posted on Wed 11 Sep 2019 5:29 PM
UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (12 September), the Security Council is set to adopt a presidential statement on the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) that expresses support for the work of UNOCA and notes the recommendations of the recent strategic review regarding the scope of UNOCA’s mandate and activities. The short text was initiated by the UK, the penholder on UNOCA.

In a presidential statement on 10 August 2018 (S/PRST/2018/17), the Council asked the Secretary-General to conduct the strategic review and to present recommendations to the Council by 1 August 2019 about new or refocused priorities as well as areas that could be improved. The Council expressed its intention to consider these recommendations, including any proposed changes to the mandate, by 31 August. On 14 August, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita briefed Council members in consultations on the strategic review (S/2019/625).

During the 14 August consultations, some Council members expressed their view that UNOCA should focus on the security and humanitarian situation in Cameroon, where there has been unrest in the country’s anglophone north-western and south-western regions, rooted in claims of long-standing political and economic discrimination by the francophone authorities against the anglophone minority. Council members such as the UK and the US have expressed this view publicly, including in the latest UNOCA briefing on 4 June (S/PV.8538). Other Council members, such as Russia, maintain that the situation in Cameroon is an internal one in which the Council should intervene only upon Cameroon’s request.

In order to present a common position supportive of UNOCA, the draft text follows the language of the conclusions of the strategic review and welcomes UNOCA’s role in promoting inclusive political dialogue in non-mission settings such as Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe, in encouraging stability in the region, and in assisting the countries of the sub-region in consolidating peace, resolving tensions, and preventing or mitigating political crises.  This is the only mention of Cameroon in the text.

The Council acknowledges in the statement that the mandate of UNOCA remains valid.  At the same time, it welcomes the review’s recommendation that “UNOCA should enhance its work on: early warning and analysis with a gender perspective; support for and strengthening the capacity of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)…; and building partnerships with civil society and supporting sub-regional civil society networks”. The draft presidential statement underlines the importance of a clear division of labour between UNOCA and other UN entities, welcoming the recommendation in the strategic review that there be a clear division of labour between MONUSCO, the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Office of the Special Envoy on the situation in Burundi. It further welcomes UNOCA’s continued support for the CAR peace process, in close consultation with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

Finally, in accordance with the conclusions of the strategic review, the draft presidential statement welcomes the cooperation between UNOCA and other regional entities. It encourages further enhanced cooperation between UNOCA and the UN Regional Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), ECCAS, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UN country teams, to address cross-border threats and inter-regional issues—for example, the Lake Chad Basin crisis, transhumance, forced displacement, maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

A draft text put under silence on 4 September further expressed support for cooperation with respect to “a systematic consideration of climate change in order to promote peace, security and stability in Central Africa”, but Russia broke silence on the reference to systematically considering climate change.

A revised draft put under silence on 6 September requested UNOCA to consider “climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters among other factors affecting the stability and security of the Central Africa Region”. Russia, however, was also opposed this language, as it did not want to make a link between climate change and security in the context of UNOCA’s mandate.

The draft text was revised by using language from a presidential statement on UNOCA adopted on 10 August 2018 (S/PRST/2018/17). The final draft text encourages “UNOCA to take into consideration climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters among other factors affecting the stability of the Central African Region, including through drought, desertification, land degradation and food insecurity”. It appears that Russia was willing to agree to the draft presidential statement once the linkage between “climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters” and the “security” of the Central African Region was removed. The final draft text also uses language from S/PRST/2018/17 to stress “the need for long-term strategies by governments and the United Nations, based on risk assessments, to support stabilisation and build resilience, and further requests that such information be taken into consideration by UNOCA in its activities”.