UN-AU Strategic Partnership
Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to hold an open debate on the strategic
partnership between the UN and the AU with respect to maintenance of peace
and security in Africa. South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to
preside and the President of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in
January 2012 (Kenya) is likely to address the Council. The Secretary General
is likely to brief on the UN’s strategic vision for UN-AU cooperation. A
likely outcome will be a resolution underlining the importance of the
relationship and stressing the need to create mechanisms for a more
effective strategic partnership.
Background and Key Recent Developments
Since 1990, about 44 percent of Council meetings have dealt with situations
in Africa. From 1990 to 2011, the Council mandated 25 operations in Africa;
in 2011 alone the Council authorised two complex military actions in
Africa—in Côte d’Ivoire by resolution 1975 of 30 March and in Libya by
resolution 1973 of 17 March.
Despite some divergences, the UN and the AU have made important strides over
the years in building a functioning partnership. The Council has long
recognised that the various forms of conflict prevention and management
needs in Africa, including most prominently peacekeeping, surpass the UN’s
capacity. While UN peacekeeping has registered some marked successes, there
is general recognition within the Council that its conflict prevention and
mediation efforts in Africa have been less effective.
This recognition is shared by the AU, which, on its creation in 2002,
crafted plans for an “African Peace and Security Architecture” and two years
later established the PSC. Following these developments, the Council,
meeting in Nairobi in 2004, adopted a presidential statement that among
other things welcomed the establishment of the PSC and called on the
international community to support the efforts of the AU to strengthen its
peacekeeping capacity. This was followed by several other presidential
statements and Council documents on the evolving relationship.
An important development in this respect was the Council’s 2007 open debate,
organised by South Africa during its debut membership on the Council as an
elected member, on the UN’s relationship with regional organisations, in
particular the AU. That led to a presidential statement which, among other
issues, asked the Secretary-General to provide a report on specific
proposals for how the UN could better support arrangements for further
cooperation and coordination with regional organisations. (For more detail,
please see our Special Research Report of 10 May 2011, Working Together for
Peace and Security in Africa: The Security Council and the AU Peace and
The UN has long recognised that productive burden-sharing between the UN and
regional and subregional organisations could be the key to addressing many
of the problems. (Chapter VIII of the UN Charter acknowledges the scope for
contributions by regional organisations to the settlement of disputes.) The
proliferation of crises in Africa requiring outside intervention gave
focused attention to this. In January 1992, the Council, meeting for the
first time at the level of Heads of State and Government, asked the
Secretary-General to recommend ways to strengthen and make the UN more
efficient for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. The result
was that in June 1992, the Secretary-General issued his report, An Agenda
for Peace, in which he highlighted the role that regional organisations
could play in preventive diplomacy, early-warning systems for crisis
prevention, peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding.
To date, the Council and the PSC have cooperated on several initiatives,
including the AU-led AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the AU-UN Hybrid
Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Since 2007, members of the two councils have
held annual meetings, alternating between their respective headquarters,
Addis Ababa and New York.
Following an open debate on 22 October 2010 which discussed the
Secretary-General’s report on assistance to AU peacekeeping operations, the
Council adopted a presidential statement requesting a report from the
Secretary-General defining the UN Secretariat’s strategic vision for UN-AU
cooperation in peace and security and taking into account the lessons learnt
from the various experiences of joint cooperation between the two bodies.
The report was expected to be made available in 2011 but has been delayed
and is now likely to be issued in early 2012.
At the 16th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in January 2011, the
chairperson of the AU was asked to submit to the PSC a report on the AU’s
“strategic vision of the cooperation between the African Union and the UN on
peace and security matters.” The report would be a “contribution to the
consideration by the Security Council of the next report of the UN
Secretary-General on this issue, bearing in mind relevant AU decisions and
the need for flexible and creative interpretation of Chapter VIII of the UN
Charter.” The report is expected to be issued later this month and is
likely to stress the development of the relationship to the level of a
strategic partnership that emphasises mutual respect, African ownership and
priority-setting on issues involving peace and security on the continent;
high-level dialogue between the PSC and the Council; and clarification of
the principle of subsidiarity.
A key issue is how to ensure that the relationship is effective on a
strategic, as well as operational level.
Another key issue for the Council is to devise an effective working method
on African issues that would benefit from the partnership with the PSC.
A key area of unease in the relationship between the Council and the PSC
concerns the putative issue of equality of status. The UN’s Charter mandates
the Council as having the primary responsibility for international peace and
security. Chapter VIII, though recognising the role of regional
organisations, merely underlines this mandate.
Consequently, there is anxiety, especially among the P5 members, about
diluting this mandate by appearing to defer to the PSC on African peace and
security issues. This is the reason why, though the two organs have held
several annual consultations to date, the Council has presented these
meetings as between individual members of the Security Council—not the
Council itself—and the PSC.
The PSC, on the other hand, has held that its understanding of and interest
in peace and security issues in Africa far surpasses that of the Council and
should therefore enable it to take the lead on such issues with financial
and diplomatic support from the UN Security Council.
This is one of the more contentious thematic issues on the Council’s agenda,
for it goes to the core of the Council’s mandate: primacy on matters
relating to maintenance of international peace and security. Almost all the
P5 members appear largely inflexible on this point, though they recognise
the important role that the AU plays, and can potentially play, in Africa.
On the other hand, some of the elected Council members, including South
Africa and India, and exiting members Gabon and Nigeria, appear to prefer
deference to the greater knowledge and interest of the PSC concerning
emerging issues relating to peace and security in Africa that are not
already on the Council’s agenda.
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Received on Wed Jan 11 2012 - 18:52:07 EST