What's In Blue

Posted Mon 23 May 2016

Annual Meeting with Members of the AU PSC and Open Debate and Presidential Statement on AU-UN Cooperation

Annual Meeting with Members of the AU PSC
This afternoon (23 May), members of the Security Council and members of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold their tenth joint annual consultative meeting. Security Council members and PSC members have held annual joint meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters. The last meeting between members of the two Councils was held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on 12 March 2015 and resulted in a joint communiqué. Council members also met informally with members of the AU PSC in Addis Ababa in January this year after a visit to Burundi to discuss the situation in that country.

One of the key dynamics ahead of the meeting has been reaching agreement on the agenda. In a letter dated 14 April, AU PSC members proposed an initial draft agenda that included discussing Western Sahara, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, and countering terrorism and violent extremism. On 25 April, the President of the Security Council responded, proposing just Burundi and Somalia, while indicating the clear preference of the Council to adopt a more focused agenda with a manageable number of items to ensure that there is enough time for meaningful discussion on each topic. The Chairperson of the AU PSC replied on 4 May stressing the importance of including two issues of high priority to Africa on the agenda, namely the long-running conflict in Western Sahara and the reform of the Security Council. In his 13 May response, the Council president stated that Security Council reform is an agenda item of the UN General Assembly and that Council members “do not have a mandate to discuss this issue”. Regarding the inclusion of Western Sahara, the letter said that there was no agreement among its members for its inclusion. Therefore, the joint annual consultation tomorrow is expected to focus on the situation in Somalia (which Council members visited last week) and Burundi.

Given the 10th anniversary of these annual joint consultations, members of the Council and the PSC will also hold an informal discussion in the morning to take a strategic look at their partnership, as well as how their cooperation can be strengthened moving forward. This is also expected to be the occasion for a discussion on the three 2015 peace and security review processes, namely peace operations, the peacebuilding architecture, and women, peace and security. It is likely that some of the issues suggested by the AU PSC that did not make it into the formal segment of the meeting might be discussed in the informal one.

Angola, as Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, took the lead in drafting a joint communiqué for the formal segment of the agenda. Even though earlier versions of the communiqué included language regarding the nature of the relationship between both Councils, ways to strengthen the UN-AU partnership and the impact of the three reviews, these were in the end incorporated in a draft presidential statement that will be adopted on Tuesday. Hence, the draft communiqué focuses mostly on Somalia and Burundi. PSC members have expressed their intention to negotiate a separate joint communiqué after the informal discussion in the morning, but at press time no draft had been circulated and there seems to be opposition to this by several Council members.

After Security Council members had agreed on the text, the draft communiqué was transmitted to PSC members last week and a revised draft was sent to Council members on Thursday. After incorporating some edits it was shared with the PSC members again. At press time, the draft text was expected to be agreed on later today.

Consistent with the key messages delivered during the Security Council’s visit to Somalia last week, the draft communiqué calls on the Somali stakeholders to keep their commitment that there shall be no extension of the electoral process timelines, and calls for progress on the constitutional review process and for the completion of the federal state formation process. It seems that there were differences between the Security Council and AU PSC members over how to refer to the financial, logistical and operational challenges facing the AU Mission in Somalia, as well as the kind of financial support that the mission needs.

On Burundi, the draft communiqué reiterates the members’ deep concern about the continuing political impasse and violence in the country, as well as the attendant serious humanitarian consequences. Council members called for the cooperation of the government of Burundi and all Burundian stakeholders “committed to a peaceful solution”, but the AU PSC members preferred to refer to the cooperation of the government and all Burundian stakeholders more generally.

Although a contentious issue in the past, it is now common practice that the annual consultative meeting concludes with a joint press conference chaired by the President of the Security Council and the Chairperson of the PSC.

Open Debate and Presidential Statement on AU-UN Cooperation
On Tuesday (24 May), the Council is expected to hold an open debate on “UN-AU cooperation: Chapter VIII application and the future of the African Peace and Security Architecture”. The AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, the newly-appointed Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya), the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous, and the head of the UN Office to the AU Haile Menkerios are expected to brief the Council.
According to a concept note circulated by Egypt ahead of the meeting, the objective of the debate is to assess progress in operationalising the African Peace and Security Architecture, established in 2002, and the ways in which enhanced cooperation with the UN could strengthen it. The note highlights how the new partnership between the UN and the AU should incorporate the conclusions of the three peace and security reviews mentioned above, particularly with a view to shifting the current paradigm from its focus on conflict management towards a more holistic approach that gives primacy to conflict prevention, political solutions and sustaining peace. According to the note, as a short-term objective, this partnership should focus on the means for enabling the AU and sub-regional organisations to step up to the complex peace and security challenges, with a view to achieve burden-sharing and complementarity in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.

This open debate comes as the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission are finalising a Joint UN-AU Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security that is expected to provide a blueprint for early and continuous engagement between these organisations before, during and after conflict. This framework is expected to institutionalise the strategic partnership between the AU and the UN, and provide the basis for practical cooperation on peace operations.

At the meeting, Council members are expected to adopt a draft presidential statement, which was negotiated over the last week and passed the silence procedure this morning. It seems that the negotiations over the draft, which is largely based on previously agreed language, went smoothly. In terms of new language, the draft notes that the three peace and security reviews provide an opportunity to build a stronger, forward-looking partnership between the two organisations. It also welcomes the development of the new African Peace and Security Architecture Roadmap (2016-2020), which aims at mapping out a way forward to make it fully operational.

Regarding the financing of AU operations, the draft reiterates agreed language on the issue recognising the AU’s challenge in securing “predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”, but also includes new language encouraging further dialogue on options for addressing this issue. (In his implementation report on peace operations, 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 terms of follow-up to the relationship between the two Councils, the draft reiterates the Council’s intention to achieve “more effective annual consultative meetings, the holding of timely consultations, and collaborative field missions of the two Councils, as appropriate, to formulate cohesive positions and strategies on a case-by-case basis in dealing with conflict situations in Africa”. In the 2015 communiqué the AU PSC and the Security Council agreed to conduct a joint field mission that year, but this did not happen.

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