With what is touted to be the final exercise before the AU’s African Standby Force (ASF) becomes reality looming ever larger on the horizon another reminder the importance such a force has for the continent this week came from the United Nations. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council two thirds of the world body’s peacekeeping operations – employing 90% of its uniformed peacekeepers – are in Africa. A high level independent panel on peace operations has recommended greater support to UN Security Council authorised AU peace operations which was endorsed by the UN chief. Another recommendation is that the UN enables regional organisations to “share the burden” which Ban saw as being “more predictable financing, including the use of UN assessed contributions”. This would be in addition to existent support including planning, logistic packages, UN managed trust funds and access to UN expertise, systems, materiel and services.
Ban said joint efforts have made a difference in defusing tensions and resolving an electoral crisis in Kenya and ending the political deadlock in Madagascar via a Southern African Development Community (SADC) roadmap. While it was difficult to quantify he said the UN’s broad support for the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) included “highly valuable” political co-operation. Indications are at least 5,000 troops from various countries in Africa will be at the SA Army’s Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape from late October for Exercise Amani Africa 11, billed as being the last part before the continental ASF becomes an operational entity. The exercise marks the end of a three year training cycle on which just on nine million US dollars has been spent by the AU. According to Colonel Cheik Dembele the ASF is not going to be an Africans army but would comprise elements made available by Africa’s various economic communities, such as SADC and ECOWAS. “They will be on standby and ready for mobilisation in the event a decision is taken by the AU to send a force into a particular area or country,” he told an Amani Africa 11 workshop in Pretoria last month.
The ASF will eventually incorporate ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises), a largely South African initiative to give the continent a stopgap rapid deployment forces until such time as the ASF is properly operational. On Tuesday this week Ban told the Security Council the UN was increasingly sharing responsibility for peace and security with regional organisations stressing everything possible should be done to help them resolve regional problems and to include the States concerned in solutions. “At the same time, regional organisations should continue contributing to UN peace and security efforts. We count on them for political leverage as well as civilian and military capacities,” he said during an open debate on the subject of regional organisations and contemporary global security challenges. Noting co-operation with regional and sub-regional organisations has gained “greater influence” in recent years partly because of the changing nature of conflicts Ban said a number of aggravating factors had prompted him to request a fresh review of UN peace operations. “Urbanisation, unemployment and population movements, including massive displacement, are increasing dramatically. Technological advances in warfare, including cyber threats, pose grave dangers to civilians. And against this shifting security landscape, the United Nations is deploying into fragile and remote environments with little peace to keep.”
The Secretary-General said that he was analysing the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations to identify the recommendations the Organisation can carry out “immediately” – and those that will require action by legislative bodies, Member States and partners. One of these recommendations is a “stronger global-regional partnership” to ensure the Security Council can draw on a “more resilient and capable network of actors,” he underlined. “In recent years, we have seen how practical co-operation among the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union has enhanced progress in Africa. Now we need to build on this trilateral co-operation and boost our collective ability to manage, plan and execute peace operations,” he said. Different forms of engagement with other organisations proved equally successful, including the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the League of Arab States (LSA), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The report also calls for greater support to Security Council-authorised African Union peace operations, the experts recommending the UN enable regional organisations to share the burden in accordance with the UN Charter. “Toward that end, I draw attention to the Panel’s call for more predictable financing, including through the use of UN-assessed contributions,” Ban said. “We have succeeded in enhancing our partnerships. We have come to rely on each other in critical times. We will continue to advance progress,” the UN chief maintained.