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National statements

Peace Operations: The UN-AU Partnership and its Evolution

Thematic issues

  • Central Africa
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Conflict Prevention
  • Ebola
  • Human Rights
  • Mali
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Policing
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Rule of Law
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Terrorism


Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Thank you, Mr President, for this debate, for your own presence and for the contribution of Chad to peacekeeping.

I should say that I know we all share both shock and repugnance at the terrible murders in Pakistan. The empathy of all Australians is with the people of Pakistan.

I thank the Secretary-General and High Representative Buyoya for their briefings and efforts to strengthen the essential partnership between the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) on peace and security.

We stand at a critical juncture for peace operations globally. The landscape has changed profoundly from just a decade ago, with a record number of troops and police deployed, mostly in Africa; more robust mandates; and new and evolving threats, including terrorism and asymmetric conflict. Peace operations are under unprecedented strain – a reality recognised by the Secretary-General when he commissioned his high-level strategic review of peace operations. It is clear today that the UN and AU need each other more than ever.

Time and again the AU is stepping up, not only to keep peace on the continent, but to enforce it. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali troops have made impressive gains in liberating territory from Al Qaeda-affiliate Al Shabaab. In Mali and the Central African Republic, AU deployments have been vital in restoration of stability, and formed the core of UN missions that followed.

Such African leadership makes sense. The AU has demonstrated repeatedly its unique comparative advantages and strengths: knowledge of context, ability to deploy quickly and – critically – willingness to act robustly. But these situations have broader implications, and are the responsibility of course of all of us – of the whole international community. We should ensure the AU has the support it needs when putting African lives on the line to restore stability and protect civilians in places no one else can or will.

I will focus on the four challenges in the concept note.

The first is financing, a chronic challenge that we've not yet resolved. We need to look for innovative solutions to enhance the predictability, sustainability and flexibility of financing for AU missions authorised by the Council.

The AMISOM model – where the UN provides a logistical support package funded from assessed contributions – has worked well. But there is strong resistance within the Council to repeating it. So we need to be creative in seeking solutions. And to respond to an obvious need.

In the Central African Republic, we employed an innovative model of authorising UN support to the AU mission in the lead-up to transition. A dedicated UN support team was deployed. This model should be replicated.

UN trust funds for AU operations failed in Mali and the Central African Republic. But rather than dismissing this option, we need to look hard at why they failed. Would a standing trust fund, with clear, pre-established processes for quick disbursement, iron out problems?

Direct bilateral support will always be vital, particularly with airlift, equipment and training. But such assistance won't provide the required certainty, uniformity and coordination of support.

The long-term solution lies in the AU enhancing its ability to fund its own operations. It has demonstrated its capacity for innovation in raising funds to fight Ebola through private sector contributions and an SMS campaign.

My second point concerns managing transitions from AU to UN missions. We are getting better at this, with a much smoother transition in the Central African Republic than in Mali. We consulted better on the mandate. Operational planning and on-the-ground coordination was better. But grace periods to bring personnel up to UN standards weren't met. And there have been mixed results on deploying assets. The coordinated "lessons learned" exercise on transitions in these two cases will be an important resource. More generally, we need more joint UN-AU assessments and field visits.

My third point concerns facilitating rapid deployment. Speed of deployment is vital to protecting civilians, stopping human rights violations and halting descent into chaos. Days lost can be lives lost. Yet no one has got this right – as we see in the UN's struggle to reach authorised strengths in South Sudan and Mali.

The AU has shown that, working with the sub-regions, it can get personnel on the ground quickly. But they need the kit to do their job, and better command and control. We note the potential of the African Standby Force Rapid Deployment Capacity – which we must support – and the interim "African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises".

My fourth point concerns enhancing institutional collaboration. We very much agree with High Representative Buyoya's comment today that we need to anchor UN-AU engagement more strongly. It should be deepened at all levels: strategic, operational and tactical. Nowhere is this more important than between the executive bodies – the two Councils – which mandate peace operations. We need to be much more vigilant in following up the outcomes of annual joint consultative meetings. And we need more ad-hoc interaction. As Council President last month, I held an extensive discussion with my AU Peace and Security Council counterpart on our respective programs of work before we took up the President's role so that both of us had a sense of how we saw the agenda we share and how to respond to it.

The relationship between the UN and AU goes of course far beyond questions of resourcing. Exchange on such issues as protection of civilians and human rights – where the UN has built up experience over decades – is vital. We need to deepen engagement on conflict prevention, mediation and peacebuilding.

Today's Presidential Statement calls for greater UN-AU cooperation on policing – an area too often overlooked. Police peacekeepers play a key role in building capacity in the rule of law – essential for the transition out of peace operations. The adoption of Resolution 2185 during Australia's presidency last month has highlighted the policing role. The establishment of a formal AU counterpart to the UN Police Adviser would facilitate greater engagement, including on guidance and training.

To conclude, we are confident the Secretary-General's current high-level review panel on peacekeeping operations will look creatively, with fresh eyes, at the challenges being discussed today. The panel should engage closely with the AU and sub-regions, and make bold recommendations to strengthen the UN-AU partnership on peace operations – a partnership which is so decisive for peace and security in Africa.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 10 June 2015
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