What are the prospects for financing African peace operations?

By Hugo SADA, Special Advisor of the President, CEIS

The changing security landscape and new threats to peace in Africa have led us to review the peacekeeping arrangements (particularly multilateral operations) that have prevailed over the past few years. The goals are to adjust these operations to the new security situation in Africa, be more responsive to the continent's aspirations to develop ‘African solutions’ and to the initiative it takes in this respect, and develop and implement innovative partnerships between African stakeholders and international partners, bearing in mind that security issues in Africa have a direct knock-on effect on global security and therefore fall within the scope of the Charter of the United Nations. The main actors currently engaged in researching these new approaches and promoting the reform of peace operations are the United Nations, the African Union, the regional economic communities and African states, and the European Union and its Member States, particularly France, which plays the most active role in such operations in Africa.

Clearly, the financing of these operations is a key concern. It is an issue not only for UN peacekeeping operations, but also when it comes to seeking a more effective distribution of tasks and responsibilities, and establishing more flexible and tailored approaches to African peace operations. With the election of a new United Nations Secretary-General and a new African Union Commission, and given the European Union's commitment to boosting the strategic partnership with Africa, today's international context seems to provide the stimulus needed to develop sustainable, more effective and better adapted solutions, particularly with regards to financing African peace operations.

The current defence and security capabilities of African states, the level of military spending in the countries concerned, the difficulties encountered in operationalising joint security arrangements at the continental and sub-regional levels, and the clear limitations of recent African peace operations show that, in the short and medium terms, African engagements will to a large extent be reliant on external financing, and that the prospect of Africa taking full financial responsibility for these engagements is still a long way off.  Moreover, given the fact that security in Africa is now deeply intertwined with global security, the question seriously needs to be asked as to whether it is appropriate and acceptable to let African states deal with their security issues alone, without providing any support or sharing the financial burden.

Four African peace operations have been deployed in recent years:

  • The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), launched in 2007
  • The African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), which was launched by ECOWAS in 2012 with the backing of the African Union, and has since become a PKO (MINUSMA)
  • The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which was launched in 2013 by ECOWAS and the African Union, and has since become a PKO (MINUSCA)
  • The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF, Lake Chad region), which was set up in 2015 as part of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) initiative overseen by the African Union.

A fifth initiative, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, has been launched in 2017 and is currently under development. It has been approved on principle by the UNSC (Resolution 2359), but there has been no commitment of financial support at this stage.

As these operations are regarded as useful (bearing in mind that AMISOM is more controversial than the others), they have benefited from international financial support, although two of them (AFISMA and MINUSCA) have now become UN PKOs due to a long-term lack of financial and logistical resources. The African Union has requested that AMISOM be placed under UN authority for the same reasons, but the UN has not acted on the request.

The five African peace operations have enjoyed substantial support from the European Union.  The latter has paid the wages of soldiers involved in AMISOM, AFISMA and MINUSCA, and has also covered the cost of some equipment (for the MNJTF). It has pledged 50 million euro for the G5 Sahel Joint Force. Its biggest beneficiary is AMISOM, which has received 80% of African Peace Facility (APF) funds. This has complicated and limited access to APF financing for other operations in Africa. Furthermore, it appears that the African beneficiaries have experienced major difficulties in managing these funds.

The UN provides substantial logistical support to AMISOM through the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), but it has never paid the wages of troops involved in African operations, despite the African Union's requests. The G5 Sahel Joint Force is an opportunity to learn from past experience and to develop new forms of international funding and support, which would enable us to outline innovative new partnerships and to push on with reforming peace operations. African operations can be deployed faster than UN PKOs; they have more aggressive mandates, cost less, and signal real progress in empowering African states. Therefore, they have an important role to play in the current process of reform.

At the United Nations, the reform of peacekeeping operations has been a recurring subject of discussion since the late 1990s. The Brahimi Report (2000) had a significant impact on the reform process. It was followed by several initiatives and, in November 2012, a new report by the High-Level Consultative Group renewed the proposals approved by the General Assembly in its resolution 67/261. The new UNSG Antonio Gutteres has announced that the reform of UN peacekeeping operations will be a priority for him. He has launched several new reform projects, including the definition of new links with regional partners such as the African Union, with which he has advanced cooperation on joint initiatives by the two organisations (cf. The Secretary-General's report to the Security Council - S/2017/454). With regards to the financing of peace operations, the UNSG has put forward several options: Rapid response grants, joint UN/AF funding, logistical support and, within this framework, closer political cooperation between the UN Secretariat and the AU Commission, and between the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council. Nevertheless, progress has been hampered by strong pressure from the new American administration, which is determined to significantly reduce the budget for UN peacekeeping operations (7.3 billion dollars in the 2017/2018 financial year, bearing in mind that the majority of PKOs are deployed in Africa and that the budget has more than quadrupled since the 2000s).

The African Union has made substantial progress since 2016, with the report by Rwandan President Paul Kagamé on the reform of the organisation and, in particular, the clarification of the relationship of subsidiarity between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities. With regards to peacekeeping and security operations, the former President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, pushed through an important decision at the AU Summit in Kigali in July 2016: By 2020, the goal is that African states will cover 25% of the cost of African peace operations by setting up an African peace fund maintained by a 0.2% tax on African imports. The decision is currently being reviewed by a ministerial task force in order to address the reservations of several Member States, prior to implementation.

Meanwhile, the European Union is in the process of revising relevant instruments (particularly the African Peace Facility), and is discussing the possibility of committing funds to pay for certain equipment, within the limits prescribed by the Lisbon Treaty. In addition, a plea has been made for EU Member States to increase their support for African initiatives.

Although they have been slow to produce any sort of significant impact in terms of reducing the severity of new threats and the adaptability of non-state actors who threaten security, these initiatives—particularly those relating to the financing of African peace operations—have brought fresh hope and deserve greater support from the international community.

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Hugo Sada specializes in Africa and North / South security issues, as well as the French-speaking world. He has been Delegate for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy of the International Organization of the Francophonie. He previously held the position of spokesperson and advisor for information and communication in the Office of the Secretary General of the OIF since January 2003. He is currently Special Adviser to the President of CEIS for African issues.

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