Members of the UN Security Council will hold an informal joint seminar on Tuesday (29 September), followed by a joint consultative meeting the next day (30 September), with members of the AU Peace and Security Council. The consultative meetings have been held annually since 2007 and the informal seminars became a yearly practice in 2016.
The regular meetings of the two Councils—originally a joint UK-South African initiative—made the AU Peace and Security Council the first international body with which members of the UN Security Council have had regular interactions. The idea behind starting such meetings resulted from the realisation that, since conflicts in Africa occupy more than half of the UN Security Council’s time and resources, the need for various forms of conflict prevention and management had surpassed the capacity of the UN and that new approaches and burden-sharing were needed.
This relationship, however, has not always been entirely smooth and has experienced its share of tensions and frustrations. The first several meetings were largely focused on establishing the process for the meetings themselves, and the key provisions of the resulting short communiqués between 2007 and 2010 were that the relationship would continue and that within a year there would be another meeting in one of the headquarters. The communiqués gradually became more substantive, but their agreement sometimes required a great deal of work. While some communiqués were issued on the day of the meeting or very soon after, others took months—in one case more than a year—to be published and one, from the 2019 meeting in Addis Ababa, has yet to appear (in this case, it seems likely that when the text was close to completion early this year, the COVID-19 pandemic may have contributed to the challenge).
The meetings between the Councils have always alternated between the two bodies’ headquarters, Addis Ababa and New York, and the 2020 meeting would have been held in New York. Because of the extraordinary measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the two bodies will now be meeting via a virtual platform.
The informal joint seminar on Tuesday will have two broad topics: “The UN at 75 and AU at 57” (the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, was established in Addis Ababa in 1963) and “Silencing the Guns in Africa: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”. The discussion will start with opening remarks by the two Councils’ September presidencies, Niger on behalf of the UN Security Council and Djibouti, speaking for the AU Peace and Security Council.
The first session of the consultative meeting on Wednesday is likely to focus on strengthening cooperation between the two Councils through improving working methods, in particular by developing modalities for undertaking joint field missions. The possibility of conducting joint visiting missions has come up during the two bodies’ meetings since at least 2014. Last year’s discussion sought to identify formulas that might make it possible to finally undertake joint visits. The Peace and Security Council’s position highlighted the potential value of such visits for developing a common understanding of situations and agreed responses. During the discussion, it was proposed that the two Councils could begin with small joint missions, while a working group could be set up to study possible formulas and the feasibility of full Council visits. Eventually, with members not able to agree on specific next steps, it was decided that further study by the Councils’ experts would be required.
The second session will be a follow up to a discussion held last year during the informal joint seminar in Addis Ababa on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” and will offer an opportunity to take stock of the work that the two Councils have conducted on this matter since. The UN Security Council addressed the topic in several of its discussions before and since the last consultative meeting, and adopted two decisions supportive of the initiative: resolution 2457 in February 2019 and a presidential statement (S/PRST/2019/15) in December 2019 on the role African youth can play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and as a key aspect of the sustainability, inclusiveness and success of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts on the continent. Members are also likely to reflect on progress made under the AU’s “Master Roadmap to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020”. Other topics that may come up during the informal seminar are issues of shared concern such as combating terrorism and violent extremism or implementing the women, peace and security agenda as resolution 1325 nears its 20th anniversary.
The 14th joint consultative meeting will focus on two conflict situations overlapping both Councils’ agendas: the Mali/Sahel region and Somalia. The meeting will open with remarks from the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, and the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smaïl Chergui.
Both bodies’ members are likely to want to discuss lessons learned from and ways to enhance coordination on their respective approaches to the two conflict situations and means to generate strong support from the international community to address the difficult challenges to peace and security facing countries in Africa. In this context, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social, political and security situation in the different African countries on the agenda of the two Councils is also likely to be discussed. As in previous joint meetings, root causes and conflict drivers will probably be addressed as key to conflict prevention and resolution.
The two bodies plan to issue a joint communiqué at the end of the second day of meetings.