Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations: VTC Debate on the Partnership with the AU*
Tomorrow (28 October), the Security Council will hold a videoconference (VTC) high-level debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations, focusing on the partnership with the African Union (AU). Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will chair the meeting. The expected briefers are Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and AU High Representative for Financing of the Union and the Peace Fund Donald Kaberuka. Some African countries may participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
A presidential statement proposed by Kenya is a possible outcome of the meeting. At the time of writing, Council members were still negotiating the draft text of the presidential statement.
Kenya prepared a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s debate, which it considers one of the signature events of its Council presidency. It says that the meeting will focus on the theme “Renewing Solidarity to Successfully Deliver Peace and Security in a Changing Conflict Environment”. Tomorrow’s meeting has several objectives, including to serve as a platform for participants to share their analysis of present conflict trends and dynamics in Africa and globally; assess how international, regional and national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crises, weather emergencies, and humanitarian crises can be better harnessed to support peace and security; and to discuss innovative ways to enhance the cooperation between the UN and the AU.
The Secretary-General’s annual report on “Strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa, including on the work of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU)”, which was published on 30 August, forms the basis for tomorrow’s discussion. The report provides updates on the partnership between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and refers to the 14th joint annual consultation between the two Councils that took place virtually on 30 September 2020.
Preparations are underway to hold the 15th annual joint consultative meeting on 17 December, during Niger’s presidency of the UN Security Council. The hosting of the annual meeting rotates between New York and Addis Ababa (which is home to the AU headquarters); the meeting will be held in Addis Ababa in 2021. The AU PSC apparently proposed several agenda items for the meeting, including the future of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM); the situation in the Sahel region; combating terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; and support to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique. That meeting is expected to be preceded by the sixth joint seminar of the UN Security Council and the AU PSC, which is set to take place on 16 December. The aim of the joint seminar is to exchange views on the predictable and sustainable financing of AU peace support operations through UN assessed contributions and on enhancing cooperation between the Security Council and the AU PSC. There appears to be broad support among UN Security Council members on the proposed agenda items. In addition, although no agreement has yet been reached, there is a possibility that the meeting could take place in person.
The Secretary-General’s report describes the cooperation between the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission (the AU’s secretariat) in the context of the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and the AU-UN Framework for the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In this regard, the 20th meeting of the UN-AU Joint Task Force (JTF) on Peace and Security in Africa is expected to take place on 5 November to discuss a wide range of country-specific and thematic issues. The relevant departments of the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission will participate in the meeting. This will be followed by the UN-AU fifth annual conference, which will take place in December and will be attended by the leadership of the two organisations to review progress in the implementation of the various UN-AU cooperation frameworks.
In her briefing to the Council, Mohammed may explain the work that the UN has carried out in cooperation with the AU across the “peace continuum”, ranging from prevention and peacemaking to peacekeeping and peacebuilding. She may also describe the partnerships with regional economic communities and regional mechanisms in this regard. Mohammed may highlight the challenges and opportunities to peace and security in Africa, which are outlined in the Secretary-General’s latest report on the partnership between the UN and the AU. These include the fragile peace in Libya and the preparations for the elections that are set to take place in December, the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, the multifaceted challenges confronting countries of the central Africa region, the difficult political transitions in the Horn of Africa, the situation in Somalia and the country’s electoral process, the ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia and the security situation in the northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. The resurgence of coups d’état across the continent may also be raised at tomorrow’s discussion, in light of recent developments in Sudan, Guinea, Mali, and Chad. In a 26 October press stakeout, UN Secretary-General António Guterres characterised the situation as an “epidemic of coups d’état” and called on the Security Council to take action to deter them.
The longstanding issue of financing for AU peace support operations through UN assessed contributions could be raised at tomorrow’s debate. It features on the agenda of the upcoming JTF meeting, the UN-AU annual conference and the annual joint consultative meeting between the two Councils. The AU is apparently keen to restart the discussion on this issue and has been working to develop a common position among its members. In December 2018, the then-African members of the UN Security Council (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) tried to propose a resolution on financing of AU peace support operations, but a vote on the draft text that they had put in blue did not take place because of lack of support from the US and the introduction of an alternative text by France. Another attempt by former Council member South Africa to advance the discussion in 2019 also failed. However, it seems that the AU is sensing that the change of administration in Washington presents an opportunity to revive the discussion.
On 5 October, the AU PSC reportedly met to consider the “Zero Draft African Consensus on Accessing Sustainable and Predictable Financing for AU Peace and Security Activities” prepared by its committee of experts. At that meeting, Kaberuka also briefed the AU PSC on the operationalisation of the AU Peace Fund and the financing of AU peace support operations. He may address these issues in his briefing at tomorrow’s debate. The Secretary-General, in his latest report on the partnership between the UN and the AU, expressed support for efforts “to reinvigorate discussions between the two Councils on financing AU peace support operations through UN assessed contributions”. He also noted the work that is being done by the AU to develop a common African position on the AU peace support operations and said that he looked forward to the outcome of those discussions at the level of the AU PSC.
*Post-script: On 28 October, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/21) which was proposed by Kenya. It commends the UN-AU partnership and stresses that it should further develop into a systematic, operational, and strategic partnership rooted in shared values and a strong commitment to multilateralism.
It appears that a contentious issue during the negotiation on the presidential statement was a reference to the adverse effects of climate change. A compromise was reach by including agreed language from a 19 May presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/10) on the effects of COVID-19 on Africa, which recognises the adverse effects of climate change on the stability of several African states and emphasises the need for adequate risk assessment and risk management strategies by governments and the UN on these issues.