Thank you very much, Madame President, for coming to New York to chair this debate and for selecting such an important and relevant topic. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General and the four briefers for their important contributions this morning. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Argentina and Ambassador Perceval on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of August and to warmly welcome our new American colleague, Ambassador Samantha Power, to the United Nations.
The founders of the United Nations wisely created provision for UN cooperation with regional organisations in Chapter VIII of the Charter. But I doubt that they could have foreseen the range and scope of regional and sub-regional organisations that have arisen since 1945 and the important role that they have played – and are playing – in conflict prevention and resolution.
Let me provide four recent examples of effective engagement by regional organisations in conflict prevention.
In Europe, the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has led to significant progress in relations between Serbia and Kosovo, creating a framework for practical cooperation between the two countries and lowering tensions in a fragile region.
In Yemen, in 2011 as the country encountered political instability accompanied by serious violence, the Gulf Cooperation Council played an invaluable role in brokering an agreement that created the framework for a negotiated political transition process, which should lead to a new constitution and elections in 2014.
In South-East Asia, efforts led by ASEAN in 2011, under the chairmanship of Indonesia and with the active support of the Security Council, resulted in a cessation of violence along the Thai-Cambodian border.
And in Africa, the patient engagement of President Mbeki and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel has played a major part in managing tensions surrounding the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan and South Sudan. The African Union Roadmap of April 2012 set the template for Security Council Resolution 2046, serving as a model for UN and AU cooperation in maintaining international peace and security.
We can draw some useful lessons from these and other examples.
They show how regional organisations, whose interests are directly affected by the prospect of instability within the region, can bring a strong sense of urgency and commitment to their engagement. They show how regional organisations can apply detailed knowledge of the social and political issues in play. In some circumstances, regional organisations may find it easier to be accepted as peacekeepers or mediators by the actors involved. And, as the example of Kosovo demonstrates, regional organisations can often make good use of the range of incentives that exist through common ties in the region to encourage a sense of compromise and flexibility.
There are other ways in which regional organisations can help maintain international peace and security. They can play a valuable role as independent election monitors, able to deter abuse of electoral procedures and to validate properly-held elections. But with this role comes an important responsibility: in circumstances where there is credible evidence of serious irregularities in the conduct of elections, regional organisations who have monitored the elections must be ready to voice these concerns clearly and objectively, unconstrained by diplomatic or regional solidarity.
Regional organisations can also help uphold international peace and security by establishing and upholding standards of democracy and good governance amongst their members. The African Union’s policy of zero tolerance towards military coups and other violations of democratic standards is an important factor in the trend which has seen the widespread establishment of multi-party democracy across the continent in place of military or one-party regimes. Within the Commonwealth, the readiness of the Ministerial Action Group to take action suspending members from participation in the organisation has served to uphold and entrench democratic standards.
I have highlighted positive examples of regional organisations’ cooperation with the UN. But it is also important to learn lessons as well as to highlight successes.
Some conflict situations will be of relevance to more than one regional organisation and the views of the different organisations may differ. In 2011 over Libya, for example, the League of Arab States and the African Union arrived at strikingly different positions on the ongoing revolution. In general, the Council is always keen to take into account the views of relevant regional organisations. That becomes harder when those views are discordant.
Secondly, we have seen circumstances where the views of the relevant regional and sub-regional organisations are at odds. Again in 2011, this was the case when the African Union and ECOWAS took different approaches to developments over Cote d’Ivoire, leaving the Council having to assess a diversity of regional and sub-regional perspectives.
Thirdly, the issue of capacity also needs to be considered in a realistic way. Regional organisations sometimes have the political will, but not the practical or financial capacity to take swift action in response to peace and security challenges. On Mali in 2012, we saw the regional and sub-regional organisations asserting their readiness to lead an international response. But this was followed by a long hiatus, during which time insurgents steadily expanded their control over parts of the country, requiring French forces to intervene to arrest the mounting crisis.
But equally, we in the Council need to look self-critically at our own conduct. We need to acknowledge frankly the occasions – as with Syria – when we have failed to provide an effective response and clear international direction in circumstances where the voice of the relevant regional organisation, the League of Arab States, has been clear and forthright in setting out what it expects of us.
So there are lessons to learn as well as successes to highlight. But the overall trend is clear – towards increasing engagement by regional organisations in conflict prevention and therefore towards increasing UN cooperation with regional organisations. That is a challenge we must embrace.
We should do so in a flexible and creative way. Today’s presidential statement and previous Council products on cooperation with the African Union and League of Arab States set out valuable guidelines. But we should avoid the temptation to overly codify our relationships or to prioritise establishing a strict theology of inter-institutional cooperation over practical action.
I thank you.