What's In Blue

Posted Tue 5 Sep 2017

Dispatches from the Field: UN Security Council Visiting Mission to the AU

Council members left today (5 September) for a three-day visiting mission to Addis Ababa for the 11th joint consultative meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC). Ahead of the joint consultative meeting, the Council delegation will have informal consultations on issues related to the relationship between the two Councils. It will also meet with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, and with senior officials from the UN Office to the AU and the AU Commission. In addition, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU Haile Menkerios, Special Representative for South Sudan David Shearer, Special Representative for Somalia Michael Keating and Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Nicholas Haysom are expected to brief the Council delegation ahead of the meetings with the AU PSC.


These annual joint meetings began in 2007, and have alternated between the respective headquarters. The last meeting was held in New York on 23 May 2016. This will be the first meeting since Secretary-General António Guterres and the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, signed a joint AU-UN framework for enhanced partnership in peace and security on 19 April. This framework is expected to provide a blueprint for early and continuous engagement between the two organisations before, during and after conflict. It also aims at institutionalising the strategic partnership between the AU and the UN, and providing the basis for practical cooperation on peace operations. Ethiopia, which is the Council president in September and is leading this visiting mission, has expressed the hope that this year’s joint meetings, coming after the signing of the framework agreement, will reflect the significance of the commitment of the two organisations.

The practice has been to issue a communiqué after these meetings, which is drafted by the host Council. The early communiqués were short and thin on substance, reflecting the process-oriented nature of the early meetings. However, in 2011, there was a significant change with the consultations focusing on substantive issues, including Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan, which were reflected in the communiqué. Since then communiqués have tended to be more substantive, sometimes making it difficult to get agreement. In the last two years, negotiations have been protracted with last year’s joint communiqué only issued on 23 March 2017 due to differences over how to reflect the situations in Burundi and Somalia. In 2015, the draft communiqué was still being negotiated during the joint consultative meeting in Addis Ababa but agreement was reached allowing it to be issued by the end of the meeting.

In recent years, Council members have used the ad-hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to negotiate the draft communiqué with the AU PSC. Late last week, following negotiations among the members of the Working Group, a revised draft with their proposed amendments was sent back to the AU PSC. At press time, it was unclear if further negotiations would be needed ahead of the meetings in Addis.

The Meetings in Addis Ababa

Soon after arrival on Wednesday, the members of the delegation are expected to meet with Menkerios, Shearer, Keating and Haysom who will provide them with an update on developments related to the AU, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

The informal consultations, which will be held on Thursday (7 September), will focus on the partnership between the AU and the UN, funding for AU peace and security activities, and post-conflict peacebuilding. This will be the second time the joint consultative meeting will include an informal meeting on the strategic relationship between the two Councils. A similar meeting was held last year to mark the 10th anniversary of the annual joint consultations. It seems that members found the informal meeting format useful as it allowed for a more lively discussion and encouraged greater interaction among members.

According to the terms of reference for the visiting mission, the discussion on the partnership between the AU and the UN is expected to focus on how to continue to develop an effective partnership and enhance cooperation between the AU and the UN. Regarding the longstanding issue of funding for AU peace and security activities, members are expected to discuss how the UN can enhance support for the AU peace operations authorised by the Council particularly in relation to the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing these operations. In addition, there is expected to be discussion of the progress made by the AU toward implementation of benchmarks for self-financing, financial transparency, conduct and discipline, and human rights frameworks. The third item on the agenda for the informal meeting is post-conflict peacebuilding, where the members of the two Councils are expected to discuss ways of improving cooperation and coordination in peacebuilding, including how to increase the coherence of such efforts and how to encourage greater interaction between the Peacebuilding Support Office and relevant bodies of regional and sub-regional organisations, such as the AU Commission.

The 11th joint consultative meeting will take place on Friday (8 September). Although it had been difficult reaching agreement on the agenda last year due to the PSC wanting to include a number of sensitive issues, such as Western Sahara, as well as UN reform, this year it seems that there was little difficulty getting agreement. The joint consultative meeting will cover Somalia, South Sudan and the Lake Chad Basin. Members are not excluding the possibility of raising other issues during the informal consultations, but the joint consultative meeting is expected to focus on these three matters.

It seems that the session on Somalia is expected to focus on recent political and security developments and consider ways of providing support for security sector reform and institution building. The ongoing constitutional review process and the progress made towards the selection of the new Constitutional Review Commission of the Federal Parliament, as well as developments related to curtailing Al Shabaab’s activities, are likely to be of particular interest.

During the discussions on South Sudan, the dire humanitarian and security situations are expected to be key areas of discussion. On 17 August, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released a statement announcing that the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda has passed the one million mark. According to OCHA, some 6 million people, approximately half the population, are severely food-insecure. About 1.89 million people are internally displaced persons (IDPs), and 1.97 million persons have fled to neighbouring countries. Among the IDPs, approximately 218,000 people are being protected in seven UN Mission in South Sudan protection of civilians’ sites. Against this backdrop, members of the two Councils are expected to discuss steps that they can take to help achieve a sustainable ceasefire and revitalise the political process. In this session, Council members are likely to be interested in hearing more about the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s efforts to revitalise the political process, including through the High Level Revitalization Forum for the Implementation of the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, which is expected to convene in October.

The focus of the session on the Lake Chad Basin is expected to be the threats posed by terrorist attacks, particularly by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, largely due to the violence associated with Boko Haram. More than 2.3 million people are displaced across the region, and according to OCHA, food insecurity and malnutrition have reached critical levels across four countries (Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger) of the Lake Chad Basin. Members of the two Councils are expected to discuss how to mobilise and deploy regional and international support for the conflict-affected populations of the region.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails