Publications & About Us »       

Briefing on Cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States

Expected Council Action

In August, the Council will hold a briefing followed by an informal interactive dialogue on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations with a focus on the partnership with the League of Arab States. The UN Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, will brief the Council. Secretary-General António Guterres may also brief. No outcome is expected. 

Background

The UN Charter establishes the Security Council as the principal organ charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. In this context, however, Chapter VIII of the Charter envisions a role for regional arrangements and agencies in an effort to achieve the peaceful settlement of local disputes as long as these organisations and their activities are consistent with the principles and purposes of the UN. Furthermore, Article 54 says that the Council should “at all times be kept fully informed of activities undertaken or in contemplation” by regional organisations “for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Improving partnerships and cooperation with regional organisations has in the last decade or so become an increasingly prominent theme for the Council and other parts of the UN system. The Council has held annual joint consultative meetings with members of the AU Peace and Security Council and, more recently, informal meetings with members of the EU Political and Security Committee. It has also received regular briefings from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In addition, the Council has held meetings on cooperation with other regional organisations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In his latest report on cooperation between the UN and regional and other organisations, Secretary-General Guterres emphasised the growing cooperation with the League of Arab States, including plans to establish a UN liaison office in Cairo, the organisation’s headquarters. The interaction between the two organisations has become more prominent with the onset of the Arab uprisings and the subsequent proliferation of conflicts in the region, especially in Syria where the League of Arab States was involved in the initial mediation efforts.

The representatives of the League of Arab States have addressed the Council on several occasions regarding the organisation’s efforts to mediate conflicts in the Middle East. The first such occasion was in January 2012 when its then Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby spoke to the Council on the efforts of the organisation to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and urged the Council to endorse the League’s plan for ending hostilities in that country. 

The UN and the League of Arab States also cooperated by appointing Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan in 2012, and subsequently Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who relinquished his post in May 2014.

During the German presidency in September 2012, the Council held a high-level meeting on peace and security in the Middle East focusing on the institutional relationship between the Council and the League of Arab States. During the meeting, the Council adopted a presidential statement in support of the League’s contribution to collective efforts for the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the Middle East.

During the Council’s visiting mission to Somalia, Kenya and Egypt in May 2016, the Council held its first consultative meeting with members of the League of Arab States in Cairo. The meeting was focused on the Middle East peace process, Somalia, Libya, and developments in the Syrian conflict. Members of both bodies called for greater cooperation between the two organisations on issues pertaining to international peace and security and to stability in the Arab region. Some members called for institutionalising this relationship and making this type of consultative meeting a regular occurrence. Elaraby noted during the meeting that the Council needed to fulfil its international peace and security responsibilities, especially in regard to Palestinian issues and the Syrian conflict.

In March, Secretary-General Guterres addressed Arab leaders at the summit in Jordan of the League of Arab States. He reiterated the importance of the partnership between the two organisations and called for unity in the Arab world, noting that divisions have “opened the door to foreign intervention and manipulation, breeding instability, sectarian strife and terrorism”. The summit focused on some of the pressing regional issues including the Middle East peace process, Syria, the threat of terrorism, and the refugee crises. 

Key Issues

A key issue is whether Council members see cooperation with the League of Arab States as a promising tool for addressing the challenges at hand.

Given that political developments are in flux in the Arab world, a key issue for the Council is how to strengthen the existing cooperation to jointly emphasise conflict prevention and resolution in the region.

Options

One option for the Council is to simply hold the discussion.

Another option is for members to explore Council practice regarding conflict prevention and mediation and members’ positions on developing a more robust Council role in the Middle East.

A further option is to establish a regular mechanism for contacts between the two bodies, perhaps along the lines of the practice the Council has forged with the AU’s Peace and Security Council of holding regular meetings at each other’s headquarters.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Council members are generally supportive of the initiative to hold briefings on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organisations. However, the League of Arab States has been critical of the Council's approach towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition, the League of Arab States has suggested that there is a need to review the use of the veto especially after it prevented several attempts by the Council to reach an outcome and take action on the Syrian conflict. Some member states may be wary of discussing specific country situations and will probably aim to have more general discussions on cooperation between the two organisations.             

Egypt is the only Council member which is a member of the League of Arab States.   

UN DOCUMENTS

Security Council Presidential Statement
26 September 2012 S/PRST/2012/20 Welcomed the intensifying cooperation between the UN and the Arab League, reiterated the Council’s commitment to comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace and welcomed the appointment of the Joint Special Representative for Syria.
Security Council Meeting Record
26 September 2012 S/PV.6841 A high-level meeting on the Middle East and enhancing cooperation between the Arab League and the UN. The Council was briefed by the Secretaries-General of the UN and the Arab League.
General Assembly Document
21 November 2016 A/RES/71/11 This was the General Assembly resolution on cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States.

mofuse.com