posted on Thu 17 Nov 2016 4:56 PM
Debate and Resolution on Strengthening the UN-AU Partnership

Tomorrow (18 November), the Security Council is expected to hold a debate on “Strengthening the UN-AU partnership in peace and security”. The Council will receive briefings by El-Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations; Smaïl Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security; Haile Menkerios, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU; and Dr. Donald Kaberuka, AU High Representative for the Peace Fund. A draft resolution is under silence until 7 pm, and is expected to be put to a vote at the meeting.

According to a concept note prepared by Senegal, the debate’s objective is to mobilise the Council’s political support and commitment to further strengthen this strategic partnership, including on the issue of ensuring predictable, flexible and sustainable support and financing for AU peace operations. It also aims at generating further support and commitment for greater collaboration between the two Councils, and between the UN Secretariat and AU Commission throughout the conflict cycle. The debate will take place in the context of three reports: a Secretary-General’s report on ways to strengthen the UN-AU partnership (S/2016/780), a joint UN-AU review of mechanisms currently available to finance and support AU peace support operations authorised by the Council (S/2016/809), and Kaberuka’s report on financing the AU and the AU Peace Fund.

The debate was intended to create renewed momentum for strengthening cooperation between the UN and the AU in the area of peace and security. However, divisions among Council members, including among African members, over the negotiations and the possibility that the resolution may not be adopted unanimously might taint tomorrow’s debate.

The draft resolution, circulated late last week by Senegal and the US, welcomes the AU Assembly decision in July to finance 25 percent of the cost of AU-led peace support operations by 2020. A 16 November letter from the AU Commission to Council members said that to the extent that the draft resolution refers to the Council’s readiness to consider the proposals of the High Representative for future authorisation and support by the Council for AU peace support operations, “it meets with the minimum demands of the AU Assembly and the AU Peace and Security Council [and] should be fully supported”.

However, throughout the negotiations, Egypt opposed having a resolution and instead suggested a presidential statement which requires consensus to be reached among Council members. Egypt argued that a Council resolution would be premature, given that the AU is still discussing the implementation of the Assembly decision. It also stressed that financial issues should be discussed by the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly. Egypt expressed regret that the African members of the Council were not united on this issue.

In spite of Egypt’s objections, Senegal and the US decided to continue negotiating the resolution and to put it to a vote tomorrow. It is unclear if it will be passed unanimously, since Angola, China, Russia and Venezuela supported Egypt in the negotiations. In an effort to address some of these countries’ concerns, the draft was changed from welcoming Kaberuka’s report to simply taking note of it, referring to it “as a contribution towards further discussions” on sustainable financing rather than a “good basis” for such discussions as in an earlier draft.

The draft goes beyond the issue of financing, incorporating the principles of cooperation set out by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations for the strategic partnership with the AU. It also encourages the AU to finalise its human rights and conduct and discipline compliance frameworks for AU peace support operations, underscoring the importance of these commitments as well as the requirement for oversight by the Council of the operations it authorises. It also emphasises that consultative analysis and joint planning with the UN is critical to developing common joint recommendations on the scope and resource implications of potential peace support operations. An earlier reference to AU operations’ standards of performance was deleted following requests by several Council members.

Even though the draft recognises the important role played by the UN Office to the AU on a broad range of peace and security-related activities, a reference to the strengthening of the Office, as recommended by the Secretary-General, was deleted by some Council members wary of further financial implications regarding an issue already being discussed in the Fifth Committee.

In terms of follow-up, the draft requests the Secretary-General, working closely with the AU, to provide the Council with a detailed report within six months refining options for further cooperation on the relevant AU proposals, including joint planning, and the process for mandating AU peace support operations subject to Council authorisation.