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Streamlining Africa’s input into the Pact for the Future

African states should become actively involved in negotiating the Pact for the Future before time runs out.

On 26 January 2024, preparations for the Summit of the Future began with the release of the zero draft of the Pact for the Future. According to United Nations (UN) sources, more than 80 member states, about 500 civil society organisations and other key stakeholders contributed to the consultations on which the draft is based. The draft has since spurred ongoing negotiations as facilitators of the process work towards its finalisation for adoption at the Summit of the Future slated for September 2024. Despite wide consultation and input, sources close to the process worry about the extent to which Africa has reflected its priorities even as the draft is in its third reading.

Why the summit matters

Pact for the Future negotiations come at a time when the global security governance infrastructure is strained and humanitarian consequences posed by conflicts, climate change and pandemics obvious. Globally, conflict numbers have increased by more than 40% since 2020. In Africa, this has led to the deterioration of security and humanitarian dynamics in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

These challenges are compounded by the failures of established global and regional response mechanisms to resolve existing and emerging challenges. The UN’s ability to use key peace frameworks such as mediation in major crises has been hampered by deep UN Security Council (UNSC) divisions. These rendered the UNSC unable to speedily authorise new peace operation missions since 2014. Where UN missions exist in countries such as DRC and Mali, local dynamics have led to hostile demands for their withdrawal despite the inability of national structures to sustain gains made by peacekeeping missions.

UN civil society engagements have been acknowledged, but are they informing discussions in New York?

AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat recently lamented the increasing struggle by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) to enforce its decisions. Many are overlooked and violated due to factors including differing interpretations of the subsidiarity principle governing relations between the AU and regional blocs.

Amid the lacuna from the interplay of rising challenges and inadequate responses, Pact for the Future preparations provide a rare opportunity for global multilateral actors to explore answers to international peace and security questions. As a continent that accounts for most of the planet’s peace and security issues, this is a rare chance for Africa to make sure that its priorities across the five chapters of the Pact are adequately reflected. This would go a long way to ensuring any emerging response framework adequately responds to the challenges. The draft Pact provisions that stress the need for adequate, predictable, and sustainable financing for regional peace support operations, for example, stand to benefit Africa directly in its quest for resources to address pressing issues.

Two priorities in the draft refer to the reform of global governance institutions. These seek to commit global leaders to a multilateral system that is effective, capable, just and representative, and a financial system modernised and strengthened to ‘offer more complete, equitable and sustainable solutions to future challenges’. The summit will allow Africa to ignite discussions on the major global reform priorities on which it has worked for decades. A missed opportunity to contribute to this debate might make it difficult for the continent to revisit the issue.

More needs, less engagement

Since the zero draft of the Pact was released, negotiations have gathered momentum in New York. Numerous informal consultations with multiple stakeholders and member states paved the way for its third reading on 28 May 2024. To date, however, traction and engagement on the topic have been limited at the AU, regional economic communities and member states. While some AU officials voiced Africa’s priorities on some platforms, the event didn’t offer any leadership on the Pact. As noted by one pact co-facilitator, few African states are contributing to shaping Africa’s position.

The summit will allow Africa to ignite debate on global reforms on which it has worked for decades

The most visible engagement has centred on the AU Economic, Social and Cultural Council, which has raised awareness of the Summit and strived to consolidate Africa’s inputs for the Pact. Other thinktanks and civil society actors have also discussed the topic. The most notable include the African Summit of the Future dialogue organised by the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy & Development and civil society partners in Abuja, Nigeria. High African stakeholder participation at the May 2024 Nairobi UN civil society conference on the summit also provided valuable insights.

These events, however, face two major challenges. First, even though conversations are happening in various civil society organisation forums, the extent to which they constitute an African position is difficult to deduce. Although the UN’s civil society engagements have been acknowledged directly by the facilitators of the Pact, it is not clear whether outcomes of such events are informing discussions in New York. Secondly, given that the process is member-state-driven, limited mobilisation at AU state level remains a major gap. While the Pact is competing with continental actors for attention, the timeliness of the draft and the rareness of its opportunity ought to have renewed engagement at the AU.

Many delegations obviously assume that individual country input will be channelled through their permanent national representatives in New York. For such a crucial process, however, the lack of continental mobilisation to attain consensus and common positions on language proposals is a major weakness. This ought to be addressed if Africa is to contribute adequately to the global commitment to achieve an ‘ambitious and action-oriented pact by consensus’.

Continental consensus

There is a common understanding of interests and convergence among African member states on the need to strengthen multilateralism and reform global governance to reflect current realities. However, it remains uncertain how African countries – as a collective or individually – are seizing the opportunity of ongoing negotiations to fulfil their goals. Such processes are not new to the AU, but the lack of a comprehensive structure and framework to achieve continental consensus for the pact is clear. Nor is there a defined structure for discussions among the African diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa, New York or Brussels. Thus, sustained flow of regional input into positions in New York is not guaranteed.

The PSC is uniquely positioned to spearhead and coordinate consensus that can inform African input

Achieving strong continental positions requires coordination between the AU in Addis Ababa and the African group in New York. The PSC is uniquely positioned to spearhead and coordinate consensus that can inform African input. It could organise a dedicated open session to deliberate on the summit and mobilise Africa’s position against the pact’s five chapters.

As a co-facilitator of the summit and also a member of the PSC, Namibia could brief the Council on key summit matters and avenues for engagement by African states. This could be complemented by a communication strategy involving Addis Ababa, the UN African group in New York and the A3 (Algeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone) to provide guidance to New York on African priorities.

Given that the summit is only four months away, it is important that Africa acts quickly and consolidates and transmits its input. By so doing it would create a global governance system that is inclusive and capable of addressing current and emerging challenges in Africa and globally.

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