In a rapidly changing world, bolstered cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations was needed to respond effectively to emerging threats to international peace and security, the General Assembly was told today as it held a high-level thematic debate on the issue.
More than a dozen Government ministers and high-level officials from regional and subregional organizations stressed the need for innovative, flexible cooperation frameworks that reflected the “comparative advantages” of the United Nations and its regional and subregional partners.
“Conflict, poverty, violence, exclusion and disasters are grave and growing problems,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he opened the debate. No country was immune from global threats, and no one country — however powerful — could respond alone to such problems. The Ebola crisis, the tragedy of migrants dying at sea, the international drug trade, organized crime and the rise of violent extremism all showed the urgent need for a collective response.
In that connection, he was doing everything possible to enable the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations to boost their cooperation, he said, adding that the collaboration between those organizations was already richer than ever before. In the area of conflict prevention and mediation, such cooperation had shown how working together “increases our powers of persuasion to press parties to make peace”. Regional organizations were also helping to shape the post-215 development agenda and would help the world reach the new sustainable development goals.
Delivering a keynote address, Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, said that while Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter provided for cooperation between the Organization and regional and subregional partners, action by the Security Council — which continued to be dominated by the victorious powers of the Second World War — was frequently taken without the input of such partners and had caused much harm to Africa.
In order to talk about strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations, the “old-fashioned” structures of the Organization needed to be re-examined and changed to conform to current realities. That would help to prevent the use of the United Nations for national or group interests of powerful Member States to undermine efforts of regional organizations and the peace of the world.
In that connection, the starting point for cooperation was the principle of complementarity envisaged in Chapter VIII of the Charter, he went on. “The United Nations should respect decisions taken by regional organizations, especially in areas of conflict resolution,” he said. Last-minute, high-handed interventions without a thorough understanding of the dynamics of the situation were wrong and injurious to the populations of the concerned areas.
Sam Kutesa (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, said that today’s debate was an opportunity to consider a number of pressing issues. First, how the international community could strengthen strategic partnerships with regional and subregional organizations; second, what needed to be done to build and enhance joint efforts in conflict prevention and resolution, human rights and other key areas; and third, how to ensure that regional and subregional organizations played a role in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.
Indeed, the implementation of that new agenda would take place “on the ground in our respective countries and regions”, he said, noting that regional and subregional organizations were well-placed to ensure that implementation. Innovative and flexible partnership agreements were needed that drew on the respective organizations’ strengths, and more predictable resources were crucial.
A number of Government ministers, as well as heads of regional and subregional organizations, then took the floor to deliver statements about the importance of strengthened cooperation in their countries or regions. They also raised issues pertinent to their constituents and made a number of proposals for better, stronger cooperation frameworks.
Strengthening cooperation was about trust and respect, as well as inclusivity and innovation, said Annika Soder, Vice Minister and State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. It was time to find new ways to deal with emerging threats, including the rise of non-State actors in conflicts. Together, the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations could find solutions to specific situations and create more systematic early action procedures. She urged the United Nations to take into account the role of regional and subregional organizations in its 2015 review of its peacebuilding architecture.
Stressing the ability of such organizations to respond quickly and nimbly to crises, Dieudonné Ndzengue, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francophony and regional Integration of Gabon, said that the United Nations was making a “true effort” to engage in regional partnerships. However, the large number of crises in the world and their complexity required that those partnerships did more. Cooperation must be based on coordination. Equally important were interregional partnerships, such as the one between the African Union and the European Union.
Carmen Liliana Burlacu, Secretary of State for Global Affairs of Romania, said that the topic of today’s debate was most timely, given challenges to peace and security in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe. Regional organizations played an important role in facing situations that threatened international peace and security, she said, calling for cooperation frameworks that were flexible, responsive and consistent with the United Nations Charter.
“The global community is at a critical juncture,” said Fred Mitchell, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Bahamas, representing the Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Building new partnerships would be essential going forward, and the United Nations must lend its weight to securing adequate and predictable financing for small island developing States and middle-income countries such as the ones in his region. In addition, the United Nations and its regional and subregional partners must ensure that a legally binding agreement was reached this year on climate change.
Georges Rebelo Chikoti, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola and Chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, said that the severity and number of conflicts in the world required stronger partnerships among the world’s organizations. In the Great Lakes region, countries and peoples were interlinked and conflict in one country could easily spread to others. He outlined a number of proposals for strengthened partnerships, including earlier coordination at the onset of a crisis, more systematic reporting, joint assessment missions and the enhanced mobilization of resources to implement agreed mandates.
Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, listed a number of today’s most pressing challenges, including reaching out to the most marginalized and vulnerable, protecting the freedom of the individual and regaining “retreating” tolerance in many countries. When those challenges erupted, no country was immune, and there was no option but to work together. Regional and subregional organizations demonstrated the comparative advantage of local and regional knowledge, he said, stressing the need to pool resources, build capacities and benefit from those advantages in a horizontal manner.
Other ministers or heads of organizations participating in the debate were: Nabil ElAraby, Secretary-General of the Arab League; Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); Erastus Mwencha, Deputy-Chairperson, African Union Commission; and Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States; and Alain Le Roy, Secretary-General, European External Action Service.
Also speaking in the morning session were the representatives of Guatemala (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Ecuador (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Malaysia (on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations) and Tajikistan (on behalf of the Collective Security Treaty Organization).
This afternoon, the Assembly held two panel discussions related to the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations.
The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 5 May, at 10:00 a.m. for a plenary session. It is also expected to adopt a negotiated political declaration on the outcome of the high-level debate.
A discussion on “Strengthening the strategic cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in the three pillars of the United Nations system, namely, peace and security, human rights and development” was moderated by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Presentations were made by: Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chair, African Union Commission; Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African-American Studies, Temple University; Peter van Tuijl, Executive Director, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict; Daniel Yifru, Director, Peace and Security, and Senior Adviser, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); and Lyazzat Kaltayeva, Association of Women with Disabilities.
Elaborating on how to better work together on the three pillars, Mr. Mwencha said at a time when local conflicts often mutated and became international, the tools envisaged in the United Nations Charter were solely State-based. As such, new tools and support were needed to create an environment that fostered cooperation. As Africa had seen a considerable reduction in armed conflicts over the last decade, it was clear that integrated, inclusive and comprehensive approaches were needed alongside investments made in areas such as rapid response and prevention.
Raising concerns that the centuries-old Westphalian Treaty had led to a Eurocentric bias in the international community, Mr. Asante proposed a number of remedies. The United Nations should, among other things, take steps to broaden the participation among regional and subregional organizations and support those groups through an examination of local and traditional values, which often held the key to peace and security. A new system should also ensure the provision of information and support to strengthen large and small groups in ways that would reinforce their impact.
From a conflict-prevention perspective, Mr. van Tuijl said his organization’s network had worked with 15 regional groups in a number of areas, including early-warning systems and reviews of the implementation of Security Council resolutions. Regional and subregional collaboration with civil society had largely resulted in successful efforts, he said, outlining key lessons learned, including the importance of creating ample opportunities to share analysis and understanding. For the post-2015 sustainable development goals to be successful, regional monitoring was essential, he said, emphasizing that Chapter VIII in the United Nations Charter emphasized that it was time to “think and act” regionally.
With regard to development and subregional efforts, Mr. Yifru said the revitalization of IGAD had produced some major achievements, including ongoing agriculture programmes and the peace processes established in Somalia and Sudan. Currently preoccupied in finding a resolution for the conflict in South Sudan, IGAD had worked towards preventing a humanitarian crisis in that country. Moving forward, cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations was critical as the challenges facing States and regions grew increasingly complex, as could be seen in the current extremist violence of Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS). Despite those and other challenges, results on the ground, when joint action was taken, had been promising.
Sharing a civil society perspective, Ms. Kaltayeva said her subregional organization based in Kazakhstan had raised issues of gender and persons with disabilities that were relevant to communities around the world. To date, United Nations agencies had supported her group’s efforts, including in areas such as reproductive health and disabilities. To ensure further progress, she recommended the creation of a mechanism to support such regional efforts and to strengthen the capacities of those organizations.
During the ensuing interactive exchange, speakers raised some of their regional concerns and achievements. With many speakers emphasizing that States’ rights to sovereignty must be respected, participants highlighted the importance of working together to overcome ever more multidimensional challenges. Doing so would allow the international community and regional groups to achieve meaningful results on the ground.
On the post-2015 agenda, some speakers said it was critical to recognize the strong link between peace, security and development. In that regard, speakers emphasized that it was essential for the United Nations to work closely with regional and subregional organizations to ensure progress on all sustainable development goals.
Participating in the interactive discussion were representatives of Zimbabwe (speaking for the Southern African Development Community), Ukraine (speaking for the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development), Uruguay (speaking for the Union of South American Nations) and Timor-Leste (speaking for the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries).
The Assembly also held a panel discussion on “Galvanizing support of regional and subregional organizations towards the implementation of a transformative post-2015 development agenda”. Moderated by Vuk Jeremić, President, Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, it featured: Alicia Barcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa; David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director, Centre on International Cooperation, New York University; and Ali Shahbaz of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
Opening that discussion, Ms. Ibarra said that the Latin America and the Caribbean region were at a crossroads. Despite having made great strides over recent years, those regions had not yet eradicated extreme poverty and inequality remained the most pressing problem. Raising concerns about continued asymmetries between the developed and developing worlds, she said that there needed to be a new equation between the State, the market and society. External debt continued to plague many Latin American and Caribbean countries. Nevertheless, regional organizations in the region were becoming major political and financial forces, she said, which marked significant progress. Those institutions should be tapped in order to implement the post-2015 development agenda.
“Interconnectedness runs counter to our traditional ways of thinking,” said Mr. Lopes, adding that a new response would require regional approaches. Citing a number of “mega-trends” that could be seen around the world, he pointed to growing inequalities and rising unemployment; the impacts of climate change; the emergence of a new type of conflict; changes in the world’s demographic geography; and the spread of information and communications technologies and increased access to information. In Africa, those trends were manifesting as a change in narrative propelled by the fact that the continent was experiencing exponential growth. More participation was needed on the part of the African Union and other African regional organizations to re-shape that continent’s development as one that was not top-down and based on aid.
Echoing the need for systemic transformations to implement the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Steven said that, on the practical level, a raft of new policies would be needed to implement the targets of the sustainable development goals. “As it stands, we’re far from being able to deliver,” he said. Much important preparatory work had been done, but no single country, institution or partnership could say it was ready to deliver on the post-2015 agenda. The first few years would be crucial. National development strategies were important, but transnational threats required work across national boundaries. Calling for road maps for the immediate implementation of the post 2015-development agenda, he suggested that each regional and subregional organization could propose several targets for which it could be responsible.
Noting the geographical proximity of regional organizations to the areas where the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda was taking place, Mr. Shahbaz said that that agenda was more of a movement or paradigm shift than a simple set of targets. Women and youth at the grass-roots levels were not objects in that agenda but drivers of change. The models of engagement should be common and differentiated responsibility, holistic principles and implementation strategies. Asking whether the differing priorities of regional organizations would dilute the implementation of the post-2015 agenda, he said that common priorities needed to be identified. There was scope for collaboration at all levels.
In the ensuing interactive discussion, speakers stressed the need to create sustainable security through sustainable development. A number of transnational threats to development were identified and the role of regional and subregional organizations in combating them was spotlighted.
Turning from development to peace and security, several speakers stressed that more leadership was needed by regional and subregional organizations in such areas as combating terrorism and transnational organized crime. Still others pointed to longstanding “structural deficiencies” in the architecture of the United Nations, in particular with regard to the Security Council. On that concern, some said that Africa’s lack of representation on the Council — while representing the vast majority of the Council’s peacekeeping missions — was a “historical injustice” that must be rectified.
Speaking in the interactive discussion were the representatives of China, India, Russian Federation, Brazil and the United States.