Remarks at the Adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2320 on Cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union

Ambassador Isobel Coleman
U.S. Representative to the UN for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
November 18, 2016


Thank you, Foreign Minister, for convening this very important session and to Senegal for your leadership on peacekeeping in general. And also, thank you so much to our briefers today, Assistant Secretary Wane and Special Representative Menkerios, High Representative Dr. Kaberuka, and Ambassador Antonio. Today marks a significant milestone after many months – in fact, after many years – of discussions on ways the United Nations and the African Union can work together to build an even stronger partnership to address collective threats to peace and security.

While the UN Charter entrusts the Security Council with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the AU has been an indispensable partner in responding to crises on the African continent, often deploying its troops and police in some of the most challenging and urgent threat environments. Recall the early days of Mali, in 2013, when African troops rapidly self-deployed overland as part of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, in some cases with only the most basic equipment; or in the Central African Republic in 2013, where the African-led operation, despite lacking logistical support to deploy outside of the capital, contained the spread of violence; or in Somalia, where brave AU-led forces have helped transform a country once associated with state failure into one where earnest state-building efforts are underway.

Together, the AU and the UN have partnered to try to address these crises, a reflection of shared responsibilities for restoring peace and security. But in looking back on these past missions and the UN-AU partnership more broadly, I think we can agree on two truths. The first is that these kinds of operations, unfortunately, are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. To the contrary, more than a dozen sub-Saharan countries now are confronting threats from violent extremists, while civil war and unrest continue to threaten civilians in places like South Sudan, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The second truth – and what this resolution affirms today – is the need to strengthen the financial and operational underpinnings of the UN-AU partnership to better support African-led peace operations. Ad hoc arrangements, cobbled together whenever crises arise, are not a recipe for success – nor a good use of resources – which is why President Obama pledged during his July 2015 visit to AU headquarters in Addis Ababa to help develop a new partnership that would “transform how we work together to promote peace and security in Africa.”

AU High Representative Donald Kaberuka has spearheaded this strategic effort by advancing plans to operationalize the AU Peace Fund and to fulfill the AU’s commitment to self-finance 25 percent of the cost of AU-led peace operations by 2020. In July 2016, at the AU Summit in Kigali, AU heads of state took a historic decision endorsing Dr. Kaberuka’s plans. This significant commitment not only builds towards African “self-reliance,” in the AU’s own words, and ownership over African operations, and but is integral to a broader AU effort to ensure the AU and its Member States are in charge of their own destiny, including the use of its funds. The decision also sets an important cornerstone for advancing the AU-UN partnership, by setting out operational, human rights, and conduct frameworks to strengthen AU policies and procedures.

We recognize that the UN peacekeepers are not always best positioned to respond to a crisis in Africa, especially when there is no peace to keep or armed groups threaten civilians. But we also recognize that the AU does not have sufficient capacity – in part because of insufficient and unreliable international support – to respond effectively on its own. A stronger UN-AU partnership promises to leverage the comparative advantages of each for the benefit of all in the pursuit of peace and security across the continent. To realize the full potential of this partnership, more work needs to be done to build mutual trust, enhance complementarity, and put in place new ways of working. I’d like to focus on three factors that will be critical to “get right” for this partnership to reach its potential.

The first factor is upfront mission planning, which my colleague from New Zealand has already highlighted. In cases where the Security Council is considering authorizing support for an AU-led operation under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter as the most effective way to respond to a crisis, the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council must work closely together from the outset. This requires consultations between the AU PSC and the UN Security Council, the deployment of a joint UN-AU assessment team to evaluate the political, security, humanitarian, and human rights situations on the ground, and joint planning – including on the strategic concept, the concept of operations, force generation, and cost implications. Success will be enhanced by making sure that UN experts with critical experience and know-how, including financial and procurement expertise, are fully integrated into these planning stages. This will ensure that both councils are working together to build the backbone of a mission that both institutions can support.

The second success factor is a fully implemented set of AU human rights and conduct and discipline compliance policies. This includes putting in place rigorous procedures for troop and police screening and selection, training, monitoring, reporting, independent investigations, and holding perpetrators of violations and misconduct accountable. These measures are critical for harmonizing the AU’s policies and practices with international legal obligations and standards, so that both the AU and the UN have clear systems to prevent abuses and misconduct and to promote accountability if and when allegations arise.

The third factor is ongoing mission evaluation and reporting. Meaningful mission evaluation requires joint evaluation and benchmarking exercises throughout the duration of a mission. In this way, the AU PSC and the UN Security Council would be informed of the progress made towards achieving the mission mandate and able to make recommendations for adjusting the mandate as needed. It also would require regular reporting by the AU to the AU PSC and the Security Council on its implementation of the mission’s mandate and compliance with the AU’s own human rights and conduct and discipline policies. Such reporting would include allegations human rights abuses, international humanitarian law transgressions, and conduct and discipline issues, and actions taken by the AU and troop and police contributing countries in response to allegations. This transparency would demonstrate the commitment of the AU and its troop and police contributing countries to upholding human rights, and would serve as a critical step in achieving accountability for actions that undermine the legitimacy of peacekeeping and prey upon vulnerable populations.

Taken together, these three factors would form the foundation for a future partnership that we all have a strong, collective interest in seeing built. These factors should be addressed in the AU and UN’s implementation details requested in the resolution to be adopted today, along with specific benchmarks and steps that will be taken to ensure the AU Peace Fund is consistent with member state World Trade Organization obligations. Ultimately, to achieve these three elements, we will need to shake ourselves out of old biases and routines, and work hand-in-hand to build this foundation together. Otherwise, we risk needlessly losing more lives because the institutional status quo prevailed. The stakes for the AU’s courageous peacekeepers – and for the vulnerable civilians that they protect – are simply too high.

Thank you.