The independent resource on global security

3. Peace-building: the new international focus on Africa


I. Introduction

II. Peace-building and human security

III. Peace-building in practice in Africa

IV. Conclusions


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An unprecedented level of attention was focused on Africa in 2005. Over the past decade the UN has intensified its engagement in Africa and, by December 2005, 75 per cent of UN resources were devoted to Africa. Nearly half the number of deployed UN personnel are African. However, the release in 2005 of major reports from the UN Millennium Project and the British-led Commission for Africa pointed to the stark fact that Africa is currently the region that is farthest from attaining any of the Millennium Development Goals. In recent years, Africa has provided pointed illustrations of the negative impact of weak governance and conflict on economic development—as in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Zimbabwe—and of how strong the turnaround can be when governance problems and conflict are resolved—as in Angola and Mozambique. With recognition of the growing political will in Africa to tackle the inter-connected security and development challenges facing the continent, 2005 saw a renewal of the global commitment to increasing stability and strengthening the continent’s own capacity to address peace and security challenges.


One of the first tangible achievements of the September 2005 World Summit was the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. This momentous measure was designed to assist countries emerging from conflict and to ensure that ‘“post-conflict” does not mean “post-engagement” of the international community’. The Commission will improve coordination among all actors within and outside the UN system involved in the post-conflict peace-building process, while at the same time promoting the need to anchor peace-building efforts in local contexts and dynamics, and therefore recognizing the primacy of local stakeholders. The Human Security Report 2005 showed a strong correlation between the sharp decline in armed conflicts and the deployment of peace missions.


In 2005 there were mixed results in peacekeeping and peace-building efforts in Africa. In Liberia, the UN mission achieved some success in implementing the transitional priorities, while the UN mission in Sierra Leone marked a successful completion of its six-year mandate, firmly putting the country on the road to a sustainable peace. However, success was not recorded elsewhere in the continent, where peace missions demonstrated the austere realities of peace-building in Africa in 2005 and the problems that will continue to challenge international actors in 2006. Repeated threats of violence in Côte d’Ivoire severely hampered the UN mission from carrying out its mandated tasks. The UN also struggled to bring stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in 2006 requested the support of the EU to deploy a limited military operation to assist in providing a secure environment for the forthcoming elections.


The biggest failure of the international community was in Darfur, Sudan. Constrained by the lack of appropriate and necessary equipment, trained and skilled peacekeeping personnel, and financial resources, the African Union (AU) proved woefully inadequate to assume responsibility for tackling Africa’s crises. The subsequent decision to merge the AU mission into a UN-led mission was testimony to the AU’s embryonic capacity to launch complex peace operations in a sustainable manner. It provides a strong argument for the international community to give serious consideration to the recommendations of the UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that the UN should provide equipment for regional operations and that such operations, when appropriate, should be financed from the UN peacekeeping budget.


Sharon Wiharta (Indonesia) is a Research Associate with the SIPRI Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme.