Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Open Debate on UN-AU Cooperation

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 12, 2012


Thank you Mr. President. I want to thank the Secretary-General for his presence and remarks. Honorable ministers, Commissioner Lamamra, welcome. At the outset, I want to especially thank President Zuma for convening this important and timely debate. Excellencies, colleagues, the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union is important to both bodies and as the AU approaches its 10th anniversary, the time is ripe for considering what we have learned, where we are going, and what needs to be improved.

Collective African efforts at advancing peace and security on the continent have indeed come a long way since the OAU was founded in 1963. Since 2002, in particular, when the African Union succeeded the OAU, African governments have shown that, acting together, they can prevent conflict. The AU marked a new beginning with its doctrine of "non-indifference." The AU Charter recognizes that it might be necessary to intervene in the affairs of a member state, "in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity."  Those are brave and worthy words.

The African Union's first major mission was in Burundi, with initial deployment in April 2003. The African Union then acted responsibly in Darfur when other international actors were still hesitant, and the AU Mission in Sudan, AMIS, was operational in August 2004, before any other force. The AU was also active early on in pressing for peace between Sudan and South Sudan. President Mbeki's efforts continue to be valuable, and South Africa deserves praise for its leadership and dedication to peace in both Sudan and Burundi. Above all, the African Union has taken on a very tough mission in Somalia, where it has deployed troops to advance peace since 2007. AMISOM and the UN Political Office for Somalia have come a long way in developing their relationship and improving coordination.

All of these missions were undertaken with the collaboration of the international community, notably this Council, and sometimes with
subregional organizations such as IGAD. Recognizing the importance of the international community's engagement with the AU, the United States Mission to the African Union was established in 2006 and has been significantly strengthened since 2009. This is consistent with the Obama administration's overall policy of intensified engagement with regional organizations, including the OSCE, ASEAN and the Organization of American States. The United Nations has likewise strengthened its ties to regional organizations, notably after the General Assembly established the United Nations Office to the African Union in 2010.

Precisely because the relationship between the United Nations and the AU - and between the Security Council and the African Union's Peace and Security Council - is so important, we must confront the challenges facing this relationship forthrightly and honestly, if we are to make progress. The UN needs a strong African Union, and the African Union needs a strong United Nations. Yet, African Union member states have sometimes indicated that they feel ignored or disregarded by this Council. At the same time, some Security Council members feel African Union member states have not always provided unified or consistent views on key issues and that the African Union has on occasion been slow to act on urgent matters.

But beneath these perceptions and frustrations is a deeper issue, and that is: who is on first? Under the Charter, the Security Council has a unique, universal and primary mandate to maintain international peace and security. The Security Council is not subordinate to other bodies, nor to the schedules or capacities of regional or subregional groups. Nonetheless, the Security Council wants and needs to cooperate closely with regional organizations, as demonstrated by our growing collaboration with the African Union over nearly a decade. But such collaboration needs to be based upon the exigencies of the issue at hand. And this cooperation cannot be on the basis that the regional organization independently decides the policy and United Nations member states simply bless it and pay for it. There can be no blank check, politically or financially.

The Security Council should and will take into account the views of regional and subregional institutions, while recognizing that sometimes there is disagreement among them. For example, the positions of organizations such as ECOWAS or IGAD on an issue in their sub-region might not be exactly the same as the consensus view of the 54 member states of the African Union.

The United States urges the Security Council to seize this opportunity to define our relations with the African Union more precisely, so  that we can move forward together in better meeting the urgent challenges that confront us all. In that vein, let's be candid: the periodic
African Union-UN Security Council consultations have not thus far been altogether productive or satisfactory. If they cannot be  improved, they risk being jettisoned by one side or the other as not useful or worse. To make the UN-AU relationship more effective, we must do more than consider formalizing African Union-UN Security Council meetings. The meetings must prove their worth. The meetings must have set agendas and concrete priorities that lead to tangible improvements - not only in how we work together, but in how our work helps people in Africa and around the world.

Nonetheless, the opportunities for us to seize together are considerable. The European Union has set an example in its work to
strengthen the AU's peace and security architecture. In peacekeeping, the African Standby Force is being improved and shows promise. Bilaterally, the United States continues to train and equip African militaries for deployment in multilateral peacekeeping operations. The UN-AU Joint Task Force on Peace and Security is a valuable forum that can greatly contribute to better UN-AU cooperation on peace and security. The UN could assist further by standardizing training of peacekeepers. It could go further still in offering DPKO guidance to the AU, including through peacekeeping programs that give instruction on the rule of law, sexual and gender-based violence, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict. We would also welcome sustained collaboration on lessons learned and best practices.

It's also time for a formal lessons-learned exercise concerning UN-AU joint operations so far, including UNAMID and AMISOM. One lesson the United States and others learned in Bosnia is that joint command-and-control operations, or so-called "dual keys," do not
typically work well. Hybrid missions are very challenging at best. We need to analyze our experience in the field, discuss it, and agree on optimal mission structures linked to the objectives of the situation at hand. Recent UN-AU coordination in fighting the Lord's Resistance Army provides one positive example to consider.

The United Nations, for its part, could be more effective in Addis Ababa. The creation of UNOAU is a positive step, but the annual review of the UN agencies supporting the AU needs to improve. At present, no single UN office is in charge of UN efforts to assist the AU. This leads to unnecessary duplication. UN officials on the ground need stronger backing to streamline their own structures to better aid the African Union. This is definitely, however, a two-way street. For its part, the African Union should improve its internal management in the areas of administration, accounting, financial management and human resources. Improvements in these areas would help foster a more productive relationship on the ground in Addis Ababa and would energize progress on the UN-AU 10-Year Capacity Building Program. Key to this, as the AU Chairperson suggested in his report, is for the African Union to identify priorities. And the UN should be responsive to this. Since the program was established in 2006, far too little progress has been achieved through UN Delivering as One in its engagement with the African Union and Regional Economic Communities. The African Union and the United Nations have already agreed on a range of actions to strengthen their operational relationship. More must be done to galvanize
improvements at the programmatic and administrative levels.

Mr. President, South Africa has rightly emphasized conflict prevention and mediation in envisioning the future of AU peace and security
policies. An atrocity prevention framework should also be developed and African Union mediation efforts should be expanded. The role of women in conflict mediation has not advanced nearly enough, and the African Union should consider developing a regional action plan on women, peace and security.

As we approach the African Union's tenth anniversary, we should seize this milestone to take stock and consider where we're going. We all hope that the peace and security challenges in Africa will continue to lessen over time. Improved cooperation between the Security Council and the African Union is critical to that goal. I urge colleagues not only to laud progress but to acknowledge frankly the challenges to this cooperation and to devise concrete ways to match reality to our shared aspirations. I thank President Zuma again for convening this discussion.


PRN: 2012/004