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Updated on 1 October 2020


Section 5a:   Fact-finding and other missions by Council members to the field


For first time in Council’s history, African Council members are sole co-leads for mission to Africa


From 13 to 17 February 2019, the members of the Security Council embarked on a mission to two countries in West Africa:  Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau.  As set out in the terms of reference transmitted to the Secretary-General (S/2019/123), the sole two co-leads for both legs of the mission were Côte d’Ivoire and Equatorial Guinea.  This marks the first time in the Council’s history that a mission to Africa of all 15 Council members has been exclusively led by two African co-leads.


Of the previous 20 Security Council missions to Africa for which co-lead arrangements were in place (see table below*), 18 were co-led by one or more African members of the Council, but each time in conjunction with at least one member from the Western European and Other States Group, the Latin American and Caribbean States, or Eastern Europe.  Of those 20 missions to the continent, the other two did not include any African member as a co-lead.  Rather, one mission was co-led by France and the United Kingdom, while the other was co-led by Mexico and the United Kingdom.** 


For the February 2019 mission, the purpose of the visit to Côte d’Ivoire, as detailed in the terms of reference, was “to take stock of the ongoing transition” in that country, as well as in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and


“to support the work of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) for conflict prevention and peacebuilding in the Mano River subregion and the respective United Nations country teams in those three countries.”


This was not the first time that a host country receiving a Security Council mission was also among the Council’s co-leads for the visit.  In 2016, Angola was a co-lead for a mission to Africa which included time in Angola.  That same year, a mission which had a stop in Senegal had that Council member among its co-leads.  In 2013, Rwanda served as a co-lead for a multi-destination mission to Africa which included Rwanda.  And in 2010, Uganda was co-lead for a mission which visited that country.


In addition to its direct connection to the first leg of the February 2019 mission, Côte d’Ivoire also had an important connection to the visit to Guinea-Bissau, in that Côte d’Ivoire has, since 2018, served as penholder for that matter within the Security Council.


The participation of Equatorial Guinea as co-lead for the February 2019 mission was in part related to the fact that during that month it was serving as President of the Security Council. 


Specifically with respect to the second leg of the mission, Equatorial Guinea has, since 2018, chaired the sanctions committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2048 (2012) concerning Guinea-Bissau.  Owing to that Committee’s focused study of factors affecting stability in Guinea-Bissau, including transnational organized crime, Equatorial Guinea brought important background to its role as co-lead with respect to that country.  In fact, one of the tasks the Council set for itself for the second leg of the mission was to evaluate the efforts made by the Guinea-Bissau authorities


“to implement and review national laws and mechanisms to more effectively combat transnational organized crime, in particular drug trafficking and money-laundering”. 


The terms of reference point out that such crime is having an impact not only in Guinea-Bissau, but also threatens security and stability in the subregion.  Another task set by the Council for its stop in Guinea-Bissau was to “advocate strongly” for political dialogue towards the implementation of the Conakry Agreement and the ECOWAS road map within the agreed timelines, as well as for the preparation and conduct of free and fair elections,


It remains to be seen to what extent the Council’s February 2019 mission to West Africa has set a precedent for subsequent missions to the continent to be solely co-led by African Council members. 



(This update supplements pages 492-498 of the book.)


* For a list of all Security Council missions to the field from 1992 to present, see “Reports of the Security Council missions since 1992” on the UN Security Council website.  See also Table 7 (pages 41-50) in Security Council Working Methods: A Tale of Two Councils?, a Special Research Report published by Security Council Report.  (The visit by four Council members to Angola in 1992 has not been included in the Table accompanying the present article on this website because that visit was constituted as an “Ad hoc commission”.)

**Single African Council members have led missions to Africa, but only in special circumstances.  Ethiopia led the Council members when they went to Addis Ababa for the annual joint consultative meeting with the members of the AU Peace and Security Council, but no other countries on the continent were visited.  As is shown in the attached table, some visits to Africa in 1994 and 1995 were led by a sole African Council member, but this was before all 15 Council members began participating in missions to the field.




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