What's In Blue

Posted Fri 6 Oct 2023

Dispatches from the Field: Informal Joint Seminar of the Security Council and the AUPSC

Yesterday afternoon (5 October), Security Council members held their eighth informal joint seminar with the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). The informal seminars have been organised since 2016 to encourage greater interaction between the two bodies. Earlier in the day, Council members received a briefing at the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) from Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU and head of UNOAU Parfait Onanga-Anyanga and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa Hanna Serwaa Tetteh. They also had an audience with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen Hassen.

Throughout the day, many interlocutors emphasised to Council members the need to facilitate adequate, predictable, and sustainable financing for AU peace support operations (AUPSOs). This issue ran like a red thread through most of yesterday’s exchanges and was an apparent sticking point in the negotiations on the joint communiqué, which was adopted today (6 October) at the conclusion of the 17th annual joint consultative meeting between Council members and the AUPSC.

Informal Joint Seminar

Since 2007, the AU has been seeking access to UN assessed contributions on a case-by-case basis to facilitate adequate, sustainable, and predictable funding for AUPSOs. (For more information, see our 26 April research report titled The Financing of AU Peace Support Operations: Prospects for Progress in the Security Council?)

At yesterday’s meeting, AUPSC members apparently mentioned relevant recent developments regarding financing for AUPSOs, including the issuance of the UN Secretary-General’s 1 May report, which presents options on support for AUPSOs. The report calls for AU-led PSOs to access UN assessed contributions, consistent with peacekeeping standards, to ensure strategic and financial oversight and accountability. AUPSC members also noted the operationalisation of the AU Peace Fund, established in 2002 to finance the AU’s peace and security activities, which by February 2023 had mobilised $337 million. This year, the AU has provided support through the AU Peace Fund’s Crisis Reserve Facility (CRF) to the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which is facing a budget shortfall, and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), which has deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). AUPSC members apparently implied that Africa has provided financial support in keeping with its capacity, and that it is now awaiting the Security Council to contribute its part.

Council members reiterated their established positions on the matter, which were expressed most recently during a 25 May Council briefing on the Secretary-General’s 1 May report. (For more information, see our 24 May What’s in Blue story.) Most Council members noted the need to find a solution to this issue, with some members emphasising that important questions should be resolved before access can be granted to UN assessed contributions, including in relation to the adherence of AUPSOs to accountability and compliance frameworks and to burden-sharing with the AU.

Members of the two Councils also discussed ways to advance the youth, peace and security agenda. Suggestions presented in this regard were to formalise the issue as an item in the annual joint consultative meeting and to encourage the respective Councils to hold open debates on issues relating to youth, peace and security. The need to move from rhetoric to practice in support of youth empowerment was also highlighted.

Several proposals were made about ways to improve working methods between the two Councils. It was suggested that the annual joint consultative meetings could be used to follow up on decisions made in past communiqués. Speakers also welcomed the fact that Council experts arrived in Addis Ababa ahead of the meeting to negotiate the communiqué, saying that this practice should be continued. More frequent briefings by AU officials to the Security Council on African matters, particularly ahead of UN peace operation mandate renewals, were also encouraged. Regarding possible joint visiting missions of the two Councils, which has been the topic of long-standing discussion between the respective bodies, the need to explore practical solutions to facilitate representation of both councils without overburdening the missions was noted.

Briefing at UNOAU

Prior to the joint seminar, Council members received a briefing at the UNOAU office. Onanga-Anyanga provided an overview of the cooperation between the UN and the AU, emphasising the need to find a solution to the issue of financing for AUPSOs. He apparently noted that the African continent faces security threats that cannot be addressed by traditional means, underscoring in this regard the need for a paradigm shift from peacekeeping to peace enforcement.

It seems that the situation in Somalia was a prominent topic of Tetteh’s briefing. She apparently noted the risk of the deterioration of the situation in the country, including the resurgence of Al-Shabaab, warning that this will have an impact on the whole region. The work of ATMIS was also discussed, with Tetteh emphasising the importance of facilitating financing for the mission. It seems that the briefers said that the timeline for the withdrawal of ATMIS, which is scheduled to take place by 31 December 2024, might need to be reconsidered in light of the continuing threat of Al-Shabaab. (For more information on ATMIS’ drawdown, see the Somalia brief in our October Monthly Forecast.)

There was also discussion on the situation in Sudan, with the briefers noting the need for coordination among the different regional initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the escalating violence in the country. It was also highlighted that the AU should have a more robust role in coordinating between the various initiatives.

In describing the changing security context on the African continent, Onanga-Anyanga apparently highlighted the increasing threats posed by climate change. It seems that the risks stemming from climate change also featured in Tetteh’s remarks, which referenced the detrimental effects of environmental degradation in Somalia. Some members posed questions about issues relating to climate change, inquiring, among other matters, about the steps being taken by regional and sub-regional organisations on the continent to address the effects of climate change.

Council members’ diverging views on the links between climate, peace and security have often affected their deliberations on products related to African files. In recent years, such divisions have apparently been a major factor precluding agreement on draft presidential statements on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and on the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). It also seems that language on climate change was the main sticking point in negotiations on a draft presidential statement proposed by Gabon following the Council’s 11 October 2022 ministerial-level debate on UN-AU cooperation.

Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen

The exchange between Council members and Demeke apparently covered both national and regional developments. According to a tweet by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Demeke said at the meeting that his country “will continue playing a constructive role in the stability of the region”. It seems that the role that Ethiopia could play in finding a peaceful resolution to the situation in Sudan was discussed in this regard.

The foreign ministry’s tweet notes that Demeke expressed his government’s commitment to the full implementation of the “Pretoria peace agreement”. (The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement [COHA], which was signed in Pretoria on 2 November 2022 and was mediated by the AU, stipulated a “permanent cessation of hostilities” between the Ethiopian government and forces from the northern region of Tigray.) At yesterday’s meeting, Demeke apparently provided a positive assessment of the agreement’s implementation, while some Council members emphasised the need to ensure the agreement’s sustainability and inclusivity.

A recent report by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) noted that, although the COHA “brought about a notable diminution of the large-scale violence in Tigray”, commitments regarding human rights, transitional justice, and territorial integrity remain outstanding and “hostilities in Ethiopia are now at a national scale, with significant violations increasing particularly in Amhara region”.

It seems that during the meeting, Demeke expressed displeasure with the Council’s past engagement on the situation in the Tigray region, emphasising that this is an internal matter. The AU-brokered COHA was apparently cited by Demeke as a positive example of African solutions to issues on the continent. The Security Council’s latest meeting on the situation in Ethiopia was held on 21 October 2022 in a private meeting format. After the eruption of violence in the Tigray region in November 2020, Council dynamics on the matter were difficult. Members often disagreed on the convening of meetings and on proposed Council products, with some members apparently sharing Ethiopia’s view that the situation is an internal matter that should not be discussed at the Council.

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