On 18 August, the Security Council, under the Nigerian Presidency, held an open debate on regional organisations and contemporary challenges for maintaining international peace and security. Improving partnerships and cooperation within regional organisations has become a recurring theme for the Council and other parts of the UN system. Within the last year, the Council has held two open debates specifically focused on cooperation with regional and subregional organisations. On 28 July 2014, the Council held an open debate on regional partnerships in peacekeeping and adopted resolution 2167; and on 16 December 2014, the Council held an open debate on AU-UN partnership in peace operations and issued a presidential statement.
This open debate comes as threats to international peace and security appear to become increasingly transborder and involving multi-layered regional dimensions. While the Council and the UN sytem have both shown increasing flexibility, both policymaking and operational obstacles to consistent, formidable cooperation in peace operations still remain, such as competing mandates; differences between UN financing for African Union peace support operations; the "re-hatting" processes; and coordination challenges. Thus, the open debate grants an opportunity to the Council and its member States to address these challenges and utilise lasting solutions that aid to the improvement of maintaining international peace and security.
Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon delivered a briefing encouraging further collaboration between the United Nations and regional organisations in all stages of conflict prevention, resolution and reconstruction. This includes greater harmonization of processes to improve transitions from UN Peacekeeping missions to operations run by regional organisations, creation of standard training methods for peacekeepers, and more flexible and predictable financing. He praised the efficiency of African Union operations and emphasized the primacy of human rights and humanitarian law. These themes were repeated again and again by Members and other states.
Of 45 statements given at the debate, 10 (22%) of those statements made reference to women and/or gender. Spain, Italy, Panama, and Kuwait talked about the general need to improve women's participation in the peacemaking process, including mediation intitiatives. The European Union and Chile addressed the importance of regional orgnisations in implementing Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. Sweden gave by far the most detailed statement concerning gender, stressing the need for greater UN/regional cooperation to ensure the success of 1325 and emphasising that women must be included in prevention, management and resolution of conflict as well as post-conflict reconstruction. Participation of women in all aspects of peacemaking essential to sustainable peace and development. In addition to participation, several states mentioned protection of women: Botswana stressed the need to protect the human rights of vulnerable groups, including women. And Nigeria referenced protecting women and children from sexual exploitation in conflict.
Although the existence of references to UNSCR 1325 and women's participation in peacebuilding were promising, more states need to recognise that the Women, Peace, and Security agenda is crucial to overall International Peace and Security. The Debate also lacked any concrete suggestions as to how gender equality and women's empowerment may be integrated into all aspects of pre- and post-conflict interventions. Particularly, no state mentioned gender sensitivity training when discussing standerdisation of peacekeeper training methods. Member states need to recognize women's rights as a cross-cutting issue that impacts all aspects of peace and security, not as a stand-alone issue.
Most statements given at the Debate reflected the following general themes: (1) Regional organisations play an important role in international peace and security due to their geographic vicinity to conflict and local knowledge, particularly in the face of the changing nature of security threats i.e. multi-state terrorist orgnisations (2) The UN needs greater collaboration with regional orgnisations, which often lack strategic and executive capabilities, at all stages of conflcit prevention and resolution, peacekeeping operations, and post-conflict reconstruction (this collaboration includes standardised training for peacekeepers, smoother hand-over processes, and flexible and stable modes of financing) (3) Regional and UN interventions should reflect and promote human rights, good governance and rule of law. The discussion of regional organisations focussed mainly on the African Union (many states praised successful UN/AU operations in Darfur, Somalia, Mali, C.A.R., and Sierra Leone) although some Asian and Latin American/Carribbean states also made refernces to ASEAN and CARICOM, as well as sub-regional orgnisations like IGAD in East Africa. Several states also made more concrete suggestions for improving collaboration; India proposed that the Security Council confer with troop-contributing countries on mandates for peacekeeping missions, Japan stressed the need to strengthen the mulit-lateral framework in East Asia.