On 19 July 2017 the Security Council open debate under the theme, “Enhancing African Capabilities in the Area of Peace and Security” was convened by the Council’s current president, China. This meeting was framed as an opportunity to discuss policies and procedures that can provide concrete and effective support for strengthening the capacities of African countries in the field of peace and security. Specifically, the participants discussed ways to reinforce the potential of the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, signed on 19 April 2017. Robust partnerships, coupled with increased financial and technical support for the African Union-led peace operations and a focus on the implementation of the WPS Agenda were outlined as decisive steps to strengthening the platform of cooperation between the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU). Several speakers importantly underlined the need for all steps of cooperation networks to be gender-sensitive as including women in the search for peace and security is “paramount to prosperity and development”.
This debate came as a continuation of the existing discussion on the partnerships between the UN and AU in peace operations. In November 2016, the UNSCR 2320 (2016) reaffirmed the Security Council determination to further enhance peace and security cooperation between the United Nations and African Union; and in May 2017 the report of the Secretary-General on options for authorisation and support for African Union peace support operations (S/2017/454) made clear that African Union-led peace operations should be seen as an important tool for the international community to address crises in Africa and to complement United Nations peace efforts.
The speakers highlighted that peace and security in Africa demands further peace efforts. As the driver of the 21st century world’s economy, and with the greatest pool of labour in the world, Africa is a continent with an immense potential. Yet, it is still confronted with numerous challenges. Terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Shabaab are posing an increasing threat. Transnational organised crime in the Sahel region and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea are still rampant. In the face of such hurdles, Africa’s capacity to prevent and resolve conflicts and maintain peace and stability is still inadequate.
Against this backdrop, the recent political settlement following President Yahya Jammeh’s handover of power in The Gambia was outlined by the Secretary-General as a successful case of preventive diplomacy engineered through the coordinated activities of ECOWAS, the AU and the UN Security Council. Such practice demonstrates the willingness of the international community to reinvigorate cooperation with the African Union and further elevate the UN-AU cooperation platform for peace, stability and development in the continent. The debate outlined three priorities for lifting the UN-AU cooperation to a higher level.
African ownership - “African Solutions to African Problems”
First, the Secretary-General underscored the need to push for and promote self-reliance of African nations in the field of peace and security. Indeed, respecting African countries’ ownership to solve African security problems remains to be the precondition and foundation for supporting Africa-led peace operations. As pointed out by the Representative of the Republic of Korea, externally-imposed solutions to instability will fall short of addressing the root causes of conflict, and fail to bring consolidated peace to the region. In this context, the Representatives of Kazakhstan, Kuwait and Botswana, among others, called on both bodies to focus their efforts on the nexus between “peace and development”. This means that there should be no artificial divisions between peace, security, development, disarmament, strong rule of law and human rights. The UN-AU partnership needs to strengthen this purpose and refit the currently disconnected efforts which result in continued instability and conflict. As recommended by the representative of Kazakhstan, conflict prevention should be given more attention. Such efforts require increased financial contribution as the United Nations spends “seven billion dollars in peacebuilding annually but less than one billion dollars to address root causes of conflict”, he noted.
“Predictable, sustainable and flexible” financing and support model for AU peacekeeping missions
Indeed, the contentious issues of insufficient personnel, funding and resources were among the biggest concerns raised during the debate. Every single speaker at the meeting stressed that the international community should help the African Union secure adequate funding for its peace operations and build its capacity to plan, finance, sustain and oversee its peace operations. As outlined by the Commissioner on Peace and Security, adequate, predictable and sustainable sources of funding is missing for example in Somalia, where AMISOM’s potential at bringing peace and security in Eastern Africa is challenged by a lack of resources. Increased training, institution-building and logistical support were suggested as channels and approaches to provide more support to the African Union collective security mechanism. In a spirit of ownership and accountability, the representative of Italy called for a strengthened engagement in capacity-building for national police forces in particular as investing in local human capital is key ways to restore trust between the population and the government in post-conflict settings. Increased investment in the African Union capacity to effectively respond to early warning sign and address the deficit of institutional capacity were also reiterated by the speakers as a valuable measure moving forward. In this vein, the representative of Morocco advocated for the training of magistrates and strengthening of human rights institutions. Moreover, the representative of the European Union importantly reiterated its commitment to finance 25% of the African Union peace budget by 2020.
3. Increased cooperation and partnership
Lastly, speakers called for an increased cooperation between the United Nation and the African Union in the fields of security analysis and reporting. Proposals on how to support African capacities in this regard included utilising joint-assessment of security threats, developing joint-standards for reporting oversights of mission, conducting joint fact-finding mission and implementing a coordinated counter-terrorism strategy. The representative of the European Union further suggested to develop collaborative platforms for information sharing and increase triangular cooperation between the UN, AU and EU to conduct peace work in Africa.
Of the 51 statements delivered at the debate, 17 (33%) speakers addressed issues relevant to the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. First, the Secretary-General concluded his opening statement by emphasising the critical need to further advance the WPS Agenda to achieve peace and security in Africa. Following this lead, the representatives of Kazakhstan and Denmark underscored that durable peace will be fragile without the integration of women at all levels.
The representatives of Sweden, Egypt, Turkey, Estonia, Bangladesh and Venezuela, among others, stressed the need to integrate gender analysis and women’s participation in peace agreements and peace-building processes to encourage ownership. Concerning specific policy recommendations, the Representative of Denmark recommended the gender-mainstreaming of police forces in conflict zones, while the representative of Namibia encouraged the inclusion of a gender-sensitive outlook in institutional reform in post-conflict countries. On her end, the representative of Israel called for the economic empowerments of all women and girls, through the promotion of entrepreneurship workshops.
The incidence and prevalence of violence against women in conflict and post-conflict settings have also been highlighted by several speakers. In this vein, the representative of Canada advocated for the development of better response mechanisms to sexual violence and abuse of women perpetrated by peacekeepers. The representative of the United Kingdom also reiterated its commitment to help implement the Secretary-General’s “zero-tolerance policy”.
Having witnessed such encouraging commitment to further the WPS Agenda in the context of UN-AU partnership, it was however a disappointment to hear several states support increased participation of women in the military. It is important to re-frame women’s role in society and position them as key participants in the country’s peace and prevention strategies, rather than in military forces. Providing women with weapons is indeed never a solution to a bigger problem of patriarchy and violence. Working with African governments to increase the meaningful participation of women in peace operation and to make sure that women are active participants in shaping post-conflict policies is imperative as it has become clear now that when women and girls play meaningful roles in societies, peace efforts are more successful and sustainable.
This debate highlighted the increasing importance of assisting Africa in enhancing its operational capacity in peace and security through multilateral partnerships. In addition to the attention given to the need to develop robust partnerships, the open debate has encouraged the international community to increase financial and technical support for the African Union-led peace operations and advocated for a greater focus on the implementation of the WPS Agenda in the African Union security mechanisms in order to ultimately bring peace and security to the African continent.
In this regard, it is crucial to:
Adopt a strict control of small arms to ensure that they are not used to commit or facilitate a violation of international humanitarian law or human rights, including acts of gender-based violence, as mandated by the ATT;
Prioritise the use of temporary special measures in order to accelerate and strengthen women’s full and equal participation in all areas of decision-making and conflict prevention across Africa;
Identify a pool of gender experts (women and men) with knowledge and understanding of the African context for the implementation of the WPS Agenda and employ them as gender advisers within missions.
The meeting record is available here.