Opening Remarks by Deputy Minister Sue Van der Merwe at the Roundtable Discussion With Members of the AU/UN Panel, 27 October 2008, Pretoria

Your Excellency, Dr. Romano Prodi
Distinguished Members of the African Union-United Nations Panel
Ladies and Gentleman

It is my honour to welcome Dr. Romano Prodi, the Chairman, and other members of the African Union-United Nations Panel to South Africa.  South Africa is pleased that the Panel was created following the important debate in the United Nations Security Council early this year.  Resolution 1809 gave you a challenging task.  We are, however, convinced that your commitment, expertise and diplomatic skills will make it easy for you to achieve your objectives.

Resolution 1809 again reaffirmed the international community’s belief in the vital contribution of regional organisations to the maintenance of international peace and security.  It also recognized the limitations that some of these organisations face. It is in this context that the Panel has been mandated to consider in-depth the modalities of how to support peacekeeping operations undertaken by regional organizations, in particular start-up funding, equipment and logistics.

As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, South Africa has sought to promote a closer relationship between the United Nations and the African Union.  We believe that the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security remains with the United Nations Security Council.  Chapter VIII of the Charter provides for regional organizations to play an important role towards this end, understanding that AU undertakes its peacekeeping missions in Africa essentially on behalf of the international community as a whole.

Africa has taken its role seriously and deployed operations in Burundi, Darfur, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In many instances, African operations have been followed by the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping operations including through the re-hatting of African peacekeepers. We hold the view that Africa’s mediation, peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts support the objectives of the United Nations and the Security Council in particular.  It is for the reason therefore that we believe that sustainable mechanisms have to be found to support these activities.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Supporting the development of an African peacekeeping capacity has been on the agenda of the United Nations for more than a decade.  Under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his two predecessors, the United Nations has made significant strides towards supporting Africa’s peace and security efforts.  The Organization has undertaken training programmes, shared best practices, exchanged and seconded staff, and provided technical advice to African countries and organizations.  It recently provided short-term assistance to African operations in Darfur and Somalia where Africa deployed with the understanding that the operations will be replaced by the United Nations. 

The 2005 World Summit at the UN General Assembly called for the implementation of a ten-year plan for capacity-building with the African Union.  As a result of this there is ongoing cooperation between the Secretariats of the AU and the UN.  However, notwithstanding these and other welcome efforts, it has become clear that African peace operations are constrained by a lack of predictable, sustainable and flexible financing.  United Nations capacity-building efforts have remained largely ad-hoc as it has had to rely heavily on voluntary contributions. Therefore we cannot over-emphasise the work of this Panel.        

The United Nations Secretariat has three main ways of obtaining funds.  They are the regular budget, the peacekeeping budgets and voluntary contributions.  Assessed contributions through the regular and peacekeeping budgets are generally viewed as more predictable sources of funding.  They are subjected to rigorous oversight processes and scrutinized by the General Assembly.  Voluntary contributions are managed through trust funds and these are numerous.  The United Nations in 1993 created a trust fund to finance activities aimed at enhancing African peacekeeping capacity.  The fund unfortunately has proved to be insufficient and unsustainable. So rather than a trust fund, providing funding for United Nations capacity-building efforts and African peacekeeping operations from assessed United Nations contributions would thus seems to be the most reliable option.  We therefore hope that the Panel will explore this and other options in detail. 

We will recall that as a result of the 2005 World Summit, the General Assembly created the Peacebuilding Fund, which has proved to be a very flexible and responsive funding mechanism. The Assembly also upgraded the Central Emergency Revolving Fund to the Central Emergency Response Fund by adding a grant element to the loan facility.  Both funds have exceeded their initial targets for funding and attracted contributions from traditional and non-traditional donors.  It may be worth exploring similar mechanisms to support capacity-building efforts and the development of the African Peace and Security Architecture, and certainly a concrete proposal in this regard would be welcome.

The panel may wish also to consider exploring the possibility that we as African countries would be able to contribute to this mechanism as well.  While our contributions may not be financial, there are creative ways in which African countries could be engaged to contribute. 

Ladies and gentleman,

Africa is often being called upon to act as a first responder by laying the ground work for a broader United Nations involvement.  However, without sustained support to these regional operations, the international community will not be able to develop the “interlocking system of peacekeeping capacities” that former Secretary General Kofi Annan believed would enable the United Nations to respond better to global peace and security challenges. 

Ladies and Gentlemen

Because of the importance with which we view the work of this panel and its outcomes, we believe that it is imperative that this process receive the support and endorsement of all the important opinion makers in the system.  For this reason I would like to suggest that it may be necessary, in addition to the consultation that have already taken place in Addis Ababa and New York, that working meetings be conducted in Brussels, London and Washington, so that the contents of the panel’s report can be tested amongst the widest range of opinion makers.  We would like to see the fruits of your efforts receive the widest level of support, understanding that this report will provide bold new initiatives in support of international peacekeeping operations.

We have high expectations of the work of the Panel and I trust that today’s roundtable discussion will enrich your work.

I thank you.
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