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Security Council Visit to the African Union

Expected Council Action

In early September, the Security Council will conduct a visiting mission to Addis Ababa for the eleventh annual consultative meeting between members of the UN Security Council and members of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). Members of the two councils are expected to discuss Somalia, South Sudan, and the Lake Chad Basin. Ahead of this meeting, there will be informal consultations on the partnership between the AU and the UN, funding for AU peace and security activities, and post-conflict peacebuilding.

Security Council members and PSC members have held annual joint meetings since 2007, alternating between their respective headquarters. The last meeting between members of the two councils was held in New York on 23 May 2016.

A communiqué has generally been issued after these annual consultative meetings. However, last year differences over how to reflect the situations in Burundi and Somalia made it difficult to agree on the joint communiqué by the time of the meeting. It was finally issued on 23 March 2017.

Immediately after the visit there will be a briefing on the visiting mission. A briefing on the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU by Haile Menkerios is also expected in September.

Key Recent Developments

Since the last consultative meeting in May 2016, the Council has held several meetings discussing the partnership between the AU and the UN. During this period, three reports relevant to AU-UN cooperation were issued: the Secretary-General’s report on ways to strengthen the UN-AU partnership, a joint UN-AU review of mechanisms currently available to finance and support AU peace support operations authorised by the Council, and a report on predictable and sustainable financing for the AU Peace Fund.

On 18 November 2016, at the initiative of Senegal, the Council held a debate on “Strengthening the UN-AU partnership in peace and security”. The objective of the debate was to encourage greater political support and commitment from the Council particularly regarding the issue of ensuring predictable, flexible and sustainable support and financing for AU peace operations. It also focused on the relationship between the two councils, and between the UN Secretariat and AU Commission throughout the conflict cycle. Briefers for the debate included El-Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Haile Menkerios, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU; and Donald Kaberuka, AU High Representative for the Peace Fund. At the meeting, the Council adopted resolution 2320 which welcomed the AU Assembly decision to fund 25 percent of AU peace support operations, to be phased in over a five year period.

Following up on this resolution and debate, at the initiative of the three 2017 African members of the Council (Egypt, Ethiopia and Senegal) the Council had a briefing and interactive dialogue on 15 June on AU-UN cooperation. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on options for authorisation and support to AU peace operations which had been requested in resolution 2320. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui stressed the need for predictable and sustainable funding for AU-mandated or authorised peace support operations and briefed on progress on the Peace Fund. The briefers at the informal interactive dialogue were Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare; Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane; Samba Sane, Officer in Charge of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs; and Dr. Donald Kaberuka, AU High Representative for the Peace Fund.

In his report, the Secretary-General identified four options through which UN assessed contributions could be used to help to meet the requirements of AU peace support operations:

  • subvention in exceptional or emergency circumstances;
  • joint financing of a jointly developed budget;
  • establishment of a UN support office to support an AU peace operation; and
  • joint financing of a hybrid mission.

In addition to the issue of financing, the report also proposed a decision-making framework aimed at making joint action more effective, which would involve further work on the modalities for joint analysis, planning and assessment, as well as reporting to the relevant intergovernmental bodies of each organisation.

On 19 July, during China’s presidency, the Council held an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the areas of peace and security” with briefings by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui. The focus of the debate was on the importance of strengthening the capacities of African countries for prevention and effective responses to peace and security challenges in Africa.

Guterres and the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, signed a joint AU-UN framework for enhanced partnership in peace and security on 19 April. Both organisations reiterated their willingness to consider options to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for AU-led peace operations.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in African met on 25 August to discuss preparations for the joint meeting between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council. It also met on 2 July to discuss the AU Peace Fund report “Silencing the Guns” on securing predictable and sustainable financing for peace. Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El Ghassim Wane and Permanent Observer of the AU Tete Antonio spoke on behalf of the UN and AU, while Ambassador Olaf Skoog (Sweden) and Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya) provided the perspective of Council members and the African Group respectively.

Issues and Options

An issue over the years has been the scripted nature of the joint consultative meeting. However, the innovation of an informal session ahead of the consultative meeting last year allowed for more substantive discussion, particularly on more controversial areas. The informal session has been retained this year and is expected to allow for more in-depth discussion of issues around the relationship between the UN and the AU. Interaction during the formal session may be improved by moving away from statements to a more free-flowing discussion.

A key issue continues to be the need for sustainable and predictable funding for AU peace support operations. A frank discussion of the limitations of the current structures in supporting AU peace support operations and consideration of the four options presented in the Secretary-General’s 26 May report could help clarify positions on both sides and develop a better understanding of next steps.

An issue over the years has been the perception of the AU PSC that its role in handling conflicts in its region has not been sufficiently acknowledged. More regular interaction with the UN Security Council, particularly on specific African conflicts, would be a way of tapping into the AU’s knowledge and experience in dealing with African conflicts as well as a fuller recognition of the AU as a partner in the UN’s peace and security activities.

Resolution 2320 stressed that the AU-UN partnership should be underpinned by mutual consultations between the Council and the AU PSC “based on respective comparative advantage, burden sharing, consultative decision making, joint analysis and planning missions and assessment visits by the UN and AU, monitoring and evaluation, transparency and accountability”. Given that this is the first joint meeting of the AU PSC and the Security Council since the adoption of resolution 2320 in November 2016, a discussion of how to strengthen the partnership based on this commitment could be beneficial. Concrete proposals could be included in the joint communiqué.

Sensitivities in the past regarding the agenda of the consultative meeting have related to the inclusion of more controversial issues like Western Sahara. Libya has also in the past been a highly sensitive issue which made agreement on how to reflect the discussion difficult. Reaching agreement on the agenda this year appears to have been relatively smooth, but some members may want to raise more controversial country-specific situations in the informal session.

Council Dynamics

Council members have divergent views regarding operations carried out by the AU. Those who are major financial contributors have concerns about committing UN assessed contributions for AU peace support operations and are likely to take a cautious position regarding anything related to financing.

The African members of the Council, despite sometimes having divergent views on specific issues, have been proactive about keeping alive matters of importance to the AU. They have consistently made clear that pursuing a substantive resolution on financing of AU support operations is a priority while they are on the Council. Of the permanent members, China has been particularly supportive of the need to strengthen the capacity of the AU in peace and security.

Although there has been increasing acknowledgment of the importance of working with regional organisations in the area of peace and security, particularly in relation to conflict prevention, implementation of either Council resolutions or joint communiquės has not always been easy. For example, although in the 2015 communiqué the AU PSC and the Security Council agreed to conduct a joint field mission, this was not carried out.

UN Documents on AU-UN Cooperation

Security Council Resolutions
21 June 2017 S/RES/2359 This welcomed the deployment of the G5 Sahel force.
18 November 2016 S/RES/2320 This was a resolution which welcomed the AU Assembly decision to fund 25 percent of AU peace support operations, to be phased incrementally over five years. Senegal circulated a concept note ahead of the meeting.
Secretary-General's Reports
26 May 2017 S/2017/454 This report was on options for authorisation and support for AU peace support operations.
13 September 2016 S/2016/780 This was the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa.
Security Council Letters
23 March 2017 S/2017/248 This was the joint communiqué agreed to after the tenth annual joint consultative meeting between members of the Council and the AU PSC.
Security Council Meeting Records
19 July 2017 S/PV.8006 This was an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the areas of peace and security”. The Council was briefed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui.
19 July 2017 S/PV.8006 (Resumption 1) This was an open debate on “Enhancing African capacities in the areas of peace and security”.
15 June 2017 S/PV.7971 This was the discussion of the Secretary-General’s report on AU peace support operations.
18 November 2016 S/PV.7816 This was a debate on “Strengthening the UN-AU partnership in peace and security”.

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