Consideration of proposed finalisation and operationalisation of the AU Humanitarian Agency

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 24 August, 2021

Tomorrow (24 August), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene a virtual session to consider the proposed finalisation and operationalisation of the AU Humanitarian Agency (AUHA).

Following the opening remark of the PSC Chairperson for August, Cameroon’s Permanent Representative to the AU, Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to deliver a remark. The AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Amira El Fadil is also expected to brief Council on the status of finalisation and operationalisation of the AUHA.

It is to be recalled that Council last convened a session on the AUHA at its 843rd session where it was briefed on the status of the AUHA, however there was no outcome document. At its 762nd meeting held in April 2018 the PSC called on the AU Commission to expedite the development of modalities for operationalising the agency, outlining the legal, financial and structural implications. In addition to reflecting on the importance of the AUHA to contribute towards resolving the current humanitarian crisis in the continent, tomorrow’s session may follow up on the progress obtained in the process of operationalising the agency.

A study on the operationalisation of the AUHA was conducted and its preliminary findings were evaluated among member states and independent experts in 2019. The study which details the options for operationalisation, proposes the structure of the agency and highlights its legal and financial implications was validated at an Extra-ordinary session of the Special Technical Committee (STC) on Migration, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) (MR&IDPS-STC) and adopted with couple amendments at a meeting of member state experts which took place in June 2020. In the same year, the AU Commission finalised the draft AUHA Statute as directed at the 3rd Ordinary Session of the MR&IDPS-STC. It is expected that the 4th Ordinary Session of the MR&IDPS-STC, planned for November this year will consider and validate the draft Statute of the AUHA, which will be one of the considerations that will determine when the agency will become fully operational. Tomorrow’s briefing by the Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development may provide more highlights in this regard.

The increasing rate of humanitarian crises in Africa and the intensifying nature of exacerbating factors such as climate change and outbreak of pandemics like Covid-19 are more than ever making it mandatory to find ways to respond to the situation in an organised and better coordinated manner. While AU has already mechanised various structures to respond to crises and disasters (such as the Special Emergency Assistance Fund (SEAF), the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and Africa Risk Capacity (ARC)), there is limited coordination among these structures in addition to the slow implementation of normative standards such as the African Humanitarian Policy Framework, the OAU Refugee Convention and the Kampala Convention. One of the key roles the AUHA aims to undertake is coordination of humanitarian action, as emphasised in the 2016 Common African Position (CAP) on Humanitarian Effectiveness, which was adopted by Assembly/AU/Dec.604 (XXVI). The AUHA would thus be instrumental to fill the existing gap in effectively coordinating action among existing operational mechanisms which are fundamental for addressing humanitarian challenges in the continent.

While both the AU and its predecessor – the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – have for long sought ways to deal with humanitarian crises on the continent, solid steps towards the establishment of the AUHA were initiated following the adoption of AU Assembly Decision of 30 January 2016 (Assembly/AU/Dec.604 (XXVI)). As emphasised in Assembly/AU/Dec.604 (XXVI), the AUHA is aimed to be “anchored on regional and national mechanisms and funded through African resources”. The purpose behind fully financing the AUHA through African resources is to ensure full African ownership of the agency and the establishment of the agency has already obtained the support of all 55 member states of the AU. In this context it is also important to consider the potential challenges that may be encountered in the process of establishing the agency.

The first challenge is around the mechanisms in which member states mobilize financial resources to effectively and sustainably finance the agency. As primary responders to humanitarian crises within their territories, member states – some more than others – have already strained capacities. Hence, they may find it difficult to consistently finance the AUHA to ensure that it can effectively manage humanitarian crisis in the continent. It is therefore important to compliment member states’ contributions through building strong partnerships with global actors who can contribute to the successful formation and functioning of the AUHA, while the agency maintains its foundation in existing continental policy and legal frameworks.

The second issue relates to collaboration and coordination with other humanitarian actors. It is important to have clarity on the added value of the AUHA in the presence of a number of aid agencies and international humanitarian organizations in various humanitarian situations in the continent. To prevent any duplication of efforts and resources it would be useful to also identify the exact gap that the AUHA is expected to fill.

It would be of interest for Council members to also consider how the PSC may collaborate with the agency. As enshrined in the PSC Protocol, the Council is among the various AU organs assuming responsibility to respond to humanitarian issues. Art.6(f) of the Protocol for instance stipulates humanitarian action and disaster management among the functions of the Council. Art.7 mandates the PSC to facilitate and support humanitarian action in the context of both natural disasters and armed conflicts. Another relevant provision is Art.13(3)(f), which mandates the African Standby Force (ASF) to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of civilians in conflict situations and to support efforts in cases of major natural disasters. The PSC and the AUHA – once operationalised – will thus need to work in collaboration and complement each other’s mandates. In addition to coordination and collaboration with the relevant AU organs, it is also important for the AUHA to work together with international humanitarian actors and UN agencies that already have presence on the ground and extensive experience in dealing with humanitarian challenges in the continent.

The outcome of the session is expected to be a press statement. Council may express concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the continent, particularly the growing rate of displacement and the plight of migrants, refugees and IDPs. It may urge the Commission and member states to further expedite the full operationalization and establishment of the AUHA. It may call on member states to honour their commitments to finance the AUHA and to ensure implementation of Executive Council decision EX.CL/Dec.567(XVII) which called for the increase of AU humanitarian fund from 2% to 4% of member states’ assessed contributions.


Briefing by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on its activities in Africa

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 17 August, 2021

Tomorrow (17 August), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1021st session virtually. The PSC is expected to receive a briefing from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with regards to its activities in Africa.

The session forms part of ICRC’s regular briefings to Council which have been taking place since 2007. ICRC’s President, Mr Peter Maurer will be presenting tomorrow’s briefing.

Throughout the years, ICRC’s regular briefings with Council have served to reflect on pertinent thematic concerns of significance at the time of the briefing. These ranged from protection of civilians to compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL), to examining the humanitarian toll of armed conflicts on the continent. Council’s 904th session held on 16 January 2020 where it was last briefed by the ICRC addressed thematic concerns including the plight of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and children as well as victims of sexual violence in the context of armed conflicts. In addition, the experiences of ICRC in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were also discussed at that session, based on Mr Maurer’s visits to these countries. As in the past, tomorrow’s briefing is expected to focus on some of the most pressing humanitarian contemporary concerns in conflict and crisis situations in Africa, based on ICRC’s operational experience.

The first of the issues that Maurer is expected to highlight is the shrinking humanitarian space in conflict situations. The diminishing cooperation of conflict parties with humanitarian actors is eroding humanitarian access and the humanitarian space for conflict affected civilian populations. The imposition of direct or indirect severe restrictions that humanitarian actors face in some conflict situations is not only making the delivery of humanitarian assistance for affected civilians untenable but also creating conditions for violation of the IHL obligations and basic principles of human rights. There is a need for conflict parties to ensure that they balance the pursuit of military and security objectives their obligations as far as the protection and provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians is concerned.

We have also gathered from ICRC’s preparatory work that the briefing may further highlight on the issue of humanitarian access the negative impacts of sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism measures on humanitarian relief operations. Most sanctions regimes rarely contain exemptions for humanitarian action, which in turn delays or in some cases, blocks much needed aid and assistance from reaching civilians caught in the middle of conflicts. Similarly, where certain counter terrorism measures, such as designation of certain groups as terrorist and the concomitant criminalization of engagement with such groups, are imposed without humanitarian exemptions, they make humanitarian organisations’ access to civilians in territories under the effective control of such groups legally and logistically challenging. There is also the issue of safeguarding impartiality of humanitarian organisations such as the ICRC as a condition for the safety of their personnel and humanitarian relief efforts. Having regard to the growing rate of attacks against humanitarian workers including medical facilities, it is necessary to ensure that aid workers are allowed to function in an environment that can be perceived as neutral by all conflicting parties.

The second area of concern ICRC is expected to draw the attention of the PSC is the issue of missing persons. As recent data recorded by the ICRC demonstrates, there are about 48,000 cases of missing persons in Africa, as of 2021. Out of these, 45% account for persons under the age of 18. In addition to calling attention to the issue, tomorrow’s briefing may also open discussions on how the PSC could advance the importance of addressing the fate of missing persons through peacebuilding and transitional justice initiatives in post-conflict countries and countries in transition. It may also emphasise the responsibilities of state and non-state actors including those in conflict situations to take all necessary measures to prevent people from going missing.

Our research for this ‘Insight’ also indicates that Covid-19 and access to equitable vaccination is another pressing issue the briefing could be addressing. As countries across the world forge ahead with their Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, most African States are left behind, still unable to vaccinate substantial amount of their populations. The worst fate however continues to be faced among vulnerable groups in Africa including refugees, IDPs and migrants. Not only do these population groups live in contexts which heighten their exposure to Covid-19 infection, they also face the risk of exclusion from vaccine roll out. In his briefing, Maurer is expected to call on States to ensure that they ensure that vulnerable groups are included in their vaccine allocation and roll out policies. In addition, he may also emphasise the importance for States to invest more on strengthening their public health strategies in order to be better prepared to respond to public health emergencies that may arise in any immediate or distant future.

The next area of concern that could feature in tomorrow’s briefing is the changing nature of armed conflicts, involving the emergence of new trends in how parties engage in combat and the resulting questions cast on the continued validity of IHL and the Geneva Conventions. Current warfare has shown the growing use of unconventional means and methods, particularly in the context of counter-terrorism operations. This is the case for example in the context of terrorist attacks which continue to increasingly target civilians and civilian infrastructures, and the use of unmanned armed vehicles (UAVs). Despite questions that may be raised on whether IHL rules are well-tailored to address such evolving nature of warfare, tomorrow’s briefing will underscore the timeless nature of the core principles of IHL whose applicability cannot be limited by changes in the dynamics of contemporary conflicts. The PSC will be called on, in the light of the explicit commitment in the PSC Protocol to IHL, to emphasize the continuing relevance and the need for compliance with IHL, among others, for limiting the impact of conflicts on civilians. The briefing may also draw attention to the importance of documenting good practices on IHL implementation and encouraging States to develop the culture of voluntary recording and reporting on their IHL compliance.

The last theme expected to feature during the briefing is the instrumental role that can be played by neutral and impartial entities such as the ICRC in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution efforts. The first advantage of this is that such entities have better acceptability among conflicting sides due to their neutrality and lack of political affiliation and can therefore mediate and facilitate dialogues effectively. Another added value of involving organisation like the ICRC in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution is that they can play a vital role in bringing the human aspect of situations to light since such processes are usually dominated by political concerns and may unintentionally neglect the humanitarian concerns.

In addition to these key areas, the briefing may also provide overview on the general deteriorating humanitarian situation in the continent, including the worsening displacement crisis; the increasing level of food insecurity and people living in fragile contexts; the increased use of improvised explosive devices and proliferation of arms and weapons; and the devastating impact of natural disasters on communities that are already massively impacted by armed conflicts and political crises. The growing concern over climate change and its humanitarian implications, particularly how it interplays with conflicts and exacerbates vulnerabilities, may also be highlighted.

The expected outcome of the session is a Press Statement. Council may welcome the briefing. It may call on member States to renew their commitments towards implementation of IHL and human rights law as provided for in the PSC Protocol irrespective of the nature of the conflict situation. The PSC may also underscore the importance of all actors respecting and ensuring humanitarian access including by providing for humanitarian exemptions when they impose restrictions while urging the need for humanitarian actors to keep their neutrality. The PSC may also note the need for paying attention to missing persons in peace processes and transitions. It may also welcome the call for equitable access to the COVID19 pandemic to enable African states to administer vaccines and protect vulnerable groups including IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - VTC session on Cessation of hostilities and humanitarian truce in Africa

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 02 June, 2020

Tomorrow (2 June) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold its 929th session through video teleconference. The session focuses on cessation of hostilities and humanitarian truce in Africa within the framework of COVID19 and Silencing the Guns. It is expected that AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui and the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs Cessouma Minata Semate will deliver briefings to the Council. Additionally, representatives of the Africa Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are scheduled to make presentations.

The Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahammat and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have called for cessation of hostilities and urged belligerents to comply with the call including by avoiding fighting in areas where internally displaced person (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers and migrants reside and refraining from attacking humanitarian actors and health facilities.

Apart from the AU Commission Chairperson, the AU Chairperson South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and some 17 member states have endorsed the appeal for humanitarian ceasefire during the pandemic. Similarly, the PSC in its communique of its 918th session reiterated the call ‘for all belligerents to fully embrace and uphold the Global Ceasefire in order to facilitate efforts being deployed against the COVID-19 pandemic.’ UN Secretary-General Guterres reported that in Cameroon, South Sudan and Sudan, armed groups announced temporary unilateral ceasefires.

While the advent of COVID19 disrupts the AU’s 2020 thematic focus on silencing the guns, this call for global ceasefire can serve as an avenue for pursuing the agenda of Silencing the Guns and limiting the impact of COVID19 in derailing this agenda. Tomorrow’s session presents an opportunity for considering how best this agenda of cessation of hostilities and humanitarian truce can be pursued. This helps not only in mobilizing enhanced efforts in dealing with the pandemic but also in becoming a vehicle for pursuing the AU’s theme of the year on Silencing the Guns.

The focus on cession of hostilities and humanitarian truce is particularly important in the African context on account also of the emergence of troubling trends during the pandemic. At this particular point as the cases of COVID19 are increasing at an alarming pace on the continent, the need to end wars and to focus on fighting the pandemic has become an existential task for the AU, its member states, partners and the global community at large.

Another concerning trend involves the escalation of violence observed in some conflict settings. This has particularly been the case in the conflict situations in Libya and the increase in incidents of fighting in Eastern DRC. In Central African Republic, incidents of fighting have also been reported including by one of the armed groups, Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation (3R), that reportedly released a statement in April calling for a ceasefire. The situation in Libya has become particularly worrisome. Expressing regret at how some of these deteriorating conflicts undermine AU’s quest for Silencing the Guns, AU Commission Chairperson during his Africa Day message observed that ‘[t]he tragedy being played out in (Libya) is of profound concern to us all. No-one is blameless in the failure, neither is any segment of the international community, which has a great responsibility in the persistence or even escalation of the conflict.’ What makes the situation in Libya troublesome with respect to the AU agenda for Silencing the Guns is also its very dire impact on and linkages with the security situation in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions.

Non-state actors are also capitalizing on this particular situation to make military advances. Examples in this respect include the spike in terrorist attacks observed in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin region and in Mozambique. Similarly, Al Shabaab has intensified its daily attacks in Somalia, hampering humanitarian efforts to fight the spread of the virus. With respect to the situation in the Sahel, the PSC in its communique of its 920th session, indicated that it ‘looks forward to receiving a comprehensive briefing on the security situation in the Sahel and to consider the revised Draft Strategic Concept note on Planning Guidance for the deployment of 3000 troops, not later than 15 June 2020’. Tomorrow’s session may serve as an opportunity for providing update to the PSC on the same.

The deliberate targeting of health workers and health facilities has been another key feature in many conflict settings. These attacks further expose people to greater health and safety hazards and exacerbate the spread of the disease among already vulnerable communities. This has particularly been notable in the conflict in Libya.

In terms of the AU theme for 2020 on silencing the guns, Chergui observed that the threat posed by COVID-19 has considerably slowed the momentum of the “Silencing the Guns” agenda. In May an extra-ordinary summit dedicated to Silencing the Guns was scheduled to take place under South Africa’s leadership to build the momentum around the annual theme and to strengthen commitment at the highest level. In this respect an issue of particular interest to members of the PSC is how to regain enhanced focus in pursuing the agenda of Silencing the Guns, including through a virtual summit of the AU dedicated to the theme of the year with specific targets.

Cessation of hostilities is particularly indispensable for humanitarian work, an issue that both Semate and UNHCR are expected to address. The continent hosts about 17 million IDPs and about 7 million refugees and asylum seekers. These groups are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic due to their living condition and existing marginalization. The continuation of conflicts during the COVID19 pandemic has increased the vulnerability and suffering of this category of people. According to AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, ‘[t]his has severely affected humanitarian access to conflict areas and limited the reach of support and relief efforts, exacerbating the dual impact of the conflict and the damage caused by the global pandemic on the most vulnerable.’

The Bureau of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government has called for the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow assistance in the context of fighting COVID-19. Similarly, during its 921st session the PSC demanded all belligerents in Africa to ‘immediately and unconditionally cease all hostilities’. It further appealed to member states to open up airspaces for humanitarian action and to provide protection for healthcare workers and humanitarian actors. In this respect, a welcome development that the AU registered is the deployment of medical staff through the African Standby Force’s (ASF) African Strategic Lift Capability to respond to COVID19 in parts of central and western Africa. The close collaboration of the AU Peace and Security Department and Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has resulted in the deployment of 28 frontline responders to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali and Niger from DRC.

A UNSC resolution supporting the global call on cessation of hostilities during COVID19 has not yet materialized. The absence of a global level leadership and consensus among the big powers has curtailed political impetus to build momentum around the global call. A resolution from the UNSC would have brought an immense political weight in the ceasefire efforts. However, the adverse effects of such vacuum in leadership and political consensus has manifested in the intensification of violence in countries such as Libya. The gaps have also complicated global efforts in fighting the pandemic.

The expected outcome is a communiqué.

The PSC may further reiterate its previous calls for cessation of hostilities and it may urge belligerents to cease all violence in order to protect people from the scourge of COVID19. The PSC may call on the AU Commission and Regional Economic Communities working alongside the UN to support efforts for cessation of all hostilities by conflict parties. It may in particular request the AU working with RECs and the UN to increase efforts at achieving cessation of hostilities leveraging on announcements that armed groups made particularly in Cameroon, CAR, South Sudan and Sudan.

With respect to the AU’s theme of the year on Silencing the Guns, the PSC could call on the AU to mobilize enhanced attention in pursuing the theme of the year. It could, in this regard, request the AUC to discuss with the AU Chairperson on options for convening a virtual summit in pursuit of the AU’s theme of the year on Silencing the Guns.

The PSC may express concern over intensification of violence and attacks observed in some conflict settings and condemn the targeting of health facilities, despite the call for a humanitarian truce during the pandemic. The PSC could lend its support to the initiative of SADC with respect to Mozambique and urge the need for early collective action to avoid the risk of entrenchment of terrorist networks in Mozambique with all its consequences both to the country and the region. In respect to Libya, the PSC could request the AU Commission to report on the escalating fighting in the country with proposals on how to limit the impact of the conflict on the region, on how to contain the foreign meddling exacerbating the situation and on how the AU can support the effective enforcement of the arms embargo.

The PSC could underscore the necessity of international support for the global call and urge the UNSC to exercise leadership in discharging its mandate in the maintenance of international peace and security. The PSC may also express concern over the deepening polarization threatening collective multilateral action for the common problems of the world and may call on the international community to find common grounds to solidify global solidarity in mobilizing towards the fight against the pandemic, including through supporting the call for global ceasefire.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council - Briefing by the President of ICRC on the humanitarian situation in Africa in th e context of Silencing the Guns

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 16 January, 2020

Tomorrow (16 January) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 904th session to receive a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Africa in the context of Silencing the Guns. The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, is expected to present the briefing. The Department of Peace and Security will also make a statement.

The briefing and the accompanying exchange with the ICRC is one of the thematic agendas of the PSC that usually takes place on an annual basis. The first such briefing by the ICRC took place on 9 November 2007 at the 99th session of the PSC. Since then, the PSC held more than half a dozen of such briefing sessions with the ICRC. Focusing on challenges related to humanitarian aspects of crisis and conflict situations on the continent, over the years the briefing addressed a number of issues relating to specific conflict situations and thematic issues including compliance with international humanitarian law in AU peace support operations, protection of civilians and humanitarian access.

This year’s briefing coincides with the 2020 thematic focus of the AU dedicated to Silencing the Guns in Africa. The first segment of the briefing is accordingly expected to address issues pertaining to this year’s thematic focus on silencing the guns. It is expected in this regard that Maurer would draw the attention of the PSC to the central role of political solutions to conflicts in the quest for silencing the guns in Africa. This underscores the primacy of the political for AU’s agenda for silencing the guns. Related to this, the briefing is also expected to emphasize that respect for and ensuring observance of international humanitarian law constitute the basis of the strategy for silencing the guns in Africa.

This centrality of respect for human rights, the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law for peace and security unequivocally enshrined in the PSC Protocol and forms part of the core mandate of the PSC. Under Article 3 (f) of the PSC Protocol, one of the objectives of the PSC is to promote and encourage ‘respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law, as part of efforts for preventing conflicts.’ Similarly, within the context of its conflict prevention mandate, the PSC is vested with the power of following up the progress towards respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law by Member States under Article 7(1)(m).

Another issue that the briefing would address in the context of silencing the guns is weapons control and disarmament as well as strengthening compliance frameworks in peace support operations. It is expected in this respect that Maurer would applaud the critical role of African states in the Arms Trade Treaty and in the effort for non-proliferation. Also expected to be highlighted is the efforts for controlling illicit flow of small arms and light weapons as a major area of intervention in the AU Master Roadmap for Silencing the Guns.

More broadly, the briefing will also highlight the progress made in developing AU’s compliance framework for African peace operations. It is to be recalled that as part of the development of the AU human rights, humanitarian law and conduct and discipline compliance and accountability framework, the PSC during its 813th session on 29 November 2018 adopted the AU Policy on Conduct and Discipline and the AU Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for PSOs. There remain questions most notably on the role and responsibility of the AU for ensuring respect for the compliance framework in the context in particular of the ad hoc military coalition operations authorized by the AU such as the MNJTF or G5 Sahel Joint Force.

In this context, consideration could be made to the need for consolidation of all the various compliance instruments into an integrated and comprehensive HR, IHL and Conduct and Discipline Compliance and Accountability framework for AU PSOs with provisions on responsibility in cases of ad hoc coalition. This has been proposed by the 2018 report of the Comprehensive Assessment of AU Mandated and Authorized Peace Support Operations Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Compliance and Conduct and Discipline Approaches undertaken by PSOD in collaboration with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
On the humanitarian dimension of conflicts and crisis, it is expected that the briefing will highlight the humanitarian-peace-development nexus, reaffirming and drawing attention to the necessity to reinforce the interplay between the development, peace and security and humanitarian actors in meeting the protection and assistance needs of affected populations. As a follow up to his field visits to IDP and refugee camps in Ethiopia, Maurer is expected to inform the PSC about the effect of the combination of climate change, conflict and violence in forcing people to flee their homes to become IDPs and refugees.

In this context, it is also of particular interest for the PSC how conflicts and climate induced environmental conditions and grave whether events reinforce each other and have come to have devastating consequences in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel regions. Given that countries in these regions also host large number of IDPs and refugees, the need for the international community to assume its full responsibility by sharing the burden of host countries is also expected to be highlighted.

The briefing is also expected to reiterate the critical importance of humanitarian access and the need for the PSC and the AU in general to work on facilitating humanitarian access, as part of the mandate on humanitarian effects of crisis and conflict. This requires that the nature and scale of the humanitarian impact of crises and conflicts are adequately factored in when considering and initiating responses to such crises or conflicts.

The other theme expected to feature during this briefing concern the plight of migrants in Africa. Some of the issues the briefing will identify include the disappearance of migrants, the treatment of migrants in detention centres and the rise in the number of migrants in detention in various African countries. Given the requests that ICRC receives from families for tracing their family members that went missing while migrating, the briefing will emphasize the need for documentation and exchange of information.

The briefing is convened on the basis of the normative commitments made under the AU Constitutive Act and the provisions laid down in the PSC Protocol. Under Article 4(o) & (m) of the Constitutive Act, member states have made a legal commitment to respect for the sanctity of human life and observance of international humanitarian law. Article 4(c) of the PSC Protocol stipulates that one of the principles by which the PSC is to be guided is respect for the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedoms, the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law. Beyond the normative commitment, the legal basis for this briefing is to be found in Article 17 of the PSC Protocol, which mandates the PSC to establish working relationships and invite international organizations to address the PSC on issues of common interest.

The ICRC has similar engagements with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Accordingly, it briefs the UNSC in relation to, among others, the latter’s thematic agenda on the promotion of and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of peace and security. Most recently, Maurer briefed the UNSC on 13 August 2019 emphasizing that continued violations of humanitarian law do not mean the law is inadequate, but rather that efforts to ensure respect are inadequate. Urging states to be vigilant, he called on them to observe their legal obligations and take practical steps for thorough implementation of the law.
The expected outcome of the session is a press statement.


Insights on the PSC - Briefing on the Principles on the Protection of Civilians in conflict situations in Africa

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 22 May, 2018

Briefing on the Principles on Protection of Civilians

Tomorrow (22 May) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will receive a briefing on the principles on protection of civilians. The meeting is expected to receive a briefing from the AU Peace and Security Department and the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU).

As set out in the agenda for tomorrow’s session, one of the objectives of this session is to create more understanding among AU member states of the principles on the protection of civilians, also known as the Kigali Principles. The Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians are a set of eighteen pledges for the effective implementation of the protection of civilians in peace support operations. They emerged from the High-level International Conference on the Protection of Civilians held in Rwanda on 28-29 May 2015 in the run-up to the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping. The event at which the principles were presented brought together the top 30 troop and police-contributing countries (T/PCCs) and the top 10 financial- contributing states of UN peace operations.

As its major contribution to the effectiveness of peacekeeping, for Rwanda this session presents useful avenue for not only promoting the principles but also secure the buy in of the AU system and AU members states. Some 40 countries have adopted the Kigali principles, of which 13 are AU member states. Framed from the perspective of T/PCCs and major peacekeeping financial contributors, the Kigali Principles aim at both enhancing ownership of the principles by T/PCCs and empowering T/PCCs and peace support operations in terms of their ability to effectively deliver on their protection of civilians responsibilities. In this sense, the principles could lead to better coordination between the filed and the dynamics at AU headquarters including in the PSC.

The AU has made conscious decision of making the protection of civilians a core task of its peace and security agenda, including its peace support operations. In 2010, the AU developed the draft guidelines on the protection of civilians. When the PSC adopted the mandate of the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA), it tasked the force to ‘ensure the mainstreaming of the civilian protection in all military and security initiatives aimed at resolving the LRA problem’. In June 2012, the AU PSC issued a statement that stressed the importance of ‘mainstreaming’ PoC issues ‘in standard operating procedures of AU peace support operations’, and that ‘PoC must form part of the mandate of future AU missions’. In 2013, the draft guidelines informed the development and adoption of the Aide-memoire for the consideration of issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in Africa.

Apart from the points in the foregoing, the briefing from PSD is expected to highlight the various measures being taken for a comprehensive framework on the protection of civilians within the peace and security architecture of the AU. These include the elaboration of relevant guidelines including notably the draft AU policy on the Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in AU PSOs and the Draft Conduct and Discipline Policy for AU PSOs. There is also the comprehensive assessment of the experience of AU peace operations vis-à-vis compliance with human rights, international humanitarian law and conduct and discipline standards. As noted in the 13 March 2018 session of the PSC, other dimensions of AU work include a child protection institutional framework or architecture and the work currently underway with respect to the women, peace and security agenda of the AU.

While the protection of civilians has become central component of AU peace and security work, delivering on this agenda has not always been easy for the AU and its peace support operations. The major issues faced in pursuing this civilian protection agenda include clearly formulated and contextually tailored civilian protection mandate, translation of the mandate into operational guidelines including diversity of perspectives, lack of clarity on what the civilian protection mandate entails both with respect to security measures and in terms of civilian tasks, the possession of the requisite skills and awareness by personnel, lack of resources in terms of supply of the requisite logistics and equipment, and the involvement of mission personnel in perpetration of abuses including sexual exploitation and abuse.

For PSC members and the AU broadly, the content of the Kigali principles and their value addition to existing protection of civilians agenda of the AU would be of particular interest. The Kigali principles address the various issues that affect not only the effective implementation of protection of civilians but also peace support operations mandate broadly. One such issue is training on protection of civilians, which underscores the responsibility of T/PCCs for ensuring the provision of training on protection of civilians before deployment. In underscoring the importance of the role of mission leaders in the implementation of the civilian protection mandate, principle 2 of the Kigali Principles provides troop-contributing states should ensure that their sector and contingent commanders, as well as their nominees for mission leadership positions, have a high level of training and preparedness on peacekeeping operations and, particularly, on the protection of civilians.

The use of force and rules of engagement are other items rightly addressed in various parts of the Kigali Principles. The principles emphasize the need for personnel to be prepared to use force as necessary and within the mandate and to act, in accordance with the rules of engagement, where the host government does not show capacity or willingness to protect civilians. On the rules of engagement, principle 9 underscores the need for seeking clarity on the rules of engagement including on the circumstances under which use of force is permitted.

Other issues covered in the Kigali Principles include caveats, delays in response and rapid deployment; resources and capabilities; respect for human rights and IHL and conduct and discipline as well as accountability of personnel; and consultations in the development and review of mandates. Clearly, in emphasizing discipline and accountability of personnel, the Kigali principles highlight the challenges to protection emanate not only from the external sources of threat and the limitations affecting peace support operations but also at times from those that are mandated and expected to protect them from other threats.
The expected outcome of the session is a statement. Apart from calling on AU member states to endorse the principles, the statement is expected to provide for the dissemination of the principles among AU member states in the context of the ongoing efforts for the operationalization of the African Standby Force. Given their major contribution on enhancing the role of T/PCCs, the use of the Kigali principles by the AU, Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) not only as useful benchmark in engaging with member states but also as useful means for empowering T/PCC’s in shaping and effectively implementing the civilian protection agenda is also expected to be part of the outcome. The outcome is also expected to underscore the importance of ownership of the principles by member states particularly T/PCCs for guiding their actions in the protection of civilians including protection of educational and health infrastructure and personnel.