Second Annual Consultative meeting between the PSC and the Peace and Security Organs of the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms

PSC meetings with RECs/RMs

Date | 26 August, 2021

Tomorrow (26 August) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene the second annual consultative meeting between the PSC and the Peace and Security organs of the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs).

The session on the consultative meeting is expected to start with the opening remark of the PSC Chairperson for August, Cameroon’s Permanent Representative to the AU, Churchill Ewumbue-Monono. Thereafter, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement on the state of AU-RECs/RMs relationship. The representatives of the Policy Organs of the RECs/RMs and the RECs/RMs, namely the East African Community (EAC), East African Standby Force (EASF), Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), North African Regional Capability (NARC), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) are expected to make presentation on their respective relationship and engagement since the inaugural meeting with the PSC and the AU.

This session is convened as a follow up to the decision taken at the inaugural consultative meeting of the PSC and the policy-making organs of the RECs/RMs in 2019 to hold the consultative meeting on annual basis. The consultative meeting is also in line with Article 16 of the PSC Protocol on close working relations and policy coordination with RECs/RMs, and the conclusions of the various retreats of the PSC which called for a mechanism to strengthen harmonization and coordination through a periodic engagement between the PSC and the policy bodies of RECs/RMs.

This year’s consultative meeting affords the Council the opportunity to follow up on the decisions of the inaugural consultative meeting and the communiqué of 870th PSC session, particularly those relating to the modalities to harmonize decision-making processes and strengthen coordination as well as institutionalize their relationship. In this regard, it is worth recalling that paragraph 18 of the communique of the inaugural meeting stipulates that, the PSC and the RECs/RMs policy organs agree to institutionalize their relationship, in particular through the following:

i. holding of annual joint consultative meetings, between the PSC and the RECs/RMs policy organs on peace and security issues, alternately in Addis Ababa and in the headquarters of the RECs/RMs, in rotation. In this context, the joint consultative meeting should be convened ahead of the mid-year coordination summit between the AU and RECs/RMs;

ii. swiftly communicate decisions on peace and security issues to each other for enhancing subsidiarity and complementarity, while ensuring coherence in decision- making process;

iii. regular interaction between the PSC and the RECs/RMs Chairpersons of the policy organs and/or equivalent relevant structures on peace and security matters, on issues of common concern, including through the use of the video-teleconferencing;

iv. joint field missions to assess situations of common concern and identify further joint action as may be needed;

v. holding of joint retreats/brainstorming sessions to reflect on priorities on peace and security issues of the PSC and the RECs/RMs and develop appropriate common response strategies; and

vi. organizing staff exchange visits.

Among others, tomorrow’s session helps in considering whether and how much progress has been made in implementing the foregoing modalities and the challenges faced in pursuing policy coordination and mobilizing a more synchronized collective action by the PSC and policy organs of RECs/RMs. Best practices, if any, and gaps in coordinated policy-making as well as emerging issues affecting coordination between the PSC and RECs/RMs are also expected to be highlighted in this meeting.

From the available evidence, little seems to have moved forward in terms of translating the commitments made in the joint communique into action. Notwithstanding the framework articulated in the joint communique, policy coordination between the PSC and the RECs/RMs depends on convenience and has as yet to be institutionalized. For example, the representation of PSC and its active participation in meetings of the policy organs of RECs/RMs where decisions on matters that concern its mandate leaves a lot to be desired. Though such engagement is extremely important to coordinate responses and harmonize decisions, there is the issue of whether RECs/RMs have recognized the importance of regularly inviting and ensuring the participation of the PSC, through its Chairperson as envisaged in the Conclusions of the Abuja retreat of the PSC. On the other hand, while the practice of joint field missions and joint retreats is taking hold with other institutions, notably the European Union Political and Security Committee (EU PSC), the same kind of engagement between the PSC and RECs/RMs is yet to develop.

Tomorrow’s session may also follow up on its previous decision to establish a team of focal points from all RECs/RMs and the PSC Secretariat, a mechanism devised to facilitate a ‘well-coordinated network for regular meetings/consultations’, particularly on issues that are in the agendas of both the PSC and RECs/RMs.

The consultative meeting may also reflect on trends affecting harmonization of decision-making and strong coordination between PSC and RECs/RMs. One such issue is the divergence of norms between RECs/RMs and the AU system that may lead to diverging policy approach. This has been more visible in relation to contestations on elections and events involving unconstitutional changes of government. The SADC and AU were not on the same page in terms of the policy responses they respectively adopted initially to the unconstitutional change of government in Madagascar in 2009. The recent military seizure of power in Mali and Chad not only illustrates the divergence of norms among RECs but also shows how this could lead to the PSC taking divergent policy approaches to military coups.

The other major issue is the lack of clarity about the principle of subsidiarity and its application vis-à-vis the envisaged primary role of the PSC in the maintenance of peace and security in the continent. First, there is the issue of how the PSC may discharge its mandate as provided for in the PSC Protocol when a conflict situation arises within a particular REC/RM. The expectation from the mandate entrusted to the PSC under the PSC Protocol is that at the very least the PSC plays the role of accompanying and contributing to the policy response of the concerned REC/RM while ensuring that the applicable AU norms are duly respected. Where the REC/RM concerned is not seized with the issue despite the need for regional and continental engagement, the PSC faces the issue of discharging its mandate by being seized with the situation while coordinating with the concerned REC(s)/RM(s).

The trans-regional nature of some situations such as the security threat posed by Boko Haram and overlapping membership in regional mechanisms is another emerging challenge for policy coordination. On the trans-regional nature of some security situations, while this offers the opportunity for horizontal coordination among RECs/RMs, the experience towards such practice remains limited. It is to be recalled that the PSC underscored the importance of horizontal coordination in the Communiqué of its 870th session. Most recently, at its 1010th session held in July 2021, the PSC also stressed the importance of strengthening institutional collaboration between ECCAS and ECOWAS in the implementation of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience of the Boko Haram affected areas of Lake Chad Basin. On conflict/crisis situation that erupts in a country with multiple membership to RECs and RMs, not only the issue of who takes the lead in resolving the situation remains controversial but also harmonizing and coordinating actions can become even more challenging.

The latest deployment of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) along with Rwandan troops is another development of interest to the Council. It is to be recalled that the inaugural consultative meeting stressed the importance of ‘prior consultations and coordination, particularly, during the planning and deployment phases of peace support operations’ and further emphasized the importance of undertaking the deployment of African Standby Force within a ‘partnership between the PSC and the RECs/RMs policy organs.’ However, indications are that the deployment of SAMIM did not take place within this framework. Close coordination and consultation between the PSC and the policy organ of the concerned REC was lacking.

The expected outcome of the annual consultative meeting is a joint communique. It is expected that the communique would welcome the convening of the joint consultative meeting and the presentations that the various RECs/RMs made. It may also reiterate the importance of the close working relationship between the PSC and the Policy organs of the RECs/RMs and the need for implementation of the modalities for policy coordination and close working relationship between the two outlined in the joint communique of the first consultative meeting. The PSC and the representatives of the Policy Organs of the RECs/RMs may follow up on its decision at its 870th session to convene a “meeting of the Technical Working Group of Experts to develop a matrix outlining concreate practical steps to be undertaken, assign responsibilities with specific timelines, as well as a roadmap with clearly defined modalities and timeframes for consideration by the Council”. They may also urge the need for close consultation and invitation for participation of each in decisions relating to conflict situations of which the other is interested. They may also underscore the importance of the need for applying the principle of subsidiarity without it inhibiting the need for active participation and engagement of the PSC within the framework of the mandate entrusted to it under the PSC Protocol for taking conflict prevention, conflict management and conflict resolution as well as post-conflict reconstruction and development measures guided by the demands of the situation concerned while coordinating with the concerned REC/RM. In this respect, the communiqué may reiterate the decision of the PSC from its 870th session for “convening of a joint retreat of the PSC and RECs/RMs to brainstorm and reflect on ‘Decision-making, Harmonisation and Coordination between the AUPSC and RECs/RMs on the promotion of peace and security’ and develop report on appropriate common response strategies”. They may also emphasise the need for horizontal coordination between RECs/RMs affected by shared security issues including with the facilitation of the PSC.

Cooperation, coordination and collaboration of the AU PSC and RECs/RMs

PSC meetings with RECs/RMs

Date | 19 August, 2019

Tomorrow (20 August) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold a session on cooperation, coordination and collaboration of the AU PSC and Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms on peace and security related matters on the continent.

It is to be recalled that in May 2019 the PSC held its inaugural meeting with RECs/RMs on the promotion of peace and security focusing on harmonization and coordination of decision-making processes and division of labor. Although the PSC protocol has no explicit language around the principle of subsidiarity when addressing the relationship between the PSC and RECs/RMs, its retreat with RECs/RMs in Abuja, Nigeria in 2015 addressed the principles of subsidiarity, complementarity and comparative advantages. Similarly the joint communiqué established that the synergy would be based on these principles. It is expected that the two mechanisms will identify a set of criteria in defining the scope and application of such principles.

Tomorrow’s meeting will not only be a follow up to the PSC and RECs/RMs inaugural meeting but also a forum to reflect on the decisions that came out from the first mid-year coordination meeting between the AU and RECs/RMs held in July in Niamey, Niger. The Niger Declaration, which welcomed the efforts of the PSC and policy organs of RECs/RMs, it also called for the rapid establishment of ‘practical modalities to facilitate timely and coordinated responses to continental crises’. Moreover the meeting tasked the Commission, Member States and RECs/RM to prepare a detailed framework of division of labour to be adopted by the Assembly in February 2020. The upcoming Summit also offers an opportunity for the PSC to work closely with RECs/RMs in preparing its annual report to the Assembly.

In this regard, the joint PSC and RECs/RMs communiqué outlines concrete steps that are expected to solidify the working relations between the two mechanisms, which may inform and contribute to the broader efforts of establishing clearer division of labour and coordination between AU and RECs/RMs. PSC and RECs/RMs have agreed to establish a team of focal points comprising representatives from both institutions to foster coordination on peace and security issues. An agreement was also reached to hold joint field missions and joint retreats/brainstorming sessions for coordinated and strategic response. Hence tomorrow’s session will be particularly essential to link the PSC level coordination to the broader Commission and AU level one. It may also reflect on the operationalization and the actual implementation of these initiatives by also agreeing on a timeframe and by developing a clear roadmap that governs its institutional working relations with RECs/RMs.
The other key instrument, which may also be of interest to the PSC, is the Report of the AUC Chairperson on the Status of Integration in Africa and the complementary regional perspectives presented by the Chairs of the RECs. The first Report was presented at the mid-year coordination meeting. It may be a key priority area for the Council to ensure that its joint and harmonized efforts with RECs/RMs feature in the comprehensive report that is expected to be regularly produced.

The enhanced coordination between PSC and the RECs/RMs policy organs is one of the key factors in realizing the full operationalization of the African Peace and Security Architecture. The various pillars of the architecture including the PSC itself will require the continued coordination and synergy with RECs in discharging their mandate. The joint communiqué makes particular reference to early warning and response mechanisms and deployment of the African Standby Force.

The coordination efforts have also practical implications, which will require the immediate action by the PSC and RECs. Both sides are expected to generate of strengthen their capacities in order to facilitate the regular exchange and communication and alignment of decision making process. In this context it is worth noting that level of capacity among RECs vary, hence the level of engagement in the decision making process may also be affected. The other issue that will require a clear direction is related to the overlapping membership of states in different RECs.

When examining the implications of the Niamey first coordination meeting on its working relations with RECs/RMs, the PSC may also take in consideration the on-going efforts towards revising the 2008 Protocol on Relations Between the AU and RECs. The revised protocol is expected to take in consideration the new coordination structures that were officially kicked off in Niamey. Prior to the Assembly’s adoption of the revised protocol in 2020, the PSC in close consultation with policy organs of RECs/RM may wish to engage in the revision of the protocol to ensure that it is in line with the agreed upon principles governing its working relations with RECs/RMs. The PSC may also work toward the formalization and recognition of its coordination mechanism with RECs/RMs by the revised Protocol. This effort may also look into further expanding article 30 of the Protocol that outlines the harmonization of mechanisms for promotion of peace, security and stability.
In the joint communiqué PSC and RECs/RMs agreed to hold ‘annual joint consultative meetings, between the PSC and the RECs/RMs policy organs on peace and security issues, alternately in Addis Ababa and in the headquarters of the RECs/RMs, in rotation’ and to be ‘convened ahead of the mid-year coordination summit between the AU and RECs/RMs’. Although the joint consultative meeting is a step forward in institutionalizing the partnership, it is also necessary to ensure that the coordination work takes place throughout the year in a systematic manner. It may also be essential to actively assess the implementation status of various decisions that emanate from the various consultative sessions.

During the production of this ‘Insight’ the form of the outcome was unknown. However the PSC may provide clear actions in implementing the decisions made during the inaugural meeting, particularly towards the development of a joint framework/roadmap with monitoring and follow up mechanisms. Following the Niamey declaration the PSC may request RECs/RMs to jointly kick-start the establishment of a mechanism for coordinated responses to crises. Moreover based on the decisions articulated in the Niamey declaration it may highlight for the need to ensure that its renewed working relation with RECs/RMs is informed by the Commission wide commitments and that they also contribute to the continental integration agenda.

Inaugural Consultative Meeting of the Peace and Security Council and Regional Economic Communities (RECs)/Regional Mechanisms (RMs) 

PSC meetings with RECs/RMs

Date | 24 May, 2019

Tomorrow (23 October) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold its annual informal consultative meeting with the United Nations (UN) Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The informal consultation is the second agenda item of the 958th PSC session and is expected to take place virtually.

The annual informal consultative meeting takes place in the form of a panel discussion, which will be co-facilitated by the Chairperson of the AUPSC Osama Abdel-Khalek and the Chairperson of the UNPBC Bob Rae. Following opening remarks by the two chairs, Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the AU and Oscar Fernandez-Taranco UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support are expected to deliver a briefing. This will be followed by interventions from the AUPSC and the PBC. A concept note has been circulated to guide the informal consultation.

The Council and the Commission have been holding their consultations over the last couple of years with a view to forging cooperation in support of peacebuilding efforts in Africa. Most of the country specific, regional, and thematic issues under consideration by the PBC are focused on the African continent. Four African countries – Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Guinea-Bissau, and Liberia – will remain on the agenda of the PBC, with the exit of Guinea and eventually Sierra Leone. These and other African countries have over the years benefited from the financial assistance of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund.

There are several instruments, which have been guiding the cooperation between the AUPSC and the PBC. The concurrent resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (70/262) and the Security Council (2282) in 2016 following the review of the United Nations Peacebuilding architecture underscored the importance of partnership between the Commission and the African Union and its regional mechanisms in support of peacebuilding in Africa. The African Union has also the Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Policy Framework adopted in 2006. The AU initiative on Silencing the Guns in Africa is also significant and the Security Council through the adoption of resolution 2457 (2019) expressed strong support for this initiative. Furthermore, the United Nations and the African Union signed a Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and MoU on peacebuilding in 2018.

It is within this overall framework that the annual meeting takes place on Friday. What makes the meeting particularly important is that it is happening at a time when Africa is facing serious challenges on peacebuilding and sustaining peace in terms of the various post-conflict countries and regions, particularly in west Africa and the Sahel region, the Lake Chad Basin, Central Africa and the Great Lakes. The situation has also been further compounded by the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemics. The PBC has been discussing this important issue over the last couple of months and what has come out clearly in these discussions was the need for stronger partnerships, particularly with regional organizations and International Financial Institutions to better respond to the impact of the pandemic.

The annual AUPSC-PBC meeting also takes place at the backdrop of the 2020 review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture and intergovernmental consultations have already started in New York under the co-facilitation of New Zealand and St. Vincent and the Grenadines to achieve the broadest possible consensus among member States on the review process. The co-facilitators have circulated a zero-draft resolution for member State’s consideration.

The AUPSC has already adopted a Common African Position on the review at its 948th meeting on 22 September 2020, underscoring that the review should consider practical means for enabling the AU to exercise ownership of PCRD efforts and engagements on the Continent; ensuring closer collaboration and information-sharing on operational and programmatic engagements; and enhancing national and continental African capacities for planning and implementation of programmes and projects designed to address context-specific cross border challenges and sub-regional dimensions of peacebuilding. The PSC instructed the Commission to transmit the Report of the Chairperson on the Common African Position on the 2020 Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture, towards an enhanced global peacebuilding system to the African Group in New York, to guide and advance its engagement in the negotiations on the review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.

The Common African Position is indeed an important contribution to the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture sharing Africa’s views and perspectives on enhancing the global peacebuilding system. It was a result of thorough reflection on the AU’s experience over the past two decades in peacebuilding in Africa underscoring the “indispensability of national ownership and leadership of peacebuilding process; the importance of effective partnership in support of peacebuilding; the imperative for institution building and financing, and a strong emphasis on impact, through implementation at the field level”. It provided specific recommendations on how to strengthen the global peacebuilding architecture in line with Africa’s own priorities.

The hope and expectation is that these priorities will be taken on board during the review process. The role of the African Group in New York is going to be critical in making sure that they are adequately reflected in the intergovernmental consultations, which are currently underway. The African Caucus on Peacebuilding is said to have already made proposals on Financing and Partnerships for Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace and Institution Building and System-Wide Engagement for Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, to the informal phase of the review. The AU Commission is also said to have submitted inputs on “Financing and Partnerships for Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”. The annual meeting will provide yet another opportunity for members of the AUPSC to advance Africa’s views and perspectives on the review based on the common position.
According to the draft concept note prepared for the annual meeting, the Council and the Commission are expected to identify ways of further enhancing synergies between the two bodies in support of peacebuilding and sustaining peace in Africa, building on the ongoing UN Peacebuilding Architecture Review and the Common African Position on Peacebuilding. They are also expected to examine ongoing AU and UN efforts to help address the impact of COVID-19 on peacebuilding and sustaining peace efforts in Africa, including under the framework of Silencing the Guns and particularly in regions under the consideration of the PBC (West Africa and the Sahel; Central Africa; Lake Chad Basin; and the Great Lakes), with a focus on the role of women and youth.

This is indeed a landmark year for Women, among others, because of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the 20th anniversary of the landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on the Women, Peace and Security agenda adopted by the United Nations Security Council. Series of activities are being organized to mark these important events. Both the AUPSC and the PBC had also held meetings over the course of this month focusing on women, peace, and security. The meeting between the AUPSC and PBC provides yet another opportunity to highlight this issue in the context of the country specific, regional, and thematic issues under consideration by the PBC.

The expected outcome may be in a form of a joint press statement. The outcome document may call on the need to enhance the strategic partnership to ensure the provision of a comprehensive peacebuilding support to countries emerging from conflict. It may further call on efforts to address the adverse impact of COVID-19 on peacebuilding in Africa and prevent the risks of relapse to conflict. It may underline that sustainable peace requires addressing root causes of conflict through coordinated security and development efforts. The document may reiterate the key components of the Common African Position on peacebuilding and underline the importance of supporting a global peacebuilding architecture that accommodates Africa’s priorities. The joint statement may also highlight the need to further clarify the format of the annual informal consultation between the PSC and PBC.