On November 16-18, SIPRI organized a regional dialogue meeting in Bamako, Mali on the future of peace operations and conflict management in Northern Africa. This was the fifth and final regional meeting in the series organized within the project New Geopolitics of Peace Operations II: African Outlooks on Conflict Management. The project aims to better understand how to prepare peace operations for the diverse security environments in Africa, while promoting local and international dialogue on the future of peace and security.
The meeting, organized in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, brought together a range of leading experts, military and government officials and representatives of international organizations to discuss how to improve the response to security challenges in the region.
On the third day of the regional dialogue participants were invited to join a high level event that focused on a critical assessment of the role that external actors, particularly the United Nations, play in the Malian crisis. Distinguished panellists included Moussa Mara and Soumana Sacko, former prime ministers of Mali, AU high representative Pierre Buyoya and President of the ECOWAS Commission to Mali Aboudou Chéaka Touré.
In March 2016 the project will hold a global dialogue meeting in Brussels, Belgium where international and African stakeholders will discuss how to improve cooperation on peace operations in Africa.
As part of the second phase of the New Geopolitics of Peace Operations Initiative, SIPRI co-organized a series of dialogue meetings with diplomats, military representatives and academics in five subregions of Africa: West Africa (Abuja), the Greater Horn of Africa (Addis Ababa), Central Africa (Douala), Southern Africa (Maputo) and Sahel-Saharan Africa (Bamako).
Reports from each of the dialogue meetings are now available for download from the SIPRI website. Each report highlights several key themes that emerged from the regional dialogues.
While African outlooks on these important questions are truly diverse, several key insights emerged. African stakeholders are calling for more comprehensive, robust and long-term peace operations that would play a role in addressing root causes of conflict while also responding to immediate crises. There is also a general consensus that in order for African states and organizations to fulfil their responsibilities to their region and to gain independence from external assistance, more global investment in African capacities will be required in the short term.
SIPRI will produce a final report, which aims to give an overall picture of peace operations in Africa, to be published in late 2016.
The aims of the Initiative are twofold: to improve understanding of how to best prepare peace operations for the diverse security environments in Africa, and to improve international cooperation on peace operations in Africa. The Initiative is funded by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES).
UN peacekeeper on duty in Liberia, 2012. Photo: UN Photo/Staton Winter
In anticipation of next week’s opening of the annual session of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in New York (C34), SIPRI publishes the final report of the New Geopolitics of Peace Operations II initiative, entitled ‘African Directions: Towards an Equitable Partnership in Peace Operations’.
SIPRI data shows that 75 per cent of all personnel in multilateral peace operations are now deployed on the continent (see figure 1 for regional comparisons). Currently, the report argues, the global partnership with African actors on peace operations is not sufficiently equitable and balanced. The findings outline pathways to improve future collaboration between African and external actors (the UN Security Council, other international organizations, donor countries, and non-African troop-contributing countries), and to strengthen their mutual understanding. These are based on dialogue meetings in five African subregions, in addition to a global dialogue meeting organized in Brussels.
Reconsider the underlying assumptions of the peace operations partnership
The underlying assumptions of the relationship between African and external actors need to be reconsidered, according to the report, if peace operations are going to counteract current and future challenges to security (e.g. terrorism, criminality and insurgency) and respond to the needs of local citizens and communities—the end users of peace. ‘We need to get out of the unhealthy dynamic in which the ambiguity of the concept of African ownership can be used for political purposes by African and external actors alike,’ says Xenia Avezov, Researcher in the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme. This means that external actors should not hide behind African ownership to avoid contributing to peace operations in Africa, while African actors should not use the concept to avoid their responsibilities in terms of, for example, accountability.
‘The challenges that peace operations in Africa have to address in the future may play out on the continent, but they are essentially global in character,’ says Dr Jaïr van der Lijn, Programme Manager of the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme. Globalization and the interconnectivity of current security challenges mean that peace operations require shared responses. Successful peace operations in Africa require more African influence in the decision-making process about them, but as part of a global partnership. At the same time, external actors have an obligation and interest to play their part financially and militarily, the report explains.
The current division of labour is unsustainable
African countries are increasingly providing the personnel for peace operations in Africa (see figures 2a and 2b), while external actors generally pay for them. This needs to be considered alongside the discrepancy in military spending when compared with, for example, their European counterparts (see figure 3). African countries do not generally have the same level of military capabilities and capacities as many external actors, and the imbalance between the African nations is significant as well. The lack of adequate military equipment is often mentioned as one of the reasons why African contingents in peace operations suffer relatively high numbers of fatalities.
True Partnership: decide together, pay together, bring peace together
Despite improvements in African capabilities and capacities for peace operations, the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) has still not reached full operational capability. At the same time, the continent will not be able to take on all the military, development-related and civilian requirements of multidimensional peace operations, at least not in the short to medium term.
The report therefore concludes that the global-regional partnership, as suggested by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and taken up by the UN Security Council, has to be deepened further to improve the success of peace operations in Africa. ‘We have to move away from referring only to African ownership and towards a truly balanced and equitable global-regional partnership to make peace operations in Africa fit for the future,’ says van der Lijn. ‘This is really the only option,’ he continues, ‘we need joint responsibility for and ownership of decision making, and financial and personnel contributions to peace operations in Africa to make the existing conflict management structures sustainable.’
The SIPRI New Geopolitics of Peace Operations II (NGP II) initiative is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and is conducted in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The report is based on regional dialogue meetings held in five African subregions: West Africa, the Greater Horn of Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Sahel-Saharan Africa. Following these meetings, a global dialogue meeting was organized in Brussels to bring together selected participants from the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations, as well as experts and military and government officials from African and European countries, the United States and Russia.
SIPRI launched the final report of the first phase of the New Geopolitics of Peace Operations (NGP I) initiative in January 2015. One of its key findings was that despite the overwhelming consensus on the concepts and principles applied in peace operations, and the perceived crucial importance of peace operations for resolving global conflicts, the number and scope of operations are likely to stagnate in the regions that major powers view as their backyards or where they have conflicting interests, but that Africa, in particular, is an exception to this rule and that peace operations are actually likely to evolve further in this region.
The events were co-organized with the Permanent Missions of Ethiopia, Finland and the Netherlands and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). The panel discussion focused on the findings of the final report of the initiative The New Geopolitics of Peace Operations II aimed at contributing to ongoing initiatives with the scope of strengthening the global-regional partnership between the UN and Africa.
During the panel discussion, SIPRI’s Dr. Jaïr van der Lijn, Head of the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme, presented the project findings which are largely based on five regional dialogues in Africa and a global dialogue meeting which in addition to African participants also involved representatives from outside continent. The findings were focused primarily on pathways of improving future collaboration and mutual understanding between African and external actors.
The New York presentation events follow on from events in Brussels and Addis Ababa.
SIPRI’s Dr Jaïr van der Lijn presented on a panel that included Mariam Mahamat Nour, member of the Advisory Committee on African Union reform, headed by President Kagame; and Ramtane Lamamra, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria and former African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security.
Dr Jaïr van der Lijn, Head of the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme, featured on a panel discussion on peacekeeping arrangements between intergovernmental organisations at the recent Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, 13–14 November 2017.
In this landmark conference, opened by Macky Sall, President of Senegal, and featuring participation from African and European heads of state and ministers, as well as top representatives of intergovernmental organisations and agencies, SIPRI presented the outcomes and recommendations of the New Geopolitics of Peace Operations: Africa initiative. The project examines the future of peace operations in Africa; what is required to make them fit for purpose; and the need for a equitable and balanced global–regional partnership between Africa and external actors.
Timo Smit, Researcher with the SIPRI Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme, also contributed to the conference book with a piece on subsidiarity in the field of peace operations between the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and sub-regional organisations.
SIPRI will continue with the next phase of the new geopolitics of peace operations, focussing on non-traditional security challenges. This aims to enhance understanding about UN and non-UN peace operations and their role in dealing with non-traditional security challenges, specifically, terrorism and violent extremism, irregular migration, piracy, organized crime and environmental degradation.