The UN recognizes regional organizations as key stakeholders in international relations. Some of these regional organizations have been granted observer status at the UN General Assembly and have a permanent representation in New York. This is notably the case for:
The African Union
The Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
The Central American Integration System (SICA)
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)
The European Union (EU)
The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF)
The League of Arab States
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Several other regional organizations, even if they don’t have a permanent representation in New York, benefit from observer status and actively participate in the UN’s diplomatic activities.
The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States
The Andean Community
The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
The Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States
The Council of Europe
The East African Community
The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
The Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).
The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC)
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region
The Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA)
The Latin American Integration Association (ALADI)
The Latin American Parliament
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
The Organization of American States (OAS)
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
The Pacific Island Forum
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
The Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Lastly, some regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization do not have observer status but are critical UN partners.
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter relating to regional agreements makes provision for the existence of regional entities whose role in the peaceful settlement of conflicts is recognized by the UN.
The Charter enshrines the Security Council’s monopoly on authorizing the use of force, except in self-defense. This authorization may however stipulate that the mandate be executed by a regional organization.
Any intervention by a regional or sub-regional organization involving the use of force therefore requires an explicit Security Council mandate in order to avoid the fragmentation of collective security which is intended to be universal.
United Nations Charter - Chapter VIII (excerpts)
— Article 53: “The Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority. But no enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorization of the Security Council. […]”
— Article 54: “The Security Council shall at all times be kept fully informed of activities undertaken or in contemplation under regional arrangements or by regional agencies for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Role of regional and sub-regional organizations in peacekeeping
The role of regional organizations in collective security expanded rapidly in the 1990s. This trend reflects both the institutional strengthening of the regional and sub-regional organizations and the openness showed by the UN Secretary-General from 1992 to 1996, Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in his Agenda for Peace (1992).
The involvement of regional organizations in peacekeeping continued to expand during the first decade of this century. Action by NATO and the EU, as well as the OSCE and the AU, served to make this phenomenon all the more visible. This activity related not just to the peaceful settlement of disputes (good offices, mediation efforts) but also to coercive measures (sanctions and even military operations).
The Security Council and the regional and sub-regional organizations
The Security Council has, in this context, developed cooperation with the regional organizations, while seeking to strengthen and improve the framework of this cooperation.
A variety of arrangements have therefore been implemented, sometimes in the form of support lent by a regional organization to the UN (the European Union’s Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo), but most often in the form of UN support for regional organizations: co-deployment, successive rotations and deployments, operational or budgetary support (AMISOM), exclusive management by the regional organization within the framework of a UN mandate (NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan).
These experiences have posed new challenges for the Security Council with respect to partnership arrangements, as in the case of the AU/UN hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
The involvement of regional organizations in peacekeeping can lead to political difficulties: lack of resources available to the regional organization (troops, equipment, military expertise, budget), pressure to provide predictable and sustainable funding, lack of oversight by the Security Council with respect to the operations that it has authorized, strategic differences between the regional organization and the Security Council, etc.
However, the role of regional organizations in peacekeeping and international security is destined to continue growing with a view toward promoting subsidiarity as well as the accountability of regional actors. France contributes to this through the organizations to which it belongs, as well as through its support for implementing regional security architectures, as for example in Africa in support of the African Union’s efforts.
7 may 2013 – Security Council – OSCE – Statement by Mr Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations