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Meeting of the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations on Regional Partnerships

On Friday (27 November), the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, a subsidiary body of the Security Council currently chaired by Chad, is expected to meet to discuss the importance of partnerships and regional peacekeeping initiatives. Briefings are expected by Edmond Mulet, Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Ambassador Tété Antonio, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, the Permanent Representative of China to the UN, has also been invited to brief, although his participation has yet to be confirmed.

In preparation for the meeting, Chad has distributed a concept note outlining the scope of regional peacekeeping initiatives whose structures, doctrines and capacities vary widely: from traditional peacekeeping tasks such as ceasefire monitoring and supporting peace agreements, to military, police and/or civilian capacity-building missions and peace enforcement operations.

The concept note underlines the increasingly robust posture that some of these peacekeeping operations are adopting, especially in Africa, in the face of asymmetric threats to peace and security coming from groups not willing to compromise or engage in political processes. It refers to the view expressed in the recent report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) that effective regional forces are better suited to deal with terrorist and criminal groups than UN forces, which are handicapped by their composition and character in addressing threats from these groups.

The note highlights the advantages of regional peacekeeping initiatives. It argues that regional organisations, in part because they “represent a heterogeneous group in terms of peacekeeping doctrines and concepts,” can conduct peace enforcement tasks in contexts in which UN peacekeeping operations cannot deploy, because of the absence of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement or a political settlement. Among other things, they also tend to deploy faster than UN peacekeeping missions, are often more cost-effective, and benefit from a better understanding of the context.

However, the note acknowledges some of the potential limitations of peacekeeping operations by regional organizations. These include the potential mismatch between the objectives of countries in the region and the efforts to support conflict resolution, and the limited resources and capacities that some of the regional initiatives face in implementing their mandates.

The lack of flexible, sustainable and predictable funding of AU peacekeeping operations mandated by the Security Council is a frequently raised issue and a major feature of the concept note. Apart from the AU’s own Peace Fund, sources of support include the African Peace Facility, which is financed through the European Development Fund; multi-donor trust funds; bilateral financial support to troop- and police-contributors; and UN-assessed contributions. Despite the ad hoc nature in which AU operations are supported, there has been no systematic review of the financing of AU operations mandated by the Council. This remains a controversial issue among Council members, dividing the donor countries on the Council from African countries. The HIPPO report addressed this issue by recommending that the UN should, on a case-by-case basis, provide enabling support, including through more predictable financing, to AU peace support operations when authorised by the Council, even as the AU builds its own capacity and resources for that purpose.

In fact, one controversial issue in the negotiation of a draft presidential statement on peace operations that is expected to be adopted tomorrow (25 November) is related to the funding of AU peace operations. There were differences of opinions over whether to refer to the 24 December 2008 Prodi Report, which was written by a joint AU-UN panel and recommended the use of UN assessed contributions to support UN-authorised AU operations on a case-by-case basis. The proposal to refer to the report, put forward by Chad, was met with resistance by permanent members wary of the financial implications of such funding arrangements for the UN. As a compromise, the draft notes the recommendations of the HIPPO report, including with respect to the strategic partnership with the AU.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to this issue in a 2 January letter to the Council outlining some lessons learned on re-hatting processes in Mali and the Central African Republic. In the letter, Ban acknowledged the importance of adequate support arrangements to AU operations in order to facilitate transition processes to UN peacekeeping operations. In his 2 September report, “The future of UN peace operations: implementation of the recommendations of the HIPPO”, the Secretary-General announced a joint UN-AU review and assessment of various mechanisms currently available to finance and support AU peace operations authorised by the Council. In addition to the issue of financing, the 2 January letter highlighted the importance of issues such as joint planning, command and control structures and civilian capacities (including with respect to the human rights and protection of civilians mandates of the peace operations concerned).

In light of the financial and operational challenges facing peacekeeping, the concept note suggests a number of recommendations that could serve as a springboard for discussion in tomorrow’s meeting. It argues that the Council should enable and support regional peacekeeping initiatives willing to counter new international security threats (e.g., terrorism and criminal armed groups). Along these lines, it recommends that the Council “review the steps it could take to encourage and support the establishment of new regional peacekeeping initiatives, especially in areas…where the security context is not suitable for a UN deployment.” The concept note further calls on the Council to “mandate the UN Secretariat to review the full range of potential support modalities towards… [regional]…peacekeeping initiatives.” Finally, the concept note calls on the Council to discuss recommendations that arise from the upcoming UN Secretariat-AU review on mechanisms to support AU peace operations mandated by the Council. (In the draft presidential statement to be adopted tomorrow, the Council looks forward to the results of this review.)

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