What's In Blue

Posted Tue 30 Aug 2022

Peace and Security in Africa: Presidential Statement on Capacity-building*

Tomorrow morning (31 August), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement which was proposed by China in connection with the open debate on “Peace and security in Africa: Capacity-building for sustaining peace” held on 8 August. This is the only outcome China planned as part of its Council presidency in August.

The draft presidential statement recognises the need to enhance capacity-building support to African countries, while emphasising the importance of respecting the ownership and leadership of African countries in this regard. It outlines several priority areas for capacity-building support to African member states, including on countering terrorism, addressing the effects of climate change, combatting piracy and armed robbery at sea, and addressing food insecurity. The draft presidential statement also contains provisions regarding UN peacekeeping missions and Security Council sanctions.

China has pursued Council products relating to Africa during its Council presidencies in the past two years. The Council adopted presidential statements penned by China on countering terrorism and extremism in Africa and on post-pandemic recovery in Africa on 11 March 2020 and 19 May 2021, respectively. (For background, see our 10 March 2020 and 18 May 2021 What’s in Blue stories.)

The negotiations on the presidential statement set to be adopted tomorrow were long and apparently difficult. China circulated an initial draft text to Council members after the 8 August open debate and convened two rounds of negotiations on 15 and 19 August, after which negotiations continued electronically. The penholder revised the text seven times in response to comments and suggestions made by Council members. The draft text went through several rounds of silence procedures, which were broken by two Council members (after which other members also proposed changes to the text). Eventually, Council members agreed on the seventh revised draft, which passed silence this morning (30 August).

It seems that China coordinated with the A3 Council members (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) before circulating the initial draft text to all the Council members and, subsequently, throughout the negotiations. The African members apparently prioritised three issues: adequate, sustainable and predictable financing for AU-led peace support operations; climate change; and sanctions. The initial draft text referenced these issues and also built on a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/21) on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations in maintaining international peace and security, which was adopted during Kenya’s October 2021 Council presidency.

The longstanding issue of financing for AU-led peace support operations from UN assessed contributions proved contentious. As a result, the relevant language in the draft text went through several iterations during the negotiations. The initial draft text requested the Secretary-General to provide options and feasibilities for securing predictable, sustainable and flexible resources for these operations. However, it was later understood that the Secretary-General had already submitted a report on the matter to the Council on 26 May 2017 (S/2017/454). In addition, some members were apparently not comfortable with referencing the issue of UN assessed contributions in the draft text. These members were of the view that the African Council members should take the lead on this issue. However, the A3 were apparently supportive of the language proposed by China. Gabon and Ghana—which will hold the Council presidency in October and November, respectively—apparently wish to bring attention to this issue during their consecutive presidencies.

China revised the draft text to address the comments by Council members and removed the reference to options and feasibilities. However, it maintained in the final text a request to the Secretary-General to provide the Security Council, by 30 April 2023, a report on progress made by the UN and the AU to fulfil the commitments set out in Security Council resolution 2320 of 8 November 2016 on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations and resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017 on peacekeeping reform. The report should also include “recommendations on moving forward that reflect good practices and lessons-learned with the view to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”.

Another apparent point of contention during the negotiations was language proposed by the penholder, which encouraged the Secretary-General to pay due regard to candidates from African countries when appointing Special Representatives to African countries or Special Envoys on African issues. It seems that although the A3 supported the language, it was strongly opposed by some permanent Council members. China apparently removed the relevant text to achieve compromise on the financing issue, after having consulted with the A3.

There was debate on a second request to the Secretary-General related to the performance of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, where the draft language also went through several revisions during the negotiations. The initial draft text requested the Secretary-General to submit an “independent strategic review on the overall performance” of UN peacekeeping operations by 28 February 2023. Some Council members argued that the report should be considered in the context of the Secretary-General’s comprehensive annual briefing to the Security Council on UN peacekeeping operations, which is submitted pursuant to resolution 2378. The penholder accommodated this comment, but the agreed draft text still requests a report no later than 31 August 2023 “on the overall performance of United Nations peacekeeping operations and recommendations on improving their performance, adjusting or providing exit strategies for if needed, their respective mandates, and measures to enhance the safety and security of peacekeepers”. To achieve compromise on this language, however, the penholder apparently omitted a reference to “zero tolerance towards terrorism” which was opposed by one Council member.

Another contentious issue was language relating to sanctions. In recent negotiations on sanctions renewal resolutions, African members have called for the lifting of Security Council sanctions imposed on some African countries—such as the Central African Republic and South Sudan—in line with the position taken by the AU and its regional mechanisms. Other Council members, including China and Russia, have also supported this position. The relevant paragraph in the initial draft text called for the “immediate cessation of all unilateral coercive measure against African countries”. But this was opposed by some council members and the penholder deleted this reference in an apparent compromise. However, China maintained in the final draft language that expresses the Council’s readiness to “review, adjust and terminate, when appropriate, its sanctions regimes taking into account the evolution of the situation on the ground and the need to minimize unintended adverse humanitarian effects”.

The draft presidential statement set to be adopted tomorrow also contains reference to climate change and calls for support to Africa in its efforts to mitigate its adverse effects. Some members made comments on the relevant paragraph to strengthen the text and proposed language on “developing comprehensive risk assessments to take meaningful actions to adapt to or mitigate challenges posed by climate change and environment degradation, including as peacebuilding efforts”. This was supported by the A3 and was subsequently incorporated by the penholder in the final text. Some Council members apparently wished to highlight the link between climate and security and requested language noting the adverse effects of climate change on security and stability in the continent. Other members opposed this formulation and the word “security” was deleted from the relevant paragraph in the final draft.

It seems that China proposed language relating to development in the initial draft text, which was opposed by several members. One of these members apparently argued that development issues are not in the Council’s purview. Other members also proposed language on human rights, protection of civilians, and children and armed conflict, among other matters, to strengthen the draft. To achieve compromise, the penholder deleted some of the development language from the draft, particularly on official development assistance that developed countries committed to provide to the least developed countries which had appeared in the initial draft. The penholder also incorporated in the final draft text a broad reference to governance and the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as a paragraph on the participation of women and the youth to accommodate the comments by other Council members.

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**Post-script: On 31 August, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2022/6) on capacity-building support to African countries.

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