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Regional Systems and the Future of the United Nations

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter represents the legal basis for the involvement of regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security, a task which is (or should be) the main purpose of the UN Security Council.

However, its provisions, as well as many other provisions of the Charter, have been largely disregarded throughout the Cold War period. It was the collapse of the bipolar system, with its corollary of new challenges to global security and increased local and regional armed conflicts, which determined a renewed interest in regional organizations and their role in maintaining peace and security.

After initial and sporadic contacts during the 1990s, it is only in the last twenty years (in particular when transnational terrorism has clearly emerged among the new global threats) that the relations between the Security Council and regional organizations have begun to assume a more stable and systemic character. In the broader framework of relations between the UN and regional organizations, the Council is currently giving priority to cooperation with three regional actors: the OSCE (the first organization to be consistently associated with the Council's work since 2001), African Union (since 2007) and European Union (since 2010).


Among the aforementioned partnerships, the most structured is undoubtedly the one between the Security Council, on the one hand, and the African Union and sub-regional African organizations, on the other. In addition to several annual meetings at the highest levels, it is endowed with two ad hoc strategies (the 2017 Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, and the 2018 African Union-United Nations Framework for the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) and with specific institutions. To date, the UN-Africa partnership has developed along three complementary streams: strengthening the capacity of African regional actors to prevent and autonomously respond to peace- and security-related challenges in Africa (based on the principle "African solutions to African problems"); operational cooperation through joint peace missions; UN funding of AU peace missions.


The case of the UN-Africa Union partnership sheds light on the increasingly important role played by regional organizations in the UN collective security system. It is legitimate to assume that such organizations will seek, in the future, formal recognition for their role at the political-institutional level. This will create the momentum for a serious debate on the possibility to establish, if not “regional” seats in the Security Council (a topic which now is out of the agenda), then at least a global forum for coordination, information exchange and trust-building between the UN and regional organizations.

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