Cooperation between the Security Council and the League of Arab States: Briefing and Presidential Statement*
Tomorrow (23 March), the Security Council will convene for a briefing on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States (LAS). Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will chair the meeting. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, LAS Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and a youth civil society representative are expected to brief. A presidential statement proposed by the UAE is expected to be adopted at tomorrow’s meeting.
Improving partnerships and cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations has become an increasingly prominent theme for the Security Council. Chapter VIII of the UN Charter envisioned the peaceful resolution of local disputes by regional arrangements or agencies as long as their efforts are consistent with the principles and purposes of the UN. In resolution 1631 of 17 October 2005, the Council expressed its determination to take further steps to strengthen cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations in the maintenance of international peace and security.
Representatives of the LAS have addressed the Council on several occasions because of the proliferation of regional conflicts. The Council affirmed its commitment to strengthen UN-LAS cooperation in presidential statements adopted in 2019 and 2021, during the presidencies of Kuwait and Tunisia, respectively. In these presidential statements, the Council expressed its intention to consider further steps to promote closer cooperation in the fields of early warning and conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, sustaining peace, and counter-terrorism. It further encouraged the holding of an annual informal meeting between the Security Council and members of the LAS Council (the League’s main decision-making body) and, whenever possible, informal meetings of the Security Council, the LAS Secretary-General and representatives of the Arab Summit Troika (a group of three rotating countries that monitor the implementation of resolutions and commitments adopted by the LAS Council).
The UAE prepared a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, which says that the briefing will provide an opportunity to discuss concrete ways to strengthen and institutionalise cooperation between the Council and the LAS in the areas of conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, as well as to promote the role of women and youth in maintaining regional and international peace and security. The meeting will also serve as a platform to share assessments of and develop effective solutions to conflicts and crises facing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the briefers are likely to highlight several areas of cooperation between the UN and the LAS and outline relevant collaborative initiatives, including on counter-terrorism and on women, peace and security issues. Guterres and Aboul Gheit are expected to express their commitment to addressing the effects of COVID-19 in the MENA region, while highlighting the pandemic’s particularly detrimental impact on conflict areas. In this regard, they may reiterate calls for a general cessation of hostilities and a humanitarian pause in all conflict situations in the region.
The civil society briefer may propose ways for the UN and the LAS to advance the implementation of the youth, peace and security agenda and jointly tackle challenges facing youth in the MENA region.
Council members are likely to emphasise the importance of cooperation between the Security Council and regional organisations in general and the merits of increasing cooperation with the LAS in particular. Some may also note the need to enhance trilateral coordination among the UN, the AU, and the LAS on cross-regional peace and security issues. Members are also likely to raise several regional situations that are on the Council’s agenda and discuss the LAS’ role in addressing them. Some may reference the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and Yemen, as well as broader challenges facing the region, such as climate change, water scarcity, and food insecurity resulting from the conflict in Ukraine.
The draft presidential statement welcomes the close cooperation between the UN and the LAS and reiterates the Council’s intention to consider further steps to enhance UN-LAS coordination in the areas of conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, safety and security at sea, counter-terrorism, respect for international law, sustainable development, poverty eradication, food and water security, disaster risk reduction, and desertification and drought management in the MENA region.
The draft text reaffirms the important role that young people play in maintaining international peace and security, including in the prevention and resolution of conflicts in the MENA region. In this regard, the statement emphasises the need to establish youth-centred socio-economic development policies that contribute to peacebuilding efforts in the MENA region.
The draft presidential statement expresses the Council’s intention to consider holding further joint consultative meetings between the Security Council and members of the LAS Council. The first and only such meeting was held in May 2016 in Cairo. The draft text also requests the Secretary-General to provide a report, at least 30 days in advance of the next Council meeting on cooperation between the UN and the LAS, outlining efforts to implement the presidential statement’s provisions and on further ways of strengthening institutional relations and cooperation between the two organisations.
The negotiations were apparently generally smooth, reflecting agreement among Council members on the need to strengthen UN-LAS cooperation. The UAE circulated a first draft of the presidential statement to Council members on 15 March. Council members then submitted written comments on the draft text. After circulating a first revision of the draft on 18 March, the UAE put a second revised draft under silence until 2 pm today (22 March). Silence was broken by India. A third revised text was placed under silence until 5 pm today, which was subsequently broken by Ireland. A fourth amended draft passed silence at 8:30 pm this evening.
During the negotiations, some differences emerged, particularly in relation to climate change and security. Council discussion on the link between climate change and security remains highly divisive. While several members—including Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, and the UK—apparently expressed support for the inclusion of language referring to cooperation on climate-related security risks, other members—such as Brazil, China, India and Russia—favoured its omission. These members have expressed scepticism about the need for Council engagement on this issue. It seems that India broke silence on the draft presidential statement today (22 March) and requested that the reference be deleted. After a revised draft omitting the reference was placed under silence, it appears that Ireland broke silence to insist that language on climate change be reinserted. A compromise was reached on a revised draft that referenced desertification and drought management in the MENA region as a potential area of UN-LAS cooperation. This draft presidential statement is expected to be adopted tomorrow.
*Post-script: On 23 March, the Security Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2022/1) welcoming the cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States and reiterating the Council’s intention to consider further steps to promote closer cooperation and strategic coordination between the two organisations.