What's In Blue

Posted Mon 10 Oct 2022

Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations: Debate on the Partnership with the AU

Tomorrow (11 October), the Security Council will hold a debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations, focusing on the partnership with the African Union (AU). Gabon’s Foreign Minister Michaël Moussa-Adamo will chair the meeting. The expected briefers are Secretary-General António Guterres, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and Chairperson of the Commission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Gilberto da Piedade Verissimo. Some African countries may participate under rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.

A presidential statement proposed by Gabon is a possible outcome of the meeting. At the time of writing, the draft has yet to be shared with Council members.

Gabon has circulated a concept note ahead of tomorrow’s debate. The meeting, which will mark the 20th anniversary of the AU, aims to facilitate a discussion on how to build a “constructive multipolar world”. Gabon would like Council members to explore ways and means of strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU to support this objective and to promote sustainable peace, development and human rights in Africa. In light of the renewed interest in Security Council reform, Gabon also wants to encourage discussion on this issue and draw attention to African views on the matter.

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 25 August, also forms the basis for tomorrow’s debate. The report covers the activities carried out by UNOAU and the UN system since the previous report on 30 August 2021. It describes the cooperation between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) and their regular engagement through a monthly informal videoconference (VTC) meeting, in which they exchange views on their respective programmes of work and related matters. Another cooperation mechanism between the two Councils is their annual consultative meeting, which rotates between New York and Addis Ababa. On 14 October, the 16th joint annual consultative meeting between the UN Security Council and the AUPSC will take place in New York. It will focus on the situations in West Africa and the Sahel and in the Great Lakes region; the application of sanctions in conflict situations in Africa; and the longstanding issue of securing adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for AU-led peace support operations. This meeting will be preceded by the seventh informal joint seminar of the two Councils, which is set to take place on 13 October. At the seminar, the two Councils will exchange views on how to enhance cooperation in peacebuilding and sustaining peace in Africa. Other issues to be deliberated at the seminar relate to working methods and how the two Councils can work together towards a common agenda in Africa.

In line with existing practice, the two Councils are expected to adopt a joint communiqué as the outcome of their annual meeting. Currently, Council members are negotiating a draft which covers a wide range of topics to be considered at the annual meeting and the joint seminar. So far, they have held one round of negotiations on 6 October. It appears that language related to the financing of AU-led peace support operations, climate change and sanctions is controversial. Council members may convene for another round of negotiations to finalise the draft before they meet with their AUPSC counterparts, who have arrived in New York in advance of the annual meeting.

Discussion on the financing of AU-led peace support operations has been revived in the Council in recent months. This issue was contentious during the negotiations on a Chinese-initiated presidential statement, which was adopted on 31 August. In an apparent compromise, Council members agreed to language requesting the Secretary-General to submit, by 30 April 2023, a report on progress made by the UN and the AU to fulfil the commitments set out in 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 is also expected to include “recommendations on moving forward that reflect good practices and lessons-learned with the view to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”. (For background, see our 30 August What’s in Blue story.)

Climate change is also a divisive issue in the Council, resulting in difficult negotiations on the inclusion of references to climate change and security in Council products. In the 31 August presidential statement, however, Council members agreed on language recognising the need to enhance capacity-building support to African countries in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation.

The A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) have been critical about the adverse effects of sanctions and have questioned their utility. Other members, such as China and Russia, have been raising the issue of unilateral coercive measures. But compromise language was agreed in August, which “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”. Council members may consider using such agreed language to circumvent some of the contentious issues in the negotiations on the draft communiqué.

The Secretary-General’s annual report also describes the cooperation between the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission in the context of the UN-AU Framework for the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The two organisations coordinate their work through platforms that include an annual conference attended by senior leadership and a Joint Task Force (JTF) meeting, which takes place biannually at departmental level. This year’s annual conference is expected to be held in Addis Ababa in December and is likely to review progress in the implementation of the various UN-AU cooperation frameworks. It will be preceded by a JTF meeting in November to discuss a number of country-specific and thematic issues.

At tomorrow’s debate, Guterres may elaborate on the work that the UN has carried out in cooperation with the AU across a range of issues, including conflict prevention and peace-making, peacekeeping and peace support operations, peacebuilding and the rule of law. He may also describe the UN’s partnership with African regional economic communities and regional mechanisms in this regard. Guterres might highlight the challenges and opportunities for peace and security in Africa, which are outlined in his latest report. These include the political impasse in Libya, the deteriorating security conditions in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the difficult political transitions in the Horn of Africa, the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in West Africa and the Sahel. Regarding the last issue, Guterres may note that the UN, together with the AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), formally launched in September an Independent High-Level Panel on Security, Governance and Development in the Sahel, to provide recommendations for effective response to and coordination of the challenges facing the region. He might also refer to Africa’s challenges in relation to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adverse consequences of climate change and the impact of the war in Ukraine, including on food security.

Faki may speak about the food, energy and financial crisis facing Africa. He might reiterate Africa’s support for dialogue to resolve the ongoing war in Ukraine and highlight the AU’s engagement in this regard. Moussa may also describe the AU’s efforts to counter the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism, as well as the resurgence of coups d’état. In light of the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27), which will be held in Egypt in November, he may underscore the continent’s needs and circumstances in light of the devastating effects of climate change and appeal for international support to Africa’s mitigation and adaptation efforts. Verissimo may highlight ECCAS’ role, together with the AU and other regional mechanisms, in addressing peace and security issues in the Central Africa region.

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