Improving reporting efforts to Silence the Guns in Africa

Encouraging member-state cooperation and improving reporting methods and tools are essential.

In response to Africa’s myriad conflicts and developmental impediments, the African Union (AU) Assembly launched the Silencing the Guns (STG) initiative in 2013 as a flagship project of Agenda 2063. Instituted by the 25 May 2013 solemn declaration marking the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, it aimed to alleviate continental conflicts and their causes by 2020.

After that deadline was missed, an Institute for Security Studies assessment of the initiative’s first phase (2013 to 2020) revealed slow implementation and a lack of progress tracking on the STG 2016 master roadmap implementation. Thus, a monitoring and evaluation framework was adopted in 2021, citing member states’ reporting as a key indicator to track progress.

Tackling the causes of continental insecurity makes states the kingpins in domesticating and implementing initiatives, which includes tracking the STG’s achievements. However, states’ inability to report on their accomplishments and/or challenges affects implementation because context-specific data to establish accurately whether STG is on track are missing. Interviews with experts and policymakers confirm this.

Member states are the kingpins in implementing the STG initiative’s components

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the STG unit should seize the initiative’s recent prorogation for a second phase to analyse the status quo. They could explore the causes of member states’ limited reporting to tailor responses and track STG progress.

The extent of non-reporting

As the monitoring and evaluation framework has not been translated into a structured reporting template, the reporting requirement and approach are yet to be clarified. In addition, making projections on reporting requirements from the framework is confusing given its varying reporting periods per output. The framework covers political, economic, social and legal aspects with 50 outputs, two of which are not driven by member states.

Chart 1: Key output areas

Chart 1: Key output areas

Chart 2: Frequency of output reports

 Chart 2: Frequency of output reports

(click on the charts for the full size images)

Member states and other actors are expected to report monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, and/or annually, depending on the output for either monitoring or evaluation. Twenty outputs (40%) have more than one reporting timeframe (see table below).

Since the framework provides no clear indication of how frequently member states and other stakeholders should report, speculation abounds as to the total number of expected output reports.

Member states’ reporting is very low. After the framework was adopted in 2021, it was shared among states with a requirement to appoint focal points in capitals to track progress nationally. Of fifty-five states, only six have appointed focal points. Moreover, only two countries have submitted reports with the support of the STG unit. Reports received are over-focused on arms collection during Amnesty Month and seem encouraged by the prospect of securing ongoing support from the AU and partners. As a result, tracking progress on STG’s implementation remains difficult.

Why the lack of reporting?

Several factors explain member states’ anecdotal and limited reporting. First, they generally consider STG a weapons-control initiative rather than a conflict-prevention programme. This highlights a lack of awareness, which does not foster strong buy-in and commitment and leads states to overlook the utility of prevention. Most states are hesitant to participate in context, vulnerability and need assessments on STG’s implementation, stating that such exercises are pointless because their security situations do not warrant them.

Secondly, most member states remain attached to the dictates of sovereignty and consider STG activities internal affairs. Thus, even where capacity gaps are obvious, most states remain resistant to assistance from the STG unit, PSC and broader African Peace and Security Architecture departments responsible for the initiative’s implementation and reporting.

The biggest challenge, however, is a lack of clarity on the reporting approach and requirements. It is unfeasible to expect reports from implementing stakeholders, including member states, based on the monitoring and evaluation framework’s 50 outputs without a clear and precise indication of reporting method and frequency.

Only six member states have appointed focal points to monitor and evaluate their STG progress

Given that Agenda 2063 has 14 additional projects, the heavy reporting requirement may be perceived as tedious, causing demotivation. It is exacerbated by member states’ lack of reporting capacities and tendency to appoint the same individuals to report on several initiatives and/or conventions. As a result, reporting becomes selective depending on the countries’ interests and available capacities.

Further, the STG unit’s current outreach, monitoring, and evaluation capacities seem limited. This does not help the unit compile, process and analyse reports. And, despite the tireless efforts of its two members, the capacity to engage actors and simultaneously track progress remains extremely constrained.

The need is urgent to raise funds for human resources to improve stakeholder management and tracking capabilities. The recent appointment of Ambassador Mohamed Ibn Chambas may speed up efforts to address the limitations and challenges.  

Detrimental consequences

Limited and anecdotal reporting has detrimental consequences. The unit’s efforts to enhance tracking and lesson learning are stymied by a lack of country-level granular data, which hampers analysis and experience sharing. Furthermore, limited reporting casts doubt on states’ commitment to a conflict-free continent by 2030, a timeline extended following failure to meet the 2020 deadline. This may create a feeling that the work of an already overstretched STG unit is in vain and lessen its motivation for this noble flagship project.

Inadequate reporting and the absence of data to tailor interventions make addressing the causes of continental conflicts daunting. The illicit flow of arms, organised crime and local conflicts that fuel terrorism and other significant security concerns persist due to the lack of crucial context-specific data. Such data might help better understand these phenomena and guide decision-making to address them.

A user-friendly reporting form is being developed and will soon be shared among states

Instead, the unit relies on scarce country data to generate reports of questionable accuracy. If this persists, it could become the way of ‘doing business’ and minimise the initiative’s impact, with the risk of the AU being unable to track its actual outcomes and progress.

What should be done

The STG unit is stepping up efforts to engage member states. PSC Report sources indicate that a user-friendly reporting form is being developed and will soon be shared among states and other actors. While this is commendable, the format should be based on simplified reporting, targets and collation methods, given the sheer number of reports if all states toe the line.

Likewise, developing an online reporting platform to ease data entry and automatically generate statistics and reports would considerably enhance reporting and facilitate the unit’s work. The Economic Community of West African States early warning system’s virtual reporting platform is an example. Actors such as the Fund for Peace, which supported this project, could be brought in.

The unit must also raise awareness among member states, build their reporting capability and help them internalise STG reporting capacity. The unit’s ongoing engagements with the STG steering committee are encouraging, but these should prioritise popularising the initiative, its frameworks and tools while building states’ reporting capacity.

Engagements should be rolled out speedily in the context of continental efforts in conflict prevention, management and resolution. This would require directing funding and human resource support to the STG unit to enhance its ability to fulfil its mandate.

Image: © UNPhoto  

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