Effective Global Peacebuilding Needs a United African Voice

The common African position could improve AU-UN partnerships, but the real test yields tangible results.

Peacebuilding is essential to help conflict-ridden states build inclusive societies, prevent and mitigate armed conflict, and move toward sustainable peace and development. The partnership between the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) has in recent years become the most important for strengthening peacebuilding in Africa.

But despite steps to ensure greater coherence (such as support for the UN’s sustainable peace agenda), problems continue to hamper tangible progress on the ground. These problems are related to the scale and scale of years of political crises, transnational threats and the interference of external political actors.

A refined and cohesive global peacebuilding system has been a priority since the establishment of the UN peacebuilding architecture in 2005. This architecture is subject to major institutional and policy reviews every five years. The third review follows the 2016 landmark that maintains peace decisions and is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

While the 2020 review is unlikely to break new conceptual ground or change current approaches, it is important because it can confirm recent gains and evaluate progress on key areas. Peacebuilding partnerships are one area, and the UN-AU relationship is at the top of the list for assessing progress.

The Common African Position highlights challenges relevant to UN peacebuilding architecture review

The Common Africa Position, initiated and endorsed by the AU, is a valuable contribution to the overview of the Peacebuilding architecture. It helps member states and organizations to identify areas of convergence and inequality in peacebuilding cooperation, and to foster stronger UN-AU cooperation. It gives priority to African peacebuilding and opportunities for improving peacebuilding processes – informed by lessons learned from the AU’s post-conflict reconstruction and development policies.

The Common African Position also highlights challenges relevant to the review of Peacebuilding Architecture. For example, UN and AU partners are grappling with differences over the political strategies for peacebuilding, the disputed nature of local ownership and years of conceptual differences in their respective peace and security frameworks.

However, there are some shortcomings in the Common Africa position. It emphasizes many shared priorities for peacebuilding, but does not specify how to bring about closer political cooperation between member states or at operational level. It is vital and is often overlooked as member states are the driving forces for peacebuilding on the ground.

Another concern is that while the Common African Position rightly emphasizes the importance of local peace-building actors in ensuring greater ownership, many member states still view co-operation between state and non-state actors as a technical issue. This means that deeper political dimensions of such commitments are lost.

Differences in peacebuilding terminology between the UN and the AU are a complicating factor

The difference in peacebuilding terminology between the UN and the AU is another complicating factor. Despite efforts to link conflict prevention and peacebuilding, the Common Africa Position regularly refers to reconstruction and development after conflict, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and stabilization in a largely interchangeable manner. This makes it difficult to promote a coherent common conceptual and operational understanding of peacebuilding.

Nevertheless, the Common African Position provides an important lens to reflect on the future of global peacebuilding and how a stronger UN-AU partnership can contribute to this.

It also indicates consensus among member states on peacebuilding, which is important because AU initiatives for reconstruction and development of the conflict have often been implemented in conflict. They also received far less attention than the mediation efforts and peace support operations of the AU. This is set out in a new joint study by the Institute for Security Studies and the International Peace Institute.

AU member states have used the Common African Position to endorse recommendations on peacebuilding and its links with a wide range of issues, such as: finance, conflict prevention, government, transitional justice, women, peace and security, health and the prevention and combating of terrorism. and violence. extremism. This evolution of the AU’s traditional post-conflict institutions is encouraging because it brings Africa closer to the UN’s own evolving peacebuilding approaches.

The Common African Position considers more financial support as the first of Africa’s peacebuilding priorities

The Common African Position regards increased financial support as the first of Africa’s priorities for peacebuilding. This is in line with the UN Secretary-General’s recent warning that ‘adequate, predictable and sustained resources for peacebuilding remain our greatest challenge.’

Improving co-operation between the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission is emphasized in the Common African Position as another priority. AU member states more frequently support consultations, joint visits to conflict-affected regions, the development of general analytical reports and the adaptation of development finance advocacy campaigns.

Whether the Common African Position and the Peacebuilding Architecture review will lead to tangible change remains to be seen. It is encouraging that discussions between the two organizations show how a more robust global approach can be achieved.

With corresponding political strategies of the AU-UN, the Common African Position can steer peace-building initiatives of African member states in Addis Ababa and New York. It will also be a valuable reference point for discussions by the UN Security Council, as well as the Africa Group of the UN General Assembly, and the UN Peacebuilding Commission. The task for the UN and AU peacebuilding stakeholders is to translate these efforts into concrete results.

Daniel Forti, Senior Policy Analyst, International Peace Institute and Priyal Singh, Researcher, Peace Operations and Peacebuilding, ISS Pretoria

This article is published as part of the Training for Peace Program (TfP), funded by the Government of Norway. It is one of a series on the UN-AU Partnership in Peace and Security for a joint project between the Institute for Security Studies and the International Peace Institute (IPI). A version of this article will also be published on IPI’s Global Observatory.


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