Briefing on conflict prevention, early warning and mediation in Africa

Date | 12 December, 2019

Tomorrow (13 December) the African Union (AU) Peace and  Security  Council  (PSC)  is  expected  to  receive  a  briefing on conflict prevention, early warning and mediation  in  Africa.  Fred  Ngoga,  Head  of  the  Conflict  Prevention and Early Warning Division (CPEWD) of the AU  Commission  is  expected  to  brief  the  PSC.  Representatives of Regional Economic Communities (RECs)  and  Regional  Mechanisms  (RMs)  may  also  make  interventions.

The briefing is expected to focus on two main issues. The first  will  be  horizon  scanning  of  threats  to  peace  and  security in Africa. A second possible aspect of the briefing may be an update on the status of development of conflict prevention tools.

One  of  the  key  principles  that  guide  the  operationalization of the PSC mandate is ‘early response to  contain  crisis  situations  to  prevent  them  from  developing into full‐blown conflicts.’ The PSC Protocol highlights  the  Council’s  responsibility  to  ‘anticipate  and  prevent conflicts’ particularly through ‘early warning and preventive  diplomacy’.  Conflict  prevention  and  early  warning is also one of the key objectives of the AU articulated in the Constitutive Act.

However, during the last briefing on early warning, at its 669th  session  the  PSC  has  indicated  its  concern  with regards  to  the  ‘continued  cases  of  denials  to  objective/credible early warning signals of looming crises,  thereby  undermining  the  conflict  prevention  capacity of Council’.

Similarly  at  its  12th  retreat  held  in  June  2019  in  Rabat,  the PSC stressed challenges to conflict prevention including  insufficient  funding  and  resources,  lack  of  political will of member states and sensitiveness around the  categorization  of  looming  crisis.  Towards  enhancing  the capacity of the Council it has ‘decided to increase the regularity  of  briefing  sessions  with  the  AU  Commission,  on issues relating to looming crises with a view to assembling  the  relevant  information  for  appropriate  action’. Tomorrow’s session will also be an opportunity to  deliberate  on  some  of  these  challenges  that  are  preventing the scaling up of early warning mechanisms for early action.

Within this context, the horizon scanning is expected to assess the security situation in the five regions and may identify  the  major  threats  witnessed  across  the  continent. It may particularly look into the broad areas of root  causes,  structural  factors  and  drivers  of  conflict  including terrorism and radicalization, climate change, election, democratization, governance, respect of human rights  and  the  rule  of  law  as  well  socio‐economic  inequalities and marginalization.
As  part  of  its  Border  Program,  CPEWD’s  presentation  may also highlight the tension that may be arising from border demarcation and delimitation disputes.

In  terms  of  country  and  regional  focus,  it  may  pay  particular attention to situations which are experiencing not  only  looming  crisis  but  also  countries  and  regions  that may be experiencing relative stability while confronted  with  risks  of  relapse  to  violence.  In  this  regard, the briefing may shed light on the developments in  various  countries,  which  are  currently  in  political  transition or have recently signed peace agreements or are  in  mediation  processes  including  countries  such  as  Sudan, South Sudan and CAR. It may also pay particular attention  to  close  to  twenty  countries  that  will  be  holding elections in the coming year.

The  briefing  may  also  look  into  the  cross‐border  and  regional aspect of conflict prevention. It may offer an analysis  on  regions  that  are  experiencing  conflicts  and  crisis emanating from intertwined and compounded factors  affecting  multiple  countries.  The  presentation  may also provide an assessment of key trends and analysis  on  changing  dynamics  and  complexities  surrounding the causes of conflicts.

In  the  light  of  the  longstanding  challenges  of  effective  operationalization of the conflict prevention mandate of the PSC, it would be of interest for PSC members to look into  the  modalities  for  a  more  effective  engagement  in  conflict prevention. In this regard, consideration can be given  to  Article  8(11)  of  the  PSC  Protocol  that  provides  for the possibility of the PSC holding informal consultations.  As  a  meeting  format  that  has  not  been  adequately explored, informal consultation particularly at  the  level  of  Committee  of  Experts  of  the  PSC  avails useful avenue for considering early warning briefings and exploring options for preventive action.
After the overall overview of peace and security risks and threats, the presentation in its second part may look into conflict  prevention  tools  and  update  on  their  progress.  This will also be an opportunity to promote and enhance the  utilization  of  continental  and  regional  mechanisms  by policy makers.

Article 2 of the PSC protocol stipulates the need for the Council  to  be  supported  by  the  various  mechanisms  including Continental Early Warning System in fulfilling its  mandate.  CEWS  primarily  consists  of  two  components: (i) the continental observation and monitoring  center,  known  as  “The  Situation  Room”  and  (ii) the observation and monitoring units of the Regional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution (RMs), which collect and process data and are linked directly to the Situation Room. To this end, it will be critical to deliberate on mechanism that enhance the synergy and close collaboration between the AU and RECs/RMs in providing up‐to‐date and relevant information to the PSC as well for the PSC itself to strengthen its working relations with the regional entities.

Considering the ongoing AU institutional reform process and  increased  PSC  engagement  with  RECs/RMs,  Council  members may wish to recall the commitments made during  PSC’s  12th  retreat  which  tasked  the  PSC  jointly  with RECs/RMs policy organs to establish ‘criteria for assessing  looming  crises  and  emerging  situations…  to  ensure … common understanding of parameters, benchmarks  and  principles  that  define  entry  points  for  interventions’.

The  presentation  by  the  division  may  also  provide  an  update on the activities of Panel of the Wise as a key pillar that is established for preventive diplomacy and in order to support the efforts of the PSC and those of the AUC  Chairperson,  particularly  in  the  area  of  conflict  prevention. The briefing may provide an update on the recently  concluded  annual  statutory  meeting  of  the  Panel of the Wise as well as the AU Special Envoy Representatives.  PSC  members  may  also  follow  up  further on the work of the Special Envoys considering the decision  at  its  12th  retreat  ‘to  hold  each  year  a  PSC  session during which AU Special Representatives/Envoys and AU High Representatives will provide briefings’.

The  presentation  may  also  provide  an  update  on  thematic issues related to Gender, Peace and Security Program  and  the  work  of  FemWise  as  well  as  their  harmonization with other gender centered mechanisms in  the  Commission  including  the  Office  of  the  Special  Envoy on Women, Peace and Security and the Gender Directorate.

As  part  of  the  Youth  for  Peace  program  activities  the  presentation may also raise the developments around the  ‘Study  on  the  Roles  and  Contributions  of  Youth  to  Peace and Security in Africa’, which was recently considered by the PSC.

The  expected  outcome  of  the  session  was  unknown  during the production of this ‘Insight’. The PSC may urge member states to strengthen their efforts at the national level  as  well  as  support  the  efficiency  of  early  warning  and prevention mechanisms at AU and RECs/RM level. Towards operationalizing its mandate, the PSC may also urge  for  the  strengthening  of  the  reporting  tool  of  the  Commission through enhancing of the systematic provision  of  early  warning  reports.  The  PSC  may  also  urge the Commission to provide regular briefings and horizon  scanning  to  equip  members  with  relevant  data  for effective decision‐making. To this end, the PSC may consider  adopting  informal  consultation  as  the  format  for a more regular and systematic consideration of early warning  and  conflict  prevention  sessions  including  through the convening of such informal consultations at the level of Committee of Experts.