posted on Tue 18 Jul 2017 4:34 PM
Open Debate: Enhancing African Capacities in the Area of Peace and Security

Tomorrow (19 July), the Council will hold an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the area of peace and security.” One of the priorities of China’s Council presidency, the open debate is expected to focus on policies and procedures that can provide concrete and effective support for building the capacities of African countries in the field of peace and security. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui will brief the Council.

The concept note circulated by China ahead of the open debate (S/2017/574) highlights positive developments in the contribution of African countries to the maintenance of international peace and security in Africa, including through AU-led peace operations. It cites progress in UN-AU cooperation over the past 15 years, including the provision of support to the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), joint engagement on political processes, and common post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

However, the concept note states that in the face of serious challenges Africa’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts and maintain peace and stability is still inadequate, and that AU peace support operations have struggled with limited financial resources, equipment, technology and internal management. One of the issues that the concept note suggests should be addressed in the open debate is the financing models that the UN could consider and adopt to provide adequate, predictable and sustainable sources of funding for AU peace support operations. Along these lines, the 26 May report of the Secretary-General (S/2017/454) identifies four options through which UN assessed contributions could be used to help meet the requirements of supporting AU peace operations: subvention in exceptional or emergency circumstances; joint financing of a jointly developed budget; establishment of a UN support office; and joint financing of a hybrid mission. The report notes that no single option is appropriate for all situations.

While the option of a jointly developed, jointly funded budget would require additional work by the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission before it could be put into practice, the Secretary-General strongly recommends that the UN Security Council endorse this option in principle. In addition to the issue of financing, the report proposes a decision-making framework aimed at making joint action more effective.

Other issues raised in the concept note include the leadership of African countries in solving African security problems (including through peaceful means), the overall effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and how the Council could support African member states in addressing transnational threats.

In recent months, there has been considerable engagement between the AU and the UN on how to harmonise and strengthen their peace and security efforts. On 19 April, Guterres and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, signed a joint UN-AU framework for enhanced partnership in peace and security. The framework identifies four essential themes of the partnership—preventing and mediating conflict and sustaining peace, responding to conflict, addressing root causes, and continuous partnership review and enhancement—and describes mechanisms to operationalise them.

On 15 June, at the initiative of the African members of the Council (A3)—Egypt, Ethiopia and Senegal—Council members discussed the Secretary-General’s report on options for authorisation and support for AU peace support operations with briefings from Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General; Chergui; and Donald Kaberuka, AU High Representative for the Peace Fund (S/PV.7971). They also held an informal interactive dialogue after the briefing.

The AU has repeatedly stressed the importance of securing a substantive UN Security Council resolution establishing that UN assessed contributions should, on a case-by-case basis, finance Security Council-mandated AU peace support missions. At the Council briefing, the A3 jointly stated their intention to pursue this initiative. Ambassador Nikki Haley (US) said that this may be premature in 2017 since “before considering moving forward on any framework resolution with regard to financial support through the United Nations, we will look for implementation and concrete results from the AU’s own benchmarks and timelines.”

Tomorrow’s debate is a further opportunity for Council members to continue discussing the contentious issue of financing, as well as other important aspects of the strategic partnership with the AU.