What's In Blue

Posted Mon 9 Oct 2023

Dispatches from the Field: Security Council Members’ Joint Consultative Meeting with the AUPSC

On Friday (6 October), Security Council members held their 17th annual joint consultative meeting with members of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Members of the respective bodies adopted a joint communiqué at the meeting’s conclusion. Security Council members returned to New York on Sunday (8 October).

Joint Consultative Meeting

The joint consultative meeting included sessions on a number of country- and region-specific situations, with each session featuring presentations by several members from each Council. Ghana is a member of both Councils.

The meeting opened with a discussion of the situation in Sudan, which featured presentations from AUPSC members Djibouti and Tunisia, and Security Council members Japan, Ghana, Russia, and the UK. Members of both Councils expressed grave concern about the escalation of conflict in the country since the outbreak of fighting in April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s military leader and chairperson of the Transitional Sovereign Council, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. The conflict could destroy the social fabric of Sudan, one AUPSC member apparently warned. The conflict’s potential regional ramifications were also noted as a matter of concern. Members emphasised the need to coordinate the various regional initiatives aimed at resolving the crisis. It seems that one Security Council member suggested that a Council resolution expressing unified support for the efforts of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) might provide positive momentum for a diplomatic solution.

The second agenda item was the Sahel region. Presentations were provided by AUPSC members Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and Cameroon and Security Council members Ghana, Russia, Malta, and Switzerland. In general, viewpoints of both Councils appeared to converge on this issue. It seems that members expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in the region, including recent unconstitutional changes of government and the growing threat of terrorism. Gabon, which recently experienced a coup, was present in the meeting as a member of the Security Council (the AUPSC has suspended Gabon from AU activities).

Concern was also voiced about the upcoming withdrawal of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the security vacuum that it is likely to create; the need for this process to be undertaken in a safe and coordinated manner was underscored. Some noted the important role of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), which is expected to assume responsibility for some of MINUSMA’s tasks.

There were, however, differences in emphasis among Security Council members in the discussion on the Sahel region. It seems that some members highlighted climate change as a factor exacerbating tensions in the region and noted the need for good environmental resilience practices.  One member noted the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict in the region. Some members also referred to the importance of promoting the women, peace and security, and youth, peace and security agendas, with a number of them noting the need to address the prevalent violations against children in the Sahel and referencing the AU’s child protection framework in this regard. One Council member, it seems, noted the recent termination of the Security Council’s Mali sanctions regime, arguing that sanctions should only be used to support peace, not to exert pressure on the country. The same member also apparently criticised the imposition of unilateral coercive measures on the country.

AUPSC members Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda, and Zimbabwe—as well as Council members Japan, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the UK—spoke at the meeting’s third session, which focused on Somalia and the activities of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). There were strong expressions of concern from members of both Councils about the growing threat of Al-Shabaab. Emphasising ATMIS’ severe funding shortfalls, AUPSC members apparently suggested that Council members could assist by engaging bilaterally with potential donors to address the funding gap. Some AUPSC members contended that ATMIS’ funding challenges further highlight the need to facilitate adequate, predictable, and sustainable financing for AU peace support operations (AUPSOs).

The final session was on the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), during which AUPSC members Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, as well as Council members Brazil, China, France, and Gabon, presented. General concern was voiced about the deteriorating situation in the area, and members expressed support for regional initiatives aimed at addressing the situation in eastern DRC. Members of both Councils apparently reflected on the implementation of the transition plan of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), noting that the mission’s withdrawal should be responsible and gradual. Some Security Council members, it seems, expressed concern about Rwanda’s support to armed groups operating in eastern DRC, with some AUPSC members also noting with concern the tensions between Rwanda and the DRC.

Joint Communiqué

Members of the two Councils adopted a joint communiqué at the conclusion of the consultative meeting. It expressed grave concern over the evolving security situation with myriad threats to peace, security and stability in Africa and stressed the need to enhance the effectiveness of UN-AU cooperation in promoting comprehensive solutions to the security challenges on the continent. The communiqué reaffirmed the significant contributions of AU-led PSOs and UN peacekeeping missions in maintaining regional peace, noting the AU-led PSOs expertise in peace enforcement. AU efforts to support early response mechanisms, including through the deployment of regional forces to respond to armed conflicts, were welcomed in the communiqué.

The joint communiqué expressed the two Councils’ commitment to improving their working methods, particularly through “structured monthly coordination meetings” between the AUPSC Chair and UN Security Council President. Members also pledged to undertake joint field and assessment missions, noting that modalities of such trips should be determined on a case-by-case basis. The communiqué underscored the need to advance the youth, peace and security agenda, including by recognising the essential role of the youth in conflict prevention and resolution. It also reflected the key points raised by members of both Councils on the country and regional files discussed at the consultative meeting.

The ability of the two Councils to find agreement on the joint communiqué by the consultative meeting’s end was hailed as a success, particularly considering that negotiations on past communiqué have sometimes lasted months—and even close to a year—after the consultative meeting.

It appears, however, that this year’s negotiations were not smooth. Although Security Council experts arrived two days prior to the start of the joint seminar to negotiate the communiqué, they only received a draft of the text from the AUPSC the night before the start of negotiations. This caused delays, as Security Council members had little time to form a position on the proposed text before starting negotiations with the AUPSC counterparts.

A key area of discussion was language on the financing of AUPSOs. Security Council members are soon expected to begin negotiating a draft framework resolution addressing the issue, which will be presented by the A3 members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique). It seems that Council members did not want the joint communiqué to predetermine the content of this resolution, which A3 members seek to adopt by the end of the year. The original draft proposed by the AUPSC apparently expressed support for the call by the Secretary-General, in his 1 May report, for AU-led PSOs to access UN assessed contributions, consistent with peacekeeping standards to ensure strategic and financial oversight and accountability. It seems that the US opposed this language as overly prescriptive. As a compromise, the final communiqué only takes note of the Secretary-General’s call.

Security Council members also apparently suggested adding several caveats delineating specific requirements for AUPSOs to be able to access UN assessed contributions. Therefore, the final communiqué says that the two Councils discussed “practical steps which could be taken to establish a mechanism through which AU-led peace support operations authorized by the UN Security Council and consistent with Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations would have access to UN assessed contributions, on a case by case basis, subject to relevant, agreed standards and mechanisms to ensure strategic and financial oversight and accountability”. It seems that the reference to Chapter VIII was aimed at addressing concerns by some members that access to UN assessed contributions could be extended automatically to sub-regional forces, such as the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), which has deployed in eastern DRC.

Another area of discussion was language proposed by the A3, noting the need to address in a comprehensive manner the devastating impact of climate change on livelihoods in the Sahel region. Although some members who traditionally oppose language on climate, peace and security initially expressed concern about this proposal, it was eventually retained, since the language only referenced the effects on livelihoods and not on security. There was also opposition from some members to a proposal by the UAE to include reference to Security Council resolution 2686 of 14 June on tolerance and international peace and security. The reference was ultimately not included in the final communiqué.

It seems that both during the negotiations on the communiqué and in the meetings held between members of the two Councils, AUPSC members presented a unified position. Security Council members, however, often spoke in their national capacity and presented opposing views.

Looking ahead, the Security Council will hold a briefing on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations, focusing on the AU, on Thursday (12 October).

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications