Debate on Cooperation between the UN and the CSTO, CSO and CIS
Tomorrow morning (28 October), at the initiative of Russia, the Council will for the first time hold a debate on cooperation between the UN and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The meeting is being convened under the agenda item “Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-regional Organisations in the Maintenance of International Peace and Security”. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to open the debate. He will be followed by the CSTO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov, and Vice-Chair of the CIS executive committee Sergey Ivanov. In addition, Belarus has been invited to speak in its capacity as chair of the CSTO, Kazakhstan as chair of the SCO, and Kyrgyzstan as chair of the CIS. At press time, no outcome was expected.
The objective of the debate, according to a concept note circulated by Russia on 14 October (S/2016/867), is to highlight the contributions of the CSTO, SCO and CIS in countering threats to peace and security in Eurasia and Central Asia, in particular with regard to fighting terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. The debate is also presented as an opportunity to reconfirm the commitment of the three organisations to enhanced cooperation with the UN, including with the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia (UNRCCA).
The concept note recalls that the Council holds regular meetings with the AU, the OSCE and the EU, and that regional organisations often have a better understanding of the situation in the area of their responsibility. It calls for a further strengthening and deepening of the UN’s interaction with the CSTO, SCO and CIS, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter on regional arrangements. In this context, the concept note invites member states “to present their own vision of ways to strengthen security in the Eurasia region using existing regional mechanisms” and to share views on linking security and development.
It appears that the debate is not welcomed by all Council members. Several members, in particular the P3—France, the UK and the US—and Ukraine, consider the CSTO, SCO and CIS as vehicles for spreading Russian influence in the region and view these organisations with a degree of distrust. They see the debate as an attempt by Russia to gain greater legitimacy for the organisations in the UN context, a move they do not support. They also seem to argue that the nature of the UN’s cooperation with other regional organisations such as the AU and the EU is of a different and more substantive nature, and that the Council’s interaction with the various organisations should therefore also be different.
These divisions have recently manifested themselves in the Council’s discussions on the activities of UNRCCA. In the past, and since the establishment of UNRCCA in 2007, the semi-annual briefings by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UNRCCA have normally been followed by a press statement commending the important role played by the Centre as a conflict prevention tool. More recently, however, Council members have been unable to agree on a statement. In particular, it appears that following the last three briefings, the P3 opposed new language proposed by Russia encouraging increased cooperation and coordination between the Central Asian countries, UNRCCA and the CSTO, SCO and CIS, as well as the EU and the OSCE. They asked Russia to instead use agreed language from previous statements referring to cooperation with regional organisations more generally, prompting Russia to simply withdraw its proposed text. It has therefore been almost two years since the last Council press statement on UNRCCA, issued in January 2015 (SC/11751), although Council members are generally supportive of the Centre and agree that it plays a useful role.
For its part, Russia has in recent years been an increasingly vocal advocate for strengthening UN cooperation with the CSTO and SCO, not only in the UNRCCA context. During the August 2015 debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations (S/PV.7505), Russia noted that the CSTO was “intensively developing” its peacekeeping capabilities, and expressed support for deepening cooperation between the organisation and the UN in the area of peacekeeping. Furthermore, Russia highlighted the increasingly prominent role played by the SCO in the area of counter-terrorism, including as a coordinating mechanism for information sharing and confidence building measures in the fight against terrorism, separatism and extremism.
These differences in perspective are likely to be reflected in the debate, although Council members may choose to avoid further politicisation of the issue. The debate will offer an opportunity to express views on the value of cooperation between the UN and regional organisations more generally, and to also highlight the work of UNRCCA and the importance of preventive diplomacy.
The UN Secretary-General is expected to talk to talk about some specific examples of UN cooperation involving the three organisations. In this regard, he may draw on the report he submitted to the Council and the General Assembly in July (S/2016/621) on cooperation between the UN and regional and other organisations, pursuant to resolution 1809 adopted in April 2008, in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to include assessments of progress on the cooperation with relevant regional organisations in his regular reporting to the Council.
With regard to the other briefers, Council members are likely to be particularly interested in more details from Bordyuzha on the CSTO’s activities in the area of peacekeeping. In the concept note for the debate, Russia reiterated that “intensive work is under way” to develop the CSTO’s own peacekeeping capacity with the aim of using it in UN operations. However, although the CSTO has informed the UN Secretariat of its readiness to provide peacekeeping resources, it has yet to participate in any UN missions. Bordyuzha may be able to provide an update on progress in this regard. Council members are also likely to be interested in hearing more about the CSTO’s involvement in international efforts in Afghanistan and about its activities in the areas of conflict prevention and mediation.
Alimov’s briefing on the SCO can be expected to cover some of the areas of cooperation mentioned in Russia’s concept note for the debate, such as prevention and resolution of conflicts, the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countering transnational crime and illegal drugs, and providing international information security. Council members may be particularly interested in getting an update on the activities of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), which coordinates activities to combat terrorism, extremism and separatism. On several occasions, RATS has briefed the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee on its activities.
Brief Background on CSTO, SCO and CIS
The CSTO was formed in 1992, following the end of the Soviet Union. Currently, it is composed of six members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The organisation’s main objective is to maintain the national and collective security of its members while also promoting military and political cooperation between them. The organisation has sought to create capabilities to counter the major threats in the region such as terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal migration.
Formed in 2001, the SCO currently has six members: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2015, the organisation expanded its membership to India and Pakistan, which will become full members in 2017. The SCO’s main aim is to further the economic, political, social, transportation and cultural links between its members. In recent years, the organisation has devoted significant attention to the issues of peace and stability in the region as well as humanitarian cooperation. The security aspect of the SCO agenda is dominated by the issue of counter-terrorism, more specifically the fight against extremism, terrorism and separatism. Given these security concerns, the SCO has been engaged in the situation in Afghanistan.
The CIS was formed in 1991 and currently has nine members: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The CIS provides a forum for its members to advance political, economic, human rights, cultural and environmental cooperation. While the SCO and the CSTO have become the more dominant organisations in the Eurasian region on security issues, the CIS still plays a role in coordinating the activities of its members on counter-terrorism.