Peacekeeping in Africa is at a crucial juncture, and 'template solutions' are just not good enough anymore.
This was reflected in statements made during the United Nations (UN) Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations (C34), which started on 19 February 2013. Peacekeeping in Africa faces numerous emerging challenges that require a mind shift starting at the top structures in the UN Security Council (UNSC) down to the most common standard operating procedures.
The Under Secretary Generals of the UN Departments for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Hervé Ladsous, and Field Support (DFS), Ameerah Haq, certainly need the C34's constructive contributions and feedback to ensure that peace operations policies, mandates and force compositions are flexible and pragmatic enough to find solutions to complex emerging threats. Indeed, in-depth knowledge and understanding is needed to manage peacekeeping missions effectively.
The UN is responsible for providing strategic direction to 15 DPKO-led peace operations (14 peacekeeping operations and one political mission), of which seven are in Africa and two more (Mali and Somalia) are under consideration, and which have close to 114 000 personnel. Approved resources amount to US$ 7,33 billion.
At the UNSC level there is a need to enhance cooperation with regional partners to ensure more timely and pragmatic consultations, which are necessary for political coherence on the fundamental objectives of peace operations.
Mechanisms should be established to ensure that regular dialogue takes place with regional organisations and countries that contribute troops and/or police before the UNSC makes peace operation decisions. Joint field missions between the UNSC and regional organisations should be the norm rather than the exception.
The UNSC should consider engaging regional organisations in a more structured and regular manner during crisis situations in which those regional organisations have a vested interest. Even though it might not be feasible for another decade, initial discussion on the reform of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter should also be considered.
Chapter VIII of the UN Charter anticipates the need for close consultation between the UNSC and regional organisations, but the right balance has not been found yet.
According to UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the traditional principles of neutrality/impartiality and the non-use of force except in self-defence now give way to strong political engagement and more 'muscular' intervention approaches such as the 'intervention brigades' in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mali, which are akin to peace enforcement.
He raises the question of how the UN will manage to balance this approach with its need to continue humanitarian operations and uphold humanitarian principles. Early warning mechanisms, including sound analysis and integrated planning, combined with the political will of all stakeholders, are required to ensure preventative action.
An important development in peace operations policy took place with the adoption of UNSC Resolution 2086 on 21 January 2013, which captures how multidimensional peacekeeping has evolved to meet the challenges of effective peacebuilding.
Furthermore, the new UN Infantry Battalion manual developed by the DPKO in 2012 identifies several modern equipment and training capabilities required by peacekeepers to operate in environments that need robust peacekeeping.
Smaller, highly mobile, well-trained and well-equipped forces with timely access to well-assessed intelligence are required to counter spoilers (that are often state-sponsored and well-equipped).
Modern equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), air reconnaissance, night vision equipment, radar scanning, precision weaponry, real time command and information systems and blue force trackers, is needed to overcome the huge technological gaps in current UN peace operations. The introduction of UAVs in the eastern DRC out of Goma to undertake monitoring and surveillance tasks to protect both civilians and UN personnel is a welcome sign.
Ladsous' recommendation that a director for the evaluation of Field Uniformed Personnel be appointed is promising, especially because there is currently no mechanism for regularly monitoring these personnel during peacekeeping operations.
The Integrated Training Service's needs assessment of civilian, military and police peacekeeping staff will hopefully result in an approach to UN training that enables the collaboration required for effective peacekeeping. Important cross-cutting issues such as the protection of civilians, security sector reform, rule of law, gender-related topics and multilingualism (especially French and Arabic) will need to be included in future training.
An issue that was not addressed by the DPKO/DFS, but that requires more immediate consideration, is the establishment of an office for maritime security in the DPKO.
UN peacekeeping can no longer be land focused only. The other ongoing debate that needs attention is the requirement to finalise a mechanism for the international regulation of private military security companies.
These companies provide protection to numerous UN facilities and personnel across the globe. If well regulated, the use of private military security companies will be a force-multiplier, potentially contributing to the success of peace operations.
How does this relate to the African Union's (AU) African Peace and Security Architecture in its aspiration for enhanced African autonomy, often referred to as 'African solutions for African problems'?
A better understanding of African peace operations principles is needed at the UNSC level. The AU has to ensure that it speaks with one voice and that the ambitions and activities of its regional economic communities (RECs) support overall AU objectives. The size, role and functions of the African Standby Force (ASF) need to be reconsidered.
The operationalisation of the ASF by 2015 will not be achieved in its current concept, which should be realigned to address the disparities between the RECs' own force design, development and mission readiness. Issues concerning logistical support, deployment timelines, resource constraints and African conflict realities, if properly evaluated, will lead decision-makers back to the multidimensional brigade-size force that was originally envisaged.
The urgent requirement to appoint an AU Police Advisor and activate the Police Strategic Support Group will ensure a balance between military and police representation in AU peace operation decision-making.
Hybrid peace operations through a partnership between the UN and AU are necessary for solving future conflicts in Africa. This partnership is complex and challenging in terms of the political, economic and technical aspects.
The statement by the UN's Senior Advisory Group that the divide between financial and troop contributors is an 'artificial one' does not correlate with several African states' realities.
The UN and AU will be in a difficult position when some of the poorest troop-contributing countries are required to deliver highly skilled and technologically advanced forces to complex security situations.
A meaningful partnership between the UN and AU depends on effective and dynamic cooperation. Both organisations will have to show leadership to overcome the internal ambitions responsible for fragmentation and the lack of political will.
AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's recent opening remarks at the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) are inspiring for the future of the AU's peace operations: 'Should we not at this stage consider providing sufficient time, capabilities and tools to implement and assess the impact of decisions we have taken? ... [H]ow much time does the AU have to operationalise its peace operation decisions?
It will require an orchestrated effort by the AU, and all international stakeholders, to ensure that the AU PSC and RECs are enabled with professional expertise, advice and outcomes-based support to implement well-meaning strategies into pragmatic and implementable peace support plans.'
Annette Leijenaar, Head, Conflict Management and Peace Building Division, ISS Pretoria