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The United Nations’ Inter-organizational Relations in Peacekeeping

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the relationship between the United Nations and regional organizations and its implications for the effectiveness, coherence, and impact of multidimensional peacekeeping. In particular, it considers the UN’s increased cooperation with organizations such as the European Union, the African Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and explores the successes as well as the limitations of these partnerships. The first part of the chapter provides a brief historical overview of the ambiguous relationship between ‘universalism’ and ‘regionalism’. The second part of the chapter explores the advances, successes and level of institutionalization between the UN and selected regional organizations. Part three of the chapter examines the key challenges and limitations in the relationship between the UN and regional organizations in the field of multidimensional peacekeeping. While cooperation schemes have advanced considerably through institutionalization and pragmatic coordination, structural rivalry, divergent strategic visions, as well as technical and administrative obstacles nevertheless serve as a reminder of the inherent difficulties of peacekeeping partnerships.

Keywords: United Nations, regional organizations, inter-organizational relations, peacekeeping partnerships, cooperation and rivalry, European Union, African Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, regional arrangements, universalism, regionalism

The relationship between the United Nations and regional organizations is crucial for the effectiveness, coherence, and impact of multidimensional peacekeeping.1 Faced with ever more complex operations and overstretch, the United Nations has entered into far-reaching partnership agreements with a variety of organizations. Particularly during the last decade, growing ambitions and advances by organizations such as the European Union (EU), the African Union (AU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have not only led to increased cooperation with the UN in the field, but also to unprecedented levels of inter-organizational institutionalization. Yet, while United Nations–regional organization (UN–RO) partnerships provide a variety of material and political benefits, they can also cause—or reflect—severe frictions and rivalries and continue to pose substantial challenges.

The question of how to structure a meaningful relationship between a global collective peace and security system on the one hand and more restricted “regional arrangements” on the other predates the foundation of the United Nations. Substantial tensions between “universalism” and “regionalism” were already present in Article 21 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (1919), which was added in order to safeguard the autonomy of “regional understandings … for securing the maintenance of peace.”2 In practice, the League of Nations had to structure its relations with regional alliances, such as the “Little Entente” or the “Balkan Entente” during the 1920s and 1930s, but no effort was made to clarify the issues of hierarchy or concrete cooperation.3 During the negotiations to establish the United Nations Charter, it became clear that a more prominent role would have to be allocated to regional organizations, particularly as a (p. 61) result of pressures from Latin American and Arab states who had just agreed on their own regional security arrangements.4 In Western Europe there were also advocates of a stronger role for “regional councils” within the new world organization. As a direct lesson from the failure of the League of Nations, Britain’s Winston Churchill argued that, “it was only the countries whose interests were directly affected by a dispute who could be expected to apply themselves with sufficient vigour to secure a settlement.”5 Similar arguments about the virtue of regional organizations’ direct interests have been made during the Cold War and in the post-Cold War peacekeeping context.6 In the meantime, instances such as the UN’s relation with the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic in 1965–66 (see chapter 14), more recently with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Sierra Leone (chapters 52 and 54) and Liberia (chapter 59) or with the African Union in Mali (chapter 72) as well as with NATO in Bosnia (chapter 30) and Kosovo (chapter 53) have highlighted that regional organizations do not always work in harmony with the United Nations.7 Indeed, regional organizations pursue their own agenda, which may run counter to the efforts of the United Nations in the field of global peacekeeping. Thus, while crucial to the overall impact of conflict management, the relationship between the UN and other organizations has been an ambivalent, constantly evolving, and continuously contested one.

This chapter provides an overview of some of the major achievements but also fundamental challenges of developing effective partnerships between the United Nations and regional organizations. While cooperation schemes have advanced considerably through institutionalization and pragmatic coordination, structural rivalry, divergent strategic visions, as well as technical and administrative obstacles serve as a reminder of the inherent difficulties of peacekeeping partnerships.

The UN’s inter-organizational relations: advances and achievements

While Chapter VIII of the UN Charter sets out fundamental principles for the relationship between the UN and “regional arrangements” in the broadest possible terms,8 it is in the post-Cold War context that more concrete and institutionalized cooperation schemes have emerged. Both the post-Cold War rise of regional activism and the increasing pressures and resource strains placed on the UN system during the 1990s led to intensive discussions and a variety of UN-led initiatives to strengthen UN–RO relations.9

To start, the majority of contemporary peacekeeping operations involve more than one organization and most of the current UN-led operations are run in cooperation with regional actors. While UN peacekeeping was principally a UN-only undertaking during the Cold War, recent peacekeeping missions have engaged a wider range of actors, thus often evolving into hybrid forms of operations.10 At least three types of inter-organizational operations stand out: sequential, with one organization taking over (p. 62) from another; parallel, with at least two operations operating simultaneously; and integrated, with one operation being run by two organizations.11

Inter-organizational cooperation in peacekeeping can be defined as “joint actions between actors in pursuit of a common goal. Activities to enhance mutual understanding that are preparatory and fundamental to joint actions are also part of such cooperation.”12 Cooperation ranges from “consultation” and information-sharing to concrete operational support, capacity-building as well as co-deployment or sequential deployment in support of an existing operation. Cooperation between autonomous organizations is sought for different sets of reasons that pertain to materialist and/or ideological motives. It can find its rationale in reciprocal needs, that is, bridging critical resource gaps, as well as in a sense of common understanding among partnering institutions.13

Indeed, the first “surge in UN peacekeeping” in the mid-1990s14 and the danger of organizational “overstretch” since 200515 prompted successive Secretaries-General and the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to view regional organizations as important resource providers and essential partners for burden-sharing. The demands placed on the United Nations in recent years require a large set of skills, comprehensive competences as well as financial resources that no single organization can mobilize on its own. Cooperation and the pooling of resources are therefore often of prime importance for the success of contemporary multidimensional peacekeeping. The UN also chooses to cooperate with regional organizations in order to gain access to vital information or to strengthen regional support and legitimacy in a given conflict area.16

For regional organizations, in turn, cooperation with the United Nations in the field of peacekeeping provides often-sought legitimacy and a vehicle for task expansion by those regional actors who seek to play a more prominent role in peace and security issues.17 In recent years, the UN has also come to be seen as an important part of a regional organization’s “exit strategy,” where the UN takes over from a limited intervention by a regional actor. Such transitions also require careful cooperation and exchange of information and therefore strengthen the case for institutionalized cooperation.

The underlying assumption behind inter-organizational approaches to peacekeeping is that they would bring mutual benefits to both partners and that the “outcome of such cooperation would be more effective peacekeeping” overall.18 Furthermore, in the context of the debate on the so-called “comprehensive approach” or “integrated approach” it has also been noted that a minimum level of coordination between the UN and other actors is necessary in order to avoid duplication, rivalry, and inhibited impact in a given conflict zone.19

Thus, after a decade of ad hoc experimentation on the ground and seven biennial “high-level meetings” between the UN and regional organizations,20 the UN pushed for a more systematic approach to structuring its partnerships and to “establish predictable frameworks for cooperation with regional organizations.”21 As a result, one of the most far-reaching aspects of the evolution of UN–RO relations has been the ongoing process of formalization and institutionalization of partnerships between the UN Secretariat and those regional organizations involved in peacekeeping.

(p. 63) While an in-depth discussion of all UN–RO partnerships is beyond the scope of this chapter, the following section focuses on three of the UN’s most advanced partnerships—namely, those with the European Union, the African Union, and NATO. Each case attests to substantial progress and the importance of institutionalization, yet these examples also reveal that many challenges and untapped potentials remain to be addressed.

The United Nations and the European Union: A densely institutionalized relationship

In many ways, the relationship between the United Nations and the European Union has, during the last decade, developed into one of the most densely institutionalized partnerships between two autonomous organizations and has also served as a template for other UN–RO cooperation schemes. With the onset of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in 1999, the EU developed its own autonomous military capacities and ambitions for international peacekeeping. From a UN perspective these developments were initially perceived with cautious optimism and mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was hoped that this new capacity could be harnessed for supporting the UN with desperately needed resources and expertise; on the other hand, it was feared that the development of CSDP could further estrange Europeans from engaging directly in UN peacekeeping.22 Between 2003 and 2008 there were some good reasons for believing the former.

First, in addition to civilian missions taking over or operating alongside the UN in Bosnia and Kosovo, the EU launched three military operations directly in support of UN peacekeeping missions during this period: “Artemis” and EUFOR RD Congo in support of MONUC in 2003 and 2006 as well as EUFOR Tchad/RCA in support of MINURCAT in 2008–9.23 In all three instances, the EU demonstrated that it could provide vital resources and support to UN-led peacekeeping at critical junctures. In particular, operation “Artemis,” which was deployed less than two weeks after the UN Security Council’s authorization, highlighted the EU’s (and most notably France’s) willingness to support UN peacekeeping in a robust manner, although for a very short period of time and on strict EU terms.24 In 2006, EUFOR RD Congo once again reinforced MONUC’s presence and posture during DRC’s first democratic elections. Whilst posing a far more difficult logistical and political challenge, EUFOR Tchad/RCA marked a further step in EU–UN inter-organizational peacekeeping cooperation through co-deployment during the first year and substantial re-hatting of EU troops to MINURCAT in 2009. Furthermore, all three interactions contributed to developing a body of “lessons learned” and best practices. In addition, EU civilian missions (such as EUPOL and EUSEC RD Congo) supported MONUC through small-scale security sector reform and police reform missions, while the EU’s largest civilian mission—EULEX Kosovo—has been working closely with UNMIK.

(p. 64) Second, interaction in the field has led to the formalization and institutionalization between the Secretariats in the form of two UN-EU joint declarations signed in 2003 and 2007 respectively.25 While the 2003 declaration was a direct follow-up to the cooperation experience in the context of the French-led EU operation “Artemis,” the 2007 joint statement reiterated the EU’s commitment to UN peacekeeping and linked the partnership to joint capacity-building efforts vis-à-vis the African Union. Both documents advanced joint communication and coordination channels, such as desk-to-desk dialogue and regular video conferences on thematic issues and emerging security threats. Most importantly, the 2003 declaration called for a “UN–EU Steering Committee” to convene twice a year (once in Brussels, once in New York) in order to bring together key officials from both organizations with a view to strengthening inter-organizational relations. At the beginning of 2013, substantial reforms of the Steering Committee were implemented, turning it into a more outcome-oriented forum and thereby strengthening inter-organizational understandings and joint approaches to major conflicts. Furthermore, in 2011, the UN DPKO and the Department of Political Affairs opened a joint UN Liaison Office for Peace and Security (UNLOPS), establishing a permanent presence in Brussels and an additional layer of the UN’s institutionalized cooperation with the European Union and, to a lesser extent, with NATO. In the same vein, the EU issued in 2012 a “Plan of Action to Enhance CSDP Support to UN Peacekeeping” that set out thirteen priorities designed to enhance UN–EU cooperation in peacekeeping.26 Thus, the track record of UN–EU cooperation during the last ten years underlines the far-reaching potentials of inter-organizational approaches to peacekeeping. The EU not only deployed military and civilian operations in order to support UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and the Balkans, but it has also engaged in an intensively institutionalized dialogue of coordination and cooperation, which, to an extent, served as a model for other UN–RO partnerships.

United Nations–African Union: cooperation and capacity-building

Together with the European Union, the African Union has become one of the most important partners for the UN in peacekeeping, in the framework of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. However, while the EU is seen as an important resource provider, the African Union remains—despite the operations already undertaken—a peacekeeping actor whose capacities need first to be reinforced. As more than half of the UN’s post-Cold War peacekeeping operations are deployed on the African continent, the UN has invested in strengthening the African Peace and Security Architecture. This has taken the form of training and other capacity-building programs targeted to the AU administration in Addis Ababa as well as technical and financial assistance in the build-up of the African Standby Force.

In parallel, the formalization and institutionalization of UN–AU relations has developed significantly in recent years. In September 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban (p. 65) Ki-moon and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, launched a permanent cooperation forum, the UN–AU Joint Task-Force on Peace and Security (JTF), as a mechanism to enhance strategic cooperation between the two organizations. Similar to the UN–EU Steering Committee, the JTF meets twice a year in order to bring together senior staff from both organizations and to coordinate their assessments of, and approaches to, major security concerns. Together with the establishment of the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU) in Addis Ababa in 2010, this formalization marks an important step forward. In addition, the African Union enjoys a privileged partnership with the United Nations Security Council: since 2007, members of the AU’s Peace and Security Council and of the UN Security Council meet at least once a year to discuss thematic and country-specific topics related to peace and security issues on the African continent—an arrangement that has so far not been accorded to any other regional organization.

Both organizations have also cooperated on the ground in most cases of AU deployments (Burundi, Darfur, and Somalia, and more recently Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR)), and most notably in the context of the hybrid UN–AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) since 2008. In this case, the political value of the UN’s inter-organizational cooperation with regional organizations was underlined. In order to overcome political obstructionism by Sudan’s government and the skepticism of China in the Security Council, the compromise of deploying a UN–AU hybrid operation facilitated the UN’s eventual presence in Darfur (see chapter 66). More recently, the cooperation between the African Union and the UN in the case of Mali has further highlighted the growing importance of the relationship, despite some limitations. The deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) served as an important “stop gap” that prepared the ground for an eventual UN-led operation. A similar situation in the Central African Republic has only confirmed the need for a strengthened UN–AU peacekeeping partnership as institutions provide different types of responses at different moments of the crisis response. In these two cases, sub-regional organizations further complicate the relationship. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the case of Mali and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the case of CAR did play an important role in crisis management, yet the degree of institutionalization of cooperation with the UN has remained limited.

Even in operations where there has been no direct UN peacekeeping role, such as in Somalia, the United Nations and African Union have worked closely together, be it through the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) and its “logistical support package” to the AU mission or through joint strategic reviews and planning processes.27

Despite some structural challenges and political disagreements, the relationship between the UN and African Union is set to grow further in importance for addressing major conflicts on the African continent. A key task will be not only to complete the build-up of the African Standby Force, but also to find the right balance between a “relationship of equals” that still acknowledges the hierarchy of Chapter VIII and well-equipped African peacekeeping forces that are also able to maintain and further (p. 66) develop their capacities. Equally important is the relationship between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in charge of the build-up of the five regional brigades.28 Despite the establishment of Memoranda of Understanding and harmonization efforts between the RECs and the African Union, intra-regional rivalries and coordination gaps persist. The future of effective inter-organizational peacekeeping on the African continent depends on the strengthening of UN–AU relations as much as on improved AU–RECs mechanisms.

UN–NATO relations: achievements of a constrained partnership

The UN’s relationship with NATO is both the most straightforward but probably also the most politically sensitive.29 From a resource-dependency perspective, NATO can provide the highly trained and well-equipped capacities the UN may need in the higher end of its peacekeeping tasks. With over sixty years of experience in collective defense and common military doctrine as well as its large-scale interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, NATO has at the technical level been viewed as a highly advanced regional organization in the field of military crisis management. Thus, in pure “resource and capability” terms, NATO is an important potential partner for filling crucial gaps in the UN peacekeeping system. For NATO, in turn, closer relations with the United Nations has been part of its post-Cold War strategy of adaptation and its ambition to develop as a military and international conflict management actor beyond the territory of its member states. In this light, the driving force behind NATO’s efforts to establish closer relations with the UN has been to gain “maximum political legitimacy” and recognition as a global security organization.30 Commentators have thus stressed the potentials of exploiting each other’s comparative advantages within a formalized relationship.31

While political obstacles and differences in organizational cultures have hindered the realization of the partnership’s full potential (see section on “diverging strategic visions” below), there have nevertheless been tangible advances during the last two decades. NATO not only intervened alongside UN operations in Bosnia (UNPROFOR) in the mid-1990s, but has also worked in close cooperation with UNMIK in Kosovo, and contributed to UN efforts in African capacity-building.32 Furthermore, although Afghanistan is not per se a peacekeeping theatre, it provided the ground for pragmatic cooperation between the two institutions and then the formalization of their relationship. For NATO, cooperation with the UN’s political mission and various UN agencies not only provided political legitimacy, but also key civilian resources for a “comprehensive approach.”33 In turn, the UN heavily relied on NATO’s ISAF for security, information-sharing and, at times, the threat of military pressure during negotiations.34 In 2004, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the first NATO Secretary-General to formally address the UN Security Council. From 2005 onwards, NATO and UN officials negotiated the possibility of a joint declaration, which was eventually signed in September 2008. (p. 67) Modeled on the similar UN–EU declarations, the “Joint Declaration on UN–NATO Secretariat Cooperation” pledged to “further develop the cooperation between our organizations on issues of common interest, in, but not limited to, communication and information-sharing, including on issues pertaining to the protection of civilian populations; capacity-building, training and exercises; lessons learned; planning and support for contingencies; and operational coordination and support.”35 In addition, high-level meetings of the Secretaries-General and desk-to-desk exchanges, annual staff meetings and “NATO–UN education days” between senior officials and core staff have regularly taken place since the declaration was signed. The creation of a civilian NATO liaison officer at the UN Headquarters, in addition to a military one, as well as the NATO-focus of the UN Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels have also contributed to an improved flow of information and mutual understandings.36

As a result of cooperation in the field and institutionalization between Secretariats and senior officials, significant potentials for further burden-sharing and cooperation exist. This is particularly true in the context of NATO’s growing involvement in African capacity-building as well as the transition challenges in Afghanistan from the end of 2014 onwards, which has involved a reduced NATO presence and an enlarged role for the UN.

The track record of the UN’s expanding relations with regional organizations during the last decade highlights the UN’s pragmatic approach towards enhancing key partnerships in the field of peacekeeping. As long as the demand for UN peacekeepers continues to rise and core Western member states are only cautiously committing directly to UN peacekeeping missions, indirect support mechanisms through regional organizations will continue to grow in importance. Regional organizations either fulfill an important regional function—as envisaged in Chapter VIII of the UN Charter—or they play a more important role in providing key resources, personnel, and expertise for UN peacekeeping efforts worldwide. Some of the developments outlined above highlight the pragmatic achievements and advances made. In the meantime, however, UN–RO relations still face numerous challenges, which are particularly coming to the fore in the context of more recent developments.

Challenges to UN–regional organizations partnership

As outlined above, inter-organizational cooperation in peace operations is widely considered as being indispensable to their effective implementation. However, cooperation among a wide range of actors also reveals difficulties that directly impact the effectiveness, coherence, and impact of multidimensional operations. At least three sets of challenges to inter-organizational cooperation can be identified. They relate to the sociology of interaction, the political agendas of the organizations, and the organizations’ capacity and degree of organizational development.

(p. 68) Peacekeeping and market conquest

From an organization theory perspective, the inter-organizational game is, to an extent, a market in which the actors are motivated by their own existence or visibility.37 As a consequence, what these actors do in relation to others is partly a function of competition. Because they position themselves on the same activity or niche, or depend on the same sources of funding, peacekeeping actors may compete with each other and thus can be reluctant to engage in a cooperation that may undermine their own situation on the market. The global financial crisis has only reinforced this, as peacekeeping actors’ financial resources have become increasingly tight.

At another level, the international security architecture is implicitly hierarchical, in the sense that the UN Charter (Chapter VIII) subordinates regional and sub-regional arrangements to the UN Security Council for enforcement operations.38 In the peacekeeping field, regional arrangements have priority in dealing with crises in their own region, but any operation falling within Chapter VII of the UN Charter requires a mandate of the Security Council and regular reporting. Although not formally contested by any regional organizations, not all accept the hierarchy and its consequences, and some may differ on the meaning and implications of Chapter VIII, thus creating tensions among peacekeeping actors. The UN–AU relationship is a case in point: as the AU develops its own capacity and profile as a peacekeeping actor, its role has largely expanded against the background of its interaction with the UN, as both an enabling framework and a constraint. Beyond the hierarchy inherent to Chapter VIII, organizations’ respective membership also determine their positioning relative to one another and in most cases reveal a certain asymmetry of the relationship. The UN–AU relationship is also asymmetrical as a result of the AU’s operational and financial dependence and how this dependence impacts the political level.39 The response to the 2012–13 Mali crisis provided an example of inter-organizational competition and (resisted) hierarchy, with the UN, the AU, and ECOWAS being each, at a different stage of the crisis, willing to assert their respective comparative advantages, legitimacy, or political authority, de facto at the expense of the others. While they cooperated to a large extent in planning, running, and financing the Africa-led operation (AFISMA), the three organizations also engaged in a political battle over which entity had primacy over the others, which one was best placed to do what, and what could be expected from their respective positions and prerogatives. In the end, their interaction was characterized by a logic of cooperation as much as by market conquest and leadership rivalry.40 These features are also observed in the UN–EU or UN–NATO relationship.41 Both the EU and NATO are uncomfortable with the provisions of Chapter VIII and the degree of subordination to the UN that it implies, and their relative political strengths challenge the notion of hierarchy with the UN. Notwithstanding the above-mentioned achievements of the UN–EU partnership, this relationship is also characterized by some competition in areas where both organizations have a comparative advantage or where they both need to demonstrate their relevance. Parallel operations in the DRC, Chad, or Kosovo have shown how organizations were eager to preserve their autonomy, access to information, or relation with the (p. 69) local actors sometimes to the detriment of inter-organizational cooperation. Similarly, in the military field NATO enjoys a degree of ascendancy over the UN that undermines the ability of the two organizations to cooperate as equals and that therefore alters the nature of the relationship. Both the EU and NATO (and their member states) acknowledge that working with the UN is important, if only to get a Security Council mandate; reciprocally the UN accepts that sharing the burden of security governance can only be done through better cooperation with organizations such as NATO or the EU. However, there are political and cultural constraints that limit the scope of interaction, and therefore also the institutionalization of cooperation.

Last but not least, international organizations’ policies and propensity to cooperate mirror power struggles at the state level and institutional preferences of international organizations’ member states. While this survey of inter-organizational relations presents organizations as semi-autonomous actors of crisis management, one must not lose sight of the inter-governmental nature of the institutions under review. Indeed, one of the key conclusions of this Handbook is how much the relative success of UN peacekeeping missions is dependent upon member states’ policies and their degree of commitment. To a large extent, the way the UN, the EU, the AU or NATO position themselves and interact with each other results from their member states’ own agendas within these various institutions.

Diverging strategic visions

Second, inter-organizational relations are hindered by political divergences between the main organizations involved. These divergences relate to the organizations’ strategic assessments of a particular crisis, their conception of their own role or of peace operations, and, as mentioned before, are also mirrors of member states’ priorities or institutional preferences.

Insofar as strategic assessments are concerned, the political composition of organizations as well as their geographical remit determine to a large extent how they see a particular crisis and therefore how it ought to be handled. For example, the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire situations in 2011 revealed divergences among the UN Security Council, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the Arab League in the case of Libya, the UN Security Council, the AUPSC and ECOWAS in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, on the nature of the threat and the merits of coercion as a policy response. In both cases the UN Security Council (the US, France, and the UK in particular) were able to impose their views against the position of the African Union:42 the air campaign against Libya’s Gaddafi on the one hand, tactical use of force by UNOCI and the French-led operation Licorne against the Gbagbo forces, on the other hand. In Kosovo, disagreements within the UN Security Council and among the EU member states over Kosovo’s independence led to tensions between the UN and the EU in the division of labor between UNMIK and the EU-led EULEX Kosovo as well as in the handover from one to the other. More broadly, one major difficulty in implementing the comprehensive approach is precisely to get the main organizations engaged to develop a common vision of what needs to be done and how.

(p. 70) Second, organizations may also have different visions of their own role and therefore of the nature of the relationship with other peacekeeping actors. As a matter of fact, the above-described hierarchical structure is often resisted by regional actors and their member states that do not contest the legal centrality of the UN but may have issues with its operational capabilities. The UN–NATO and UN–EU relationships have been partly shaped by such concerns. In the same vein, the UN resistance to engage with NATO has largely been the result of national positions, most notably coming from Russia and China or representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement that would resent establishing too close links with a US-dominated military alliance.

The UN–AU relationship is equally ambiguous, but for different reasons. The AUPSC accepts the provisions of Chapter VIII but it calls for a “flexible and creative interpretation”43 of it, and for its requests to be “duly considered by the UNSC.”44 Calls have also been made for more systematic UN funding of AU-led operations undertaken with the consent of the UN. In response, the Security Council has underlined the “respective authorities, competencies and capacities”45 of each organization, in an unambiguous reassertion of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN Security Council’s reluctance to defer to the PSC on African security-related issues has led to frustration on the part of the PSC.46 In a peacekeeping context, tensions culminated in the response to the Mali crisis. While the AU had pushed for an African-led mission partly financed by UN assessed contributions, the creation of MINUSMA represented a disavowal of the AU’s involvement in Mali’s crisis management. The AUPSC deplored the lack of consultation in the drafting of the resolution authorizing MINUSMA,47 and further stressed that the situation was not “in consonance with the spirit of partnership” between the two organizations.48

Political divergences may mean different risk assessment or strategic priorities, and therefore have an impact on the mandate of the operation and its interpretation, its format or area of deployment, as well as on the nature of guidance provided. For the UN Secretary-General, in Sudan, “the Security Council and the Peace and Security Council have not always had the same position with respect to the situation, which has resulted in the fact that the Secretariat and the Commission can provide … two sets of strategic guidance as to implementation of the mission’s mandate.”49 The AU makes similar observations when stating that “[w]hile consultations [between the UN and the AU] represent a significant step in the right direction, they are yet to translate into a common understanding of the foundation of the cooperation between these two organs.”50 Indeed divergences on Darfur,51 on Somalia and the prospect of a UN takeover of AMISOM, on the financing of AU operations or on the interpretation of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, let alone the International Criminal Court or the Libya issue, have been prominent. Similarly, differences in mandate interpretation affected cooperation between the UN and the EU in the DRC in 2006 or in Chad in 2008–9. While the UN tended to see the EU presence as being operationally in support of the UN, the EU insisted on its distinct mandate and autonomy of action.52

Third, organizations may have different conceptions of what peacekeeping is about, and therefore different approaches to what cooperation can entail or bring. For the UN, (p. 71) although the key principles of peacekeeping have been challenged over the last decade, it remains a consent-based activity that takes place where there is (theoretically) a peace to keep. Impartiality and limited resort to force are also supposed to prevail. The three organizations under review here have a broader conception of peace operations in the sense that their member states are keener to intervene in semi-permissive environments and tend to see the use of force as a means to achieve peace if necessary. The EU operations in the DRC and Chad, the AU operations in Somalia or Mali, and of course the NATO operation in Afghanistan, illustrate these qualitative differences, with operations closer to peace enforcement than to peacekeeping. The AU talks about “peace support operations” as well as about a “different peacekeeping doctrine” by which obtaining a ceasefire can be an objective of a peace operation, not necessarily its starting point.53 Whenever the UN and these regional organizations simultaneously or sequentially operate, their interaction is likely to be complicated by these differences.54 In Mali for example, the shift from an AU-led peace enforcement mission to a UN-led peacekeeping operation created tensions between the two organizations, as the choice of a conventional, though theoretically robust peacekeeping mandate was perceived as a sign of weakness on the UN’s part and dismissive about African organizations’ preferred option. In a different context, Afghanistan also revealed the limits of cooperation through the so-called comprehensive approach that has suffered from issues of primacy of one organization over the others, but also from strategic divergences among the main organizations on policy options or the centrality of coercion therein.55

Technical and administrative obstacles

Finally, inter-organizational cooperation may suffer from technical and administrative obstacles.56 Organizations will all the more easily cooperate as they share common features in terms of operational capacity, structure or working methods. In other words, cooperation is facilitated by the technical ability of organizations to share information, harmonize procedures, do joint planning, co-finance activities, communicate in the field, or even co-deploy assets. This requires a legal and administrative framework on both sides of the relationship. In reality though, organizations display various degrees of organizational development and administrative maturity that lead back to the issue of asymmetrical relations and complicate practical cooperation.

The UN was the most advanced peacekeeping actor during the Cold War, and it is by far the organization that has deployed the most operations since the early 1990s. Notwithstanding its political and operational difficulties, it has acquired a real expertise and can draw on a wide range of the tools of multidimensional peacekeeping. It furthermore has access to financial resources that it has been able to draw on despite the financial crisis since 2008. Not only is the UN mandated to work with others, but the broad spectrum of crisis management activities that it embraces also allows potential partners to contribute to UN activities whatever their niches are. This does not necessarily mean that the UN sets the standards of cooperation and is administratively efficient, (p. 72) it only makes the UN a theoretical interlocutor for any other peacekeeping actor. This being said, very few peacekeeping actors have reached a level of organizational capacity that allows for efficient interaction with the UN. Indeed, apart from the EU and NATO, which in some respects stand out as well-organized crisis management actors, all other peacekeeping organizations suffer from a capability deficit that makes cooperation with the UN—or with the EU or NATO—truly asymmetrical. This is the case for the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa, but also for the Arab League or ASEAN that lag behind as autonomous conflict management players.57 And insofar as the EU and NATO are concerned, past experiences of parallel deployments with the UN have also revealed administrative weaknesses on all sides, as well as interoperability issues among organizations (compatibility of financial rules, for example).58 In practice, this means that cooperation is often about capacity-building; it reflects a “donor-recipient relationship”59 rather than a mutually reinforcing or reciprocal exchange. Furthermore, harmonizing procedures or improving inter-organizational coordination may not be the solution to interoperability problems as long as organizations diverge on their agendas or strategies.60 In policy terms, it follows that inter-organizational cooperation can only be further developed and institutionalized to a limited extent, and cannot be a substitute for a rapprochement at the highest political level.


UN peacekeeping operations have not only become multidimensional, they also involve an increasingly wider range of external stakeholders. In most cases the UN remains the central peacekeeping actor and overall continues to be the organization that deploys the largest number of military and civilian personnel. However, the evolution of conflict management and of the broader security environment has brought about the empowerment of regional actors that aspire to be peacekeeping actors alongside the UN. Overall, these changes have led to the emergence of a culture of cooperation among the main peacekeeping actors; the UN and regional organizations have largely cooperated in the field and, to an extent, institutionalized their relationship. At the same time, cooperation is hampered by political or operational obstacles that are inherent in the organizations’ agendas and the activities being run. As a result, inter-organizational cooperation has, by and large, remained ad hoc rather than strategic, and mirrored a great amount of caution on the part of security actors eager to develop their own agenda first.

However, inter-organizational cooperation in peacekeeping is here to stay, and is set to advance even further as regional actors develop their own capacities while the resource strains and demands placed on the UN will necessitate further burden-sharing. For the UN, the challenge is therefore to strike the right balance between on the one hand enhancing cooperation with regional actors so as to maximize the overall impact of inter-organizational peacekeeping and on the other hand remaining a reference point of modern peacekeeping at the legal, political, and operational levels.


(1.) See Kennedy Graham and Tania Felicio, Regional Security and Global Governance: A Study of Interaction between Regional Agencies and the UN Security Council with a Proposal for a Regional-Global Security Mechanism (Brussels: VUB Press, 2006); Shepard Forman and Andrew Grene, “Collaborating with Regional Organizations,” in David Malone (ed.), The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21st Century (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2004), 295–309. From the UN side, a critical overview is the Report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, “Thematic Evaluation of cooperation between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Support and regional organizations,” General Assembly Document A/65/762, 28 February 2011. On the legal aspects, see Bruno Simma et al. (eds.), “Chapter VIII Regional Arrangements,” in The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 1434–1436.

(2.) Article 21: “Nothing in this Covenant shall be deemed to affect the validity of international engagements, such as treaties of arbitration or regional understandings like the Monroe doctrine, for securing the maintenance of peace.”

(3.) Leland M. Goodrich and Edvard Hambro, Charter of the United Nations: Commentary and Documents, 2nd edn. (Boston: World Peace Foundation, 1949), 309. For further information on the League of Nations’ relations with regional arrangements, see also Simma et al. (eds.), “Chapter VIII Regional Arrangements.”

(4.) The “Act of the League of Arab States” was signed on 22 March 1945 and the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace agreed on a new “Inter-American peace system” in March 1945 at Mexico City (see Josef L. Kunz “The Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace at Mexico City and the Problem of the Reorganization of the Inter-American System,” in The American Journal of International Law 39, no. 3 (July 1945), 527–533).

(5.) Cited in Ruth B. Russel, A History of the United Nations Charter: The Role of the United States 1940–45 (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1958), 107.

(6.) For an early assessment of the advantages and limitations of regionalism and the UN, see Inis Claude, Swords into Plowshares (London: Random House, 1964), 95–110. For a post-Cold War discussion, see Kennedy and Felicio, Regional Security and Global Governance.

(7.) See Dan Sarooshi, “The Security Council’s Authorization of Regional Arrangements to use force: the Case of NATO,” in Vaughan Low et al. (eds.), The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 226–247.

(8.) Article 52 outlines the role regional arrangements could play in the “pacific settlement of local disputes,” while Article 53 provides the Security Council with the possibility to utilize “regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority.” In both cases, a clear hierarchy between the UN Security Council as principal and regional organizations as agents is asserted.

(9.) Major UN reports that stress the importance of partnerships with regional organizations include Boutros-Ghali’s An Agenda for Peace (1992), Supplement to “An Agenda for Peace” (1995), the Brahimi Report (2000), the World Summit Outcome Document (2005), the Peace Operations 2010 initiative and the New Horizon Document (2008); see also General Assembly, “Thematic Evaluation of Cooperation between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Support and regional organizations.”

(10.) See Thierry Tardy, “Hybrid Peace Operations: Rationale and Challenges,” Global Governance 20 (2014), 95–118.

(11.) See Sarjoh Bah and Bruce Jones, Peace Operations Partnerships: Lessons and Issues from Coordination to Hybrid Arrangements (New York: Center on International Cooperation, May 2008), 2.

(12.) General Assembly, “Thematic Evaluation of Cooperation between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations/Department of Field Support and regional organizations,” 4.

(13.) For an early study on resource dependence between organizations, see Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald R. Salancik, The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1978). An application of this theory to the topic of inter-organizational relations in peacekeeping can be found in Rafael Biermann, “Towards a Theory of Inter-organizational Networking: The Euro-Atlantic Security Institutions Interacting,” The Review of International Organizations 3, no. 2 (2008), 151–177.

(14.) This “first surge” is often associated with the UN post-Cold War peacekeeping activism during the early 1990s.

(15.) See “Top UN Peacekeeping Official warns of ‘overstretch’ as mission staff numbers surge” (UN News Centre, 4 October 2006), available at

(17.) This is particularly true for NATO’s task expansion after the end of the Cold War, transforming itself from a collective defense organization into an international military crisis manager.

(18.) A/65/762, 5.

(19.) Claudia Major and Christian Mölling, “More than wishful thinking? EU, UN and NATO and Comprehensive Approaches to Crisis Management,” in Joachim A. Koops (ed.), “Military Crisis Management and Capacity-Building: The Challenge of Effective Interorganisationalism,” Studia Diplomatica: The Brussels Journal of International Relations 62, no. 3 (2009), 21–32.

(20.) In 1993, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali initiated High-Level Meetings between the UN and selected Regional Organizations (OAU/African Union, CIS, ECOWAS, ECCAS, EU, IGAD, League of Arab States, NATO, OAS, OSCE and SADC) in order to discuss core issues of peace and security and to facilitate further coordination and cooperation. Between 1993 and 2006 seven such meetings took place. Since the appointment of Ban Ki-moon, no further meetings were held. See Luk van Langenhove, Tania Felicio, and Ademola Abass, “The UN and Regional Organizations for Peace: Tracking a Slippery Partnership,” in Philipp de Lombaerde et al. (eds.), The United Nations and the Regions (New York: Springer, 2012), 91–106.

(21.) United Nations General Assembly A/60/696, Report of the Secretary-General, 24 February 2006, p. 8.

(22.) See Joachim A. Koops, The European Union as an Integrative Power: Assessing the EU’s “Effective Multilateralism” towards the United Nations and NATO (Brussels, VUB Press, 2011), 246–250.

(23.) “Artemis” was a French-led EU mission, deployed from June to September 2003 to provide robust support to MONUC in Ituri. For further information, see United Nations Peacekeeping Best Practice Unit, “Operation Artemis: The Lessons of the Interim Emergency Multinational Force” (October 2004), available at; on EUFOR RD Congo, see Claudia Major, “EU-UN Cooperation in Military Crisis Management: The experience of EUFOR RD Congo in 2006,” Occasional Paper No. 72 (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies, 2008); on EUFOR Tchad/CAR, see Alexander Mattelaer. “The Strategic Planning of EU Military Operations—The Case of EUFOR Tchad/RCA,” IES Working Paper No. 5 (Brussels: Institute for European Studies, 2008).

(24.) See Catherine Gegout, “Causes and Consequences of the EU’s Military Intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” European Foreign Affairs Review 10 (2005), 427–443. For a thorough analysis of the inter-organizational successes and limitations of operation Artemis, see Koops, The European Union as an Integrative Power?, 314–339.

(25.) See Council of the European Union, “Joint UN-EU Declaration on Cooperation in Crisis Management” (New York, 24 September 2003), available at and Council of the European Union, “Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management” (Brussels, 7 June 2007).

(26.) European Union External Action Service, “Plan of Action to Enhance EU CSDP Support to UN Peacekeeping” (Brussels, 13 June 2012).

(27.) See Arthur Boutellis and Paul D. Williams, Peace Operations, the African Union, and the United Nations: Toward more Effective Partnerships (New York: International Peace Institute, 2013), 2.

(28.) The lead regional economic communities or mechanisms tasked with the development of the five regional brigades are ECOWAS for the Western Brigade, SADC for the South, the East African Standby Force mechanism for the East, ECCAS for the Central African Standby Force and the North Africa Regional Capability mechanism for the Northern Standby Brigade.

(29.) On UN-NATO relations, see Lawrence Kaplan, NATO and the UN: A Peculiar Relationship (University of Missouri Press, 2010); David S. Yost, “NATO and International Organizations,” Forum Paper 3 (Rome: NATO Defence College, 2007); Kent Kille and Ryan C. Hendrickson, “NATO and the United Nations: Debates and Trends in Institutional Coordination,” Journal of International Organization Studies 2, no. 1 (2011), 28–49.

(30.) William Durch, “Post Conflict Rehabilitation in the New International System. The United Nations and NATO: Comparing and Contrasting Styles and Capabilities in the Conduct of Peace Support Operations,” in Jean-Jacques de Dardel et al. (eds.), Post-Conflict Rehabilitation: Lessons from South East Europe and Strategic Consequences for the Euro-Atlantic Community (Vienna: Austrian Ministry of Defence, 2006), 48.

(31.) Derek Bootby, “Background Paper” in Cooperation between the UN and NATO: Quo Vadis? IPA Seminar on UN/NATO Relationship (New York: IPA, 1999); Michael F. Harsch and Johannes Varwick, “NATO-UN Cooperation Revisited: A new Dawn?,” Studia Diplomatica: The Brussels Journal of International Relations 62, no. 3 (2009), 29–35.

(32.) Since 2005 NATO’s involvement in AU capacity-building and support has included the provision of airlift for the AU Mission in Sudan, strategic airlift, sealift and technical assistance for the AU Mission in Somalia, evaluation and assessments of the African Standby Force’s readiness as well as training of AU staff. See Brooke A. Smith-Windsor (ed.), “AU-NATO Collaboration: Implications and Prospects”, NDC Forum Paper (Rome: NATO Defence College and Institute for Security Studies, 2013).

(34.) Michael F. Harsch, “The Power of Dependence: NATO-UN Cooperation in Crisis Management” (PhD dissertation, Berlin: Freie Universitaet Berlin, 2011), 188.

(35.) Joint Declaration on UN/NATO Secretariat Cooperation, New York, 23 September 2008.

(36.) Interviews, NATO International Military Staff and UN Liaison Office for Peace and Security (UNLOPS), June 2013.

(37.) On the distinction in organization theory between a “market,” a “network” and a “hierarchy,” see Walter Powell, “Neither Market nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organization,” Research in Organizational Behavior, 12 (1990).

(38.) See Alan Henrikson, “The Growth of Regional Organizations and the Role of the United Nations,” in Louise Fawcett and Andrew Hurrell (eds.), Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organization and International Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

(39.) See Timothy Murithi, “Between Paternalism and Hybrid Partnership: The emerging UN and Africa Relationship in Peace Operations,” Briefing Paper 2 (FES New York, February 2007), 2.

(40.) Thomas G. Weiss and Martin Welz, “The UN and the African Union in Mali and beyond: a shotgun wedding?”, International Affairs 90, no.4 (2014), 889–905.

(41.) See Katie Laatikainen and Karen Smith (eds.), The European Union at the United Nations. Intersecting Multilateralisms (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); David Yost, “NATO and the United Nations.”

(43.) Decision of the AU Assembly, Assembly/AU/Dec.338 (XVI), 31 January 2011, para. 45.

(44.) “Towards Greater Strategic and Political Coherence,” Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the Partnership between the African Union and the United Nations on Peace and Security, Addis Ababa, AU Doc. PSC/PR/2.(CCCVII), 9 January 2012, para. 45.

(45.) UNSC Resolution 2033, 12 January 2012, para. 5.

(46.) See “Working Together for Peace and Security in Africa: The Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council,” Special Research Report, Security Council Report (New York, 10 May 2011), 2.

(47.) Communiqué PSC/PR/COMM. (CCCLXXI) of 371st PSC meeting held on 25 April 2013 in Addis Ababa (para. 10). The PSC noted “with concern” (para. 10) that “Africa [had] not [been] appropriately consulted in the drafting and the consultation process that led to the adoption of the resolution authorizing MINUSMA,” and that the resolution did not “take into account the concerns formally expressed by the AU and ECOWAS.”

(48.) Communiqué PSC/PR/COMM. (CCCLXXI) of 371st PSC meeting. On this see Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, “The Long Path to MINUSMA. Assessing the International Response to the Crisis in Mali,” in Thierry Tardy and Marco Wyss (eds.), Peacekeeping in Africa. The Evolving Security Architecture (London: Routledge, 2014).

(49.) S/2011/805, para. 40.

(50.) AU Peace and Security Council, “Towards Greater Strategic and Political Coherence,” para. 44.

(51.) See Cage Banseka, “Joint and Integrated AU-UN Mediation in Darfur: A Model for Future African Peace Processes?,” in Linnea Gelot, Ludwig Gelot, and Cedric de Coning (eds.), Supporting African Peace Operations (The Nordic Africa Institute), 63–74.

(52.) See Major, “EU-UN Cooperation in Military Crisis Management”; “After Action Review. UN-EU Planning for EUFOR Tchad/RCA,” UN document (unpublished, April 2008).

(53.) AU Peace and Security Council, “Towards Greater Strategic and Political Coherence,” para.71.

(55.) See Major and Mölling, “More than Wishful Thinking? The EU, UN, NATO and the Comprehensive Approach to Military Crisis Management,” 21–28.

(56.) See Joachim Koops, “Peace Operations Partnerships: Assessing Cooperation Mechanisms between Secretariats,” Policy Briefing (Berlin: Center for International Peace Operations, March 2012).

(57.) On bureaucratic hindrances between the UN and the AU, see Boutellis and Williams, Peace Operations, the African Union, and the United Nations.

(58.) See for example Major, “EU-UN Cooperation in Military Crisis Management”; Richard Gowan, “ESDP and the United Nations,” in Giovanni Grevi, Damien Helly, and Daniel Keohane (eds.), European Security and Defence Policy. The First Ten Years (1999–2009) (Paris: EU Institute for Security Studies, 2009).

(59.) Malte Brosig, “The African Union. A Partner for Security,” in Sven Biscop and Richard Whitman (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of European Security (London: Routledge, 2013), 42.

(60.) See Roland Paris, “Understanding the ‘Coordination Problem’ in Postwar Statebuilding,” in Roland Paris and Tim Sisk (eds.), The Dilemmas of Statebuilding. Confronting the Contradictions of Postwar Peace Operations (London: Routledge, 2009).