posted on Wed 5 Dec 2018 3:49 PM
Open Debate on Cooperation between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organisations

Tomorrow (6 December), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations, focusing on the role of states, regional arrangements and the UN in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief, together with the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcel Amon-Tanoh, will chair the open debate. At press time, adoption tomorrow of a revised draft resolution on the financing of AU peace support operations appeared unlikely, after silence was broken.  

The concept note (S/2018/1064) circulated ahead of the meeting by Côte d’Ivoire, as Council president for December, emphasises the need to consider the effectiveness of seeking closer cooperation among the UN, states and sub-regional and regional organisations. In this regard it proposes that the “involvement of states and sub-regional and regional organisations and their close cooperation with the UN must be strengthened and built into a new peace architecture that is effective, respects human rights and takes into account the issue of financing.” 

The concept note invites participants to address how cooperation between the UN, states and sub-regional and regional organisations can be strengthened in practice in the context of the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, including by identifying specific regional actors to participate in partnership agreements with the UN. Another of the suggested topics is what concrete steps can be taken to improve the suitability of peace operations mandates, including consideration of whether “a new framework” is required for offensive operations and, if so, with what objectives, partners and resources. A further suggested topic relates to measuring progress in relation to the performance of peace operations, including the need to ensure that peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations respect human rights and international humanitarian law.  

In 2018, the Council has continued to engage regularly with regional and sub-regional organisations on peace and security issues. There have been several meetings this year focusing on the EU-UN and AU-UN relationships, in particular. On 18 May, UN Security Council members held their sixth annual informal meeting with members of the EU Political and Security Committee, composed of the Brussels-based ambassadors of EU member states dealing with the EU’s common foreign, security and defence policy. The meeting considered the issues of Syria, Iraq, peacekeeping in Africa, and cooperation on sanctions. The Council held a briefing on 18 July on the Secretary-General’s annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU (S/2018/678). On 19 July, members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council held their 12th annual joint consultative meeting, at which they discussed a range of matters, including the situations in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The informal consultations preceding the meeting looked at thematic issues pertaining to the partnership between the two bodies, as well as how their cooperation can be strengthened. A joint communiqué was issued following the meeting, which was held in New York (S/2018/736). On 20 November, the Security Council held an open debate on strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa. A key theme of the meeting was the strategic partnership between the AU and the UN in the context of peacekeeping (S/PV.8407). Among the permanent members, China has been particularly supportive of the need to strengthen the capacity of the AU in peace and security, as evidenced by its decision to host the open debate during its November presidency. During China’s previous presidency, on 19 July 2017, the Council held an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the areas of peace and security” (S/PV.8006 and Resumption 1),which focused 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 Ivorian concept note also calls for progress on the issue of financing, which many participants are expected to address in the open debate. The concept note refers to the Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, signed on 19 April 2017, in which both organisations expressed their desire to find ways to ensure predictable and sustainable financing for peace operations in Africa, as well as to the Secretary-General’s “Action for Peacekeeping” (A4P) initiative, aimed at renewing states’ political commitment to peacekeeping operations.  

Although Council members have shown increasing appreciation of the importance of working with regional organisations in the area of peace and security, divergent views have been evident around the question of financing for AU peace support operations. A May 2017 report of the Secretary-General outlined options through which the UN could provide sustainable financial support to AU peace support operations, considering the limitations of current structures (S/2017/454). The Secretary-General strongly recommended that the Council endorse in principle the option regarding the joint financing of a jointly developed budget.

The suggestion of using UN assessed contributions for AU peace operations has been contentious. African Council members have repeatedly stressed the importance of securing a resolution to establish that UN assessed contributions should, on a case-by-case basis, finance Security Council-authorised AU peace support missions. A draft resolution circulated by the African members of the Council the week of 12 November, decided “in principle that UN-assessed contributions can be provided, with decisions to be taken on a case-by-case basis, to support Security Council-authorized African Union mandated or authorized peace support operations including the costs associated with deployed uniformed personnel to complement funding from the African Union and/or African Member States”. In the past, the US has objected to the use of assessed contributions in this way, with the exception of the funds provided to the AU Mission in Somalia through a UN support office established in 2009 and other ad hoc mechanisms. At the 20 November open debate, the US said it was “premature” to consider using assessed contributions for AU-led operations pending further progress on the demonstrable implementation across AU peace operations and organisations of benchmarks for financial transparency, conduct and discipline, and human rights. The US also said that “Council members must be given time to ensure that there is full political and legislative support from their capitals before making this commitment”, adding that “we will not be able to engage our new Congress on this important and complex issue until the new year, which is the soonest we could consider joining consensus on a new draft resolution.” Following further negotiations, a revised draft was put under silence this morning until 10 am tomorrow morning (6 December). At press time, silence had been broken, and the timing of a possible adoption was unclear.