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Spotlight: Securing the future of African peace operations

Working with the Challenges Forum, ISS fostered dialogue and consensus around effective peacekeeping partnerships.

The ISS helped to ensure African peace operations stay on the global agenda, and fostered consensus in the debate over sustainable funding at a time when United Nations (UN) missions are being forced out of the continent’s conflict zones.

Researchers from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) worked with Norway’s Training for Peace Programme and partner institutions to host the annual Challenges Forum in October 2023. The gathering in Addis Ababa was held just a few months ahead of a landmark UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on financing African Union (AU) peace support operations.

The Challenges Forum is an international partnership that facilitates frank dialogue between policymakers, government officials, academics, UN, AU, European Union representatives and development partners. It is hosted by the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), the Swedish government agency for peace, security and development, which includes African members such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa. It stresses the importance of strong multilateral partnerships and more effective peace operations. 

‘Independent African partners like the ISS enable Sweden to contribute to peace and security in Africa,’ says FBA Director-General Per Olsson Fridh. ‘ISS research and African insights inform our strategy and policy making. The institute’s ability to convene the highest level of African participants, combined with its logistical support, is what made the 2023 Challenges Forum such a success.’ 

Delegates at the forum discussed the complex security deficit in many parts of Africa. ‘The forum’s informal nature provides opportunities for robust debates and conversations about contentious issues that aren’t possible in formal settings like UN meetings or an AU Summit,’ says ISS Project Manager and Senior Researcher Dr Dawit Yohannes. He was part of an ISS team which organised the event with the Challenges Forum. The ISS presented a background paper, invited African speakers and moderated the meeting.

‘Africa can’t do without robust security assistance to deal with ongoing conflicts and terrorism,’ ISS Executive Director Fonteh Akum said in his keynote address. ‘The future of peace operations is at stake.’

Peacekeeping has played a crucial role in Africa for more than 60 years, but the UN missions in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have faced a crisis of confidence due to slow progress in delivering their mandate, and tense relations with host governments and parts of the local population. This highlights the growing role of the AU and others in filling the vacuum left by departing UN missions, and their collective responses to insecurity in general.

African-led peace support operations can be deployed more quickly and have a better knowledge of the operating environment than their UN counterparts. However, the AU lacks the finances for all the missions needed in Africa.

ISS and Challenges Forum partners helped ensure African peace operations stay on the global agenda

In its landmark decision in December 2023, the UNSC agreed that AU-led peace operations will be supported by the UN on a case-by-case basis – the outcome of more than two decades of debate. UNSC Resolution 2719 sets a ceiling for the UN’s financial contributions at 75% of each mission’s annual budget, and commits the UN and AU to jointly raise the remaining funds.

The 2023 Challenges Forum linked the AU-centric debate with global and regional discussions, highlighting the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for AU and regional peace operations.

This is reflected in the draft Pact for the Future, which will be negotiated during the UN’s Summit of the Future in September this year. The pact will lay the foundation for effective global cooperation on today’s challenges and future threats.

For more information, contact:

Dawit Yohannes, ISS: [email protected]

Development partners
The ISS is grateful for support from the members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the European Union, the Open Society Foundations and the governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
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