EU-UN Partnership: Peace and Security Challenges for 2016

The partnership between the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) is the most institutionalized channel of cooperation existing between the UN and a regional organization. The establishment of the UN-EU Steering Committee on Crisis Management in 2003 and the UN Liaison Office for Peace and Security in Brussels in 2011 notably paved the way for a culture of cooperation that overtakes competition. This relationship based on mutual trust, reciprocity, symmetry, and mutual reinforcement however still presents some difficulties that need to be addressed shortly, in order to achieve better results when dealing with international peace and security. 

What are the main peace and security challenges to be addressed by the EU and the UN in 2016? The Institute for Peace in Partnership attended high-level events this week to investigate on this question.


EU-UN Partnership in Peace and Security

On Friday 4 March 2016, the Institute for Peace in Partnership was lucky to participate in a EEAS staff training on EU-UN partnership.

During the first session, Jonas Jonsson (Head of Multilateral Relations Division at EEAS), Barbara Pesce-Monteiro (Director of the UN Representation Office in Brussels), and Carl Hallergard (Minister-Counsellor at te Delegation of the EU to the UN) presented practical aspects of EU-UN cooperation in crisis management. Partnership was clearly stated to be a priority for both organizations. The past year was characterized as “the golden age of partnership”, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, the COP21 agreement, and the EEAS 2015-2018 Priorities to strengthen the UN-EU Strategic Partnership on Peacekeeping and Crisis Management.

The speakers stressed the importance of coordination in the field. They recommended to establish a common system of assessment at the higher level, in order to ensure that both organizations aim for the same goals and do not overlap while conducting actions on the ground. Experts also suggested to increase communication between EU Delegations and UN Country Teams to define common objectives and priorities, as well as between EU/UN officials and national ambassadors in order to raise awareness of the political context when entering a crisis situation. The differences in decision-making at the EU and the UN levels (the EU being much more politicized than the UN, which is rather decentralized) was mentioned as a source of misunderstanding at the operational level. More communication and training on each other’s organizational and institutional systems was recommended to avoid misconceptions that hinder sucessfull collaboration in the field[1].

Rory Keane, Joachim A. Koops, Lisa Löfquist Sundström, Tomas Henning, and Thierry Tardy at the EEAS staff course on EU-UN Partnership

During the second session, Joachim A. Koops (Dean of Vesalius College and Director of the GGI), Rory Keane (Head of UNLOPS), Lisa Löfquist Sundström (Policy Officer, EU-UN cooperation, Crisis Management Planning Directorate at EEAS), Tomas Henning (Mediation Adviser, Operational Support and Partnership with UN at EEAS), and Thierry Tardy (Senior Analyst at EUISS) offered a comprehensive picture of the EU-UN partnership in peace and security

The increasing complexity of challenges and threats to international peace and security were stated as an impetus for the reforms and reviews that took place in 2015[2]. Forecasts for the year 2016 were thus related to strenghtening institutional cooperation and high level dialogues between the EU and the UN. Recent initiatives on rapid response to crises (staff dialogue expected in Spring  2016) and  facilitation of Member States’ contributions to peace operations (briefing of UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladous to Member States) were mentioned as particularly important. On multiple occasions, speakers referred to the fact that there is not a single meeting with Hervé Ladsous without mentioning the necessary use of EU Battlegroups. With this regard, recent non-papers alluded to the possibility of financing their deployment through the UN Peacekeeping budget, when operating under UN command and control.

Experts suggested to link all phases of crisis management to support peace processes in a more linear and integrated fashion. Again, close collaboration and regular communication in the field was stressed as a paramount priority, particularly between the decision-making and the operational levels. They asserted that more work particularly needs to be done with regards to conflict prevention and mediation. Remaining institutional competition caused by Member States’ diverging preferences and privilege of one organization over the other was also mentioned as a core challenge to the future of UN-EU cooperation in peace and security.

Positive development are expected to take place with regards to the provision of niche capabilities (e.g. medical units, logistics) from part of EU Member states, which however presents the disadvantage to not directly advance inter-organizational cooperation. Finally, experts mentioned that the past years have shown the importance of personnel in charge at the highest institutional level, which has been instrumental to positive progress on EU-UN cooperation in peace operations and crisis management (e.g. Hervé Ladsous). Therefore, the upcoming nomination of a new UN Secretary-General will be determinant for the future of EU-UN partnership in peace and ssecurity[3].


No Business as Usual for the UN in 2016

On Wednesday 9 March, 2016 the IPP went to participate in the “The United Nations: No Business as Usual in 2016” lunch lecture given by Ambassador Werner Bauwens, speaking in his own capacity. Bauwens is the Director of the United Nations Division at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He spoke candidly on the state of the UN, specifically the upcoming nominations of UN Secretary-General and Security Council non-permanent seats. Several problems were brought up, such as the fact that with the upcoming elections, the Secretary General and Security Council members have become “lame ducks” – hoping to run out the clock and leave the hard decisions to their successors.  The UN is currently facing a lot of pressure and needs to be implementing reforms in the upcoming years. Bauwens referred to the lack of leadership and the absence of “new key players” (Brazil, South Africa, India, and Japan) in the UN peace and security architecture as core challenges for the implementation of reviews and agreements made in 2015. In regards to Peacekeeping, Bauwens stressed the need to fuse the different branches of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and peacemaking into one consice and all-encompassing term of “peace operations”, as recommended by the HIPPO Report in June 2015. He also reasserted the need to focus on crisis prevention, mediation, and long-term solutions, making sure that actors remain actively involved in all stages of peace processes.

Bauwens also exposed the improvements that Belgium is advancing as part of its campaign for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council, whilst reitirating that the global community needs to be active now more than ever. Among other suggestions, Bauwens mentioned the need to reform the UN Security Council composition, with six more permanent members (Germany, India, Brazil, Japan, and two African countries).  

Ambassador Werner Bauwens (on the right) at the lunch lecture on 2016 challenges for the UN


2016 looks to be a big year for the international peace and security architecture. With a new UN Secretary-General and five new non-permanent members of the UN Security Council from 2017 on, new opportunities to develop global-regional partnerships will arise.

The Institute for Peace in Partnership identified five core challenges that the EU and the UN will have to address together in 2016:

  1. Further global-regional partnership through:
    • Deeper coordination on the ground.
    • Awareness of decision-making specificities of the UN and the EU.
  2. Effective rapid response to crises:
    • Potential use of the UN budget to deploy EU Battlegroups under UN command and control.
  3. Necessary all-inclusive conflict management by means of “peace operations”.
    • Special focus on conflict prevention and mediation.
    • Continued involvement of actors in all stages of the peace process.
  4. Facilitation of Member States contributions to peace operations and elimination of institutional preferences.
  5. Proactive leadership and active participation of “new key players” to implement reforms.


Paul Grossmann and Sophie L. Vériter



[1] EU officials often see the UN as a “sub-contractor” and UN officials tend to perceive the EU as a “donor”.

[2] Among others, the HIPPO Report, Peacebuilding Report, UNSC Resolutions 1325 and 2242, and the 2015-2016 Priorities to strengthen UN-EU partnership in peacekeeping crisis management.

[3] There is a probability that the new UN Secretary-General will be a European national, which will compromise the so far-exclusive French position of Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (currently Hervé Ladsous).




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