The Horn of Africa region has long been a focus of United Nations engagement and investment. The region faces major challenges, including long-standing civil conflicts and unrest, deep poverty and vulnerability to climate change. However, it also presents significant opportunities: rapid economic growth in several countries, a young and dynamic population and new momentum for regional cooperation. Realizing the region’s enormous potential requires a collective approach, tackling shared challenges in a coordinated manner.
The establishment of the Office of the Special Envoy the Horn of Africa in 2018 was largely driven by the dynamic changes in the region, triggered by the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the strengthening of relations between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as the cooling off of tensions between Eritrea and Djibouti. In October 2018, the Secretary-General expanded the remit of the Special Envoy for the Sudan and South Sudan to cover the Horn of Africa region, defined for this purpose to comprise the members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). This mandate derives from an exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (S/2018/955 and S/2018/979).
The Office of the Special Envoy mandated to support the region in sustaining the recent gains in peace and security, including the historic transition in the Sudan and the ongoing peace process in South Sudan. The Office of the Special Envoy is responsible for supporting IGAD, in line with the framework for cooperation between the United Nations and IGAD signed in Djibouti on 17 November 2015, and other relevant regional organizations in promoting peace and security across the Horn of Africa. This primarily involves enhancing sub-regional capacities for conflict prevention and mediation and addressing cross-cutting issues. On this basis, the Special Envoy is tasked with carrying out good offices role and special assignments on behalf of the Secretary-General as required. The mission has been tasked with enhancing linkages in the work of the United Nations and other partners in the Horn of Africa region, with a view to promoting a joined-up regional approach, including facilitating coordination and information exchange within the United Nations system.
The Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa retains responsibilities related to the maintenance of good and peaceful neighbourly relations between Sudan and South Sudan, initially established pursuant to the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council (S/2011/474 and S/2011/475). This includes cooperation with the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in efforts to implement Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), which called upon the Sudan and South Sudan to reach an agreement on critical issues, including: (a) the full and urgent advancement of all outstanding issues from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and (b) to ease the tensions and facilitate the resumption of negotiations on post-secession relations and the normalization of their relations.
The Office of the Special Envoy coordinates and helps to enhance the coherence of the collective work of the United Nations in the region, and focuses on the prevention of crises affecting human security in support of Member States’ national strategies and regional strategies in pursuance of lasting peace and sustainable development.
In line with the internal five-year United Nations Comprehensive Regional Prevention Strategy for the Horn of Africa, in July 2019 the Office organized a workshop with senior United Nations leadership working in the region to kick-start the implementation of the Strategy, the key outcomes of which included the development of an action plan and a coordination mechanism. The Strategy is the United Nations support framework for the Horn of Africa. It aims at operationalizing the Secretary-General’s vision of prevention by rationalizing United Nations prevention-related mandates and encouraging a system-wide ownership of outcomes. The Strategy employs a regional approach – not just the sum of national approaches in the region – to prevention in the Horn of Africa and considers regional strategies of the AU and sub-regional strategies of IGAD. Given the fast-changing environment in the region, the Strategy is a living and flexible framework and will continue to evolve in light of emerging priorities.