posted on Thu 12 Mar 2015 10:15 PM
Dispatches from the Field: Security Council Members Hold Joint Session with AU Peace and Security Council

Addis Ababa – UN Security Council members arrived this afternoon (12 March) in Addis Ababa to hold their annual joint consultative session with the African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC). This is their ninth joint meeting since beginning the practice in 2007 as a way to strengthen cooperation between the two councils and exchange views on issues of overlapping interest. The location for the meeting alternates each year between New York and Addis Ababa.

The meeting started with statements made by PSC president Anne Mutelo (Namibia) and Security Council president Francois Delattre (France). In their remarks, they both commented on the two bodies’ increasing cooperation. Mutelo proposed the two bodies should begin the practice of joint field missions similar to the joint field mission to Mali that the PSC undertook with the European Union Political and Security Committee from 11 to 13 February 2015. She suggested that this would promote better communication and mutual consent ahead of Council decisions.

AU PSC Commissioner Smail Chergui (Algeria) also made remarks, as did the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the African Union Haile Menkerios (South Africa). Chergui suggested that the two bodies should consider organising a joint seminar in the future to reflect on and map-out joint strategies for conflict prevention in Africa that could be held on the eve of their annual meeting. In his remarks, he highlighted the conflict with Boko Haram, which he stated represents a clear and present danger to countries of the region and beyond, and that the countries fighting the group deserved immediate, predictable and sustainable support from the Security Council similar to that recently given by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). (In mid-February, ECCAS decided to provide Cameroon and Chad with financial assistance to fight Boko Haram.)

In reflecting on the agenda of the joint session, Menkerios also highlighted the Boko Haram threat, noting that the current military response requires being part of a multidimensional strategy to address the insurgency’s underlying causes. Additionally Menkerios, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, commented on South Sudan. He said that there was great disappointment over the lack of progress in the peace process and that this was a reflection of a lack of leadership from the parties of the conflict. He noted that if the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s mediation efforts are unsuccessful over the coming weeks, then the PSC and the Security Council should coordinate their next steps.

Following the opening statements, the members of the two Councils moved to closed consultations. This year’s agenda covered: Boko Haram, the Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, the Great Lakes Region, Libya, Mali and the Sahel Region, Somalia and South Sudan. The agenda also included the review being conducted by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and ways of enhancing cooperation between the two Councils. While all agenda items were allotted equal amounts of time, it seems discussion of South Sudan and Boko Haram were particularly lively. Due to the time restrictions, Council members agreed to only having several members speaking on each agenda item.

On South Sudan, it seems that the PSC members were unanimous in expressing their frustration with the failure of the two parties and were ready to move forward on sanctions. Most Security Council members who spoke on the issue also expressed a similar view, with, it seems, one exception.

On Boko Haram, PSC members stressed that they would like the Council to quickly adopt a resolution under Chapter VII that would provide the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) with financial support. The three African Security Council members who spoke on the issue—Angola, Chad and Nigeria— made clear that they were ready to move forward on a Chapter VII resolution that would endorse the MNJTF and facilitate measures to support it as requested in the AU PSC’s 3 March decision. (Nigeria circulated a draft resolution on Boko Haram late last year which endorsed the MNJTF but following feedback from members, which uncovered diverse positions, negotiations were put on hold. It seems that a new draft may be circulated to Security Council members next week.)

There were interesting points raised on a number of the other agenda items. In discussing the peacekeeping review, the AU PSC members highlighted that given the number African countries in UN peacekeeping missions there was keen interest in peacekeeping mandates. They also indicated that they were open to seeing more robust peacekeeping mandates. On Mali and Darfur, it seems that speakers stressed the importance of ensuring that the peacekeeping forces are adjusted to the realities on the ground. Discussion on the Great Lakes region focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and covered the need for the government and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC to resolve their differences to effectively combat armed groups.

On the CAR, it seems that both sides expressed mutual concern over the still fragile humanitarian and security situations, as well as the importance of the Bangui process and holding elections. Similiarly deep concern was expressed on Libya and the need to urgently reach a political solution.

Following the session, Chergui and Delattre held a joint press conference, in which they spoke in general terms about how positive the interaction had been. Delattre, in expressing his hope that future joint meetings will be as positive, also noted the possibility one day of joint AU-Council missions. It seems that the draft communiqué still being negotiated includes language noting that the two bodies agreed to conduct a joint field mission to a conflict situation or area, in Africa, to be identified through consultations during 2015.

Negotiations on the Joint Communiqué
At press time, the joint communiqué, the main product from these consultative meetings, had not been finalised. Council members only received the first draft from Addis Ababa yesterday (11 March). Council experts from the Ad Hoc Working Group of Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa met yesterday evening in New York and a revised draft with their proposed amendments was sent back to Addis Ababa. The AU PSC members reviewed the revised text prior to the start of the session and there were further discussions between AU PSC members and some Council members at expert level during the closed session of the joint meeting. This evening in New York the Working Group is meeting for further negotiations and the expectation is that the communiqué will be sent back to Addis Ababa late this evening and may be issued tomorrow.

It seems some of the more difficult issues relate to Boko Haram and Darfur. On Boko Haram, a key problem related to language on Security Council support for the MNJTF. The PSC draft suggested that both bodies welcomed the PSC decision endorsing the MNJTF strategic concept of operations, looked forward to the urgent adoption of a resolution by the Security Council and provided details of what the resolution would say. Unlike the PSC, which has over the last few months been able to come to a unified position on the MNJTF, the Security Council has only had limited consideration of the issue and members have not been able to fully define their positions, let alone come up with a comprehensive Council position. Therefore, it seems that most Council members were uncomfortable with language in the draft communiqué that welcomed the specific content to be included in a Council resolution.

On Darfur, the main issue was related to language referring to an exit strategy for the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Some Security Council members felt that the draft language as proposed by the PSC was premature because the Council has not yet formally considered the Secretary-General’s recommendations on an exit strategy for UNAMID. The Secretary-General’s views on an exit strategy—as well as on the mission’s mandate, configuration and composition—are outlined in his recent special report on the implementation of the UNAMID’s strategic review (S/2015/163), which is expected to be discussed during the UNAMID briefing and consultations on 17 March. Likely as a result of these concerns, proposals have been made to revise the paragraph or delete it all together.

An additional contentious area was over a paragraph on Burundi that was added by the US during the Working Group’s negotiations yesterday. The paragraph contains language taken largely from the Security Council’s 18 February presidential statement but it seems at least one member objected on the grounds that Burundi was not on the agenda and therefore should not be in the communiqué.