Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional Organisations
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
7 August 2013
Thank you for Argentina’s initiative in convening this important debate and of course for your own presence here today.
Thank you also to the Secretary-General and today’s briefers. And welcome to Ambassador Power.
To understand the importance of the partnership between the UN and regional and subregional organisations we only need look to situations currently on the Council’s agenda; Somalia; Mali; the DRC – all involve essential cooperation between the UN and such organisations.
From Australia’s experience in our own region, the Asia Pacific, we understand implicitly the comparative advantage that regional organizations can bring to conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace building.
And fully subscribe to the complementarity of the roles of regional organisations and the UN in containing threats to peace and security.
In 2011, we saw ASEAN’s successful response to tensions on the Thai-Cambodia border – a commendable regional approach to de-escalate a potentially serious dispute
And last month we in the Pacific celebrated the tenth anniversary of the successful Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands – to which each of the 16 members of the Pacific Islands Forum contributed – and which was decisive in the recovery of Solomon Islands from conflict.
The role of regional organisations was of course set out 68 years ago in Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, but they are now playing an increasingly instrumental role – in a much more complex environment – and have enhanced their engagement with the UN by necessity.
We have seen this most clearly with the AU and African subregional organisations. The UN retains primacy, but as Ambassador Tekedu Alemu speaking for the AU said this morning, “The UN needs a strong AU. And the AU needs a strong UN.”
This trajectory of cooperation will only continue.
I would like to briefly focus on three issues we believe are central to this partnership.
First, the need for respective roles to be based on comparative advantages.
The Council will have its most fruitful engagement with organisations that have both the mandate and capacity to work on international peace and security issues.
For example, as the Pacific responded to the crisis in the Solomon Islands, the fact that the relevant regional organisation – the Pacific Islands Forum –already had in place the Biketawa Declaration of 2000 which set out a framework for a collective response to regional crises, was instrumental.
The comparative advantages of regional and subregional organisations are clear. As others have mentioned this morning, they have:
- deeper knowledge of context
- cultural understanding
- an inherent political interest in staying the course
- and geographic proximity.
These factors all contributed to success in the Solomon Islands.
The benefit of playing to comparative advantage is clearly applicable to some current major challenges.
In Somalia, the AU has a comparative advantage in peace operations, while the UN, through UNSOM, brings critical skills in post-conflict stabilisation and governance.
In the Sudans, the AU plays a central mediation role, de-escalating tensions and keeping the parties talking, which the UN peacekeeping operations support in various ways.
The important point is that each organisation plays to its relative strengths.
Second: strengthening dialogue, exchange and capacity building.
This is vital to enhance coordination.
And ensure that organisations at all levels benefit from best practices.
The UN has extensive experience on peacekeeping best practices – as these evolve, they should be conveyed to relevant regional organisations.
Again, the UN’s dialogue, exchange and capacity building is most structured and advanced with the AU as its own architecture has evolved to meet the peace and security challenges on the continent.
This cooperation can point us to practices which may be relevant to other regional organisations – recognising, of course, that one size does not fit all.
This exchange must of course be a two-way street: there is much the UN can learn from regional and subregional organisations.
Third: partnerships on thematic, human rights and humanitarian issues.
The Council has recognised the key role regional and subregional organisations play in:
- affirming the role of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and humanitarian response;
- ensuring the protection of children affected by armed conflict; and
- ensuring that the protection of civilians is intrinsic to peacekeeping efforts.
Today’s PRST embracing – as it must – close cooperation between the UN and regional organisations on these key thematic issues.
We also welcome the Council’s recognition that regional organisations have a crucial role addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
This is an issue on which many regions have pressed for collective action.
And it is important to see the Council encouraging, in return, regional organisations to strengthen their collective response.
Cooperation between the UN and regional organisations is complex and evolving.
There will be ongoing challenges; in his Supplement to the Agenda for Peace 20 years ago Boutros Boutros-Ghali recognised that the political, operational and financial aspects of cooperation – and I quote – “gives rise to questions of some delicacy”. But that should never, ever deter us.
Resourcing is one such issue. When the Council authorises regional organisations to undertake peacekeeping operations, we must do all we can to ensure they are appropriately resourced for the jobs we are asking them to do.
The Council must continue to develop the framework to ensure the UN’s partnerships with regional organisations are effective. And today’s PRST is an important contribution in that regard.
In concluding, I would like to thank the regional and subregional organisations, including those represented here, for their growing and valuable work towards international peace and security and our shared goals as set down in the UN Charter.
As the Secretary-General said this morning, it is the “combined value” of our efforts that can be decisive.