Ministerial Debate: Cooperation between the UN and the CSTO, the CIS and the SCO
Tomorrow morning (25 September), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, focusing on the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in countering threats to peace and security, with a special focus on counter-terrorism efforts. Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, will preside. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief. Other briefers will include SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov, acting CSTO Secretary-General Valery Semerikov, and the Vice Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, Sergey Ivanov.
Enhancing relations between the SCO, the CIS, and the CSTO, on the one hand, and UN entities such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), on the other, has been a goal of Russia in recent years. Ahead of the debate, Russia has circulated a concept note (S/2019/742) that poses some questions for consideration for the participants, including:
- What is the role of regional and subregional organisations in assisting Member States in their efforts to implement the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and counterterrorism resolutions of the United Nations Security Council?
- What is the contribution of regional organisations in countering terrorist threats, including with regard to returning foreign terrorist fighters?
- What measures and “best practices” developed in the framework of the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO could be used to maintain peace and security in other regions and countries?
One of the key issues that may be raised by briefers and members is how these organisations can collaborate with the UN more effectively to address the national and international impact of instability in Afghanistan, including from terrorism and drug trafficking. Concerns about this issue have been voiced by members in Council debates on the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for several years.
Council members are generally supportive of efforts to enhance cooperation between the UN and regional organisations. There are, however, apparent divisions among Council members in their view of the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO. Some members—in particular, the P3 (France, the UK and the US)—consider these organisations as vehicles for spreading Russian influence in Eurasia and view them with a degree of distrust.
These divisions were evident during the Council’s first-ever meeting on cooperation between the UN and the CIS, the CSTO and the SCO, organised by Russia during its October 2016 Council presidency (S/PV.7796). At that meeting, Russia maintained that there was a lack of general understanding of the activities of these organisations, which had been marginalised by some states that had viewed them as “geopolitical competitors”, while the US expressed concern that these organisations did not respect individual liberties, and that the CIS and the CSTO did not reflect the interests of all of their members.
These divisions regularly manifest themselves during Council discussions on the UNRCCA. Until early 2015, Council members issued a press statement following the semi-annual consultations on this issue, encouraging increased cooperation and coordination among the Central Asian countries, UNRCCA, and “relevant regional organisations”. In September 2015, Russia, the penholder on UNRCCA, sought to add specific references to the CSTO, the SCO, and the CIS, in addition to the OSCE and the EU. The P3 opposed these additions, and no press statements could be agreed upon for more than two years. As a Central Asian state, Kazakhstan tried to overcome those differences during its 2017-2018 term on the Council. Under Kazakhstan’s Council presidency in January 2018, members found consensus on a press statement which, among other things, encouraged greater cooperation between UNRCCA and “relevant regional organisations” without making specific references to CSTO, SCO and CIS. No press statements were issued following the Council meetings on UNRCCA in June 2018 and January and July 2019.