but that could be addressed in the forthcoming text. One option could be including language specifying that “follow up” be a recurring agenda item for future joint communiqués. The councils could also choose to designate respective focal points to follow up on certain situations and issues covered at the consultative meeting within a specific timeframe. This could potentially involve coordination roles for UN Office to the AU and the Office of the Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN. Another possibility could be to designate other bodies, such as the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, to take on this type of role.
The eighth annual consultative meeting is scheduled to be concluded with a joint press conference with the President of the Security Council and the Chairperson of the PSC, which would seem to indicate a positive trend toward strengthening relations between the two bodies (as holding a joint press conference had been resisted in previous years by certain Security Council members concerned that it could be perceived as undermining the standing of the UN Security Council as the principal body responsible for maintaining international peace and security).