New ways for South Africa to enhance its peacebuilding efforts


South Africa enjoys unique access to multilateral arrangements such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA), and should use these to strengthen peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD) on the African continent.

These are the findings of a new paper by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Through its membership to IBSA, and specifically through the IBSA Facility for the Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger (IBSA Fund), South Africa has already been involved in projects that have had a big impact – despite having a small budget.

In 2014, BRICS established the New Development Bank (BRICS Bank), which will initially focus on development projects within the BRICS countries. What exactly do these developments mean, and how can South Africa use these to enhance its PCRD activities on the continent?

The new ISS paper shows that South Africa’s membership of these multilateral arrangements can potentially play a significant role in its PCRD activities. However, since the BRICS Bank and the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) have just been launched, there is still a lot of uncertainty over how this would work.

South Africa already has some experience in such projects through the IBSA Fund

The 2011 White Paper on South African Foreign Policy states that Africa has a ‘limited voice in the decision- and policy-making processes of the global trade, economic and financial institutions.’ It then describes how South Africa aims to address this imbalance by promoting the ‘increased alignment between the developmental agenda of Africa and the South and that of the global South.’

South Africa’s membership of IBSA and BRICS is therefore clearly in line with its foreign policy objectives. However, another foreign policy priority for South Africa has been its involvement in peace and security on the African continent. This leads to the question of the role that IBSA and BRICS could play in linking their development agenda to that of African peace and security.

As mentioned, South Africa has already been involved in, and had some notable successes through the IBSA Fund, which was established in 2004. IBSA tends to take on more low-key and less traditional development projects; the type that traditional donors wouldn’t often take on, such as a feeding scheme in South Sudan prisons.

The IBSA Fund is quite limited, with each IBSA member contributing only US$1 million per annum. Even so the fund has been called a pioneering initiative in South-South Cooperation, and has won several awards. South Africa should utilise its IBSA membership and its experience with the fund to further expand peacebuilding and PCRD activities on the continent, and explore how the niche created by IBSA can be used to carry out more successful projects.

The BRICS Bank, on the other hand, has only just been launched. It is clear that the bank will have a very large amount of money to work with: a contingent reserve arrangement of US$100 billion and an initial capital of US$50 billion. It is not yet clear, however, whether South Africa will be able to access any of this money for peacebuilding and PCRD activities on the African continent.

Greater funding does not necessarily translate into more successful projects

Initially, at least, it seems as if the bank will focus on projects in BRICS countries only, and that at a later stage it will consider projects in other countries. It also appears as if the BRICS Bank will be geared more towards infrastructure-related projects in its member countries. However, considering that the BRICS arrangement aims to challenge the current global governance and financial system, it may in future see the need to be involved in peacebuilding and PCRD in the rest of Africa. At present, a lot of aid comes from traditional northern donors, but South Africa and the rest of the continent are working towards diminishing reliance on these donors.

SADPA, (the South African Development Partnership Agency) – which is aimed at coordinating South Africa’s outgoing development cooperation, including peacebuilding and PCRD activities – is set to gain momentum later this year. It will replace the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) and inherit capital. Like the ARF it will also receive R500 million per year from the South African fiscus.

Even so, SADPA will have limited funding to carry out all its development cooperation projects. South Africa could carry out more wide-ranging PCRD activities through arrangements such as IBSA and BRICS, although at this stage it is not clear how SADPA will work with these arrangements. As things stand, SADPA will have to determine how it can utilise South Africa’s membership of the IBSA and BRICS arrangements to enhance its PCRD activities.

As mentioned above, South Africa already has some experience in projects through the IBSA Fund, but will it also be able to utilise its BRICS membership? Since the BRICS Bank has only just been launched, it may be too early to determine what role the BRICS can play in South Africa’s future PCRD activities.

The huge funds of the BRICS Bank may seem like an easy way for South Africa to enhance its peacebuilding and PCRD activities, but it should be kept in mind that greater funding does not necessarily translate into more successful projects. The BRICS Bank may take on more heavy-duty projects, and in the end it may also create a development cooperation niche, as IBSA has done.

What is important for South Africa is that it takes from its past involvement in Africa. Considering it’s past experience with peacekeeping and PCRD activities, the matter of maintaining coherence, strategic planning and sustainability will be probably the most vital aspect in ensuring success while working with IBSA or, perhaps in future, BRICS.

Naomi Kok, Consultant, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding, ISS Pretoria

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