Over the next few weeks, the United Nations (UN) Security Council is likely to authorise a new UN special political mission with enhanced state- and peace-building capacities that will replace the current UN presence in Somalia. At the same time, the African Union (AU) is considering expanding the civilian component of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to focus on supporting institutional capacity-building in Somalia’s key statutory institutions. This situation has strategic and operational implications for both the UN and the AU, and raises important issues relating to UN-AU coordination on the ground and funding, as well as the capacity of each organisation to carry out mandates or act in contexts that are outside their comfort zones.
Current discussions about a new UN mission in Somalia and an expanded civilian mandate for AMISOM occur against the background of the new political dispensation led by President Hassan Sheikh since September 2012. After more than two decades of dysfunctional political structures and corrupt transitional administrations, the major international and regional players view the establishment of a popular Somali government as a great opportunity in the quest for peace.
This window of opportunity does however require a step change in international support strategies in Somalia. This is already apparent in the ongoing international and regional debate, which is progressively shifting its focus from security-oriented narratives that sought to defeat al-Shabaab, to those of state- and peace-building as being imperative for sustaining progress in the country.
Consequently, the major external players in Somalia are starting to focus on effective mechanisms to strengthen the delivery capacity of the government. The international approach to crosscutting policy issues in Somalia thus far appears to be mainly security-oriented, and hence the building of the security and judicial sector with a view to consolidating stability and establishing the rule of law. The future political evolution of Somalia and the policies that will be pursued by the Somali federal government will be greatly affected by the strategies proposed by these external actors.
The UN and the AU’s strategies in Somalia have been shaped by the country’s changing security and political environment.
On the one hand, the enhancement of the UN political presence suggested by the Secretary General in his last Report on Somalia (31 January 2013) is the result of the urgent need to focus UN efforts on the priority gaps in the international approach, in areas such as strategic policy advice to the government, coordination of efforts in stabilisation and peace-building, and delivery of humanitarian and development efforts. The overall UN involvement will be confined to a political mission since, according to the Security Council, conditions on the ground are not appropriate for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation. This new UN institutional architecture in Somalia shows how flexible, creative and innovative the UN can be in setting up missions that do not fit the traditional conditions of engagement.
Out of four possible options, the UN Secretary General recommended the establishment of a UN Assistance Mission, providing political and peace-building functions as well as logistical support to AMISOM. This mission’s model would imply the dissolution of UNPOS (the UN Political Office in Somalia), involved in the country since 1994, because its limited capacity for peace-building is inadequate for current needs. UNSOA (the UN Support Office to AMISOM), established in 2009, would be integrated into the framework of the new mission.
The UN Security Council formally announced the structure of the mission in Resolution 2093 on Somalia (6 March 2013). In it, the Council opted for the model in which the UN Country Team will by 1 January 2014 be integrated into the new UN mission, which will operate alongside AMISOM. This means there will be an integrated UN peace-building mission, combining UN political, humanitarian and development coordination, and logistical support for the UN and AMISOM.
On the other hand, the expansion of AMISOM’s civilian component underscores the fact that, after years of military activities and a considerable number of lives sacrificed, the AU is keen to undertake political and peace-building programmes in support of Somali institutions. This would allow the AU to gain experience in this field, as had been the case with the strategic guidance and operational management of the AMISOM military mission during the years of deployment. Moreover, the AU would enjoy the support of African actors in its efforts to deliver African responses to African problems. Therefore, the enthusiasm for such a task is there, yet the funding required for the AU to carry out its expanded mandate may be a major hindrance.
As the Report of the Strategic Review of the AMISOM states (16 January 2013), the recommended option - option 3 - is one whereby the UN and the AU would operate under a joint mission with joint political direction and leadership. This would allow AMISOM to access sustainable funding from the UN’s assessed contribution peacekeeping budget. However, the Review Team of this Report recommended that option 2 (an enhanced AMISOM) should serve as an interim arrangement to allow for a transition to option 3 in a timeframe of 12 months.
However, in accordance with UN Resolution 2093 the UN is not willing to accept the establishment of a UN-AU joint mission in the near future, since it doesn’t want to be implicated in the combative activities that AMISOM’s military mandate involves. Hence, an enhanced AMISOM is the most likely option.
In conclusion, the enlargement of the UN and AU missions in Somalia highlights three sets of challenges. First is the capacity of both organisations to cooperate in the implementation of similar mandates, in order to ensure coherence and predictability in the support provided to the Somali federal government. In this sense, both organisations should consider enhanced coordination and division of labour so that the aspirations of both organisations are balanced. This could avoid an underrepresented African side and the duplication of tasks.
Second is the capacity of both organisations to operate outside their traditional areas of action and the challenges posed by new issues that may require different approaches. The UN will operate under an innovative modality of engagement in a situation that still requires military operations and hence may have no peace to keep, while the AU is potentially embracing new areas of operation that go beyond the modality of the peace enforcement operations that it has conducted since 2007.
Last is the question of the finances required to set up these missions. In light of the new UN mission, the UN should provide enhanced financial and technical support to AMISOM’s civilian component, while the AU should encourage its member states to increase their contributions to the mission, as well as their voluntary contributions to the AU Peace Fund.
Neus Ramis Segui, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, ISS Addis Ababa