What's In Blue

Posted Thu 3 Dec 2020

Virtual High-Level Debate on Cooperation Between the UN and AU

Tomorrow (4 December), the Security Council will hold a high-level videoconference (VTC) debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, focusing on the AU. The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa (who also heads the AU in 2020), is expected to chair the debate, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat are anticipated briefers. During the meeting, the Council will also discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the cooperation between the UN and the AU (S/2020/860). The Secretary-General has submitted an annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on peace and security in Africa since 2016, as requested in a 2014 presidential statement (S/PRST/2014/27). Each year the Council has discussed this report in a briefing or a debate.

A presidential statement is expected to be adopted as an outcome of the meeting.


This debate is a signature event of South Africa’s presidency of the Council in December, its final month on the Council. According to a concept note (S/2020/1146) circulated ahead of the debate, the meeting will allow Security Council members, as well as countries on the African continent, “to provide views on the effectiveness of the partnership in contributing to resolving conflicts and sustaining peace on the continent, including in contributing to achieving the ambition of silencing the guns in Africa”. Other objectives that are identified include allowing for reflection on the progress made, through the partnership of the two organisations, in the following: conflict resolution in Africa; the strategic partnership between the two organisations in addressing peace and security challenges in Africa; and cooperation and coordination between the UN and regional organisations under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.

The concept note also sets out a series of broad questions to be considered at the debate:

  1. How has cooperation between the AU and the UN had an impact on efforts to resolve conflicts on the African continent?
  2. How has the Security Council utilised a conflict prevention approach and made use of Chapter VI of the UN Charter in terms of the pacific settlement of disputes, and how can this be improved?
  3. Has the Security Council paid sufficient attention to post-conflict reconstruction and development on the African continent?
  4. Is the current use of Security Council sanctions effective in the resolution of conflicts? Do sanctions facilitate or inhibit progress towards sustainable peace?
  5. What are the challenges in terms of the ability of the Security Council to execute its mandate on the African continent?
  6. Have UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions been successful on the African continent?
  7. How can the partnership between the UN and the AU be leveraged to further advance the women and peace and security and youth and peace and security agendas on the continent?
  8. What specific contribution can cooperation between the UN and the AU make in addressing the negative impact of emerging issues such as health emergencies on the maintenance of peace and security on the continent?

Members may discuss key themes reflected in the most recent Secretary-General’s report on the partnership between the UN and the AU on peace and security, submitted in August. The report notes that the UN and AU “have made significant progress in deepening the strategic partnership”. It highlights several joint initiatives and describes the work of the UN Office to the AU. The report also emphasises the importance of collaboration in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 14th annual meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council was held virtually on 30 September and adopted a joint communiqué (S/2020/962). The agenda included discussions on Mali, the Sahel and Somalia. Reflections on this meeting may also be raised tomorrow.

Security Council members have acknowledged the importance of the partnership with the AU in maintaining international peace and security. They have praised and frequently deferred to the AU and other regional organisations’ initiatives in mediation and peacebuilding. Over the years, however, a particularly divisive and as yet unresolved issue has been predictable and sustainable UN funding for AU peace support operations. The debate may also provide an opportunity to bring up concerns about some recent and current developments on the African continent—in places such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique or Western Sahara—and discuss ways to address them through the partnership between the two Councils.

Presidential Statement

The draft presidential statement expected to be adopted during tomorrow’s debate passed silence this afternoon (3 December). It encourages the UN and AU to strengthen their efforts to coordinate their engagement in a mutually supportive manner, across the range of possible responses to conflict. The draft refers to the AU’s continued efforts to enhance its peacekeeping role. It further acknowledges the need for more financial support to enhance AU peace operations and encourages further dialogue between the UN and AU in this regard.

The important role of women and youth in conflict prevention and resolution and in peacebuilding and post-conflict situations is referenced, as is the need for joint action between the UN and AU to end sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations.

The growing threat to peace and security posed by terrorism and violent extremism on the continent is recognised, as are efforts to combat these threats. In this respect, references are made to initiatives such as the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in the Lake Chad Basin and the G5 Sahel Joint Force, as well as the Nouakchott and Djibouti processes.