PSC Briefing on the Harmonization of the ACIRC within the ASF Framework

Date | 18 September, 2018

Tomorrow  (19  September)  the  Peace  and  Security  Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) will hold a briefing on the harmonization of the African Capacity for Rapid  Intervention  in  Crises  (ACRIC)  within  the  African  Standby Force (ASF) framework. Convened on the request  of  Nigeria,  the  meeting  will  examine  the  conceptual, structural and institutional harmonization of the  ASF  and  ACIRC.  The  session  will  also  evaluate  the  progress made by the two mechanisms since the last briefing  to  the  PSC.  The  meeting  will  receive  a  briefing  from the Peace and Security Department (PSD)’s Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD).

The meeting is held in line with the decision 695 of the AU  Assembly  meeting  in  Nouakchott,  which  requested  quarterly progress update on implementation of decision 679 of the 30th ordinary session of the Assembly.

The  meeting  will  also  receive  updates  from  the  Secretariat of ACRIC in PSOD on the state of the ACIRC, its  relations  with  the  ASF  mechanism  and  recent  developments in the implementation of the Maputo Strategic  Work  Plan  on  the  Enhancement  of  the  ASF  (2016‐2020). The five‐year work plan for the ASF highlighted  the  changing  security  environment  and  threats on the continent. Its recommendation for dynamism  into  the  design  and  structure  of  the  ASF  to  respond to the challenges goes in line with the initiative to  harmonize  the  ASF  with  the  ACIRC.  The  session  will  use the indicators, deliverables and timelines defined by the  five‐year  work  plan  as  a  reference  to  evaluate  the  move towards harmonization of ACRIC with ASF, particularly  its  rapid  deployment  capability  (RDC).  The  training, exercises, airlift and mission support capabilities of  the  regional  forces  and  their  progress  in  articulating  the command structure and control, and logistical capabilities  of  the  ASF  and  ACIRC  will  also  be  discussed  by the session.

The  discussion  and  debate  of  the  meeting  will  focus  on  the complex relationship between the ASF and ACRIC. Divisions still exist among the member states of the AU and  within  the  AU  Commission  on  the  relevance,  role,  interaction and the need for keeping the two as parallel initiatives.  There  is  an  opinion  that  sees  ACIRC  as  a  redundancy, an admission of failure to fully operationalize the ASF, and questions the value addition of  the  ACIRC.  This  view  sees  the  2013  initiative  as  a  project that diverts and distracts the attention, energy, resources  and  political  focus  of  the  continent  and  partners that should have been spent on realizing the ASF.  Those  participating  in  ACRIC  consider  the  mechanism as providing the mechanism for rapid mobilization and more flexibility (compared to the region based and relatively more region approach of the ASF) in cases emergency situations.

Despite  its  success  for  standardization,  training  and  mobilization of peace support mission in Africa, security challenges in the continent have revealed the weakness of the ASF in rapidly deploying troops. Harmonizing the ASF  and  ACIRC  will  primarily  focus  on  addressing  this  structural gap. The conversation on the ASF and ACIRC dynamics is taking place while the continent is witnessing a sweeping trend of relying on ad‐hoc regional coalitions and  deployment  arrangements  and  alliances  as  a  rapid  response mechanism. The meeting is expected to address  these  trend  in  the  context  of  the  effort  for  harmonization of the ASF and ACRIC.

While  peace  support  operations  serve  as  a  vital  tool  of  crisis response, changing security dynamics and trans‐regional nature of emerging security threats demand a more flexible, agile and effective missions. The possibility of an effective transfer of responsibility to local security forces and institutions, and withdrawal of missions with an extended presence and limited effectiveness still look distant.  These  conditions  and  reality  significantly  affected the reputation and effectiveness of the traditional peace support operations in Africa, and called for a revision of the existing practice and arrangements. The  threat  posed  by  transnational  terrorist  groups  and  non‐state actors need a ‘fit for purpose’ and tailor made mandated  approach,  which  is  currently  lacking  in  the  traditional African Union and UN missions in Africa.

Tomorrow’s  meeting  will  examine  the  ASF‐ACRIC  harmonization as a response to the question of effectiveness  and  sustainability  of  peace  support  operations in the continent. Reviewing the design and structure  of  the  ASF  in  a  way  that  enhances  its  deployment capabilities and mission effectiveness including the ACIRC as its component is seen by the AU as a way forward. An important aspect of this session is also  finding  a  balance  between  rapid  and  flexible  regional initiatives and overarching standards and principles developed within the framework of the ASF.
Also  important  for  tomorrow’s  session  is  tailor  made  interventions with greater emphasis on political initiatives underscoring the imperative of the primacy of political  strategy  over  military  or  security  approaches.  These include integrating and enhancing the role of preventive  diplomacy  and  mediation  mechanisms,  the  African Governance Architecture (AGA), Africa’s normative  framework  to  constitutionalism  and  inclusive  governance. Enabling national institutions is critical in the path from conflict to sustained peace, and should be part and parcel of the ASF‐ACIRC harmonization.

The expected outcome of the briefing is a communiqué. The  communiqué  may  stipulate  a  timeline  for  finalizing  the harmonization of ACRIC within the ASF and for all efforts at the levels of the AU and regions to focus on the full  operationalization  of  the  ASF  with  necessary  adjustments for flexible, rapid and effective utilization of ASF in response to emerging crisis.