What's In Blue

Posted Wed 4 Oct 2023

Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations: Annual Joint Consultative Meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council

Council members arrived this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for their 17th annual joint consultative meeting with the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC), which will be held on Friday (6 October). This meeting will be preceded tomorrow (5 October) by the eighth informal joint seminar of the Security Council and the AUPSC. Mozambique, as the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, and Brazil, in its capacity as October’s Council President, are the co-leads of the Council’s visit to Addis Ababa.

Security Council members and AUPSC members have held annual joint consultative meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters in New York and Addis Ababa. The general practice has been to issue a joint communiqué following these annual meetings. The informal seminars became a yearly practice in 2016.

Tomorrow, prior to the informal joint seminar, Council members will hold a meeting with Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU and head of the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU) Parfait Onanga-Anyanga and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. They are also expected to meet Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen Hassen.

Over the last couple of years, the AU Committee of Experts has visited New York ahead of the annual consultations to meet with Security Council counterparts and negotiate the draft outcome document of the meeting. This year, for the first time, Security Council experts travelled to Addis Ababa ahead of time to meet their AUPSC counterparts and negotiate the communiqué prior to the consultative meeting. The Council experts arrived on Monday (2 October) and have held two rounds of negotiations with their AU counterparts, yesterday (3 October) and today (4 October), on the draft communiqué, which was proposed by the AUPSC. Negotiations on the draft communiqué were ongoing at the time of writing. The rest of the Council delegation—comprising Permanent Representatives, Deputy Permanent Representatives, and Political Coordinators—arrived in Addis Ababa today.

The agreed agenda for Friday’s (6 October) consultative meeting includes the situations in Sudan, the Sahel region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as well as Somalia, including the activities of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). Thursday’s (5 October) joint seminar aims to take a strategic look at how to enhance cooperation between the two Councils, including through improving the bodies’ joint working methods. The seventh informal joint seminar last year in New York welcomed the monthly meetings of the President of the Security Council and the Chairperson of the AUPSC. Participants also encouraged the UN and the AU to undertake joint assessment missions, as well as greater working-level coordination and consultation ahead of their joint meetings.

An expected key area of discussion at the joint seminar is the long-standing issue of securing adequate, predictable, and sustainable financing for AU peace support operations (AUPSOs). This matter has gathered momentum in the Security Council since last year, and the AUPSC requested the Security Council’s A3 members (represented this year by Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) in May 2023 to “resume consultations with the relevant stakeholders towards the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on financing AU-led PSOs”. (For more information, see our 26 April research report titled The Financing of AU Peace Support Operations: Prospects for Progress in the Security Council?)  On 23 September, the AUPSC held a ministerial-level meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s high-level segment to discuss this issue. In his statement at the meeting, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed the Commission’s readiness to support the A3 in advancing a draft resolution that is expected to be considered by the Security Council in December 2023.

The joint seminar will also address issues related to youth, peace and security, at the initiative of the A3. This has been a priority issue for Ghana, which convened a Security Council Arria-formula meeting titled “Reinforcing the implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda for a peaceful and stable Africa” on 28 August. (For more information, see our 25 August What’s in Blue story.) Today, the embassies of Ghana and Switzerland in Addis Ababa co-hosted a side event on the margins of the UN-AU annual consultative meeting which aimed, among other matters, to identify the role that the Secretary-General’s policy brief A New Agenda for Peace can play in promoting the youth, peace and security agenda. At the meeting, Ghana expressed its desire to institutionalise youth, peace and security as an item in the UN-AU annual exchanges.

The regular meetings of the two Councils—originally a joint UK-South African initiative—made the AUPSC the first international body with which members of the UN Security Council have had regular interactions. The idea behind starting such meetings resulted from the realisation that, since conflicts in Africa occupied more than half of the UN Security Council’s time and resources, the need for various forms of conflict prevention and management had surpassed the capacity of the UN and that new approaches and burden-sharing were needed.

This relationship, however, has not always been entirely smooth and has experienced its share of challenges. The key provisions of the short communiqués adopted between 2007 and 2010 were that the relationship would continue and that within a year there would be another meeting in one of the headquarters. The communiqués gradually became more substantive, but their agreement sometimes required a great deal of work. While some communiqués were issued on the day of the meeting or very soon after, others took months—in one case more than a year—to be published.

The negotiations on the communiqué that was issued following last year’s joint consultative meeting, which was held on 14 October in New York, were apparently difficult. It seems that a divisive issue during the negotiations was language related to sanctions. In the past few years, African members of the Council have criticised the adverse effects of Security Council sanctions and have questioned their utility. The joint communiqué adopted at the consultative meeting’s conclusion contained strong language which, among other things, emphasised the need to “review, adjust and terminate, when appropriate, sanctions regimes taking into account the evolution of the situation on the ground and minimize any unintended adverse humanitarian effects”. Although some Security Council members opposed such language, consensus was eventually reached because these members apparently took the view that the content of the joint communiqué may not set a precedent for future negotiations on Security Council-related products.

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