What's In Blue

Posted Fri 16 Apr 2021

Open Debate on Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Subregional Organisations*

On Monday (19 April), as one of the signature events of its presidency, Viet Nam will convene a high-level open debate via videoconference on: “Enhancing Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional and Subregional Organizations in Enhancing Confidence-building and Dialogue in Conflict Prevention and Resolution”. President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc of Vietnam is expected to chair the meeting. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are expected to brief.  Representatives of various regional organisations are also scheduled to brief, including Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); and Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Foreign Minister of Brunei Darussalam, as the Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Senior AU and EU officials may also brief.

While tomorrow’s meeting is an open debate, non-Security Council member states will not be able to speak during the virtual meeting, due to working methods adopted by the Council during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they will be able to submit written statements to the Security Council Affairs Division that will be incorporated in a compilation document.

A draft presidential statement proposed by Viet Nam is the expected outcome of the meeting.

In a concept note circulated ahead of the debate, Viet Nam has outlined key objectives of the meeting that are intended to promote conflict prevention and resolution, including:

  • Underscoring the importance of continuously strengthening cooperation between the UN (particularly the Security Council) and regional and sub-regional organisations;
  • Highlighting the need to enhance confidence-building measures and dialogue;
  • Sharing experiences and illuminating recent best practices with regard to the relationship between the UN and regional and subregional organisations, as well as among regional organisations.

There is clear support in the Council for the efforts of regional and sub-regional organisations in preventing and resolving conflict. The high number of formal meetings that the Security Council holds on its relationship with regional organisations reflects this support. Council members have held annual joint consultative meetings with members of the AU Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) since 2007, and the Council has met to discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on the AU-UN relationship since 2015. It has also met annually for a briefing by the incoming chairperson-in-office of the OSCE and on UN-EU cooperation since 2001 and 2010, respectively.  In addition to these annual meetings, Council presidents have chosen to hold several briefings or debates on the relationship between the Council and regional organisations in recent years. In this respect, since January 2020, the Council has met to discuss its relationships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Organization of La Francophonie and the League of Arab States.

In Monday’s meeting, Council members are likely to underscore the need for the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations to enhance their cooperation and develop synergies on early warning, preventive diplomacy and mediation activities. While the Security Council is the ultimate arbiter on matters of international peace and security under international law, members may note the added value of regional organisations in addressing threats to peace because of their proximity to crisis situations and their unique understanding of local dynamics. Some members may also focus on the need for the UN and member states to enhance the capacities of regional and sub-regional bodies to prevent and resolve conflicts. There will most likely be references to current crises and how regional organisations can help to mediate them, including through joint efforts with the UN. For example, members may encourage constructive engagement by ASEAN, the AU and the OSCE in crises in Myanmar, Ethiopia (Tigray) and eastern Ukraine, respectively.

The negotiations on the draft presidential statement were not difficult. Only one round of negotiations was held, and the text passed silence earlier today (16 April).  In the draft statement, the Council recognised that regional and sub-regional organisations are in a good position to understand the causes of conflict in their regions and to help prevent and resolve them. The draft encouraged regional and sub-regional bodies to make use of their existing mechanisms to promote confidence-building measures and dialogue. It recognised the desirability of promoting increased operational cooperation, as appropriate, between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations with regard to early warning, prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.  The draft further encouraged enhancing the capacity of such organisations with regard to conflict prevention, crisis management, post-conflict stabilisation, and sustaining peace.

Reporting requests are made of the Secretary-General in the draft presidential statement. In this respect, the Security Council requested in the draft text that “the Secretary-General, where appropriate and within existing resources, includes in his biennial report to the Security Council and the General Assembly on Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations, information and observations on efforts by the United Nations system and regional and subregional organizations to promote confidence-building measures and dialogue”. The draft presidential statement further requested that the Secretary-General “while presenting regular written reports on matters seized by [the Council], make recommendations for further enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in promoting confidence building and dialogue where appropriate”.

While no major disagreements surfaced during the negotiations, members proposed a number of amendments to the initial text. Some members requested that language be added recognising civil society, women’s groups and youth organisations as stakeholders in sustaining peace (along with the UN, regional and sub-regional organisations and national governments). There was also a request for an amendment noting the importance of the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in efforts to build confidence and promote dialogue. Another proposed amendment reaffirmed the importance of the cooperation between the Peacebuilding Commission and regional organisations in post-conflict reconstruction and sustainable development. Viet Nam accommodated all these requests for additional content, and they have been incorporated into the final draft text.


*Post-script: During the meeting on 19 April, a presidential statement was adopted that recognised that regional and sub-regional organisations are in a good position to understand the causes of conflict in their regions and to help prevent and resolve them (S/PRST/2021/9).  

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