18 Oct 2013

Drawing lessons from conflict relapse in Africa: What scope to do things differently?

by Volker Hauck.

Conflict trends on the African continent over the last 20+ years show, similar to global trends, a substantial reduction of armed conflicts between states and a declining number of major civil wars. According to the Human Security Report (2012), the average number of battle deaths per conflict in the region has declined by 90 percent since 2000. However, while the onset of new conflicts has significantly been reduced, conflict relapse has become characteristic of civil wars. According to the World Development Report (2011) every civil war that began since 2003 was a resumption of a previous civil war.

After 10+ years of operation, the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) created by the African Union (AU) in 2002 is widely seen as an overall positive experience in shaping the peace and security responses of the AU, despite many challenges. The APSA is anchored on the Peace and Security Council and comprises the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), the Panel of the Wise (PoW), the African Standby Force (ASF), the African Peace Fund (APF) and the African Union Commission’s department dealing with peace and security. Moreover the APSA comprises a Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) policy that seeks to achieve long-term sustainable development beyond stabilisation.

Appreciation from African actors and international partners for the APSA was witnessed during the AU conference that discussed 10 years of APSA – held in Cairo in November 2012. The stocktaking event reviewed how “African solutions are found to African problems” through AU mechanisms as well as through a collaboration of the AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

The important contributions of the APSA to addressing acute security issues were recognized but serious concerns were expressed about the above mentioned conflict relapse. This led to questions about what could be done better to break out of often vicious circles of conflict to find paths leading towards reconstruction and sustainable development.

The issue of repeated fragility in certain regions in Africa was also discussed during an AU meeting in September 2012 (Banjul, The Gambia). Questions were raised regarding the extent to which the APSA could be linked to the African Governance Architecture (AGA) thereby finding ways through which the more fundamental aspects of conflict could be addressed.

The issue is still on the table and raises questions whether more could be done in the area of PCRD, the obvious “connector” between security and development. PCRD is a very wide field comprising infrastructure reconstruction, questions about the provision of services but also institutional and governance related matters.

In this regard, a closer linking of the APSA with the New Deal should also be considered. The New Deal was concluded in Busan in November 2011 and provides a basis for arriving at a more comprehensive and holistic approach to post-conflict reconstruction and peace consolidation. Its peacebuilding and statebuilding goals are today an internationally agreed conceptual framework. So far, there have been few bold steps taken from the AU’s side to establish linkages with the New Deal that some African governments as well as international partners, including the EU and its member states, are strongly supporting.

The EU-Africa Partnership on Peace and Security is one of the eight partnerships of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy. It supports the APSA in three ways, i.e. the enhancement of dialogue on peace and security issues, the predictable funding for African-led peace support operations and the full operationalization of the APSA. A lion-share of the European funding supports the AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs). It was made available through the African Peace Facility (APF) with over EUR 1 billion from the 9th and 10th European Development Fund (EDF). Implementing the Partnership on Peace and Security has been more than a technical experience. It was embedded in a political process that has shown a steady upward trend since the early 2000’s while being accompanied by some misunderstandings as well as tensions that went beyond the work floor level. However, the Partnership is seen as a major success and has increasingly sought to align behind, understand and support African positions in relation to peace and security issues on the continent.

In view of the conflict relapse but also in view of the recent developments in Northern Africa and the Sahel that threaten the more positive trends over the past years, questions should be raised what more can be done from the European as well as African side to address peace and especially peace consolidation in a more comprehensive way. An evolution of the EU support to the APSA took place from the 9th to the 10th EDF that put greater emphasis on PCRD. This was in line with the original vision of the APSA.

To date, however, there has been limited progress on the implementation of this wider emphasis. The overwhelming focus of resources is still on the development of capacity to establish and operate targeted PSOs, an area where the absorption rate for external funding is high.
At the same time, significant delays are being encountered in bringing other planned activities under the APF, such as strengthening the civilian component in PSOs, establishing and empowering an EU-African civil society network capable of supporting peace and security initiatives, and bolstering effective post-conflict reconstruction, including reinforcing the role of women. Networking and collaboration between the AU and the EU with regard to the implementation of the AU Policy on PCRD has also not progressed significantly, despite being an agreed priority area.

Questions on how to escape from conflict in Africa and how to establish peace consolidation will remain top of the international as well as the African agenda. They should be of concern to the political dialogue as well as policy dialogue in the context of the EU-Africa Partnership on Peace and Security.

How can the Partnership efforts in the area of PCRD become more effective, what can be done differently from before?

What steps can be taken from the African side to link the APSA more effectively to the AGA and can international partners play a role in this?

What role can international partners, including the EU, play to reinforce African efforts at continental, regional and national levels to address conflict relapse through a better linkage with the New Deal?


Photography by Mikko Saari.

This post was written by ECDPM.

These questions will be discussed at the forthcoming European Think Tanks’ conference: Looking Beyond 2013: AreEU-Africa Relations Still Fit for Purpose? 

Comments and questions ahead of this event are welcomed on this blog.


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