Cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States: High-level Informal Interactive Dialogue
Tomorrow morning (21 September), Security Council members will hold a high-level informal interactive dialogue (IID) with representatives of the League of Arab States (LAS). Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Igli Hasani will chair the meeting, which will take place in Conference Room 12. The expected briefers are Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, LAS Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and members of the Arab Summit Troika. The Arab Summit Troika is a group of three rotating countries that monitors the implementation of resolutions and commitments adopted by the LAS, which consists of the outgoing, current, and incoming Arab Summit chairs (Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain). Other countries belonging to the Arab Group at the UN have been invited to participate in the meeting.
Strengthening partnerships and cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations—as envisioned in Chapter VIII of the UN Charter—has become an increasingly prominent theme for the Security Council. The Council has held annual consultative meetings with the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) since 2007 and has received regular briefings from the EU since 2010. It has also held debates and briefings on cooperation with several other bodies, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
In recent years, Arab Council members have featured meetings on the UN-LAS relationship as signature events of their presidencies, the most recent of which was convened by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 8 June. Previous similar meetings were organised by Kuwait in June 2019, Tunisia in January 2021, and the UAE in March 2022. Security Council Presidential statements adopted after the meetings in 2021 (S/PRST/2021/2) and 2022 (S/PRST/2022/1) encouraged Council members to hold an informal meeting with the LAS Secretary-General and Arab Summit Troika representatives on the margins of the General Assembly’s high-level segment. The first and only such meeting was held on 22 September 2021. (For background, see our 21 September 2021 What’s in Blue story.)
The UAE and Albania (September’s Council President) have circulated a concept note in preparation for tomorrow’s meeting, which says that the IID will provide an opportunity to explore ways to strengthen cooperation between the UN and the LAS in promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the Arab region. The IID’s objectives also include exploring the role of the LAS and its members in offering local and regional perspectives on Arab issues on the Council’s agenda and identifying ways to enhance regional capacities in support of the Security Council’s core mandate. Participants are also encouraged to assess the need to formalise routine meetings, visits, and discussions between the UN Security Council and the LAS and between the secretariats of both organisations, including by fully utilising the UN Liaison Office to the LAS, which was established in 2019 in Cairo.
The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting:
- How can the UN support enhancing the LAS’ capacity to contribute more effectively to maintaining peace and security in the Arab world?
- What lessons from cooperation between the UN and other regional organisations can benefit the relationship between the UN and the LAS?
- How can the upcoming “Summit of the Future” and discussions on the “New Agenda for Peace” support achieving peaceful solutions to Arab crises?
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to underscore the contributions of regional organisations to international peace and security. Some may note that the partnership between the UN and the LAS is more important than ever considering the continuing challenges facing the Arab region. Building on themes discussed in the concept note, members may also speak about cooperation between the two organisations in promoting the rights of women and youth and in addressing the adverse effects of climate change in the region. Some members may highlight the role of Arab countries in global efforts to combat climate change, noting that Egypt hosted the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) in 2022 and that the UAE will host COP 28 later this year. There may also be reference to the cooperation between the two organisations in responding to natural disasters, including in light of the 6.8-magnitude that struck Morocco on 8 September and the devastating floods in Libya that started on 10 September.
Members are also likely to raise several regional situations that are on the Council’s agenda and discuss the LAS’ role in addressing them. During the 160th ministerial-level regular session of the Arab League Council (the LAS’ principal institution), which was held on 6 September in Cairo, participants referred to several such issues, including Sudan, Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the meeting, the Arab League Council called on the UN Security Council to accept the Observer State of Palestine’s request for full membership at the UN and to “assume its responsibilities towards the actual implementation” of resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016, which stated that the establishment of settlements by Israel “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
On 18 September, on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s high-level segment, Saudi Arabia, the LAS, and the EU, in cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, hosted a ministerial-level forum, titled “the Peace Day Effort”, to discuss ways to revive the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. A joint statement issued by the forum’s organisers emphasised the urgent need to preserve the two-state solution, noting the current absence of horizons for its achievement. It noted that “the Peace Day Effort” seeks to produce a “Peace Supporting Package” that “will maximize peace dividends for the Palestinians and Israelis once they reach a peace agreement”, and to elaborate “detailed programmes and contributions, conditional upon achieving a final status agreement” to that end.
The establishment of open, cordial ties between Israel and several Arab states of the Persian Gulf has emerged as an important dynamic among LAS members. In late 2020, Bahrain and the UAE agreed to normalise diplomatic relations with Israel under a US-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords. In recent months, the US has reportedly been conducting diplomatic outreach to advance a deal on the normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia in exchange for the signing of a US-Saudi defence treaty, among other matters. It remains to be seen how this process may affect Saudi Arabia’s position on the Arab Peace Initiative, which was proposed by Riyadh in 2002, and was endorsed by the LAS that year and re-endorsed in 2007. It stipulates that a comprehensive peace and normalisation of relations with Israel must be preceded by an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.
Following the LAS’ 7 May decision to readmit Syria following nearly 12 years of exile, the organisation established a ministerial committee that has been liaising with the Syrian government and seeking a solution to the Syrian crisis through reciprocal steps. Regarding the ongoing hostilities in Sudan, the LAS decided on 7 May to establish a contact group, which is mandated to communicate with the Sudanese parties, regional and international partners, and international organisations with the aim of reaching a settlement and to undertake efforts to reach a complete and sustainable ceasefire, among other matters.
There may also be reference at tomorrow’s meeting to Security Council resolution 2686 of 14 June on tolerance and international peace and security, which was co-authored by the UAE and the UK. The resolution recognises that “hate speech, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, related forms of intolerance, gender discrimination, and acts of extremism can contribute to driving the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict” and urges states and international and regional organisations “to publicly condemn violence, hate speech and extremism motivated by discrimination including on the grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or language”. (For more information, see our 14 June What’s in Blue story.) On the margins of its 160th regular session, the Arab League Council adopted a resolution mandating the Arab members of the UN Security Council to follow up on the implementation of resolution 2686, including by convening relevant Security Council meetings.