What's In Blue

Posted Tue 29 Oct 2019

Cooperation between the UN and the AU

Tomorrow morning (30 October), the Security Council will hold a briefing to consider the Secretary-General’s annual report on the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa. Special Representative and head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) Hanna Tetteh and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui are expected to brief via video-teleconference from Djibouti, where they are attending a high-level retreat of AU special envoys and representatives. This meeting follows the 4th annual informal meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and 13th annual joint consultative meeting which Council members attended in Addis Ababa on 21 and 22 October respectively.

Tetteh is likely to focus on the progress in the last year to strengthen cooperation, in line with the April 2017 joint AU-UN framework agreement for an enhanced partnership. According to the Secretary-General’s report, “the partnership has been characterized by more frequent and constructive exchanges, as well as more systematic coordination”, and “the United Nations and the African Union have made significant progress in developing a systematic, predictable and strategic partnership to address complex peace and security challenges in Africa”. Tetteh is likely to highlight the joint field visits that are increasingly undertaken by senior UN and AU officials, as well as joint briefings by officials of both organisations to the Security Council and the PSC. The UNOAU, which is the UN’s key interface to the AU on peace and security matters, also briefed the PSC 54 times from August 2018 to July 2019, according to the Secretary-General’s report.

Among other points, Tetteh may highlight an upcoming independent review of UN-AU cooperation and of the structure and capacity of UNOAU, to be led by former UN official Said Djjinit.

Chergui may similarly affirm the progress in the AU-UN partnership.  During last week’s meetings in Addis, AU Commissioner Moussa Faki told Council members that the momentum for strengthening this partnership had never been stronger. A prominent subject during the meetings in Addis was the AU’s proposal for a joint AU-UN envoy for Libya. Faki, and later PSC members during the joint consultative meeting, stressed how the proliferation of arms—regularly sent to Libya in violation of the Security Council arms embargo—and the spread of terrorist groups from Libya has begun to have a continent-wide effect beyond the neighbouring Sahel region. They underscored the need for greater cooperation on Libya, which after eight years has continued to deteriorate despite the UN’s efforts. Tomorrow, Chergui may again raise this proposal. The idea does not seem to have sufficient support within the Security Council, however, as a number of Council members prefer to maintain the current UN-supported political process and are concerned about weakening the efforts of the UN Special Representative to Libya, Ghassan Salamé.

At tomorrow’s session, Council members are likely to welcome the deepening partnership between the UN and AU. They could also welcome the AU’s efforts, which the UN has supported, to strengthen coordination and clarify divisions of labour with Africa’s regional economic communities and regional mechanisms, described by the Secretary-General as imperative in the prevention, resolution and management of conflict. In July, the AU and regional economic communities held their first ever coordination meeting in Niamey.

Council members are also likely to refer to last week’s meetings in Addis. In his report, the Secretary-General underscores that “greater consultation in the decision-making” of the UN Security Council and PSC “remains critical for achieving strategic convergence and coherence in addressing peace and security challenges in Africa”. During their most recent field visit, Council members went to Addis directly from a day-long visit to South Sudan that left members concerned over the risk of renewed conflict, which they discussed with their AU counterparts. Both the PSC and Security Council have taken similar positions that the parties should make  compromises to form a transitional national unity government by the 12 November deadline for concluding the already extended pre-transition period set up by the September 2018 peace agreement.

The other situations discussed during the joint consultative meeting were the Central African Republic, Libya, the Sahel, and, “under any other business”, Guinea-Bissau.

Perhaps the most animated discussion during last week’s meetings was over the modalities for joint visiting missions of the Security Council and PSC. The topic, along with the AU’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, made up the two agenda items during the informal meeting. The PSC maintained its position that joint visits should be conducted with the participation of all 15 members from each Council, while Security Council members expressed concerns about the logistics of such large missions.

Côte d’Ivoire outlined options for joint visits that the A3 (the three African members of the Council) had recently shared in a letter with the PSC: (1) smaller missions with representatives of the two Councils; (2) inviting PSC members to join sanctions committee field visits; and (3) missions of the entire Councils. Among the suggestions for smaller missions was that they could be made up of five members of each body. Security Council members indicated an openness to begin with smaller missions, while a working group could consider the feasibility of options for larger missions. However, the PSC held to its position that joint visits should include the entire membership of both Councils. The discussion revealed continuing PSC frustrations that these annual meetings take place not as meetings between the two institutions, but instead as meetings between the PSC and “the members of the Security Council”. Ultimately it was decided that the modalities of joint visits would be studied further at the expert level before taking any further decisions.

It seems that negotiations have yet to resume on the joint communique that is issued after these annual meetings of Council members and the PSC. Before the Council visit to Addis, the main differences were over Libya, in connection with the joint envoy proposal and language about the EU’s Operation Sofia. Last year, the communiqué was adopted at the conclusion of the joint consultative meeting. But quick adoption has been the exception in recent years, with communiqués often issued many months later after protracted negotiations.

The issue of financing for AU peace support operations was not discussed in last week’s meetings with the PSC. Its exclusion from the agenda followed a call by the PSC for the A3 to pause negotiations on a revised version of a draft resolution for financing AU peace support operations circulated by the then-A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) at the end of 2018, but not put to a vote. According to the PSC, AU members need first to generate a common understanding during the AU’s upcoming summit in February 2020 of the practical meaning and implications of their commitment, made in 2016, to contribute 25 percent of the costs of  AU-led peace operations..

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