On Tuesday (20 November), the Security Council will hold an open debate on strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa at the initiative of China, this month’s Council president. Briefings are expected from Secretary-General António Guterres and Smaïl Chergui, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security (via VTC).
The concept note circulated ahead of the meeting emphasises the strategic partnership between the AU and the UN, particularly on peacekeeping, and highlights how AU peace support operations serve as a vital complement to other international efforts. The stated objective of the meeting is to mobilise the international community to increase its level of attention to and investment in African peace and security in general and peacekeeping operations there in particular.
The concept note invites participants to address how to improve AU-UN cooperation on peace and security issues “while respecting Africa’s leading role in resolving its own security issues”. Another of the suggested topics is how to increase coordination between UN peacekeeping operations and the political processes led by regional and sub-regional mechanisms.
The issue of funding features prominently in the concept note and is expected to be addressed by many participants in the open debate. The Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations, which has been endorsed by 151 member states so far, includes member state commitments to support the AU to strengthen and implement its policies, procedures and capacities, including on compliance, and reaffirms the need to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for AU-led peace support operations authorised by the Council.
The potential of UN funding for AU peace support operations has been a recurring focus of the Council’s attention. A 26 May 2017 report of the Secretary-General outlined options through which the UN could provide sustainable financial support to AU peace support operations, considering the limitations of current structures. The Secretary-General strongly recommended that the Council endorse in principle the option regarding the joint financing of a jointly developed budget. In addition to the issue of financing, the report proposes a decision-making framework aimed at making joint action more effective. On 20 September 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2378, expressing its intention to further consider practical steps to establish a mechanism through which AU peace support operations could be partly financed through UN assessed contributions on a case-by-case basis.
The suggestion of using UN assessed contributions for AU peace operations has been a source of some friction in the Council. African Council members have repeatedly stressed the importance of securing a resolution to establish that UN assessed contributions should, on a case-by-case basis, finance Security Council authorised AU peace support missions. A draft resolution circulated by the African members of the Council aimed at advancing this issue is currently being negotiated. In the past, the US has objected to the use of assessed contributions in this way, with the exception of the funds provided to the AU Mission in Somalia through a UN support office established in 2009 and other ad hoc mechanisms. At an 18 July briefing, the US said it would not consider using assessed contributions for AU-led operations without the demonstrable implementation of benchmarks for financial transparency, conduct and discipline, and human rights. This is a debate that has also played out in the Council’s consideration of how to support the joint force of the Group of Five for the Sahel, which is currently being funded through voluntary contributions and through the provision of operational and logistical support by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.