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Financing AU-led peace support ops

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Picture: Eric KanalsteinIt/UNMISS – It is time now, more than ever, for the UN Security Council to endorse one of the funding models outlined by Secretary-General António Guterres for the predictable, sustainable, and flexible financing of AU-led operations and modalities for AU missions to access UN accessed contributions.

By Frederic Gateretse-Ngoga

“The issue is not that the world lacks financial resources. It is rather a case of inertia, lack of will and zero-sum calculus. Time is of the essence for the needed paradigm shift, and that time is now. Sometimes it takes less time to do the right thing than the years we have spent explaining why it could not be done.” – Dr Donald Kaberuka, AU High Representative (AUHR) on Financing the Union and the Peace Fund

The financing of the African Union (AU) peace support operations is a perennial issue, and it is one that has occupied immense scholarly discussion over the years. Currently it is receiving significant policy attention in both United Nations (UN) and AU Headquarters with the submission of Secretary-General Guterres’ report on the financing of AU operations, and the UN Security Council debate on peace and security in Africa under the Swiss Presidency on May 25, 2023.

Given these recent discussions, what has become clear is that it is time now – more than ever – for the UN Security Council to endorse one of the funding models outlined by Secretary-General Guterres for the predictable, sustainable, and flexible financing of AU-led operations and modalities for AU missions to access UN accessed contributions. Against the backdrop of a fractured multilateral security architecture, increasingly complex and intractable conflicts on the continent, and at the risk of increased divergence between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC), this milieu presents an important opportunity to strengthen the multilateral security architecture and to shore up the capacity of the AU to respond to conflicts on the continent.

The Case for UN Financing of AU-led Peace Operations

Over the past twenty years, the AU has become a significant actor in managing and resolving conflicts on the Continent. The AU’s track record over this period has confirmed that the maintenance of international peace and security is no longer just the purview of the United Nations, but that regional organisations and arrangements have a role to play as well, as envisaged by Chapter 8 of the UN Charter.

The African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) provides a comprehensive set of institutional mechanisms to resolve conflicts on the Continent. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) or the Assembly can choose to deploy African Peace Support Operations (PSOs) which are multinational, multifunctional, and multidimensional operations wherein the AU exercises direct Command, Control and Management to restore or maintain peace within a specific area of operations.

AU peace operations cover a broad range of mission types, including peace enforcement, counter-terrorism or stabilisation interventions as is the case in Somalia, but also peacekeeping, as was the case in Burundi. Despite the success of AU PSOs – as scholars have noted – AU PSOs struggle due to a number of limitations: namely, the lack of available resources and capacities that limit their efficacy and impact.

the AU has made significant headway in strengthening its institutional capacity to finance AU operations, as demonstrated by the effective operationalisation of the African Union Peace Fund and the formalisation of rigorous institutional compliance and accountability mechanisms @NgogaFred

The lack of resources limits what AU peace support operations can achieve. This is evident with the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), the successor transition mission to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is currently facing a budget shortfall of nearly $100 million, largely owing to a reduction in partner support for key initiatives, such as the European Union’s African Peace Facility (AFP). The funding crisis poses significant challenges for the effectiveness of AU missions.

The crisis comes at a time when the security threats pose grave risks to not only regional security threats, but also threats to international security. The AU and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are facing increasingly complex conflict dynamics and hybrid security threats that require robust and multidimensional configurations. Further complicating the equation is the range of tasks that missions are mandated with, and that is increasingly being asked of them by international and regional institutions, but also by local communities and host states.

There are two reasons why UN financing of AU-led peace operations is not only necessary but is a wise choice. First, AU-led missions having access to UN resources is not new. This is certainly the case with ATMIS, and its predecessor AMISOM, which receives comprehensive logistical support and backstopping through the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) and its predecessor the United Nations Support Office to AMISOM (UNSOA). Logistical support and backstopping of ATMIS is fundamentally in degrading Al-Shabaab’s capabilities in Somalia and has been a vital lifeline in the past, saving valuable lives and assets.

Second, the AU has made significant headway in strengthening its institutional capacity to finance AU operations, as demonstrated by the effective operationalisation of the African Union Peace Fund and the formalisation of rigorous institutional compliance and accountability mechanisms. What the AU Peace Fund has been able to achieve in such a short order is remarkable. By the end of 2023, it is projected that the Fund will have nearly $400 million, with the majority of it provided by contributions from its member states. In addition, rigorous financial governance and accountability mechanisms have been institutionalised, including the establishment of a Board of Trustees for the Peace Fund and the retaining of professional fund management services in line with established investment guidelines. These developments demonstrate that the institution is ready to deliver on the AU Assembly’s decision to finance 25 percent of the AU’s peace and security activities.

AU and REC-led missions are best equipped to engage in the necessary enforcement and stabilisation tasks that UN peacekeeping is not designed to undertake @NgogaFred

Back to Basics: the Primacy of Politics

The UN Security Council must go back to basics when it comes to the question of the financing of AU operations: the primacy of politics. Clear political strategies are needed for the effective resolution of conflicts. However, a necessary condition for effective national reconciliation, dialogue, and peace processes to take place is the stabilisation of complex security environments. AU and REC-led missions are best equipped to engage in the necessary enforcement and stabilisation tasks that UN peacekeeping is not designed to undertake. As such, well-equipped and resourced AU mandated and authorised missions is an imperative to the successful sequencing of stabilisation and peacebuilding efforts.

Ambassador Frederic Gateretse-Ngoga is a Burundian diplomat who is currently the senior advisor on international partnerships, the AU Border Programme, and regional security mechanisms in the office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security of the African Union Commission.

This article was published on ACCORD