Home / Events / ISS Seminar Report: The AU Report on AU and UN partnership
ISS Seminar Report: The AU Report on AU and UN partnership
Date: 27 March 2012
Venue: , ISS Addis Ababa, 5th Floor, Get House Building, Africa Avenue, Bole, Addis Ababa

Presented by the Peace and Security Council Report Programme (PRP) of Conflict Management and Risk Analysis Division, Addis Ababa  

Chairperson: Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Regional Director, ISS Addis Ababa


  • H.E. Dr. Monicah Juma, Ambassador of Kenya to Ethiopia, PR to the AU and ECA, Chairperson of the PSC for the Month of January 2012
  • H.E. Ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita, SRSG and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union
  • Dr Kambudzi Admore Mupoki, Secretary of the Peace and Security Council, African Union Commission
  • Dr. Solomon A. Dersso, Senior Researcher, Peace and Security Council Report Programme, ISS Addis Ababa

On 9 January 2012, the Chairperson of the AU Commissioner Jean Ping submitted, report on his vision of the AU-UN Partnership to the AU Peace and Security Council in accordance with the decision of the 16th session of the AU Assembly. The 36 pages long report entitled, `Towards Greater Strategic and Political Coherence`, comprehensively articulated the perspective of the AU on the question of `What is the appropriate consultative decision-making framework, division of labor and burden-sharing that should be put in place?

As part of its work on the relationship between the AUPSC and the UNSC and following on the two seminars it held in 2011, the Peace and Security Council Report Programme of the ISS Addis Ababa convened a seminar to discuss the content of the report, it`s outcome and the implications of its proposal on the role of regional organizations, on the AU System, and the ongoing debate on the reform of the UNSC. The seminar brought together a panel of speakers representing perspectives from policy, research and practice.

The seminar was opened and chaired by the Regional Director of the ISS Addis Ababa, Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya. In his remarks, the Director, reflected on the expanding scope of the AU-UN partnership and on the issues affecting the partnership, including the outstanding question of the level and status of the partnership. Speaking on the report, the Director noted some crucial questions such as the issue of whose interest African members of the UNSC represent. The Regional Director concluded his opening remarks by thanking the invited guests for accepting the invitation and participating speakers for sharing their wealth of knowledge and expertise at this event.

The seminar offered an opportunity to have a close analysis and review of the contents and proposals of the report and it`s outcomes. As envisaged in the report, the question of the adequacy of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter to regulate the full scope of the ever expanding roles and responsibilities of the AU in the maintenance of peace and security in Africa received attention both in the presentations and interactive discussions. In this context, one important issue raised was the implication of this on the question of the primacy of the UNSC in the maintenance of international peace and security. It was noted that the UNSC is indeed bestowed with primacy under the 1945 UN Charter. However, questions were raised on whether the claim of the members of the Council was legitimate. It was indicated that a claim for primacy, to be legitimate, should be accompanied by an appropriate level of responsibility and the willingness to implement such responsibilities. As one of the speakers noted, as far as African issues are concerned the claim for primacy is not aligned with responsiveness. Another speaker argued that when the AU acts to resolve conflicts under conditions in which the UNSC should have acted, but failed to do so, it should be regarded as acting on behalf of the UNSC. The lack of responsiveness on the part of the UNSC can be rectified through reflecting properly the decisions and views of the PSC in its decisions and structured consultations and coherent decisions, as well as devolving resources to the AU.

Both in the speakers` presentations and during the discussion, apart from the lack of an institutionalised framework for consultative-decision making as highlighted in the report, it was noted that differences in perspectives, approaches and institutional culture undermine the achievement of strategic level partnership and political coherence. This is further compounded by power dynamics in the UNSC, the concern of some in the P5 of the erosion of their preeminent position of holding ultimate power on matters of international peace and security and their reluctance to allow any significant change in the way the UNSC undertakes its activities and interacts with others. It was also noted that more often than not it is considerations of geo-strategy, national interest, oil, power and influence rather than values, principles and norms that carry weight in UNSC decisions. Additionally, the impact of colonial or neo-colonial type tendencies particularly, on the side of some members of the P5 and Cold War type big power rivalries and their impact on the partnership was highlighted.

Reference was made to the case of Libya to illustrate the disastrous consequences of the incoherence between the AU and the UN. While the lack of robustness of AU PSC communiquàƒÂ©s on Libya was admitted, the seminar revealed the vulnerability of Africa`s position to be overtaken and undermined by actions of members of the UNSC with grave consequences to regional peace and security.   

In terms of the outcome of the Chairperson`s report, while Resolution 2033 was hailed as registering some qualitative improvement elevating the status of the partnership, attention was also drawn to the lack of clarity on the framework for implementing consultations and to outstanding differences between the two organisations on major normative and policy issues, including what constitutes a threat to peace and security and differences on peacekeeping doctrine. However, the commitment of the Secretary-General to a strategic and structured partnership between the UN and the AU was noted. The establishment of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU) and the proposals in Secretary General`s report to the UNSC were cited as tangible manifestations of this commitment. The various levels of interaction, most notably at the level of the Secretariat and the Commission and their increasing role in shaping the policy cohesion of the PSC and the UNSC, have been illustrated both by Resolution 2033 and Resolution 2036.

In the light of the fact that Africa accounts for two-thirds of the agenda of the UNSC and does not have a veto-holding member in the Council, the importance of establishing consultative decision-making, devolving resources and achieving a shared political strategy, as articulated in the Chairperson`s report, are seen as invaluable avenues to give Africa a voice and it`s deserved place in the international system. This is particularly so in respect to African matters, at least until the structural democratic deficit of the UNSC is rectified through the reform of the UNSC within the framework of the Ezuliweni Consensus, whose reaffirmed in the Chairperson`s report.

The implications of the Chairperson`s report on the AU system were also discussed. First, the need for addressing the human resources gaps and the resulting inadequacies in the capacities of the AU Commission and notably the members of the AUPSC, was highlighted. Second, it was noted that the report challenges African states to address their failure to speak with one voice and to channel the required level of political and material investment to implement the decisions of the Union. Third, the seminar emphasized that the lack of cohesion between Addis Ababa and AU member states in New York needs to be fixed. In this regard the value of expanding the mandate and capacities of the AU office in New York was underscored. Fourth, there is also the need to address the question of what obligations African members of the UNSC bear to support African positions that were taken through established policy making bodies such as the AU Assembly and the PSC. Fifth, the imperative of achieving a strategic partnership with the UN also encumbers the policy-making bodies of the AU, most notably the PSC with the responsibility to take timely and robust decisions. Finally, the need for African governments to speak and take appropriate action against their peers that turn guns against their own people was underscored. 

Although it is not overtly admitted, it was noted that both organisations need each other and this mutual dependency will continue to shape the nature and depth of the partnership. However, it was emphasized that there is also a need to give due recognition to the changes on the ground. To realize the changes envisaged under Resolution 2033 and to achieve genuine partnership, the importance of pitching the relationship at the strategic level was underscored. The imperative of addressing conceptual, normative, doctrinal differences and achieving clarity on divisions of labour and burden sharing was also identified.

Concluding remarks were made by Dr Duke Kent Brown, Program Head of the Peace and Security Council Programme of the ISS, Addis Ababa, in which he acknowledged the Humanity United whose support made the seminar possible and recognized the support of the Governments of the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He also praised the success of the seminar and thanked the Addis Ababa staff for their contribution to the success of the seminar. 

Compiled by Dr. Solomon A. Dersso, Senior Researcher, Peace and Security Council Report Programme, ISS Addis Ababa.

Please note that discussions occur under ISS Rules.  Participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed without his/her express permission.


ISS Addis Ababa
5th Floor
Get House Building
Africa Avenue
Addis Ababa

Dr Solomon A. Dersso
Tel (+251) 011-515- 6320
Your comments
comments powered by Disqus