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Department of Political Affairs

United Nations – African Union Cooperation

Cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in the maintenance of peace and security has greatly intensified in recent years, as demonstrated by numerous collaborative efforts in conflict mediation and peacekeeping. UN and AU peacekeepers patrol side by side in Darfur, while the two organizations work jointly to mediate a political solution to the conflict. The United Nations has also worked in tandem with the African Union towards resolving the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has provided support to recent African-led mediation efforts in response to political crises in countries including Kenya, the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritania, Guinea and Niger.

Ten-Year Capacity Building Programme

As it increases its cooperation with regional and sub-regional bodies, the UN is also helping these organizations to build their capacities across a range of disciplines.

UN assistance to the African Union operates under the umbrella of the Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme for the African Union, a framework agreement (A/61/630) reached between the two organizations in 2006. UN support is organized around numerous thematic "clusters", with the Department of Political Affairs leading UN efforts in the area of peace and security, the primary focus of capacity building efforts for the first three years of the Programme. The Department's assistance role is exercised through the United Nations Liaison Office (UNLO) in Addis Ababa, an office under DPA's supervision which serves as the official link between the UN and the African Union and other African sub-regional organizations.

Some examples of current support and cooperation from DPA include:

  • Desk-to-desk exchanges. DPA officials maintain constant working-level interaction with AU counterparts in assessing and discussing political regional developments and responses, and the Department has held regular "desk to desk" meetings with the AU on the prevention and management of conflicts since 2008. The meetings bring together UN and African Union officials for information sharing, coordination, and the strengthening of partnerships.
  • Capacity building for Mediation. Assistance is being provided at the strategic (policy development), institutional (knowledge management, lessons learned and tools), and operational levels (direct support and cooperation). Examples include UN assistance in the development of an African Union mediation strategy, in making operational the AU Panel of the Wise, and in developing a tailored training course on AU mediation support, in partnership with the Folke Bernadotte Academy.
  • Electoral assistance. DPA is helping the African Union build its capacity to provide electoral assistance to AU Member States. Current support is directed at strengthening the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit of the African Union. This includes assistance for the establishment by the African Union of a database of African electoral management bodies, experienced election observers and experts, and non- governmental organizations who work on elections.
  • The AU Peace and Security Council. DPA is also providing assistance to the Secretariat of the AU Peace and Security Council, building on the Department's own experience in providing support to the UN Security Council. Assistance includes advice on the establishment of a sanctions committee, for building institutional memory, and for the work of the AU Gender Directorate in the areas of peace and security.

Key Documents

  • Report of the African Union-United Nations panel on modalities for support to African Union peacekeeping operations (A/63/666; S/2008/813 of 31 December 2008)
  • Security Council Presidential statement ( S/PRST/2009/3 of 18 March 2009)
  • Secretary-General's report to the Security Council on the relationship between the United Nations and regional organizations, in particular the African Union in the maintenance of international peace and security (S/2008/186 of 24 March 2008)
  • Security Council Resolution (S/RES/1809(2008) of 16 April 2008)
  • Secretary-General's report to the General Assembly on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union (A/61/256 of 16 August 2006)
  • General Assembly resolution (A/61/296) on "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Africa Union"