Strengthening Partnerships for African Solutions for African problems: Implications for peace support operations


The expression “African Solutions for African problems” has become something of a cliché. It is frequently invoked when trying to develop effective solutions to address peace and security challenges on the continent. It is a phrase that has also been misused by some leaders to advance their interests while trying to avoid scrutiny of their actions in handling their own domestic peace and security challenges and invoking the phrase in an effort to engage the African Union (AU) to provide a face-saving mechanism which perhaps they hope to influence.

It is to the credit of the AU that it has largely upheld its existing protocols and principles and has acted within the context of the structures of the peace and security architecture and with its other organs to work with member states to address these peace and security challenges by applying accepted principles and respecting its precedents.

In March this year, the UN Secretary-General launched #A4PPlus, with a focus on a few key priorities designed to be catalytic and further enhance the impact of @UNPeacekeeping  @HannaTetteh

With regard to peacekeeping, peace enforcement and peacebuilding, the effort to develop and implement “African solutions” can be effectively supported and buttressed by strong multilateral partnerships. Such partnerships are important in leveraging the respective strengths of the global, regional and sub-regional organisations in the maintenance of peace and security. The UN-AU joint framework on enhanced partnership in peace and security concluded in April 2017, provides for the two organisations to enhance joint efforts based on their respective comparative advantage and complementarity in peace and security and burden sharing on the basis of collective responsibility to respond early, coherently and decisively to prevent, manage and resolve violent conflict.  It is important for the two organisations to continue to leverage the partnership to respond to the changing threat landscape on the continent. 

Peacekeeping is one of the most effective tools available to the United Nations (UN) in the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security, but it has been challenged as a result of a changing global threat landscape. The new conflict landscape on the African continent is characterised by intra-state conflicts, the growing threat of terrorism, transnational organised crime, weak state institutions and in some instances the significant absence of effective institutions responsible for the maintenance of the rule of law. International responses to these challenges therefore require a much broader approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts moving from military to multi-dimensional approaches, including building the capacity of the host state in the strengthening of the rule of law institutions, and including referencing successful models and practices that have been implemented in other African states that have emerged from conflict.

The UN Secretary General launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative (A4P) to renew mutual political commitment to peacekeeping operations in 2018 and on the 25th of September 2018 hosted a General Assembly High level meeting on A4P where a declaration of shared commitments to strengthen peacekeeping was launched. As at the 20th of September 2020 some 154 member states, including a number of African member states had endorsed the declaration. 

The A4P implementation goals are centred on eight priority commitment areas (1) advancing political solutions to conflict and the political impact of peacekeeping, (2) women, peace and security, (3) strengthening the protection provided by peacekeeping operations (4) improving the safety and security of peacekeepers (5) supporters performance and accountability (6) peacebuilding and sustaining peace (7) improving peacekeeping partnerships and (8) conduct of peacekeepers and peacekeeping countries. 

It is time to re-engage the UNSC to take another look at the financing of African-led peace support operations with a serious effort to arrive at workable compromises @HannaTetteh

On 29 March this year, the third anniversary of the A4P initiative, the UN Secretary-General launched the next phase of the initiative, Action for Peacekeeping Plus, which aims to focus on a few key priorities that are designed to be catalytic and further enhance the impact of peacekeeping, including seeking durable political solutions; working towards more integration within the UN system and with partners and a renewed effort to improve accountability, including protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA).

These goals cannot be achieved without the political commitment of member states especially troop and police contributing countries, and Africa currently contributes approximately 85% of all deployments to UN peacekeeping missions and all deployments to AU-led operations. Clearly there is the need to strengthen engagement, coordination and collaboration in order to achieve the objective of supporting African solutions to African problems as many of these missions are deployed on the African continent. 

Chapter VIII of the U.N. Charter provides for Regional organisations to intervene in conflict situations in respect of “dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations”. Over time the different advantages and complementarity that the UN/AU and Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms have to offer, have been appreciated and these partnerships can be further strengthened to support the implementation of “African solutions to African problems”. To meet the challenges of the emerging security environment and to safely deploy, support and redeploy troops, police and civilian staff to peace support operations and other missions on the continent, the issue of logistics support and predictable sustainable funding are important areas to be addressed by the UN, AU, REC’s/RM’s and their member states. 

Therefore, giving due attention to the content of UNSCR2378 and the joint declaration of 6th December 2018 by the U.N. Secretary General and the AU Chairperson it is critical to have another look at the issues of sustainable funding from UN accessed contributions and the possibility of assessed funding mandated by the UN going forward. The progress that has been made by the AU in the development and adoption of the policies on conduct and discipline, sexual exploitation and abuse is highly commendable. The adoption of the African Union Peace Support Operation Doctrine by the AU Specialised Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security is also an important development; and the efforts made by AU member states and the Union to operationalise the AU peace fund is an important step towards ensuring the availability of predictable and sustainable funding towards supporting the AU’s peacebuilding efforts. 

Going back to the issue of partnerships to support the implementation of African solutions to African problems, there is the need to re-engage the UNSC on the financing of African lead peace support operations, because the question of financing has significant implications for peace support operations and peacebuilding efforts on the continent as a whole, and especially in the context of Somalia post-2021. 

Difficult problems need active engagement with key stakeholders to find resolution, and partnerships to develop creative African-led solutions are critical in this regard. The time to take another look at financing African-led peace support operations is now, to meet the urgent need to address the ongoing peace and security challenges with a serious effort to arrive at workable compromises. No doubt this will require flexibility and a willingness to look at the possible mechanisms to be employed that ensure compliance with the principles of the United Nations, but that can be achieved and reviewing S/2017/454The report of the Secretary General on options for authorisation and support of African Union peace support operations – could be a way to re-start this discussion. The resolution of such an important issue would be an important step in supporting peacebuilding efforts on the continent and one would hope that this time it can be done.  

Hanna Serwaa Tetteh is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union.

Article by:

Hanna Serwaa Tetteh
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union

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