Community Responses to Security Challenges in the Continent

Community Responses to Security Challenges in the Continent

Date | 21 July 2023

Tomorrow (21 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1163rd Session to discuss its position on the topic of Community Responses to Security Challenges in the Continent. The session will be held virtually at the Ministerial level.

The Ministerial session will be chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Senegal and the PSC Chair for the month of July 2023, Aïssata Tall Sall. Following the opening remarks by the Chair of the PSC, Bankole Adeoye, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), will make an introductory statement. Vasu Gounden, the executive director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), is also expected to provide a briefing. Representative of the AU Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) may also brief the PSC.

Tomorrow’s session is taking place at a time when in the context of the ongoing war in Sudan, civil society and community groups mobilized exemplary response to mitigate the impact of the fighting on civilians and to prevent various communities from being sucked into the conflict. They helped to identify safe passages for enabling civilians caught in the cross fire of the fighting to escape from harm’s way into safer areas. They organized humanitarian assistance involving the provision of food and medical help for civilians cut off from access to basic necessities due to the heavy fighting. Leaders of local communities in parts of Sudan such as Darfur signed local peace agreements to avoid being drawn into the fighting. Similarly, various civic actors rejected the war and campaigned for keeping Sudanese people from taking side in the war that they never chose.

Such self-organizing community initiatives that emerged organically to fill the void left by national and international peacebuilding efforts are not unique to Sudan. The recent offensive in Somalia against Al Shabaab drew on and mostly organized around the initiative of local communities. These experiences highlight the increasing importance of recognizing the role of civic groups and local community actors in peace and security.

The need for expanding the policy space for enhancing the role of communities in peace and security arises from complexity of contemporary threats to peace and security and the inadequacy of governmental and inter-governmental responses to these threats. The rise of protests and riots in the context of political contestations and spike in costs of living amid expanding inequality in various parts of the continent also necessitate mobilizing local and national capacities and infrastructures of peace. PSC’s dedication of this session to community responses to security challenges is accordingly a welcome recognition of the need for tapping into and using a whole of society approach.

Although this issue has not been previously discussed in this specific form, past PSC sessions touched on it under the themes ‘Women, Peace and Security (WPS)’, ‘Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) in Africa’, ‘the Annual Consultative Meeting between the PSC and Civil Society Organization (CSOs) and the AU Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC)’. These PSC sessions stressed that engaging all stakeholders in peace processes is not solely concerned with improving security at the local level, and should not be viewed as separate from national and regional security provisions.

At its 728th, 803rd, 887th and 987th sessions, the PSC, drawing on, the UNSCR 1325 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), which celebrated its 20th anniversary this month, underlined the crucial role of women in decision-making positions and in every stage of peace processes, including conflict prevention, management, resolution, peace support operations and in post-conflict reconstruction, development and peace building. While there are thirty (30) countries in Africa that have adopted a national action plan on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325, sixteen (16) of those action plans require updating. On the other hand, only less than half of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) have adopted any strategy, guideline, or action plan on WPS. At the AU level, the 2018 AU Continental Results Framework (CRF) tool that was adopted to monitor the implementation commitments of WPS by both the Member States and the AU Commission was only reported once. As such, the PSC may explore ways to strengthen the role of CSOs in monitoring the CRF.

On promoting the role of youth, institutional measures taken at the level of the AU include the launch of the AU Youth for Peace Africa Program, the institutionalization of the session on ‘Youth, Peace and Security in Africa’, and the adoption of the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security with its 10-year implementation plan. The African Youth Ambassadors for Peace (AYAP) were also appointed at the PSC’s request during its 807th session. Implementation and integration of these in peace processes remains slow. As such, it would be of interest for PSC members to focus in tomorrow’s session on the question of how to use these frameworks for the involvement of youth in formulating responses to specific conflict situations and in deploying mediation, peace-making and peace support operations in relation to specific conflict situations. Tomorrow’s session would also benefit from discussions to explore ways in which member states can integrate mechanisms of engaging African youth in their national YPS action plans, particularly in efforts related to early warning, preventive diplomacy and post conflict reconstruction and development.

Outside of the focus on specific category of members of society, of particular significance for tomorrow’s session is the effectiveness of the existing framework for the engagement with CSOs. This is important considering that CSOs often work at the grassroots level, where they can effectively engage and mobilize local communities in peace building, reconciliation and inter-communal cohesion. The outcomes of the retreats of the PSC in Livingstone and Maseru as well as the two consultative sessions (2022 & 2023) have given recognition that including communities in security responses can be an effective tool. However, for optimizing the role of civic groups and local community organizations including in national and regional peace efforts, there is a need for developing tools for leveraging their roles in AU’s efforts for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

Additionally, during the ministerial session, the PSC is expected to consider measures for effective civil-military collaboration in the implementation of peace support operations (PSOs) in Africa. Coming against the background of recent opposition from local community members against the UN Mission in DRC and the one in Mali, the importance of the relationship between local communities and peace support operations cannot be overemphasized. Effective coordination can help to create a shared understanding of the situation, enabling both military and civilian actors to work towards common goals. Additionally, it can help to build trust between military and civilian actors, as well as local populations. Therefore, the PSC members may consider exploring comprehensive civilian-military cooperation, recognizing the need for an approach that involves all stakeholders, including local communities.

While the format of outcome of the session is not known during the production of this ‘Insight’, it is expected to be a communiqué. The PSC may acknowledge the need for a multidimensional and complex nature of contemporary security challenges and accordingly underscore the need for a holistic and inclusive approach to address the root causes of conflict and all security crises, recognizing inextricable nexus between peace, security and socio-economic development. The PSC may request the AU Commission, as part of making the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) fit for contemporary security challenges, to develop AU strategy on community response to conflicts with a view to supporting and leveraging the role of non-state actors. It may also in this respect emphasize the importance of building and mobilizing national capacities and infrastructures of peace with civil society and community organizations including women and youth, traditional and religious leaders playing a central role. The PSC may further request that the AU Commission and RECs/RMs be deliberate about the inclusion of women and youth in the planning and deployment of mediation, peace-making and other similar peace processes. The PSC may also call on member states to engage and make use of the tools of the continental conflict prevention framework, including most notably the voluntary country structural vulnerability and resilience assessment (CSVRS). As part of enhancing both the legitimacy and effectiveness of AU and RECs/RMs peace processes, the PSC may also request that such peace processes including peace support operations develop and implement robust mechanism for close coordination with and active consultation of local communities.

Second Annual Consultative Meeting between the PSC and Representatives of CSOs and ECOSOCC

Second Annual Consultative Meeting between the PSC and Representatives of CSOs and ECOSOCC

Date | 6 July 2023

Tomorrow (6 July), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1161st session which will be dedicated to the second annual consultative meeting of the PSC with representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).

Following opening remarks by Mohamed Lamine Thiaw, Permanent Representative of Senegal and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of July, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye is expected to make a statement.  Representing ECOSOCC, Kyeretwie Osei, Head of Programmes will be delivering a statement. A representative of the Pan-African Civil Society Organizations Network on Political Affairs, Peace and Security will also be taking part in the session. CSO representatives from the five AU regions are also expected to make statements.

It is to be recalled that the PSC had its first consultative meeting with CSOs and the ECOSOCC on 14 September 2022, under the chairship of Ghana. Article 20 of the PSC Protocol which stipulates that the PSC shall encourage active engagement and participation of community-based and other CSOs in efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in Africa, serves as the main basis for the conduct of the annual consultative meeting. Although yet to be explored, Article 8(11) of the PSC Protocol also envisages the holding of informal consultations with CSOs as one avenue of supporting the discharge of its responsibilities.

Further to the legal foundation provided under the PSC Protocol, the framework for engagement between the PSC and those in the CSO space is also articulated in the Livingstone Formula of December 2008, which was elaborated in line with the conclusions of PSC’s first retreat – the Dakar Retreat of 2007 which called for the development of a mechanism for managing engagement between the PSC and CSOs. The Maseru Conclusions of 2014 on Enhancing the Implementation of the Livingstone Formula for Interaction between the PSC and CSOs also form another important component of the framework for PSC-CSO engagement.

Milestones in PSC’s working relationship with CSOs

The normative provisions and the modalities outlined in PSC working methods attest to the recognition given to the significant contribution that CSOs make to the maintenance of peace and security in the continent. Yet, this recognition at normative level has not been systematically translated into practice, although the PSC has on many occasions invited the participation of CSOs in its sessions on thematic issues and on ad hoc basis. Indeed, outside of the ad hoc invitation extended to representatives of CSOs with relevant expertise to brief in sessions of the PSC on thematic issues and/or participate in open sessions of the PSC, there was no convening of the formal consultation between the PSC and CSOs until 2022. In this context, the holding of an annual consultation between the two not only institutionalises their engagement, but it also addresses gaps faced in terms of better refining the depth of discussions that can be held on a wide array of subject matters.

Those occasions when the PSC drew on the expertise and technical resources of research organizations and CSOs have attested to the value of such engagement in expanding the diversity of perspectives and policy issues.  In the context of the expanding demand on the limited resources of the PSC, tapping into the expertise and technical resources of CSOs is not just a matter of legitimacy and normative commitment but it is also a strategic imperative. In the face of the growing peace and security challenges facing the continent, it has become increasingly clear that the effort of the PSC and state actors is not enough. The challenges require a whole of society approach in which CSOs in all their diverse formations and communities assume key role. This necessitates that attention is given to the engagement of CSOs both at the stage of policy making and implementation.

As the annual consultative meeting becomes institutionalized, one key issue that require attention is how to make it more than a ticking box exercise. This requires clarifying what the consultative meeting contributes to. The consultative meeting can be organized for the presentation by the CSOs of the five regions on the situation in the different regions from a non-state perspective, thereby contributing to the PSC’ report on the state of peace and security in Africa. It can also be an occasion for providing feedback on the policy actions of AU and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on the various peace and security issues of the different regions with a view to contribute to the revision and updating of those policy actions.

The role of ECOSOCC is the other critical aspect in the relationship between the PSC and CSOs as envisaged in the Livingstone Formula and the Maseru Conclusions. ECOSOCC, an advisory organ composed of relevant professional and social groups from AU member states and whose central purpose is to promote and advance CSOs’ active involvement in shaping and contributing to AU’s programmes and policies, has been engaged in efforts that aim to establish a proper and systemic mechanism for enhanced engagement between the PSC and CSOs. It is to be recalled that ECOSOCC played the role of identifying the CSOs from the five regions that briefed the PSC during the inaugural consultative meeting held in September 2022.

In terms of follow up from the last session, the efforts by ECOSOCC to develop a comprehensive database of CSOs has in particular been identified as an important initiative at the inaugural annual consultative meeting of the PSC and CSOs. At the second consultative meeting taking place tomorrow, updates on progress made towards finalising the development of the database is expected to take centre stage among the envisaged discussions. Once finalised, the database is aimed to function as a hub of various accredited CSOs that could actively be engaged by the AU in its implementation of key agendas and initiatives, including those relevant to peace and security and the mandates of the PSC.

There are a number of advantages of developing the envisaged database. One important contribution such database could make is the identification and theme-based classification of CSOs. The idea of having a comprehensive database first of all enables a wide range of CSOs, including those at the grassroots level, to be in the records and gain a level of visibility that would enable them to actively participate in the policy space. At the same time, categorising the different CSOs on the basis of the main focus or central areas of work they are involved in allows the creation of thematic grouping of CSOs that have expertise in specific fields. For the PSC, this would be critical in gaining access to a ready list of CSOs with varied levels and areas of expertise, which can serve as the main source to guide PSC’s engagement.

Notwithstanding the potential contributions the CSOs’ database could make towards advancing better CSO engagement with the PSC, one should bear in mind the issue of inclusivity, particularly considering the diversity of CSO. ECOSOCC is currently in the process of conducting a series of consultations with various CSOs coming from the different sub-regions and engaged in a variety of thematic areas of works relevant to the PSC. The most recent of such consultations took place in April 2023, which afforded rich discussions between represented CSOs including Amani Africa and representatives from relevant AU departments as well as the various RECs. A follow-up consultation of the ECOSOCC is also expected to commence tomorrow, on 6 July as the PSC convenes its second consultative meeting.

Another issue that may come associated with the development of the database pertains to the creation of bureaucratic bottlenecks that may prove to be counterproductive. In this respect too, the PSC may wish to hear from ECOSOCC on what measures are put in place to ensure transparent processes in the utilisation of the database.

In addition to following up on the status of the development of the CSOs’ database, tomorrow’s meeting may also serve to reflect on where things stand with respect to implementing some of the key outcomes of the inaugural consultative meeting including   CSOs   efforts towards realising the decisions of the 16th Extraordinary Session of the AU Assembly on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCG) in Africa [Ext/Assembly/AU/Decl.(XVI)], as this formed one of the main areas discussed during the inaugural meeting, and the request made for ECOSOCC to conduct a stock taking exercise on the Livingstone Formula and Maseru Conclusions, so as to make recommendations for enhancing their realisation.

As an outcome of the consultative meeting, the PSC may issue a communiqué as it did for the last consultative meeting. Taking note of the progress made thus far in finalising the CSOs’ database, the PSC may encourage ECOSOCC to take all the necessary steps towards ensuring the finalisation of the database while ensuring inclusivity and transparency in the modality for its use. The PSC may underscore the significant role that CSOs play in supporting the realisation of its mandate in conflict prevention, management and resolution. It may further call on CSOs to fortify their efforts to respond to the increasingly complex and challenging threats to peace and security in the continent. Taking note of the critical role of CSOs in bringing the PSC and its policy decisions closer to African citizens, the PSC may also encourage CSOs in Africa to strengthen their role in promoting the culture of peace, in fighting misinformation, disinformation and incitement of hate and violence, in enhancing the adoption of informed policy decisions by relevant actors at national, regional and international level and in the advancement of the implementation of decisions for conflict prevention, management and resolution by the AU as appropriate. The PSC may also call for clarifying the focus and the end to which the consultative meeting contributes.

Inaugural Annual PSC and CSO Consultative Meeting

Inaugural Annual PSC and CSO Consultative Meeting

Date | 14 September 2022

Tomorrow (14 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold its inaugural annual consultative meeting with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to engage on the implementation of the Accra Declaration and Malabo Decisions.

Following the opening statement of Amma Twum-Amoah, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ghana to the AU and PSC Chairperson for the month of September 2022, Bankole Adeoye Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security is expected to deliver a presentation. Following his intervention, representatives of the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), Civil Society Organizations and the United Nations are expected to deliver their statements.

The inaugural session is expected to focus both on strengthening the working relations between PSC and CSOs and to fast-track the operationalization of the outcome documents of the Accra Forum and Malabo Extraordinary Summit that took place in March and May 2022 respectively.

The AU Constitutive Act stipulates that one of the objectives of the Union is ‘to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society’ and to promote the ‘participation of the African peoples in the activities of the Union’. The Statutes of the AU ECOSOCC provides a broad description of civil society organizations comprising social, professional groups, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), community-Based Organizations (CBOs), as well as voluntary and cultural organizations. The important role of policy research and knowledge production by academic and research institutions has been recognized in the 2009 Tripoli Declaration.

Similarly, Article 20 of the PSC Protocol states that: ‘the Peace and Security Council shall encourage non-governmental organizations, community-based and other civil society organizations, particularly women’s organizations, to participate actively in the efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in Africa. When required, such organizations may be invited to address the Peace and Security Council.’ Article 8 of the Protocol further stipulates for the PSC to hold ‘informal consultations with…civil society organizations for the discharge of its responsibilities’. This informal consultation envisaged in Article 8 of the PSC has as yet to be operationalized, CSOs are invited to and engage in the open sessions of the PSC at which they present statements on the agenda of the session.

There were various efforts in terms of operationalizing Article 20 of the PSC. The first retreat of the PSC, the Dakar Retreat called for the establishment of a mechanism to manage the engagement between the PSC and CSOs. Building on the 2007 conclusions of the Dakar Retreat, the PSC elaborated the modalities for engaging with such institutions in the Livingstone Formula and the Maseru Retreat Conclusions. The Livingstone Formula identified a number of areas in which CSOs can contribute towards the promotion of peace and security including in conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction as well as the provision of technical support, popularizing the decisions of the PSC.

While these initiatives are encouraging, the partnership has not been institutionalized. PSC engaged with and drew on the work of various institutions on an ad hoc basis. It is hence fundamental making the engagement with think tanks, civil society organizations and policy research organizations more systematic and it’s more beneficial for strengthening the Council’s role in discharging its mandate. This in particular can be achieved by enhancing PSC’s understanding of the role of these institutions and the contributions that they made and by engaging more regularly. Tomorrow’s session will be an important step in consolidating this understanding and implementing the provision identified in the Livingstone Formula which called for an annual meeting between the PSC and CSOs through the ECOSOCC. It is also important to critically reflect and assess the gaps in the implementation of the of the provisions of Council’s retreat conclusions and its norms.

The agenda and the complexity of issues that the PSC has to address have expanded exponentially. The number of meetings of the PSC has increased by almost five-fold since the PSC was inaugurated in 2004. This growing scope requires additional capacity and resources. More particularly the PSC may benefit from expertise and resources of policy and research institutions to cover the wide range of issues that require immediate and continuous attention. The policy analysis that can be provided by policy and research institutions brings a non-state perspective that adds depth to and enriches policy deliberations of the PSC. The Council can tap into the expertise, knowledge and technical resources of non-state actors particularly African policy research organizations, think tanks and civil society organizations. This would allow for the Council to explore and experiment with the range of policy options that it can choose from in its efforts for taking the most optimal policy action for conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa.

As indicated in the concept note the other central objective of tomorrow’s session is to chart a way to deepen the collaboration between the PSC and CSOs in implementing the Accra declaration and Malabo decisions.  It is to be recalled that the PSC at its 1061st session held in January 2022 decided to organize a reflection forum on unconstitutional changes of government after the spike in military coups in Africa. Consequently, the Accra forum was convened from 15 to 17 March. The PSC decided to submit the Accra Declaration to the Malabo Extraordinary Session of the AU Heads of State and Government, for consideration and adoption, which among other considered the developments related to unconstitutional changes of government.

The consultative meeting will present an opportunity for the PSC and CSOs to enhance their engagement in ‘promoting good governance, democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism and dealing with the emerging menace of unconstitutional changes of government.’ The aim is to enhance synergy on timely governance, peace and security issues which the PSC is seized with while strengthening the broader cooperation as enshrined in the various instruments of the PSC.

The outcome of the session remains unknown. Yet, it is expected that the PSC would recall the commitments enshrined in its Protocol, the Livingstone Formula and Maseru Conclusions. It may recognize the role of CSOs in providing independent analysis, technical support for the PSC in discharging its mandate and the importance of tapping into their expertise. Beyond CSOs participation in PSC sessions, the Council may call for a more enhanced engagement and proactive engagement in the context of field missions, mediation as well as peace support operations. The Council may identify concrete steps in advancing the role of CSOs in the decision and policy making process. The PSC may decide to institutionalize the annual consultation with CSOs to have a more systematic engagement. The Council may underline the critical role of CSOs in advancing inclusive governance, peace and security and in order to reverse the current trend of unconstitutional changes of government that threatens the gains made so far in the continent. PSC may call on CSOs to deepen their engagement with the Council to also further popularize its decision and work at national and local levels.