posted on Fri 4 Oct 2019 4:56 PM
Debate on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa

On Monday (7 October), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a debate on “Peace and Security in Africa: The Centrality of Preventative Diplomacy, Conflict Prevention and Resolution” at the initiative of South Africa. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and two civil society representatives are expected to brief. South Africa is planning to circulate a draft presidential statement that will be negotiated following the debate.

The debate will focus largely on the Council’s role in conflict prevention and mediation in Africa and its cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations on the continent in this regard. The relationship between the AU and the UN is a key theme of the Council’s work this month. Later this month, UN Security Council members will hold their 13th annual consultative meeting with members of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before the end of the month, the UN Security Council will also receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s annual report on ways to strengthen the partnership between the UN and AU on issues of peace and security in Africa, including on the work of the UN Office to the AU. 

The work of the AU’s peace and security architecture in conflict prevention and mediation is likely to be addressed in Monday’s meeting. There may be discussion of the recent work of entities such as the African Continental Early Warning System, the AU’s Mediation Support Unit, and the AU Panel of the Wise. Members may be interested in learning more from the briefings about how the Council and the UN Secretariat can work more effectively with these AU structures and actors.

The need for sustainable and predictable funding for AU peace support operations—including through the UN assessed budget—is likely to be raised in the debate. In December 2018, following several postponements that month, a vote on a draft resolution circulated by the then-A3 (Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea) spelling out the conditions for financing AU-led peace support operations through UN-assessed contributions was cancelled following US indications that it might veto the resolution.

Some members may note that each conflict or crisis situation is unique, with the constellation of actors playing effective prevention and mediation varying depending on the context.  In this regard, while the Security Council, the AU, and sub-regional bodies in Africa are often among the key actors involved in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa, some Council members may also recognise the constructive role that civil society and member states often play on these issues.

A number of members are likely to emphasise the importance of women and youth in conflict prevention and mediation processes in Africa. Women’s participation in such processes has been a long-standing focus of the Council; the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation could be referenced in this context.  In addition, members have increasingly emphasised the positive contribution that youth can make in preventing and resolving conflict, rather than viewing them more narrowly as a population particularly vulnerable to conflict and the influence of violent extremism. The Council held an open debate on Wednesday (2 October) under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilising the Youth towards Silencing the Guns by 2020” in which several members recognised the connection between youth empowerment and a more peaceful continent.

In Monday’s meeting, some members may also espouse more, informal situational awareness/early warning briefings from the Secretariat. In November 2018, the ten elected Council members (Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland and Sweden) and the five incoming members (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa) conducted an ambassadorial-level démarche to Secretary-General António Guterres to request early warning/situational awareness briefings from the Secretariat. While held discreetly in the Secretariat in past years, such briefings had lapsed. So far this year, apparently in response to the démarche, two such informal meetings have been held with Security Council members: one on the general theme of elections and the other on Central American issues.

South Africa’s decision to hold this debate is consistent with the overall efforts of African members of the Council to underscore the importance of the relationship between the UN and the AU on peace and security matters. During Côte d’Ivoire’s December 2018 presidency, the Council held an open debate (S/PV.8414) 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, mainly in Africa. During Equatorial Guinea’s February 2019 presidency, the Council held an open debate (S/PV.8473) under the agenda item “Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations: Silencing the Guns in Africa”, which explored how the AU and UN can cooperate to end conflict in Africa. At that debate, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2457, which encouraged the UN and AU “to strengthen their efforts to coordinate their engagement”.