President Thabo Mbeki to preside over UN Security Council Summit, Wednesday 16 April 2008

New York- President Thabo Mbeki supported by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will on Wednesday 16 April at the UN Headquarters in New York, preside over the Summit of the UN Security Council to discuss the “Relationship between the UN and Regional Organisations, in particular the AU in the maintenance of international peace and security.

President Mbeki’s chairpersonship of the UN Security Council comes within the context of South Africa’s presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of April. This is the second time South Africa chairs the UN Security Council having done so last year in March 2007 under the leadership of Minister Dlamini Zuma.

As President of the UN Security Council, South Africa is expected to help to prepare the agenda of the Council for the month in consultation with other Council members, chairing meetings of the Security Council, guide the Council to decisions on a range of issues on its agenda and act as the Council's official contact point for other UN Member States, the media and civil society. The Presidency also offers an opportunity to promote a theme that is of particular regional or national importance.

Accordingly, South Africa’s thematic debate for this month focuses on strengthening the relationship between the United Nations and regional organisations, in particular the African Union, in the maintenance of international peace and security.

South Africa’s Theme:

The theme of South Africa’s first Presidency of the Security Council in March 2007 under the leadership of Minister Dlamini Zuma was: “The relationship between the UN and regional organisations – and in particular the African Union – in terms of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter”.  We have thus made a decision to carry through this theme through for the duration of South Africa’s two-year term on the Council which ends later this year.

In this regard, South Africa links the issue of cooperation between the UN and the African Union to conflict resolution efforts in the continent of Africa.

Two special events are planned for this month in this regard:

  • Firstly, President Mbeki has extended invitations to a number of Heads of State and Government of those countries i) that currently serve on the UN Security Council ii) that are members of the AU Peace and Security Council and iii) African countries that are on the agenda of the UNSC to an open debate to be held, tomorrow 16 April 2008 at the UN Security Council Chambers in New York.
  • Secondly, on 17 April 2008, the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council will hold a joint meeting, at ambassadorial level, in New York, which will also be attended by Minister Dlamini Zuma.

Security Council Summit on 16 April:

The meeting of the Security Council that President Mbeki will chair on 16 April will see a continuation of this discussion, but at a higher political level and inside the Council chambers in the presence of the wider UN membership.

In this regard, African countries whose issues feature on the agenda of the Security Council will be afforded an opportunity to share their experiences of the UN and AU’s conflict prevention and resolution efforts, while the general UN membership have the opportunity will reflect on how best to strengthen cooperation between the UN and regional organisations.

Thus far, we have received confirmation of high-level participation from the following:

  • The Presidents of Côte d’Ivoire, 
  • President of the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • President of Somalia
  • Vice President of Botswana
  • Vice President of Panama
  • Prime Minister of Ethiopia
  • Prime Minister of the UK
  • Prime Minister of Italy
  • The Chairperson of the African Union 
  • Former Prime Minister of Algeria
  • Foreign Ministers of Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Indonesia
  • Deputy Ministers of Egypt, Vietnam, Belgium and France

The debate will be an opportunity to address, amongst others, the following:

  • The complex nature of some current conflicts and the need to respond timeously to threats to peace, taking into account factors such as the capacity and, at times, the limitations of regional organisations.
  • Resolution of conflicts that require a strengthened international peace and security architecture, underpinned by an enhanced relationship between the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, and regional organisations.
  • Continual review on how best to maximise the relationship between the UN and regional organisations, in particular the African Union.
  • An exchange of views on ways to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible resources for Regional Organisations, in particular the African Union, to carry out the mandates of maintaining international peace and security.

The specific outcome we have in mind from this meeting is a new Security Council resolution that would endorse recommendations made by the UN Secretary-General in his recently released report on the cooperation between the UN and regional organisations and in particular the AU. The report inter alia addresses the role of regional organisations in international peace and security, division of responsibilities with the UN, coordination and consultation mechanisms, financing, conflict prevention and mediation, support to peace building and post-conflict reconstruction.

On the critically important issue of funding the Secretary-General proposes “setting up within the next three months an African Union-United Nations panel consisting of distinguished persons to consider in depth the modalities of how to support, including financing, peacekeeping operations undertaken by regional organisations, in particular as related to start-up funding, equipment and logistics, and make concrete recommendations.”

We will be urging the Security Council members therefore to support this proposal of a high-level panel to explore the issue of resources.

Joint Meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (17 April 2008)

This will be a follow-up to the meeting between the two Councils that was held in Addis Ababa in June 2007 when South Africa and the United Kingdom co-led a Security Council delegation to Africa. The meeting takes place at the UN Headquarters in New York on 17 April.

This meeting will be a visible sign of the willingness of the UN and AU to work together in the interests of international peace and security. The underlying logic behind this cooperation is one of comparative advantage. There are some things that the Security Council does best and there are other things that regional and sub-regional bodies with their knowledge of local dynamics and on-the-ground conditions are better placed to advance. The potential for conflict resolution and cooperation is increased when the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations have a clear understanding of their respective roles.

The joint AU/UN meeting on the 16th is therefore an opportunity to exchange views on how best to maximise the relationship between the UN Security Council and regional organisations – in particular the AU - and on specific measures to further cooperation in the fields of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and conflict management. The focus here would be on issues such as mediation support, utilising the good offices of the UN and AU, early warning systems and support for the AU’s Panel of the Wise.

A particularly important topic for discussion at a time when the African Union has committed forces to large and complex peacekeeping operations in Darfur and elsewhere, is how best to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible funding and other resources as well as capacity building for regional peacekeeping operations. You would recall, in this regard, that the African Union has appealed to the UN for financial and logistical assistance to maintain and strengthen its peace activities and that African leaders seek predictable funding for regional peacekeeping activities through the UN regular budget.

Measures to enhance support for the African Standby Force, including early planning and the start-up phase for operations and logistical support could be discussed and there would also be a need to consider measures to enhance peace building and post-conflict stabilisation, recovery and reconstruction processes.

It is our hope that the two Councils will issue a joint communiqué at the end of this discussion on cooperation between the UN and the AU and the strengthening of coordination and consultation mechanisms, as well as on specific conflict situations in Africa.

Other issues on the Agenda of the Security Council for April 2008:

The mandates of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which helps to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South, and the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) will expire and are subject to renewal. South Africa strongly supports the mandates of both missions and hopes to see them renewed.

With regard to Sudan, the Security Council will also be closely monitoring the situation in Darfur and the status of deployment of the UN/AU mission (UNAMID). The international community continues to be concerned about the situation in Darfur and attaches great importance to the full deployment of UNAMID.

In the case of Western Sahara, there is a need to support the negotiations between POLISARIO and Morocco.

South Africa is of the view that more needs to be done to support the Middle East peace process and is concerned by the Security Council’s lack of response to recent developments in that region.

The Security Council will also receive briefings from the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on the UN Missions to Georgia and Kosovo.  I thank you.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa at 082-990-4853

Department of Foreign Affairs
P/Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

15 April 2008

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