In July, according to the very useful briefing from the Security Council Report, the UN Security Council will discuss co-operation between the African Union and UN in peacekeeping operations (see below). Who could find fault with this? But some questions are worth asking.

  1. The initiative is being led by Rwanda, a country with a decidedly dubious past in ‘regional affairs’. Rwandan troops and resources have played a major role in destabilising the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its support for regional rebels, including the notorious M23 rebels, who are still allegedly being sheltered by Rwanda.
  2. African Union attempts to create effective regional forces – the so-called African Standby Brigades – although still nominally supported by African heads of state, have been of little help in containing conflicts. The fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria, the crises in Ivory Coast, Mali or the Central African Republic required outside – mostly French intervention. The African Union’s role was distinctly limited.
  3. Even effective African Union operations, for example in Somalia, have allowed the breaching of the principle that countries should refrain from participating in peacekeeping operations in neighbouring states. As the UN’s own guidelines for successful peacekeeping point out, operations can only succeed if they are impartial. NATO similarly points to the problems of neighbouring states: “A particularly delicate situation arises for a neighbouring country which has a significant national minority in the crisis area itself.” One only needs think of the impact of Ethiopian and Kenyan involvement in AMISOM operations in Somalia to see why this is the case.
  4. AU and UN operations have managed to hold the ring, but not solve the problem. The situation in Sudan’s Darfur is a clear case in point. As Human Rights Watch reported last month: “Civilians in Darfur are being killed, and the allegations that peacekeepers looked the other way are devastating.”

How will the UN Security Council deal with these conundrums?



In July, as proposed by Rwanda, the Council is expected to hold a high-level open debate on regional partnerships in peacekeeping. It is anticipated that Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo of Rwanda will chair the meeting. AU Commission Chairperson Dlamini Zuma and EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy chief, Catherine Ashton, are expected among the briefers. A resolution is a likely outcome.


Rwanda seeks to discuss the growing importance of regional organisations for UN peacekeeping. Drawing on lessons learnt from operations in Africa as well as from its experience chairing the Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, Rwanda would like to explore ways in which regional partnerships can best bring their comparative advantage to UN peacekeeping, help share the burden and ultimately, make peacekeeping more effective.

The role of regional and subregional organisations in UN peacekeeping has recently been discussed in the Council primarily in the context of country-specific situations such as the Central African Republic (CAR), Mali and South Sudan. Previously, between 2007 and 2012, there were at least five thematic debates on this issue. (Two of them took place at the initiative of South Africa and all of them at the request of elected members.) Furthermore, since 2007, AU Peace and Security Council members have held annual consultative meetings with Council members. Since 2013, Council members have also met periodically with the EU Political and Security Committee.

On 31 July 2007 the Council adopted resolution 1769, authorising the establishment of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). In 2004 the AU had established the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), to which the UN supplied light and heavy support packages sequentially, eventually resulting in the first-ever UN-AU hybrid operation. For the first time, the UN had created an operation for which it assumed full financial responsibility but over which it did not retain exclusive operational or political control.

In resolution 1725 of 6 December 2006, the Council endorsed the proposal by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the AU to deploy a peacekeeping mission in Somalia. The AU established the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) expecting the mission to evolve into a UN operation, but a 20 April 2007 report by the Secretary-General indicated that the conditions to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation to replace AMISOM did not exist in Somalia (S/2007/204). In 2009, the Council took an unprecedented step in resolution 1872 by authorising the provision of a logistics support package funded by UN assessed contributions and channelled through the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA), established for this purpose in Nairobi, Kenya.

On 16 April 2008, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa chaired a high-level open debate on the need to strengthen the relationship between the UN and regional organisations in the maintenance of international peace and security (S/PV.5868). The meeting resulted in the adoption of resolution 1809, which recognised the need to “enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing regional organisations” when they undertake peacekeeping under UN authorisation.

To address the limitations of AU operations due to inadequate equipment and transport and other operational weaknesses, a 24 December 2008 report by a joint AU-UN panel came up with two main recommendations: the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund to support AU peacekeeping capacity and the use of UN assessed contributions to support UN-authorised AU operations on a case-by-case basis, provided the Security Council and General Assembly approved and there was an agreement that the mission would transition to UN management within six months (S/2008/813). The report was discussed in an 18 March 2009 open debate organised by Libya (S/PV.6092) and resulted in the adoption of a presidential statement (S/PRST/2009/3). The statement did not welcome the recommendations of the report, and requested the Secretary-General to submit another report with a detailed assessment of the recommendations, in particular those on financing. The second report (S/2009/470), released on 18 September 2009, was discussed in a 26 October 2009 debate organised by Viet Nam (S/PV.6206). In a presidential statement, the Council expressed “its intention to keep all options under consideration” regarding financing (S/PRST/2009/26).

The AU efforts to support UN peacekeeping were further discussed in a 22 October 2010 open debate organised by Uganda (S/PV.6409). A presidential statement noted that “the issue of securing sustainable, predictable and flexible financing remains a key challenge” (S/PRST/2010/21).

On 12 January 2012, at the request of South Africa, the Council held its most recent debate to date on regional partnerships in peacekeeping focused on Africa (S/PV.6702). The debate resulted in the adoption of resolution 2033, which requested the Secretary-General to conduct, in consultation with the AU, a comprehensive analysis of lessons learnt from practical cooperation between the UN and the AU, in particular with regard to UNAMID and AMISOM. Although the issue has not been discussed since, the Council has continued to rely on regional and subregional organisations to support peacekeeping efforts. In addition to the examples mentioned above, two African-led missions, led by the Economic Community of West African States and the AU respectively, were authorised by the Council to fill in temporarily for UN peacekeeping missions: the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR (MISCA). Discussions preceding and following their respective deployment focused on the need for logistical and financial support to ensure their operational capabilities.

Key Issues

A key issue is to ensure that the partnerships are effective at the strategic, operational and tactical level.

Another key issue for the Council is to devise an effective, sustainable and fair working relationship with regional organisations, compatible with the new tasks they are mandated to do.

A related issue is for African Council members to articulate any concerns African regional organisations may have over Council decisions and be proactive to draft Council outcomes on African and other issues.


Council members may adopt a resolution:

  • establishing a regular cycle of Council briefings on peacekeeping partnerships by the relevant actors;
  • encouraging its ad hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to meet more regularly on topics pertaining to the efforts of African-led initiatives in support of UN-mandated operations; and
  • requesting the Secretary-General to elaborate lessons learnt from practical cooperation between the UN and the AU, focusing on UNAMID and AMISOM, as well as the more recent example of AFISMA and MISCA.
Council and Wider Dynamics

With Africa currently taking up about 73.7 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget and the need to react in situations where a UN peacekeeping operation is not an option at a given moment for political, operational or financial reasons, Council members agree that partnerships with regional organisations in Africa and elsewhere are fundamental in maintaining international peace and security.

However, the AU position is to seek more parity in that partnership, to replace ad hoc arrangements with sustained financial and material support for UN-authorised missions and to make sure the Council takes AU perspectives into account when a UN peacekeeping mission takes over from African-led missions.

Some Council members have promoted an ad hoc approach in order to maintain the primacy of the Council and have advocated for the establishment of trust funds or bilateral cooperation as opposed to hybrid operations or African-led operations funded through UN assessed contributions.

UN Documents on Peacekeeping and Cooperation with Regional Organisations 
Security Council Resolutions
5 December 2013 S/RES/2127 This was a resolution that authorised MISCA and a French intervention force.
20 December 2012 S/RES/2085 This resolution authorised the deployment of AFISMA for an initial period of one year.
12 January 2012 S/RES/2033 This resolution called for elaboration of “further ways of strengthening relations between the two Councils” and asked the Secretary-General in consultation with the AU to conduct a comprehensive analysis of lessons learned from practical cooperation between the UN and the AU.
26 May 2009 S/RES/1872 This resolution renewed authorisation of AMISOM until 31 January 2010, approved its funding from assessed UN contributions and requested the Secretary-General to implement the phased approach recommended in his 16 April report.
16 April 2008 S/RES/1809 This resolution encouraged increased engagement between the AU and the UN and called on the UN Secretariat to develop a list of needed capacities and recommendations on ways that the AU could further develop its military, technical, logistic and administrative capabilities.
31 July 2007 S/RES/1769 This resolution created an African Union/UN hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
6 December 2006 S/RES/1725 This resolution authorised Intergovernmental Authority on Development Peace Support Mission to Somalia (IGASOM).
Security Council Presidential Statements
22 October 2010 S/PRST/2010/21 This presidential statement underscored the importance of developing effective partnerships between the United Nations and regional organizations, in particular the African Union.
26 October 2009 S/PRST/2009/26 This presidential statement reiterated the importance of a more effective strategic relationship between the UN and the AU, underlining the importance of expediting the implementation of the UN-AU Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme.
18 March 2009 S/PRST/2009/3 This was the presidential statement following the meeting on the AU-UN Panel’s report.
28 March 2007 S/PRST/2007/7 This was a presidential statement on relations between the UN and regional organisations, particularly the African Union.
Secretary-General’s Reports
29 December 2011 S/2011/805 This report of the Secretary-General concerned UN-AU cooperation in peace and security.
14 October 2010 S/2010/514 This report was on support for AU peacekeeping.
18 September 2009 S/2009/470 This was the Secretary-General’s report on support to AU peacekeeping operations authorised by the UN.
24 December 2008 S/2008/813 This was the letter from the Secretary-General forwarding the AU-UN panel report on how to support AU peacekeeping operations established under UN mandate to the Council president.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 January 2012 S/PV.6702 This was a meeting on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security.
21 June 2011 S/PV.6561 The Council was briefed (S/PV.6561) by the head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU), Zachary Muburi-Muita.
22 October 2010 S/PV.6409 This was an open debate at which the Secretary-General’s report on assistance to AU peacekeeping operations was discussed.
26 October 2009 S/PV.6206 This was a debate on the report of the AU-UN panel which covered modalities for support to AU peacekeeping operations.
18 March 2009 S/PV.6092 This was the debate on the AU-UN Panel’s report on modalities for support to AU operations.
16 April 2008 S/PV.5868 This was the debate combining the thematic issues of UN cooperation with regional organisations and conflict prevention and resolution, in particular in Africa.