Briefing by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)


Date | 4 March, 2020

Tomorrow (5 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to receive a briefing from the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) on the reports of peer reviewed member states. The Chairperson of the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons Ibrahim Gambari is expected to make a presentation.

The APRM has briefed the PSC for the first time on 19 December 2018 at the 819th PSC session. The PSC recognized ‘the importance of the APRM as one of the most effective mechanisms for promoting conflict prevention, as it contributes in addressing some of the structural root causes of conflicts’. Hence tomorrow’s briefing is expected to look into the role of APRM in early warning and on how in partnership with other African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) components it may contribute to conflict prevention efforts.
The Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) and the Panel of the Wise (PoW) are the two key components in the APSA that have the central mandate to avert conflicts and crises, escalation of tensions and relapses to conflict. Both CEWS and PoW report to the PSC and particularly CEWS has the responsibility of providing regular horizon scanning briefings on peace and security trends and imminent threats across the continent. Moreover, Peace and Security Department (Conflict Early Warning and Prevention Division) has developed Continental Structural Conflict Prevention Framework (CSCPF).

Towards operationalizing this framework, the Department has also developed the country structural vulnerability assessment (CSV A) and structural vulnerability mitigation strategy (SVMS). These existing instruments are also expected to serve as complementary mechanisms to APRM’s work in ensuring that the PSC adopts a more preemptive approach than a reactive conflict response.

In addition to the APSA elements, the PSC briefings by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) on election form another layer of conflict prevention mechanism particularly in relation to mitigating contested electoral processes and post-electoral violence. Hence, in the briefing the APRM may also highlight the extent to which harmonization can be created among the relevant actors both within the AUC and policy organs to provide regular briefing and reporting to the PSC.

Gambari’s presentation may also cover the outcome of the recently concluded workshop on ‘Positioning the APRM as an early Warning Tool For Conflict Prevention’. The meeting was held within the context of the AU 2020 theme, Silencing the Guns and anchored in the Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.686(XXX) which welcomed the harmony and synergy between the APRM, the APSA, and the African Governance Architecture (AGA). One of the key outputs of the workshop, which will be presented by the APRM representative, is the APRM Framework on Early Warning and Conflict Prevention.

In addition to the coordination with APSA and AGA, the presentation may also cover the ways in which the APRM coordinates with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs). Given the increasing centrality of RECs/RMs in the AU policy space and more particularly with the PSC, there is a need to also include RECs engagement in the wider conflict prevention roadmap. The PSC may recall its previous session with RECs, which has agreed to develop ‘modalities for undertaking early responses to looming crisis and expediting action to resolve/mitigate blown out crises/conflicts’. In this respect the coordination both at the PSC level but also at the decision making organ at the RECs level may provide a comprehensive and multi- layered approach.

The APRM Framework on Early Warning and Conflict Prevention is expected to serve as an overarching instrument to map the relevant actors that will work closely with the APRM and to solidify harmonization among them.

The second issue that may be considered tomorrow is around seeking clarity on the notion of popular uprising and on modalities of responses. In 2019 the PSC at its 871st held a brainstorming session on the concept of popular uprising. The PSC indicated the lack of an agreed upon definition of ‘popular uprising’ as well as the absence of an AU normative framework that articulates the concept. Nonetheless, popular uprising has increasingly shaped political transition and democratization in many African countries. Hence, recognizing the importance of the phenomenon and in order to address the conceptual and normative gap the Council has tasked the Commission in collaboration with the APRM to prepare and submit a draft AU framework on popular uprising.

When developing a conceptual framework it is important to also address issues related to legitimacy. Previous initiatives such as the AU High-level Panel on Egypt in June 2014 has made recommendations on what kind of conditions make popular uprisings compatible with existing AU norms. Building on such recommendations and through the technical expertise of DPA and the legal counsel the framework can be formulated and presented to the PSC. The APRM on its part may present key elements that need to be included in the draft AU framework. It may identify a number of measures to address structural causes leading to popular uprising as well as actions for effective response when such developments take place.

The presentation is also expected to highlight the various activities undertaken by the mechanism including the reviews of member states. In this regard it may stress the importance of not only increasing number of participating member states in the APRM but also expanding reviews of members and increasing the regularity of reviews.

The outcome of the recently concluded 29th Summit of the African Peer Review Forum of Heads of State and Government, which was held at the margins of the AU Summit, may also feature.
The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may decide to institutionalize its engagement with the APRM through regular briefings. It may welcome the efforts towards strengthening APRM’s role as a conflict prevention tool and it may stress the need for harmonization with the relevant APSA and AGA components to ensure a more effective and coordinated conflict prevention approach. It may welcome the presentation on popular uprising and may call for the finalization of the draft framework to be considered and adopted. It may call for member states that have not acceded to the APRM to do so and complete their regular reviews.

Briefing on APRM Reports


Date | 18 December, 2018

Tomorrow (19 December) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) is scheduled to hold a briefing on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Reports. This session is organized on the request of the APRM secretariat and it is anticipated that a representative of the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons will present the country review reports.

Initiated as a self-monitoring mechanism to which AU member states accede voluntarily, the APRM is a unique mechanism that produces reports of volunteering states based on agreed standards and processes involving self-appraisal and peer review. The reports present assessment of the performance of the state under review in four thematic areas: political and democratic governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance and socio-economic governance.

The number of member states that have subscribed to the APRM has now reached 38. The background note indicates that as at January 2018 twenty-three (23) of the 38 volunteering states have completed the first peer review process, while two (2) countries, namely Kenya and Uganda, have completed their first and second reviews.

The session is organized in accordance with a provision stipulated in the APRM Base Document of 2003 that mandates the APRM to present country review reports to the PSC. Most notably, Paragraph 25 of the APRM Base Document states that ‘six months after a report has been considered by the Heads of State and Government of the participating member countries, it should be formally and publicly tabled in key regional and sub-regional structures such as … the Peace and Security Council…’

Additionally, the presentation is also informed by the findings of the Progress Report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Institutional Reform of the AU. The Report, among others, noted the lack of utilization of the potential of the APRM to enable relevant AU organs to react in a timely manner in the area of conflict prevention, notably through APRM briefings to the AU PSC and the need for improving complementarity between the APRM and peace and security.

The experience of the APRM in implementing paragraph 25 of the Base Document indicates that the APRM has thus far established a practice of presenting country review reports before the Pan- African Parliament and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

While there have been various occasions in which the PSC held sessions on governance issues, this is the first time for the APRM to come to the PSC for presenting reports of member states. From the perspective of the APRM the presentation of the reports can serve as mechanism for encouraging implementation of the recommendations of the reports.

This session is an initiative that stands to further deepen the synergy between the governance structures of the AU and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). It is to be recalled that the AU Assembly at its 30th Ordinary Session held in January 2018 acknowledged in Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.686(XXX) the role that the APRM stands to play as an early warning tool for conflict prevention on the continent furthering the synergy between the APRM, the APSA and the African Governance Architecture (AGA). Admittedly, given the multiplicity of governance processes within the AU, this initiative also gives rise to questions of duplication as well.

As indicated in the background note, the presentation of the review reports is expected to contribute to the realization of the role of the PSC, under Article 3(b) of the Protocol on the Establishment of the PSC, in the anticipation and prevention of conflicts. Although the link between internal governance and regional peace and security is acknowledged in the PSC Protocol, the background note underscores the importance of AU member states ‘critically acknowled(ging) the impact of domestic policies, not only on internal political stability and economic growth, but also on the promotion of peace, security and stability as well as the creation of conditions conducive to sustainable development’.

Research reports indicate that some of the APRM reports have indeed highlighted risks of crisis in countries under review and these risks subsequently materialized. A case in point that the researches highlight is the Kenya APRM Report, which warned against ethnic violence in 2006. However, the potential of the early warning role of the reports depends on the quality of the reports.

While the presentation of the APRM reports can innovatively be used for effectively operationalizing the early warning and response responsibility of the PSC under Article 3(b) of the PSC Protocol, whether or not such early warning can be acted upon for taking preventive action is incumbent on the PSC. The role that the APRM presentation of country review reports plays in effectively activating this responsibility of the PSC depends on whether as part of the presentation of the report the APRM offers the PSC practical options on how best the PSC can follow up the PSC relevant issues highlighted in the reports. From the perspective of the work of the PSC, instead of presenting the whole APRM report what would be useful is to draw the attention of the PSC to those issues pertaining to its mandate.

Tomorrow’s session being the first meeting of the PSC on APRM reports, which reports and how they are presented and the methodology for how the PSC deliberates on and follows up on the country review reports has as yet to be clarified. It is not clear, for example, whether the PSC will adopt a statement or communiqué highlighting the specific issues raised in the APRM reports presented and requesting each of the countries concerned to take necessary measures for addressing the issues. Perhaps, this would be one of the issues that can also be elaborated as part of the revision of the working methods of the PSC.

The expected result of the briefing is a communiqué. It is anticipated that the communiqué will establish the modus operandi between the APRM and the PSC, hence establishing the presentation of APRM reports a standing agenda of the PSC. This will clarify how the APRM reports will be presented and used by the PSC as part of the continental early warning system for the PSC to timeously take action for preventing conflicts. In terms of synergy and coordination, the communiqué could also envisage the importance of institutionally feeding the reports to the Panel of the Wise (PoW) for the PoW to use the reports in implementing its mandate.