What's In Blue

Security Council Presidential Statement on Boko Haram

The Council will adopt this morning (28 July), a presidential statement on Boko Haram, also taking note of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) being created to combat the group. Chad circulated a draft on the evening of 22 July. An expert level meeting was held on 23 July, and following further bilateral consultations, the draft presidential statement passed silence procedure yesterday morning at 10 am (27 July).

The prospect for a presidential statement has existed since at least 4 June, when Chad first circulated a draft presidential statement. However, negotiations on the text were never held after a meeting the next day between the three African Council members, apparently due to concerns of Nigeria about whether a presidential statement was necessary. It seemed that Council members would soon revisit the draft presidential statement, after an 11 June Summit in Abuja on plans to finalise the MNJTF between Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, which are the countries forming the MNJTF. A communiqué issued at the summit called on the Security Council to adopt “a declarative statement in support of the MNJTF”.

For weeks though, the Nigerian Mission apparently told the Chadian Mission in New York that it was still waiting for further instructions on how to proceed on a statement despite the heads of states’ agreement in Abuja. Due to the lack of progress on a presidential statement, earlier this month Chad sought to incorporate elements of its draft in a press statement on West Africa that Nigeria had drafted when the Council held its biannual meeting on the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA). Ultimately the Council could not agree on these proposals, Chad broke silence on the draft and it was never adopted.

More recently, however, the three African Council members met and agreed to move forward with the statement. When Council experts met last Thursday to discuss the draft, they all expressed support for moving forward on the text. Ever since divisions emerged between Nigeria and Chad last March during negotiations on whether to seek a resolution under Chapter VII or Chapter VI in order to support efforts to establish the MNJTF, members have stressed that they were willing to support what African Council countries wanted once they reached a consensus.

Once the draft of the presidential statement was put forward on 22 July, while a number of proposals were made at last week’s expert level meeting and through the weekend, the discussions on the text were relatively smooth.

In the draft presidential statement, the Council commends Lake Chad Basin Commission members and Benin for their efforts to operationalise the MNJTF. In this regard, the statement takes note of a number of developments towards the creation of the force, starting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) communiqué of its 25 November 2014 meeting on Boko Haram. This meeting is when the AU PSC first requested the Council to adopt a Chapter VII resolution authorising the MNJTF.

Other elements in the draft include encouraging the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) to accelerate efforts to adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat the group. A key paragraph in the statement is on financial support for the MNJTF. The draft calls upon the international community and donors to support the MNJTF and welcomes the African Union Commission’s (AUC) plans to organise a donors’ conference in support of the force. Member states are further requested to contribute generously to an AU Trust Fund. In this regard, the statement invites the Secretary-General to support the AUC plans for a donors’ conference and requests him to advocate strongly with the international community and donors in support of these efforts.

The UK, supported by the US, expressed concerns regarding the role of the Secretary-General, not wanting to incur additional financial obligations on member states through the new tasks being asked of the Secretariat. Chad was very keen on keeping reference to the UN role in mobilising resources. It seems that the Secretariat confirmed that these functions could be provided through the UN Office to the AU within existing resources, and the reference, with slight modifications, was retained. An additional concern seems to have been having the Council request states to contribute to the AU Trust Fund since the fund has yet to be established. Some Council members however argued in favour of keeping the reference to the AU Trust Fund as a mechanism into which they could eventually channel support which they would otherwise be unable to provide bilaterally.

The draft presidential statement includes language on the importance of ensuring that counter-terrorism measures to combat Boko Haram are in compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law. A number of further proposals were made by other delegations to strengthen the text regarding issues such as protection of human rights, accountability for human rights violations, humanitarian principles and the impact of the conflict on women and children. Related to this, the draft presidential statement highlights the humanitarian crisis due to the conflict and stresses the need to complement the military approach with a more holistic approach that would address root causes and longer term development needs.

Chad was apparently keen to have the presidential statement adopted during July with Nigeria about to start its Council presidency in August, in view of Nigeria’s sensitivities about Council consideration of the Boko Haram conflict. This appears to have thus been a reason for the expedited negotiation process since late last week.

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