Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional and Subregional Organizations in Maintaining Inter

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 6, 2018


Mr. President, Foreign Minister Amon-Tanoh, thank you for convening and chairing this important briefing. Thanks, too, to the Secretary-General and our AU and ECOWAS briefers.

Mr. President, the United States remains committed to working with regional organizations to address priority issues of peace and security. Regional organizations can also be force multipliers for the UN in meeting the challenges we all face. That said, the Security Council must always retain its autonomous decision-making authority. And we should ensure that new opportunities for cooperation do address real and critical political, security, development, human rights, and humanitarian challenges.

There is much that regional organizations, such as the African Union, can do to resolve ongoing conflicts and crises independent of our discussions on new initiatives or new financing mechanisms. Regional organizations bring critical expertise to negotiations, identifying appropriate options and solutions, and mobilizing resources for response. Many times, the only resource required for regional and sub-regional organizations to play a stronger role is political will and an invitation.

Mr. President, we’ve been pleased to see Organization of American States engage on Nicaragua and Venezuela, particularly OAS passage of resolutions condemning human rights violations against the people of Nicaragua and encouraging steps to be taken to identify the individuals responsible and to demand that para-police groups be disbanded. The OAS established a working group in August – the beginning, we hope, of a stronger regional effort to improve the lives of Nicaraguan citizens.

We also welcomed the June OAS resolution condemning the May 20 sham elections in Venezuela, proposing concrete actions to press the regime and highlighting the worsening humanitarian crisis. But these steps should be the beginning, not the end, of a stronger regional effort to improve the lives of the citizens of the region.

Mr. President, ASEAN similarly has been engaged on Burma, expressing concern for the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State and supporting the full implementation of the MOU signed among Myanmar, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations Development Program to facilitate the repatriation process of displaced persons from Rakhine State.

The ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center is helping address concerns in Rakhine State. In the past year, the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center facilitated the provision of relief items to vulnerable Burmese citizens, and deployed emergency response and assessment team personnel to assist in the work of Burma’s Relief and Resettlement Department. This again should be the beginning, not the end, of a stronger regional effort.

In Africa, the UN and AU have worked together to improve local security environments and create space for political processes to take shape. There are many other situations where high-level political engagement by sub-regional groups has been critical for conflict resolution and prevention throughout the African continent.

One example in particular, as mentioned by a number of other speakers, was the role ECOWAS played, in partnership with the AU and UN, in resolving the political crisis in the Gambia in 2017, which mitigated a situation that could have necessitated a larger and much costlier intervention.

When we look at South Sudan, the continued political impasse in Burundi, and the volatile political environment ahead of elections in the DRC, we see situations where regional and sub-regional organizations have long been involved in attempting to advance political processes but where much more work remains to be done to reach satisfactory resolutions. Again, the main resources required to contribute to these situations are political will and regional leadership.

Mr. President, a number of Member States today have addressed the draft resolution on the financing of AU peace support operations in their remarks. The United States regrets that we have so far been unable to reach agreement on a consensus text. We continue to believe there is room for agreement on language that goes well beyond the Council’s two prior resolutions on this matter while respecting important concerns, especially related to financing, Council oversight, and Council primacy for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Any resolution must not rush forward with assessed contributions, must acknowledge the AU’s unfinished work to meet the benchmarks the Council previously established, must affirm the AU’s commitment to fund 25 percent of any peace support operation supported through this framework, and must apply only to future AU-led operations. Ultimately, the Security Council must maintain oversight and control of any peace support operation conducted using UN funds.

Mr. President, we urge the penholder to continue to work with us and to show flexibility in finding a way forward that enjoys unanimous support.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States welcomes a closer working relationship between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations, and also welcomes regional and sub-regional organizations leading in crisis resolution and conflict prevention. We need not wait for the establishment of new mechanisms or allocation of new funding for this work to intensify, and there is plenty of work to be done right now.

I thank you.