General debate of the PSC and A3+1 on African matters in the UNSC Agenda

PSC Meetings on A3

Date | 17 January, 2022

Tomorrow (17 January), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its first ministerial session of the year, which will be its 1058th session, to hold a general debate of the PSC and the A3+1 on African matters in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) agenda.

Ghana, which joined this year the UNSC as the non-permanent member representing Africa, will preside over the session as the chair of the PSC for the month. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, is expected to deliver an opening statement. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, is scheduled to make a presentation that would facilitate the discussion. All the three elected African members of the UNSC (A3), namely, Gabon, Ghana, and Kenya, are envisaged to participate.

The PSC last convened a session on the role of the A3 at its 983rd meeting that took place on 4 March 2021. In that session, the Council, among others, stressed the importance of providing ‘strategic guidance’ to the A3 on peace and security issues ahead of the UNSC meetings to enable them effectively discharge their role of articulating, defending and promoting common African positions on issues of interest within the UNSC. Tomorrow’s session is aimed at providing the PSC and A3 members a platform to deliberate and exchange views on matters of strategic importance to Africa that are on the agenda of the UNSC. The deliberation is expected to help the A3 better amplify African positions and interests within the UNSC as it would facilitate common understanding on African matters.

The concept note prepared for the session outlines four agenda items for the discussion. The first agenda item is on the funding of AU-led PSOs. Members of the PSC and the A3 will receive update on the progress made towards the development of the draft Consensus Paper on the Financing of AU-led Peace Support Operations through the UN Assessed Contributions. It is to be recalled that the PSC considered the draft zero consensus paper as well as the strategic priorities for the utilization of the AU Peace Fund during its 1036th session, held on 5 October 2021. This was a follow up session to the 21 July 2021 Bankole’s brief to the Council on the steps taken towards the elaboration of the common position on financing of AU-led PSOs. If finalized, the consensus paper is expected to be submitted to the upcoming AU Assembly this February for endorsement.

In 2021, the two counterparts in Addis and New York showed interest to revive discussions around financing AU-led PSOs through UN assessed contributions after efforts to adopt a resolution reached deadlock in 2018 and then in 2019. The issue was high on the agenda of AU-UN Consultative meetings held at different levels in November and December of last year. On 28 October 2021, the UNSC also issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/21) on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security. After recognizing the potential impact of ‘ad hoc and unpredictable financing arraignments’ for AU-led PSOs on the effectiveness of the PSOs, the presidential statement ‘encouraged further dialogue on options for addressing this issue’.

The development of a consensus paper is indeed a critical step in facilitating a clear decision by the AU, which in turn pave the way for the A3 to resuscitate the file in the UNSC. The outcome of the discussion will be shaped by two factors. The first is whether the AU is able to take a clear position on the sticking points in the negotiation with UNSC, notably 75/25 funding formula, compliance with human right and humanitarian standards, financial accountability and transparency, and command and control over the troops. The second is while there is a favorable dynamic in the UNSC which was also demonstrated in the recently concluded 15th annual consultative meeting, high-level diplomatic engagement with the US remains critical.

In relation to the second agenda item, the discussion is expected to center around ways of ensuring a predictable and sustainable financial and logistical support to the G5 Joint Task Force. Secretary General’s report on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) (document S/2021/940) highlights the risk of reversal of gains made by the Joint Task Force as it relies on ‘unpredictable donor financing, which cannot entirely meet the Joint Force’s needs’. The UN Secretary-General has been advocating for the establishment of UN Support Office to AMISOM-like separate office to avail logistical support to the Task Force through assessed contribution. During MINUSMA’s mandate renewal in June 2021, A3+1 members at the time (Niger, Tunisia, Kenya, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), along with France, was even mulling over tabling a resolution to establish the office. However, the UK and US opposed the idea of a separate office and the use of assessed contribution for non-UN missions. The PSC, on its part, urged the UNSC to ‘take necessary steps that will guarantee sustainable and predictable funding for the G5 Sahel Force from the UN assessed contribution’, at its 939th session convened on 30 July 2021. However, the PSC omitted the same call for UN funding in its last session (1006th) on the G5 Sahel, held on 6 July 2021.

Against this context, tomorrow’s deliberation would help both the PSC and the A3 to strategize on how to get buy-in from UNSC members, particularly UK and US. Two issues will remain to be addressed in this respect. The first issue stems from the very nature of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, which is ‘a coalition of the willing’ that undertake counter terrorism operations within their territories. UN is reluctant to use its assessed contribution for counter terrorism operations as it would not be in line with its peacekeeping doctrine. The second issue is that the Joint Force is not AU-led PSO nor UN-authorized mission, but an AU-mandated force. As this raises the question of compliance and accountability, it would be challenging to get UN backing without making some sort of changes on the modality of the Task Force.

The third agenda item will focus on support for strengthening the security capabilities of African regional institutions. The discussion on this item is likely to happen within the context of a progress made towards the operationalization of the African Standby Force and growing interest of regional blocs to use this framework while addressing security situations/crisis arising in their jurisdiction. A case in point is the deployment of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) in mid-July of 2021 to combat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado. Most recently, ECOWAS, at its 4th extraordinary summit convened on 9 January 2022, decided to ‘activate immediately the ECOWAS Standby Force, to enhance its preparedness, should the need arise’ in the context of the difficult political transition in Mali.

The ability and will of some of the RECs/RMs for the deployment of PSOs requires more clarity between AU, RECs/RMs and Member States on some of the strategic and political issues such as decision making, mandating deployment and command and control of the forces. In this connection, participants may hear from Bankole about the status of the drafting of the AU-RECs/RMs Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the deployment and employment of the ASF. As highlighted by the PSC at its 1007th session (8 July 2021) on the operationalization of ASF, ‘lack of resource including predictable and sustainable funding’ will remain major impediment to the effectiveness as well as sustainability of such deployments. Members of PSC and the A3 may reflect on ways and means of addressing this challenge. Of interest to the participants is also the status of the establishment of a counter-terrorism unit within the ASF as decided by the PSC during its 960th session (28 October 2020).

The last agenda item is on common African position for UN Security Council on climate induced insecurity. As noted in the concept note, ‘AU has demonstrated continental leadership in recognizing and acting on the nexus between climate, peace and security’. In 2021 alone, the PSC convened three sessions (984th, 1043rd, and 1051st) on climate change, natural disasters, and peace and security. Two of these sessions were convened at the summit level, showing the political weight attached to the issue. While the UNSC has failed to adopt a resolution on climate change and security, the PSC issued several communiques that clearly recognizes the risk of climate change to the peace and security landscape in Africa. It is to be recalled that the outgoing A3 member (Niger) and Ireland tabled a resolution on climate security in last December. Though the draft resolution was not adopted as Russia vetoed it. Climate security is high on the agenda of Africa as the continent only contributes four percent of carbon emission but bears the brunt of its consequences.

Beyond tabling a resolution, there are other avenues that A3 could navigate to get Africa’s voice on climate security across. One notable avenue in this regard is the Informal Expert Group on Climate Security in the UN Security Council in which Kenya co-chairs alongside Norway.

Developing African Common Position on Climate Change will go a long way in clarifying Africa’s position and providing strategic guidance to the A3 in their engagement within the UNSC to advance Africa’s interest. The idea of having such a common position was first raised during the summit level meeting of the PSC at its 984th session in March of last year. In its latest session on climate change and security (1051st), the PSC also reaffirmed the importance of ‘adhering to the common African position on climate change, in particular on Climate Finance and operationalization of the Global Goal on Adaptation’ in the context of the upcoming COP27. As indicated in the concept note, tomorrow’s session therefore presents both the PSC and A3 members the opportunity for consultation on the development of the common position, and explore ‘main action points and instruments needed for the AU’ to advance climate-security nexus.

The expected outcome is a communique. The outcome may stress on the need to regularize and institutionalize interaction between the PSC and A3 to collectively advance African position and interest in the UNSC. They may further emphasize the importance of broadening alliance and constructively engage with UNSC members to get a greater buy-in of African positions on African files and other issues of mutual interest. The participants may specifically highlight the issue of ensuring predictable, sustainable and sufficient financing to peace support operations in Africa as a critical factor for the success of such operations, and in this regard, may urge member states, AU, RECs/RMs, international partners and the UN to avail all the required supports. Given the important role they play in building consensus within the AU, participants may urge the Commission to expedite the development and finalization of African common positions on financing AU-led PSOs as well as climate change and security. On support to counter terrorism operations, the participants may emphasize on the need to have further clarity on UN’s peacekeeping engagement and the use of its assessed contribution in light of the changing global security landscape as marked by the rise of terrorism and violent extremism.

The Unified Role of the African Members of the UN Security Council (A3) in the United Nations Security Council

PSC Meetings on A3

Date | 04 March, 2021

Tomorrow (04 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 983rd session on the unified role of the African three elected members (A3) of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC). The timing of this session is not accidental considering that Kenya, which serves in both the PSC and the UNSC, has just joined the UNSC as the newest member of the A3.

The Permanent Representative of Kenya to AU, Jean Kamau is expected to make an opening remark. The PSC is expected to receive update from the AU Commission, including through the AU Permanent Observer Mission to the UN. Apart from the inputs from the representatives of members of A3, namely Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, representatives of Amani Africa and the Institute for Security Studies are scheduled to present briefings to the PSC. Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office to the AU, H.E. Madam Hanna Tetteh may also make statement.

The last time the PSC convened a dedicated session on the issue was at its 595th meeting held in April 2016. However, the Council also convened its 937th session held on 24 July 2020 to discuss with the A3 members as part of the coordinating efforts between the two. At that session, the A3 coordinator briefed the Council on the initiatives taken to promote and champion African common positions in the UNSC.

As highlighted in the concept note for the session, tomorrow’s session serves to take stoke of the progresses made and the challenges over the years in respect of the A3 channeling African common positions in the decision making process of the UNSC on matters that are of concern to the continent and explore ways and means of strengthening the coordination and cooperation among the A3 and between them and the PSC with the view to enable them discharge their ‘special responsibility’ of reflecting African common positions in the UNSC.

The statements from the A3 and the briefings are expected to highlight not only recent experiences of the A3 in representing the position of the AU and in facilitating coordination between the PSC and the UNSC but also emerging good practices in the coordination within the A3 and between the A3 and other role players including the PSC. Some of the practices that will receive mention for further consolidation include organization of joint meetings including Arria Formula meetings, making joint statements, joint press statements and stakeouts and presenting/initiating joint draft resolutions, and, to a limited extent, assuming the role of pen-holding or co-pen holding.

Another issue that is expected to receive attention is how to deal with the dynamics in the UNSC. Though African matters used to be less contentious in the UNSC, both deepening divisions among the P5 and Africa’s changing geopolitics affecting how the UNSC deals with African files and importantly the cohesion of the A3. As highlighted in Amani Africa special report on the relationships between the UNSC and the PSC, the ‘deepening polarization of members of the P5’ and the enormous pressure coming from them African matters is increasingly testing the unity of the A3 and at times, causing split. This is more so in a context where there is discord between sub-regional arrangements (RECs) and the AU (PSC). A good example in this respect is the diverging position taken by AU and SADC in response to the announcement of the provisional results of the Presidential election in DRC in January 2019, also causing a split between members of the A3 on how the UNSC should respond to the disputed result.

Of a particular interest to the PSC at its tomorrow session is means of strengthening coordination and cooperation between the PSC and the A3. One of the positive steps which needs to be further capitalized is the annual high-level seminar on peace and security in Africa. Convened on annual basis since its inaugural in 2013 at Algiers, the seminar is serving as an important platform for the A3 and PSC members to share experiences and institutional memories, understand and exchange views on peace and security issues in the continent and foster common position. As captured in Amani Africa’s fifth special report, it is high time to revamp the ‘high-level interest’ in the seminar as well as explore ways of follow up to the implementations of the conclusions of the high-level seminars regarding coordination between the A3 and the PSC.

The briefing from the AU Commission is also expected to highlight about the role of the AU Permanent Observation Mission to the UN, in New York and the progresses achieved in terms of discharging its central role in facilitating communication between the A3 and the PSC. The capacity of the office, which is serving as the Secretariat of the A3 and its institutional memory, needs to be strengthened. In this regard, PSC decision during its 478th session to adequately staff the mission with experienced and high-ranking officers and mobilize more funding is long overdue for full implementation.

The PSC is also expected to explore means of enhancing its direct engagement with the A3 through increased regular consultations and the latter’s more involvement in its sessions as the Council is expected to provide sufficient support and timely guidance to the A3 in discharging their responsibilities. The participation of A3 in the PSC sessions would improve A3’s capacity in shaping the discussions and decisions of both the PSC and UNSC, which eventually bridges the gap between the two counterparts in Addis Ababa and New York in the maintenance of international peace and security. With the A3 taking part in its meetings, the PSC can scan the dynamics in the UNSC on agenda items under its consideration, at the same time would inform the A3 about its views and positions which they need to reflect in the UNSC.

Two issues are likely to feature in tomorrow’s session within the context of increasing the capacity and leverage of A3 in the UNSC: the pen holder system and mobilizing support from other members of the UNSC.

Taking shape around 2010, the P3 have established the ‘pen holder system’ where they divide the role of drafting UNSC outcome documents among themselves including on African matters. France serves as pen holder for most of the Francophone African issues while US and UK leads on Sudan and Somalia, respectively. The implication of this practice is that the A3 members are marginalized from taking the lead and shape outcome documents meaningfully on matters of concern to the continent.

Despite PSC’s call in its 478th session for the A3 members to be given the status of pen holder and co-pen holders, progress remains limited. The PSC is expected to explore further options to enhance the role of the A3 in pen holding or co-pen holding.

Representatives of the A3 are likely to discuss efforts made in mobilizing support from other members of the UNSC. An interesting development in this regard is the alliance created with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines since it took its two-year seat in January 2020, forming the A3+1. The A3 and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were able to deliver joint statements on several occasions. Building on this experience, the A3 are expected to broaden the scope of alliance in the future, particularly with the Caribbean group in the UNSC with the aim to amplify African voices in the Council.

The expected outcome is a communique. The PSC is expected to congratulate Kenya for its election as non-permanent member of the UNSC and commend Republic of South Africa as an outgoing member as well as Niger and Tunisia as sitting members of the Council for the role played in articulating, coordinating, promoting and defending African perspectives and common positions in the UNSC. In light of emerging challenges that the division in the UNSC is posing to the role of the A3, the PSC may reiterate its call for the A3 to stick to the decisions and positions of the AU in all circumstances and further strengthen cohesion and coordination among themselves and with the PSC. In this respect, the Council is likely to make reference to the Decision of the Assembly adopted by the 26th Ordinary session held in January 2016 which states the ‘special responsibility’ of the A3 in reflecting the PSC decisions in the decision making process of the UNSC. In terms of enhancing its coordination and cooperation with the A3, it may urge the AU Commission to take all steps to ensure that the AU Permanent Observer Mission to the UN is fully capacitated and resourced. With regards to boosting the capacity of the A3 in shaping the dynamics in the UNSC, the PSC may commend the efforts of the A3 in reaching out to other members of the Council with the aim to foster a unified position with the A3 and may further encourage them to broaden alliance with other members, notably from the Caribbean group. The Council may also reiterate its call for members of A3 to be given the status of pen holder or co-pen holder on peace and security issues in Africa. The Council may finally look forward to the convening of the upcoming high-level seminar on the peace and security in Africa, which is slated for November according to the indicative annual program of the Council, and encourage A3 and PSC members as well as the AU Permanent Observer Mission to regularize consultations and exchange of information.