Notes following Briefing on South Africa’s Presidency of the UN Security Council by Ambassador George Nene, Wednesday 2 April, Union Buildings, Pretoria

Ladies and gentlemen. 

Our briefing today is about the Security Council.  South Africa holds the rotating monthly Presidency of the United Nations Security Council during April 2008. In this capacity, South Africa is responsible for helping to prepare the agenda of the Council for the month in consultation with other Council members, chairing meetings of the Security Council, help 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.

Yesterday, South Africa convened a meeting in New York of the coordinators of the delegations of the Security Council to discuss the programme of work for April. Copies of the provisional programme will be distributed and will also shortly be available on the website of the Security Council. The programme is regarded as ‘provisional’ as, in accordance with Security Council practice, it is subject to change at any time.

The purpose of this media briefing is to provide information on the issues before the Security Council this month and in particular on South Africa’s thematic debate on efforts to strengthen 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:

As you would recall, the theme of South Africa’s first Presidency of the Security Council in March 2007 was: “The relationship between the UN and regional organisations – and in particular the African Union – in terms of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter”. A decision was taken at that time to carry this theme through for the duration of South Africa’s two-year term on the Council. Consequently, the same theme holds for our Presidency of the Council this month.

In an effort to consolidate complementary themes relevant to Africa that are explored in the Security Council, South Africa is also linking the topic of cooperation between the UN and the African Union to the issue of conflict resolution in Africa.

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

  • Firstly, on 16 April 2008, the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council will hold a joint meeting, at ambassadorial level, in New York.
  • Secondly, President Mbeki has extended invitations to 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 on 17 April 2008 at the UN Security Council Chambers in New York.

Joint Meeting between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (16 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 16 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.

Security Council Summit on 17 April:

The meeting of the Security Council that President Mbeki will chair on 17 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. African countries that are on the agenda of the Security Council will be afforded an opportunity to share their impressions of the UN and AU’s conflict prevention and resolution efforts and the general UN membership will reflect on how best to strengthen cooperation between the UN and regional organisations.

As you may know this is the first effort of this nature and I think it goes according to the theme of the President’s State of the Nation address.  That we hope from now on the UN Security Council when it considers issues on the continent reflecting from their experiences of the 17th will be able to do a better job than it has been before.

The debate will therefore 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.

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.

Addendum A:  Countries Invited to the UN Security Council Summit:


Burkina Faso
Costa Rica
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States of America


Burkina Faso
Democratic Republic of Congo


Central African Republic
Cote d’Ivoire
Republic of Congo
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic
Sierra Leone


Question: Ambassador I get a sense that we continue with, yes as noble as that may be, the issue of highlighting the situation in Africa.  Would there be by any chance while we are on this theme at the United Nations raise the issue of Zimbabwe or are we just hoping that it’s going to resolve itself within the next few days?

Answer:  When we went into the Security Council one of our priority mandates was to ensure that issues that are of importance to countries of the South, particularly Africa are issues that do not fall behind the agenda of the Security Council.  So that the Security Council should not only attend to them, but add value to efforts that the African continent through its structures have engaged on.  So there is no way that we cannot continue until the 31st of December and beyond, as we’ve done before, to highlight the situation in Africa. 

Now Zimbabwe is not on the Security Council.  And up till now there are no moves to put it on the Security Council.  So I don’t think our presidency will have any reason to refer to the Zimbabwe political process as it unfolds.

Question: Sir, if you can perhaps just give us a bit more information regarding the deployment of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur.  There have been many problems and hold-ups with that, and where are we at the moment? Thanks.

Answer:  The deployment of the hybrid force.  There is no political unwillingness as far as we know from the UN and also from Khartoum.  It is just fraught with a lot of technicalities.  And the Security Council continues to urge the Secretariat and both sections that deal with peace-keeping, either the UN and AU, to ensure that the deployment as agreed between the two bodies, that is the United Nations and the Sudanese government, is facilitated the sooner the better.  Because the more it gets delayed, the more we have outbreaks of violence that necessarily do not build confidence to the process that is underway.

That is why in my statement we say that the international community is concerned and will continue to closely monitor the situation in Darfur.  But it is not part of the agenda as agreed yesterday by the members of the Security Council.  Darfur is not part of the Security Council agenda for this month.

Question: Just on the funding for, amongst others, the African stand-by force, are we looking hopefully to see something concrete come out of this so that there can be the strengthening of the force.  So that they can move in as you said timeously in areas where there needs to be peacekeeping?

Answer:  Let me start by saying why chose this theme last year.  We chose this theme last year because we are one of those countries in the continent that have deployed huge resources financial and otherwise throughout the continent.  And we know that the continent may have the political will to contribute. As we have seen that sometimes you find Burundi saying they are contributing forces.  Countries that may not have the wherewithal.

But the maintenance of international peace and security basically is a mandate of the United Nations Security Council through Chapter Eight.  So sometimes you find that it’s either they come into the picture a bit late.  Sometimes they don’t come.  So we took a decision as South Africa to highlight this issue again.  It has been discussed before in the UN.  But we’ve upped the stakes now where we think there should be a resolution of the Security Council.  As you know resolutions of the Security Council are binding. 

So we hope that should the Heads of States that will attend the Summit.  It is a mini-Summit because we are not calling everybody, as I’ve indicated to you.  Should the mini-summit manage to convince the 15 members of the Council then the majority of them, if not all of them, will support the resolution. Which will then be an instrument that the Security Council, with the resources of the UN, will then be able in a structured and continuous cooperation with the AU continue to assist in all our efforts to see a continent free of conflict, or less conflict.

Question: Just on the concern to the response to the Middle East.  If you can just elaborate on that.  What would South Africa want to see?

Answer:  Well there are many processes that, as you know, have been dealing with the issue of the Middle East.  Whether it’s the Quartet with its Road Map.  Whether it’s the Arab initiative.  Whether it’s individual initiatives as the spear initiative by our President.  So there are many initiatives.  But the Security Council has a particular responsibility, as I said.  It is its mandate to ensure stability, that international peace and stability prevails. 

And the Middle East is one of those areas that has been dogging the Security Council and international community for years now.  That is why the Middle East issue is on the agenda of every month of the Security Council.  So we are all yearning for a day when we can say, the dreams of both Israel and Palestine are realised and both can live side by side in secured borders.  Generally that is what we would like to see. 

We want to see the international community really galvanising its resources and moving with all the other efforts that are there because I don’t think they are counterproductive.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

2 April

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