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SC/14371
4 December 2020

Security Council Presidential Statement Urges Stronger Response to Conflict, Coordination between African Union, United Nations

Ahead of a high-level debate on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in peace and security, the Security Council today encouraged the two organizations to further strengthen their coordination in a mutually supportive manner across the range of possible responses to conflict.

In a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2020/11) issued by President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, which holds the presidency of the Security Council for December, the 15-member organ also commended increasing efforts of the African Union to enhance its peacekeeping role and that of subregional organizations on the continent, consistent with Council decisions.

It recognized the importance of initiatives of those organizations and the international support given to them in the fight against the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism, including the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin and the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.

Reiterating that regional organizations have the responsibility to secure resources for their organizations, the Council welcomed the valuable financial support provided by partners in that regard and acknowledged the need for more support to enhance African Union peace operations, encouraging further dialogue towards that end.

Through the statement, the Council also reaffirmed the important role of women and youth in conflict prevention and resolution and in peacebuilding and post-conflict situations, as well as the need for joint action between the United Nations and African Union to fight sexual violence in such situations.

Opening the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that the partnership between the United Nations, the African Union and African regional economic mechanisms has never been stronger.  It is anchored in the principles of complementarity, respect for African leadership and the certainty that no one organization or State can face problems alone, he said, spotlighting how the continent has shown exemplary leadership on meeting the COVID-19 challenge.  As well, the United Nations is supporting the initiative, “Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020”, in many concrete ways, including capacity‑building for mediation and disarmament, partnership in creating the network of African women leaders and investment in young people.  This is in addition to broadening operational support for the African Union, he added.

Reporting on the partnership with the African Union in Libya and the Central African Republic, he said that, in the latter context, the United Nations has also reinforced its engagement with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).  In South Sudan, along with the African Union, the United Nations is working closely with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).  Other areas of strong cooperation with the Union are present in Sudan, Somalia, and, along with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Mali.  Together with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the two organizations are also assisting institutional reform in Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

However, he cautioned, challenges loom large, including emerging conflicts, the worsening climate emergency and the impact of COVID-19, particularly on women and the most vulnerable.  Given increasing activities of violent extremists, particularly in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, he welcomed the support of United Nations entities and Member States for initiatives to fight terrorism in Africa.  Enhanced cooperation with African Union mechanisms and regional bodies in the continent is crucial in that regard, he said, adding that African-led peace and counter-terrorism operations should receive Security Council mandates, under Chapter VII of the Charter, and predictable funding guaranteed by assessed contributions.  Expressing deep concern over the emerging situation in Ethiopia, he also repeated his and the Union’s appeal for a global ceasefire and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid.

He went on to note that a recent assessment process has revealed a broad consensus on strengthening the United Nations-African Union partnership, along with acknowledging the need for improvement in a number of areas.  These include further institutionalization of cooperation at every level, with stronger collaboration among the United Nations Security Council and African Union Peace and Security Council.  There was also a need for predictable financing through assessed contributions for African Union peace support operations.  As well, much more work is needed to involve and engage women and youth in the peace and security agenda.  On the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, there was a deep reflection on how best to advance a common agenda by the two organizations, he said, adding:  “I count on the African Union to help lead the way.”

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said that, because almost 70 per cent of the agenda of the Security Council is devoted to issues of peace and security in Africa, the continent should have a permanent presence on the Council.  Cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union is a prerequisite in the implementation of their mandates to promote and uphold international peace and security.  The 2017 United Nations-African Union Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security further boosted cooperation on the promotion of Africa’s ownership and leadership of peace processes on the continent.  The 2018 Framework Agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 was also in keeping with the enhanced partnership between the two organizations and will accelerate the development agenda for Africa.

The annual consultative meetings between the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council have been key to strengthening Council‑to-Council engagement, he continued.  The two organizations have increased operational cooperation and coordination by working in support of peace processes in Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic, Darfur and Somalia.  Further, the African Union is deepening cooperation with the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms, particularly in respect to activities to maintain regional peace and security.

The Union is also continuing to ensure that implementing the “Silencing the Guns in Africa” initiative goes hand in hand with a vibrant pan-African economic integration agenda.  The African Union has entered into similar strategic partnerships with the European Union and is aiming to reinforce cooperation with other organizations that have a large African membership.  He urged the international community and the Security Council to acknowledge the principle of burden-sharing for the maintenance of global peace and security.  This should include predictable, sustainable and flexible financing for African Union-led or authorized peace support operations, based on the principle of the use of United Nations-assessed contributions.  The contradictions of the Security Council that hamper and sometimes impede the resolution of conflict in Africa must also be addressed.

Following those briefings, Council members, along with several regional countries, took the floor to support strengthened cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in matters of peace and security, with many speakers commending the Union for its work in a range of situations.  Most also urged closer collaboration between the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council for that purpose, including some calls for continuing the annual joint meeting, as well as joint visits to conflict situations.

Many speakers also affirmed the need for more international support to African peacekeeping initiatives, with several members supporting the use of United Nations assessments for that purpose, particularly in the case of missions mandated by the Security Council.  Others cited their country’s support for specific initiatives and urged adequate voluntary contributions.  The need to empower women in joint efforts was frequently stressed, as was the imperative to end sexual violence in conflict situations, including sexual abuse by peacekeepers.  Support for African efforts to stem the COVID-19 pandemic was also prioritized by speakers, as was a greater focus on the terrorist threat on the continent.

Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and President of the Security Council for December, addressed the 15-nation organ in his national capacity.  Noting that his country chairs the African Union this year, he said the meeting was an opportunity to reflect on the Council’s efforts to resolve conflicts in Africa and further enhance the partnership between the Union and the United Nations.  The most advanced cooperation between them was on peace and security, as provided for in Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations.  “We are witnessing in Africa a continent that is taking responsibility for the complex challenges to its peace, security and development,” he said.

While the United Nations, through the Security Council, has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, regional organizations such as the African Union play an important role addressing threats to peace and security, he continued.  The invaluable role of the United Nations in support of African-led initiatives cannot be overstated.  Therefore, the two organizations should expedite deliberations to ensure that African Union-led peace support operations authorized by the Security Council are financed through the United Nations assessed contributions.  He also underscored that the African Union is determined to silence the guns on the continent.  Significant gains have been made, as evidenced by ground-breaking peace agreements in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan and most recently in Libya.

In the Central African Republic and Mali, regionally led peace operations transitioned into United Nations peacekeeping missions, he pointed out.  The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) epitomizes the effective cooperation between the two organizations in protecting civilians and facilitating the path to peace.  The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) contributes towards stabilizing and advancing peace in that country.  He also applauded Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which is part of the African diaspora, together with the African countries in the Security Council — Niger, Tunisia and South Africa — for working jointly to promote cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union for the peaceful resolution of African conflicts.  Deliberations today will make a valuable contribution to the success of the Union’s Extraordinary Summit on Silencing the Guns to be held in two days.

Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger, underscored that more than 50 per cent of the Council’s agenda and 70 per cent of situations in peace and security under Chapter VII of the Charter concern African countries.  “This is a sad reality,” he said, adding that the situation requires cooperation and decisive and coordinated actions by the African Union and the United Nations.  Putting forward proposals, he stressed the need for new ideas addressing peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations, as well as the need to establish a mechanism for long-term financing of peace operations led by the African Union or subregional organizations, based on the principle of subsidiarity.  It is also essential to strengthen cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, with emphasis on harmonizing their agendas and objectives by means of more regular meetings.  It is important to ensure that African States play a central role in the discussions and decision-making process of the Security Council as African issues constitute the bulk of subjects dealt with by the organ.

Kaïs Saïed, President of Tunisia, noting the long history of conflict in Africa that threaten the security of the world at large, said it is incumbent on the two organizations to further strengthen their relationships and build mechanisms to face the ever-increasing challenges in building sustainable peace.  He called for a qualitative leap in relations, going beyond mere conflict management to a true partnership in addressing the root causes of violence.  Close cooperation between the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council is therefore necessary.  The complexity of the crises requires more work with regional actors that understand the situation on the ground, he added, pointing out that his country has much experience with assisting mediation efforts.  More financial and logistical support for African peace missions must be provided in a comprehensive approach for peace that covers social, economic and environmental aspects and the Union’s vision of “The Africa We Want”.

Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, emphasized that the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the African Union is a critical instrument in the global security architecture.  Highlighting the 2017 Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, he pointed to tangible benefits seen in the peace processes of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Sudan.  Lasting solutions can never be imposed, but must emerge organically from within.  The African Union’s positions and priorities, including Agenda 2063 and the "Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” initiative, present the surest pathway to lasting peace and security across the continent.  Furthermore, the Union’s perspectives and advice should be sought out, systematically and as a matter of priority, ahead of all mandate renewals and mission transitions for peace operations on the African continent.  “The immense challenges of today cannot be solved through incrementalism or an outmoded zero-sum game of militarism,” he said, noting that principled and pragmatic multilateral solutions are what is needed.

Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that the United Nations is duty-bound to help Africa weather the COVID-19 storm.  The Organization should focus on a united fight against the pandemic to help bolster the African people’s health and safety defences and leverage its coordinating role in mobilizing global resources.  Vaccines should be a global public good and made assessible and affordable for African countries.  It is important for the United Nations and the African Union to work closely together to advance the Union’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative, he said, calling for implementation of the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security.  He also underscored the need to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.  This would help bring broad prosperity, promote fairness and justice and enable the African people to benefit from the progress of global governance.  China stands as a true friend of African countries, as evidenced by the dispatch of eight medical teams fighting COVID-19 to the continent, as well as free military assistance worth $100 million to the African Union, he said.

Sophie Wilmes, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belgium, expressed support for adequate and sustainable financing of African Union-led peace operations through United Nations funding.  Agendas could also be more in sync, including the women, peace and security.  The Union should be closely engaged in the continued implementation of the new United Nations strategy for the Great Lakes region.  She looked forward to the Union playing a leading role in turning a new page in Burundi, she said, adding that the new conflicts in Africa require a first response from the Union or subregional organizations.  The principle of subsidiarity must, however, never imply inaction.  Noting her country’s support for the recent African Union initiative for a dialogue in Ethiopia, she said that sanction policies are a tool to promote international peace and security, prevent conflicts and defend respect for international law.  Therefore, Belgium strongly supports the European Union’s restrictive measures, which target people responsible for negative actions, she said.

Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said that the African continent is making it possible to become the powerhouse of the future.  However, because of challenges posed by new conflicts, terrorism, COVID-19 and other diseases, collective efforts by African countries led by the African Union are now more critical than ever.  The exemplary strategic partnership between the United Nations and the Union is also crucial.  It can be strengthened through support to African leadership in all areas where regional knowledge is pivotal, as well as through further assistance for sustainable development to address root causes.  Mutual work on global challenges, between all regional and international organizations, is also necessary.  Noting that his country has been emerging from conflict in parallel to African conflict areas, he highlighted his country’s contributions to peacekeeping, its willingness to share information and its role in strengthening cooperation between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations and other regional organizations.

Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has made evident the need for global partnership to meet all the challenges of these times.  In that context, he supported closer relations between the United Nations and the African Union, a permanent seat for an African country on the Security Council and closer work between the Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council.  Suggesting further ways to enhance cooperation between Africa and the World Health Organization (WHO) in recovery from the pandemic, he highlighted his country’s contributions in that realm.  In addition, reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, he emphasized the importance of helping realize the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, as well as empowering women and other vulnerable persons in conflict areas.  His country has firmly recognized climate change as integral to the peace and security agenda.  Work on all such challenges must be done together by Europe, Africa and the rest of the world.  The United Nations and the African Union will be key in bringing about such cooperation and Germany stands ready to provide support, he said.

Urmas Reinsalu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said that the importance of partnerships among the United Nations, African Union and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security cannot be overemphasized.  Close cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union builds and sustains peace on the continent.  Estonia supports the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, he said, noting that the steps it outlines are crucial in contributing to peace, stability and security in Africa, while addressing the root causes of conflict.  He called for further cooperation in the field of climate change, as its devastating effects — from the Sahel to the Horn of Africa — can already be seen.  He also added his support for further cooperation related to the women, peace and security agenda, stressing that efforts should be made to ensure that African women and girls participate in all aspects of society, including in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding efforts.

James Duddridge, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Africa of the United Kingdom, highlighted his country’s support for the African Union’s Continental Early Warning System.  However, accurate and timely information needs to be coupled with plans for effective early action, at State, regional or continental level.  The African Union’s support of elections in Madagascar two years ago and mediation in Sudan last year were impressive examples of what that organization can do.  Yet, in other cases, action from the African Union or the United Nations has come too late or not at all.  The key to greater shared success is consistency in approach.  When conflicts do emerge, the United Nations and the African Union bring complementary skills to the table.  He expressed his concern over the situation in Tigray, noting that the immediate priorities are to secure greater humanitarian access and to ensure the protection of civilians and human rights.  His Government will continue to support African Union-led efforts, he said, urging all parties to accept credible offers of support to establish the conditions for a sustainable political solution.

Febrian A. Ruddyard, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Multilateral Affairs of Indonesia, citing an old saying — “neighbours know best” — stressed that regional and subregional organizations have unique knowledge on the ground and can greatly contribute to the prevention and resolution of conflict, as well as sustaining peace.  He recalled that the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council met in September and discussed the situations in Mali, Somalia and the “Silencing the Guns” initiative, among others.  He also expressed appreciation for the valuable role of the three African members of the Security Council in articulating the African perspective at the organ’s deliberations.  Indonesia contributes more than 1,500 personnel, including 98 women peacekeepers, to 7 United Nations peace missions on the continent.  Turning to the root causes of instability, he said many factors are inter-related and partnership between the United Nations and the African Union needs to be guided by this interconnectedness.  He also noted that from the year 1955, when his country hosted the inaugural Asian-African Conference, Indonesia has been unwavering in its support for the African nations.

The representative of the United States applauded the African Union for proving itself an indispensable partner to the United Nations on the continent.  The two organizations have distinctive advantages, share common interests and are committed to the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.  A strong United Nations-African Union partnership is also crucial to address the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.  These organizations are best positioned to protect civilians.  On the women, peace and security agenda, he said women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict and therefore their needs must be included in all aspects of conflict prevention and resolution.  Turning to the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers, he said he looked forward to implementing preventive measures, stressing the need to prevent misconduct, promote accountability and strictly enforce the zero-tolerance policy of the United Nations and the African Union.

The representative of the Dominican Republic said that cooperation between regional and subregional organizations and the United Nations is more important than ever given the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hailing the recent joint meeting of the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, he stressed that both bodies should harmonize procedures and conduct joint visits to conflict areas.  Noting the range of successful joint initiatives between the two organizations, he emphasized that the threats posed by terrorism and climate change, along with the rising number of displaced persons, the flood of illicit arms and the need to fight impunity, must be adequately addressed jointly.  Better regional arrangements are needed in all such areas, as well as reinforcing cooperation with the African Union and helping build its capacity.  Support for “Silencing the Guns” and other African initiatives is critical, as is promotion of the participation of women and youth in all joint activities.  “Let us put our efforts together to achieve a peaceful, stable Africa,” he said.

The representative of France said the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union is valuable not only in responding to regional threats, but also in addressing global threats.  African mediation efforts in Ethiopia and elsewhere are at the heart of Chapter VIII of the Charter.  There is a collective interest to strengthen the partnership for that reason.  Therefore, sustainable and predictable financing, including through obligatory contributions through the United Nations, is important.  The most ambitious possible support is also now needed for the G5 Sahel joint force, as well as the “Silence the Guns” initiative, along with joint efforts to fight the pandemic and other threats.  His country has stepped up partnership by putting a moratorium on African countries’ debt payments and providing funding for COVID-19 response.  In addition, demands for women’s empowerment on the continent must be heard through more systematic support for that effort and for inclusion of youth, he emphasized.

The representative of the Russian Federation, highlighting his country’s advocacy of increased cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union, said discussions of key issues on the African agenda and joint meetings and field meetings have helped increase the effectiveness of efforts to prevent and resolve conflict.  UNAMID is a good example of cooperation on the ground.  The African voice in the Security Council is united and well-heard.  It is important that Africans are able to take the initiative of peace and security matters into their own hands.  It is also important to develop work to prevent conflict on the continent and have a system of early warning.  Attention should be paid to the increase in terrorist threats, he said, noting that terrorist organizations are making use of the pandemic to broaden their positions.  Of particular concern was the recent degradation of the situation in the Sahel region, he said.

Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister of Sudan, spotlighted the valuable role played by IGAD in regional conflict prevention and resolution.  The bloc — founded in 1996 — formally adopted the agenda on peace and security on the principle of subsidiarity and contributed to regional stability over the past 20 years.  IGAD spearheaded peace processes in African States, such as Somalia and Sudan.  Underscoring the importance of cooperation among the United Nations, African Union and IGAD, he said comparative advantages of these organizations can be used to peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.  This partnership will continue to support the political transition in Sudan, as UNAMID draws down.  There is a remarkable shift in hostile relations of neighbouring States, including between Sudan and South Sudan.  Africa hosts four peacekeeping missions and 8 million refugees.  It must emerge from the cycle of conflict and take joint action on conflict prevention and resolution.  A stronger IGAD means more effective partnership and a stronger region, he stressed.

The representative of Libya said that the African Union is tackling the root causes of conflict in Africa, including the lack of social justice, as well as security and economic factors.  Efforts are exerted through the Democracy Enhancement Fund.  However, work in preventing conflict needs to be enhanced, as this is less costly than the cost of peacekeeping.  He stressed the importance of the partnership between the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, which is important for the continued cooperation between the two entities.  There is also a need for more cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union that is commensurate with the vital role of the latter with regard to the settlement of conflicts in the continent.  With regards to his country, he noted that on 15 October, there was a meeting held on the margins of the General Assembly where the participants focused on the situation in Libya

As Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, President of Somalia, was unable to be heard due today to technical difficulties, his statement was added as a text to the official meeting record.

For information media. Not an official record.