Spotlight on post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa

Despite the many efforts to stop conflicts on the continent, in the past few years a number of countries emerging from conflict soon afterwards were again plunged into renewed violence.

These include Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR) and most recently South Sudan.

This disturbing trend raises questions about the effectiveness of the tools and mechanisms of the African Peace and Security Architecture and puts the spotlight on the work of the African Union (AU) on post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD).

It was in this context that the Peace and Security Council (PSC) recently held an open session on ‘Enhancing AU efforts in implementing post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa’.

While the PSC, according to its protocol, has to ‘promote and implement peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction activities to consolidate peace and prevent the resurgence of violence’, in 2006 the AU adopted a PCRD Policy Framework to enable it to deliver on its responsibilities in this area.

During the 14 June session of the PSC, many participants, including members of the PSC, expressed the view that the recent trend of countries relapsing into conflict can in many ways be attributed to the inadequate attention given to PCRD work and the lack of progress made in the implementation of the AU’s PCRD policy.

Efforts undertaken to support peace-building have been either inadequate or unsuccessful

Admittedly, since the adoption of the PCRD policy in 2006, the AU has undertaken some notable activities within its framework. The AU Commission (AUC) has developed operational guidelines for the adoption of the policy at regional and national levels; the establishment and creation of a database of African experts on PCRD; and the development of an AU Standing Multi-dimensional Committee on PCRD. The AUC has also launched specific in-country peace-building works – so-called ‘quick impact’ or peace-strengthening projects – to support countries such as the CAR, Comoros, Liberia and Sierra Leone within the context of the PCRD Policy Framework.

The AU undertook multidisciplinary missions to the CAR (2006), Liberia and Sierra Leone (2009), the DRC and Burundi (2010), and Sudan (2011), in order to assess and ascertain the post-conflict demands of these countries. In addition, the AU has also developed and adopted a Framework on Security Sector Reform (SSR). However, while a ministerial committee on PCRD has been established (in 2003, prior to the AU PCRD Policy and focusing on Sudan), it has been inactive for many years.

While these activities remain relevant, many of them are institutional and related to policy development. The eruption of conflict in the eastern DRC and Mali in 2012, and in the CAR and South Sudan in 2013, shows that the efforts undertaken to support peace-building have been either inadequate or unsuccessful. Given the limited experience that the AU has in this area, the amount of resources and expertise PCRD demands, and the high-level political and diplomatic engagement it requires to be successful, the AU’s lack of success or inadequate engagement does not come as a total surprise. It has become clear that the AU needs to do more work, within the available means and capacity, in various areas.

In this context, a number of issues need to be addressed. Several participants highlighted the importance of establishing close cooperation and working relationships with those regional and international actors with the institutional, technical and resource capacity relevant to PCRD. In this context, one major issue is how to leverage the work of entities such as the African Development Bank and the UN Peace-building Commission that undertake projects in this area. The other and related issue concerns the creation of synergy and coherence among the various entities of the AU with the relevant mandate for and expertise in PCRD. Although PCRD is a crosscutting policy framework, it is currently housed within the AU Peace and Security Department and its links with relevant departments such as Political Affairs, Social Affairs and Economic Affairs remain weak.

One example of this lack of capacity is the fact that the AU PCRD Unit employs only one expert

Perhaps the most serious challenge for the AU’s PCRD policy is capacity and resource limitations. One example of this lack of capacity is the fact that the AU PCRD Unit employs only one expert. More broadly, as the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, observed in his opening speech, the capacity deficits ‘[range] from planning and conceptualization of projects and programmes, to the execution, monitoring and evaluation at national and regional levels’.

One plan for addressing this capacity constraint is the establishment of an AU Centre for PCRD. Additionally, a lot may also be gained if the AU develops mechanisms for tapping into the existing technical and institutional capacities of some of its member states, regional organisations and civil society organisations.

The issue of resources has been recognised at the highest of levels. Perhaps one of the most promising initiatives to emerge within the AU’s PCRD framework is the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI), which was adopted at the 19th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in July 2012.

While the ASI was initiated as a flagship programme to support identified pilot countries, the ministerial declaration launching it also stipulated that the ASI ‘shall institute a coordinated and expanded platform aimed at mobilizing resources to PCRD activities in Africa’.

It is commendable that a number of AU member states have in the past year made financial contributions to support AU peace efforts.

From the perspective of the work of the PSC, one of the questions raised in the concept note for the open session was how much the PSC had done to advance PCRD. In this regard, one major concern is how the PSC can best implement its mandate with respect to PCRD in general and prevent countries’ relapse into conflict in particular. At one level, this is about following up and implementing decisions that the PSC adopts, such as those adopted at its 230th (PSC/PR/2.CCXXX) and 352nd (PSC/PR/COMM/CCCLII) meetings. On the other hand, this is in part a question of the need for the PSC to pay as much attention to countries emerging from conflict as to those still in conflict. In the current dispensation, the PSC’s work is dominated by a ‘firefighting’ approach and as such does very little in the post-conflict phase.

Recent events show that the PSC has to closely monitor and remain robustly engaged with countries coming out of conflict. To this end, the PSC needs to periodically consider and assess the situation in these countries as well as undertake visits to these countries. This should build on the AU practice of undertaking assessment missions, which should be supplemented with a follow-up mechanism capable of addressing the areas of intervention these assessment missions identify in their reports. As part of its increased focus on PCRD, the PSC needs to activate its envisaged sub-committee on PCRD (meant to be established in its decision at its 230th meeting) and dedicate a session to it on a quarterly or biannual basis during which it receives reports from the Commission and reviews the state of countries emerging from conflict (as part of the implementation of its communiqué PSC/PR/COMM/CCCLII).

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