Amid formidable challenges, including an uptick in terrorist attacks in the Sahel, unconstitutional changes of Government, increasing recourse to use of force to resolve disputes, and a dire humanitarian situation in several regions, all of it exacerbated by climate change, the unique partnership between the United Nations and the African Union remains a cornerstone of multilateralism, which must be adapted to local contexts, with the support of the international community, including the Security Council, the Secretary-General told the 15-member organ today.
“States must develop the capacity to detect the early signs of conflicts and stop them before they escalate into violence, and gaps in governance must be addressed, including restrictions on human rights and freedoms, which undermine stability and sustainable development,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, presenting his annual report on strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union on issues of peace and security in Africa (document S/2022/643), during the Council’s annual debate on strengthening relations with the 27-member group, held on the twentieth anniversary of its founding.
In a briefing that also touched on the urgent need for climate action and dire economic conditions prevailing around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the Secretary-General outlined the accomplishments of the strategic partnership over the past year. These included the joint launch, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), of the independent assessment led by former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, to improve international engagement on security, governance and development in the Sahel; the joint initiatives with ECOWAS in support of a timely return to constitutional order in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali; a sustained commitment to a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Ethiopia, within the framework of an African Union process; and joint weapons-collection campaigns in Madagascar, Niger and Uganda, among others.
Also briefing the Council was Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, who said the continent needs “other things beyond declarations” to bolster its own efforts to bring about peace and security and face up to formidable challenges. Pointing out that 70 per cent of peacekeeping missions are in Africa and African issues are the most-discussed topics at the United Nations, he called for a deepening of the partnership between the Organization’s specialized agencies and the African Union to bring about the true renaissance of a multilateralism that is presently damaged, reduced, biased and in dangerous decline.
In the ensuing discussion, many Council members and delegates underscored the need for predictable, sustainable funding for African Union-led peacekeeping operations authorized by the Council, while others called for renewed efforts to ensure African representation at the Council.
Michael Moussa Adamo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, Council President for October, was one among several speakers calling for a strengthening of the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations, given the resilience of armed groups and terrorist groups, and the fact that Africa makes up more than half of the Council’s agenda. Since 2017, the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security has broadened the scope of cooperation, including conflict prevention, early warning systems, peacebuilding, disarmament, fighting terrorism and the protection of human rights, he said.
Echoing such points, the representative of Kenya said that collaboration between the United Nations and African Union will only achieve real and sustainable results when the Council is more balanced by permanent African membership. In the meantime, the Council must reform its methods of work to be more inclusive and responsive; penholdership, for example, must change in response to African responsibility, knowledge and ownership.
Meanwhile, the speaker for Senegal called on the Council to respond to the African Union’s willingness to participate in areas such as early warning and conflict prevention, as it is well-versed in political and cultural realities on the continent and is better equipped to tackle them. He also said the Council should lend support to the proposal to set up a United Nations Specialized Support Office, funded through assessed United Nations contributions, to provide the G5 Sahel Joint Force funding commensurate with the security challenges it faces.
France’s delegate commended the vital role played by the African Union in resolving conflicts on the continent, through efforts of its Member States and the support of other organizations, including the European Union, which remains the largest contributor to the African Union budget. He called for text-based negotiations to commence to pave the way for reforms that allow better representation of the continent at the Council. Further, he stressed the need to curb the activities of mercenaries on the continent, stating that their presence represents a breakdown of host State sovereignty and is responsible for massive human rights violations.
For his part, the representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the African Union’s flagship initiative to end armed conflicts and urged the bloc’s members to develop their own partnership and cooperation mechanisms independent of external forces and free of blackmail, coercion and pressure. Turning to socioeconomic, security and governance challenges, he called for an in-depth, comprehensive and historical assessment while noting that many of the root causes concern Africa’s colonial past.
Several speakers emphasized the need to address the adverse impacts of climate change on peace and security, including the representative of Egypt, who spotlighted the fragile situation in the Sahel in this regard. He expressed hope that the upcoming twenty-seventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November will agree on urgent measures through concessional financing to promote Africa’s ability to adapt and develop resilience.
Echoing such concerns, Norway’s delegate stated that the climate crisis is multiplying risks of conflict and driving displacement across the world. Highlighting its links to security, she pointed out that over half of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change are also affected by armed conflict. To this end, she reiterated her Government’s commitments to double its funding to climate finance.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United States, United Arab Emirates, Albania, China, India, Ghana, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Namibia, Germany and Morocco.
The meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.