Briefing by the ICRC on its activities and the humanitarian situation in Africa

Briefing by the ICRC on its activities and the humanitarian situation in Africa

Date | 9 October 2023

Tomorrow (10 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1178th session to receive annual briefing from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on its activities and the humanitarian situation in Africa.

Following opening remarks by Daniel Owassa, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Congo and PSC Chairperson for the month, Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to deliver a statement highlighting the status of cooperation between the AU and the ICRC. Patrick Youssef, Africa Regional Director for the ICRC is expected to deliver a briefing on ICRC’s activities in Africa and the challenges related to humanitarian aspects of crisis and conflict situations on the continent.

Tomorrow’s briefing forms part of the annual briefing of the ICRC to the PSC which has been taking place since the first such briefing at the 99th session of the PSC in November 2007. The last time the ICRC briefed the PSC was at the 1081st session of the PSC convened in May 2022. One of the key decisions adopted at the session was the request made for the AU Commission to work with relevant humanitarian partners including the ICRC, for the urgent preparation of ‘a detailed report on the data, registration and documentation of vulnerable populations in Africa’. As has been the case in such past briefings of the ICRC, tomorrow’s briefing, apart from providing update on the follow up on last year’s briefing, serves to provide update both on ICRC’s activities and pertinent humanitarian issues of pressing concern at the time of the briefing.

There are several ongoing humanitarian crises in Africa caused by the devastating impacts of violent conflicts of various types and political instabilities taking different forms including those involving unconstitutional Changes of government in countries like the Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, among others.  On the other hand, climate change, in particular floods and droughts, have adversely impacted food security and livelihoods for millions of people on the continent, for instance in Southern Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Sahel regions of Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on the continent, exacerbating existing challenges and creating new ones.

It is against this backdrop of a complex humanitarian situation on the continent (including a recent earthquake in Morocco that affected thousands of people and devastating floods in Libya, which killed over 25,000 people) that tomorrow’s session is taking place. Apart from providing data and analysis on the enormity and nature of the humanitarian crises in these various conflict and crisis settings, tomorrow’s briefing is also expected to address the increasing constraint faced in humanitarian access. Similar to the worldwide trend in the rise in the number of forced displacements which registered a record 119 million people in 2022, Africa has witnessed a spike in the number of internally and externally displaced people. This trend has continued into 2023.

As a means of examining the extent of humanitarian crises in specific country/region situations, it may also interest the PSC to hear about efforts being deployed and challenges being experienced by the ICRC and other relevant humanitarian actors in some of the pressing crises at country and regional levels. One such situation which warrants PSC’s increased attention is the humanitarian situation in Sudan, which is now considered to be the world’s fast evolving displacement and other humanitarian crises. As emphasised in Amani Africa’s briefing to the PSC’s 1176th session, in less than six months, the conflict in Sudan has forcibly displaced nearly six million people, both internally and outside of the country. Some of the latest news emerging from Sudan further indicate that civilians continue to bear the brunt of much of the violence and the consequences of this war. The number of people killed as a consequence of this war has now reached over 9000, much of it a result of indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilians. In addition to shortage of food and other basic necessities, particularly in Khartoum and east Darfur, there is also reportedly increasing incidences of looting of aid items for sale at shops, leaving the most vulnerable communities without the necessary assistance.

Another significant aspect of the war in Sudan which the PSC may wish to receive some reflections on is the attack on civilian objects which both parties to the conflict have been accused of. According to a statement made by OCHA’s humanitarian coordinator on 05 October, not only are conflicting parties using civilian facilities such as schools for military purposes and exposing civilians sheltered there to the risk of being caught in the crossfire, there have also been cases of damage to pumps that supply water to camps hosting displaced people. These only form part of the larger trend of attacks against public infrastructure including hospitals, schools, water and electricity installations and places of worship, that has been ongoing since the outbreak of the conflict.

Of no less pressing concern in Sudan is the enormous impediments to humanitarian access facing both people in need of assistance and humanitarian actors. According to the UN, humanitarian actors were able to reach only 19% of the people who are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

Beyond the recent humanitarian crises in Sudan, the protracted humanitarian situation in the DRC also deserves attention. In the first half of 2023 alone, the surge in violence in eastern DRC has led to the displacement of nearly 1 million people, according to the displacement tracking matrix of IOM. Ituri and Kivu, two of the most affected provinces of eastern DRC are host to about 5.4 million of the total 6.1 million displaced people in the country. It is further estimated that in addition to the high displacement rate, 26 million people across the country require humanitarian assistance, majority of which are facing acute food insecurity. This grim picture is exacerbated by continuing reports of attacks against displacement camp sites, claiming the lives of hundreds of people.

The Sahel region is another one of the complex humanitarian challenges being faced in the continent. Frustrated with persistent conflicts involving terrorism, unstable political transitions and weak governance structures as well as extreme weather patterns involving frequent droughts, floods and land degradation, countries in the Sahel region are struggling to effectively address the humanitarian needs of their populations. According to the UNOCHA, out of the overall estimated population of 109 million people in the Sahel region, 34.5 percent are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Displacement rates continue to increase with instability showing no improvement in the region. As of July 2023, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region is estimated to have reached 5.9 million while the number of refugees has reached 1.5 million by August 2023. The two countries contributing most to the displacement rate are Burkina Faso and Nigeria hosting 2.1 million and 2.2 million IDPs respectively. The humanitarian crisis in the Sahel is further compounded by recurrent outbreak of communicable diseases such as cholera, measles and meningitis.

Aside from shading some light on some of these country/region specific situations, the briefing tomorrow could also present updates on the request from the PSC to the AUC on the finalization of the AU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Statelessness in Africa. It is also expected that the briefing will give insights to the situation of migrants and refugees in Libya and give recommendations for enhanced regional cooperation and solutions which would place human rights and the dignity of migrants and refugees front and centre.  The session may also reflect on the follow up on the implementation of the Post-Malabo Plan of Action 2023 – 2032. In this respect, the ICRC and PSC may explore the possibility of using the plan of action for enhanced collaboration in the mobilization of effective humanitarian action on the Continent.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. The PSC may highlight the need for further strengthening humanitarian action in the continent, especially on effective measures for early warning, conflict prevention, management, resolution and post-conflict recovery, reconstruction and peacebuilding. The PSC may also urge parties to armed conflicts to respect and abide by their responsibilities under customary international humanitarian law in the conduct of their hostilities and to remove all barriers which impede access to humanitarian assistance. It may further commend the ICRC and other humanitarian actors for the efforts deployed to manage humanitarian crises in most affected parts of the continent such as Sudan, DRC, the Sahel region and others. In the light of the fact that the war in Sudan has created the world’s fast evolving displacement and other humanitarian crises, the PSC may express its grave concern over the alarming scale of the displacement and humanitarian crises in Sudan. In this respect, the PSC may call on the warring parties to immediately desist from targeting civilians and civilian infrastructures and the resort to indiscriminate attacks. To fulfil its responsibility under the principle of non-indifference and take concrete steps, the PSC may, as proposed during its 29 September session, decide to establish a taskforce dedicated to the monitoring, documenting and reporting on the humanitarian situation and protection of civilians in Sudan as critical measure for giving hearing to civilians caught up in the cross fire and discouraging the warring parties from both continuing with targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure and use of indiscriminate attacks and impeding humanitarian access. The PSC may similarly express continuing concern over the protracted humanitarian crises in Eastern DRC and the Sahel, which continue to deteriorate during the past year as a result of resurgence of violent conflicts. In regard to Eastern DRC, the PSC may, apart from calling on warring parties to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, urge that the forces deployed in Eastern DRC including those under the East African Community give particular attention to protection of civilians, including facilitation of humanitarian access.

Engagement with the UNHCR on post- Malabo Extraordinary Summit on Humanitarian Action

Engagement with the UNHCR on post- Malabo Extraordinary Summit on Humanitarian Action

Date | 28 September 2023

Tomorrow (29 September) the PSC is expected to convene its 1176th session on humanitarian action with an engagement with the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the post-Malabo Extraordinary Summit.

Following opening remarks by Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of September 2023, Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development (HHS), is expected to make a presentation. The Chairperson of the PRC Subcommittee on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons is also expected to deliver a presentation to be followed by statements from representatives of UNHCR; the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA); the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and Amani Africa Media and Research Services.

On 18 May 2023, the PSC held an open session on humanitarian action in Africa for its 1155th meeting where it expressed deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in various African regions, including Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Horn of Africa, Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and Southern Africa. The PSC had also expressed concern about dwindling resources for effective responses and called for increased financial mobilization while commending Member states and RECs/RMs for their humanitarian assistance efforts and aiding affected populations. The issue of humanitarian access was also discussed, with the PSC calling on belligerent parties to adhere strictly to international humanitarian and human rights laws, ensure humanitarian access, and safeguard the security of aid agencies. The PSC also welcomed the adoption of the African Humanitarian Agency’s Statute in 2023, requesting its prompt operationalization and resource mobilization.

The humanitarian situation in Africa has increasingly become dire, with 30 million people in the continent being internally displaced persons, refugees or asylum-seekers, according to UNHCR figures. This dire situation is driven by a complex combination of factors, including violent conflicts, terrorism, inter-communal violence, unconstitutional changes of government, famine, and the increasing impact of climate change-related phenomena like crop failures, droughts, floods, landslides, and cyclones, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and livelihoods. Only recently, the earthquake in Morocco and the devastating floods in Libya have affected and claimed the lives of thousands of people. Faced with such reality, Africa’s prosperity and development continue to be threatened and realization of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 remain challenged.

It is expected that the central focus of tomorrow’s session will be to review the implementation of the outcomes of the 15th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in May 2022, particularly regarding funding, institutional cooperation, and the 10-year AU Humanitarian Agenda.

Reflecting the importance of the outcomes of the humanitarian summit, during the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, as a decision on the report on the activities of the PSC and the state of peace and security in Africa, the Assembly had “urged the PSC to prioritize the implementation of the outcomes of the 15th Extraordinary African Union Humanitarian Summit and Pledging held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in May 2022, to robustly respond to the pressing twin security issues of Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCG) and the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism”. At the Humanitarian Summit, AU Member States agreed to address common challenges and undertake actions towards the six declarations they made: on humanitarian challenges; on climate change, disasters and forced displacement in Africa; on food security and nutrition in humanitarian situations in Africa; on COVID-19 and health challenges in the humanitarian space in Africa; on post conflict reconstruction and development for refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa; and on resource mobilization and financing for humanitarian action in Africa.

One of the outcomes of the Malabo Summit, with its Statute adopted during 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in February 2023, was the creation of the African Humanitarian Agency (AfHA). Member States declared to allocate over USD176million to the AfHA to enable it to execute its strategic mandate. However, the collection of the entire amount pledged has yet to be effected. It is to be recalled that the PSC during its 1155th meeting on 18 May 2023 also “underlined the need for Member States to generously contribute to the AU Special Emergencies’ Fund and encouraged all Member States and partners who pledged support during the AU Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea from 25 to 28 May 2022 to expeditiously redeem their pledges.”

Another follow up that could be discussed during the 1176th session is the status of developing the Plan of Action for implementing the outcomes of the Humanitarian Summit, which is to be prepared by the AU Commission. Aside from that, the PSC may also recall the 2019 Global Refugee Forum held in Geneva, when the AU, its Member States, the AU Commission as well as Regional Communities made wide-ranging pledges. In addition to following up on the implementation of these pledges, the PSC could urge Member States and the AU Commission to make a Pan-African pledge that is centered in the outcomes of the Malabo Declaration, at the second edition of the Global Refugee Forum expected to take place in December 2023, in Geneva.

Further to that, tomorrow’s briefing also presents an opportunity for the PSC to reflect on the various humanitarian challenges in the continent and to discuss ways forward for ensuring effective response and sustainable solutions to Africa’s growing humanitarian needs, despite the existing difficulties. To that end, the PSC’s discussion could bring the needed attention to the existing situations across the continent. One such instance is the situation in Sudan. In the past five months alone, the deadly conflict in Sudan that erupted on 11 April 2023 has forced over 3.3 million people to flee their homes to other parts of Sudan or neighboring countries such as Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, CAR, and Egypt. However, the PSC’s attention towards Sudan has been considerably low. Since April 2023, there were only two solely Sudan-focused sessions (1149th meeting on 16 April and 1156th meeting on 27 May). In addition, there have been three sessions where the PSC considered the situation in Sudan as part of its meetings with broader focus. For instance, on 26 April, the PSC held an informal consultation with countries in political transition, with Sudan being one of the four countries of concern. For its 1154th session on 16 May, the situation in Sudan was one of the two agenda items tabled for the consideration of the PSC. During the PSC’s 1158th session on 15 June, it received updated briefings on the situation in the Horn of Africa, Sudan forming one of the four contexts discussed. Further neglect of the situation in Sudan, which includes the atrocities and severe humanitarian crisis in reported in places such as Darfur, would not only be a missed opportunity for the PSC to demonstrate leadership in resolving the crisis, but also a failure to fulfill its main responsibilities of ensuring peace and security in the continent.

The expected outcome of the session is a Communiqué. The PSC may express deep concern over the escalating rate of humanitarian need in the continent as compared to the constraints and decline in humanitarian action. It may emphasize that conflicts and instability form the major factor that create and facilitate humanitarian suffering the continent and as such, call on all relevant actors to expend efforts towards realization of AU’s Roadmap for Silencing the Guns with its overarching objective of achieving a secure and peaceful Africa. Underscoring the critical role it is envisioned to play towards better coordinating humanitarian assistance in the continent, the PSC may also urge Member States to fulfil their pledges towards funding the AfHA. It may further urge the PRC sub-committees on structures and Finance as well as the AU Commission to expedite the operationalization of the AfHA. The PSC may also appeal to international partners to remain committed and to continue their humanitarian support to affected communities across the continent. It may also express alarm over the escalating violations of international humanitarian law, including deliberate attacks against civilians and obstacles to humanitarian access, attacks against public infrastructure and campsites hosting displaced populations and other violations that require accountability and proper action. Noting deteriorating humanitarian situations in conflict affected member states such as Sudan, the PSC may call on partners and all relevant actors to scale up support. It may further emphasize the need for strengthened engagement in humanitarian diplomacy and urge relevant civil society actors to fortify efforts in this respect.

Open Session on Humanitarian Action in Africa

Open Session on Humanitarian Action in Africa

Date | 18 May 2023

Tomorrow (18 May), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to convene its 1155th meeting which will be committed to its annual open session on humanitarian action in Africa.

Following opening remarks by Rebecca Amuge Otengo, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of May, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye is expected to make a statement. Representative of the AU Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Development may deliver a statement. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are also expected to participate in the session.

Being convened within the framework of the decision of PSC’s 469th press statement to dedicate an annual session to humanitarian action in Africa, tomorrow’s meeting is expected to offer updates on the humanitarian situation in the continent, with a specific focus on the issue of food insecurity and prospects to enhance Africa’s self-reliance in food production. Having regard to the growing prevalence of the issue, it is to be recalled that the PSC committed its 1083rd session to ‘food security and conflict in Africa’. In the Communiqué of that session, the impact of conflicts on food production and the role they play in the disruption of agricultural yields and value chains was emphasised. The coming session serves to highlight the continuing increase in food insecurity in the continent and opportunities for Africa to enhance agricultural production to promote food security.

Driven by multiple man-made and natural causes, the current food security crisis experienced across the various regions and countries in Africa has reached unprecedented levels over the past couple of years. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impact, the war in Ukraine and resulting disruption to food and energy supply chains as well as cropping seasons characterised by poor rains and even drought in some regions, compounded by ongoing conflicts and unstable security settings, have resulted in acute food insecurity in many parts of the continent. According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a total of 20.2 percent of the African population was facing hunger in 2021 alone. Last year, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war and the geostrategic confrontation it triggered, African countries that depend on Russia and Ukraine for at least half percentage of their cereal import experienced over 70 percent raise in cereal prices. Not only has this put a major strain on the availability of and access to basic food items, it has also elevated hunger levels as the portion of population that cannot cope with the rise in food prices increased.

Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the food and energy crisis that the Russian invasion and the ensuing geopolitical confrontation triggered have underscored the imperative for Africa to severe its dependence on global supply chains for its food. The corollary to this imperative is the need for Africa to harness its enormous agricultural potential for achieving food security. Additionally, AU member states need to use this crisis for leveraging the African Common Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) for enhancing intra-Africa trade in agricultural products by prioritizing and fast tracking the processes for trading in agricultural products.

The East and Horn of Africa constitutes one of the regions, not only in Africa but also globally, most affected by food insecurity. As of December 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 37 million people in the region to be faced with acute food insecurity. Aside from being faced with the worst droughts experienced in decades, the region is home to some of the worst conflict situations in the continent. The devastating combined effect of insecurity, drought and other impacts of climate change such as floods have led to the displacement of over 13 million people in the east and horn region, as of June last year. South Sudan, which faces severe challenges in agricultural production due to the highest level of flooding the country has gone through in over 60 years, has 8.3 million people who face critical level of food insecurity as well as famine reported in multiple areas of the country. In Ethiopia, where over 22 million people are reportedly facing severe food shortages, over 8 million people are affected by prolonged drought experienced in the country’s south and south-east parts while the conflict in Tigray and affected neighbouring regions has left 83 percent of the population food insecure. In Somalia, 6.5 million people are reportedly facing acute food insecurity due to multiyear drought that the country continues to suffer from. Despite earlier predictions of improved cereal production in Sudan due to projected favourable weather conditions, the situation in the country is not looking good either, due to the difficult economic conditions and the political instability, which are now compounded by the outbreak of the raging war.

West Africa and the Sahel are faring no better than the east and horn region. Estimates indicate that over 18 million people in the Sahel region experience severe food insecurity. Nigeria hosts 13 million people living under grave level of acute food insecurity. A significant amount of these are located in Boko Haram affected regions. Erratic rainy season, insecurity and rise in food price with reduced supply of food items leaves 1.2 million people in Mali requiring urgent food assistance. Substantial portion of these people are populations displaced due to terrorism related conflict and intercommunal violence. Burkina Faso which now hosts the highest number of IDPs in the Sahel region – 1.9 million Burkinabe citizens displaced internally – is projected to have 3.5 million people facing acute food insecurity in the coming agricultural season of 2023.

In CAR, reduced access to basic materials required for agricultural production has been a principal factor behind the increase in the price of local foodstuff while the cost of imported goods has gone even higher due to rise in fuel and transportation prices. In the coming months of 2023, estimates point that about 3 million people are likely to be in crisis and emergency phases of food insecurity, particularly in violence affected and displaced community hosting regions. One of the world’s largest hunger crisis currently, DRC is home to 26.4 million food insecure people, a number topping the total for some of the entire sub-regions of the continent. As the current conflict in the eastern part of the country fuels the growing displacement rate, factors related to climatic shocks and poor agricultural yields drive the increasing degree of food insecurity.

Although to a much lesser extent, countries in the north and southern Africa regions have also felt the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war. In countries like Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia inflation rates have gone up considerable percentages leading to increase in food prices while people’s purchasing power decreases. In the southern Africa region, in addition to the spike in cost-of-living, Malawi and Zimbabwe are susceptible to raising degrees of food crisis due to likelihood of droughts and cyclones while violent conflict is the main driver of food insecurity in Mozambique.

Although all of these data project a grim image, it also offers the opportunity to re-examine Africa’s approach in responding to food insecurity, in order to identify gaps and find solutions. In this respect, one important aspect the PSC may reflect on is the significance of responding to Africa’s food security crisis in a comprehensive manner that takes account of humanitarian, developmental and peace and security factors into consideration. While partnerships for humanitarian aid are pertinent and in fact indispensable to respond to immediate needs of affected populations, it is essential to ensure sustainability of humanitarian assistance, specifically by linking such efforts with development programmes that aim to boost food production at the national level. This opens up the potential for local communities to be assisted in a manner that would not only enable their eventual self-reliance, but also their contribution to nation-wide food production.

Further to tailoring humanitarian assistance towards building durable and sustainable food production along with addressing urgent needs, it is also critical for African member states to make all the necessary efforts to ‘build sustainable and resilient agri-food system to ensure food sovereignty’ as articulated in the Declaration of the 15th Extraordinary AU Humanitarian Summit [Ext/Assembly/AU/Decl.(XV)]. In most of the highly affected African countries, absence of agricultural modernisation and weak institutional capacity to provide research supported farming practices are among the factors which facilitate food insecurity. This requires that AU member states invest more on the agricultural sector.

Having regard to the role conflict and political instability play in inflaming food insecurity, the imperative for practical steps for silencing the guns cannot be overemphasized. For this, the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), UN and others together with CSOs need to work on preventing new conflicts from erupting and in mobilizing all their efforts for resolving existing conflicts.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a Communiqué. Expressing grave concern over the increasing rate of food insecurity faced in multiple parts of the continent, the PSC may recall the ‘African Common Position to accelerate the implementation of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030’, which articulates Africa’s collective resolve to strengthen the resilience of its food systems with the aim to meet the goals of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It may urge member states, in close collaboration with the AU Commission, to strengthen efforts towards realising the Common African Position as well as the outcomes of the 15th Extraordinary AU Humanitarian Summit relating to ‘food security and nutrition in humanitarian situations in Africa’. Noting AU’s theme for the year 2023 ‘Acceleration of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Implementation’, the PSC may underscore the importance of AfCFTA for boosting intra-African trade in agricultural products and creating affordable food supply chains that can offer alternatives to increasing price of imports from outside of Africa. In this regard, the PSC may call on the AfCFTA Secretariat and states parties to the AfCFTA to prioritize and fast-track the adoption and operationalisation of the necessary institutional and legal arrangements for intra-African trade in agricultural products. PSC may encourage member states to invest more on services and raw materials relevant for advancing agricultural production and the sourcing of agricultural products used for humanitarian assistance from within the continent. The PSC may reiterate the request of its 1083rd session for the AU Commission to ‘undertake a study and propose to Member States recommendation on the strategies to boost food production in Africa’. It may further restate the need to ‘strengthen the linkage between humanitarian assistance, development and peacebuilding, with a view to enhance greater cooperation and coordination between actors in humanitarian assistance, development cooperation and peacebuilding’ to leverage the role of each for enhancing food security.

Food security and conflict in Africa

Food security and conflict in Africa

Date | 9 May 2022

Tomorrow (9 May), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1083rd session to deliberate on food security and conflict in Africa. This would be the first partially open session of the Council for the month of May, accessible only to All AU member States and representatives of RECs/RMs.

Following the opening remark by Ambassador Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Permanent Representative of Cameroon and the Chairperson of the PSC for May, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye is expected to make a statement. Josefa Sacko, the commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment (ARBE) of the AU Commission is scheduled to make a presentation on the theme of the session. Minata Samaté Cessouma, the commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, will also deliver a briefing.  Representatives of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the European Union are expected to deliver statements.

Although the PSC has addressed itself to the issue of food insecurity and conflicts, its engagement was largely limited to food insecurity in relation to specific conflict settings and how drought contributes to conflicts and food insecurity in the context of natural disasters and climate change vis-à-vis peace and security. At its 660th session, the PSC expressed its concern specifically ‘over the devastating impact of climate change in Africa as manifested through recurrent droughts, which is one of the major triggers of tensions and violence in communities.’ The same line of expression was used in the press statement issued following the 708th meeting of the PSC. But as the experience of Africa in relation to conflict situations show, one of the major consequences of conflict and insecurity is the emergence of hunger and starvation.

Tomorrow’s meeting marks the first session fully dedicated to food security and conflict in the continent, hence received more extended coverage in this edition of Insights on the PSC. This theme is formulated, as envisaged in the program of work for the month, as part and within the framework of the AU theme of the year 2022 ‘Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development’.

During tomorrow’s session, members of the PSC are expected to assess the general food security outlook of the continent, deliberate on the intersection between conflicts and food security, including the factors that drive food insecurity in conflict settings and explore the different measures that need to be taken to address the alarming situation in the continent. The deliberation and outcome of the session may also feed into the upcoming AU Humanitarian Summit and a Pledging Conference, which is scheduled take place on 28 May in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

This session comes at a time when the scale of food insecurity on the continent has become alarming. At the end of 2021, the AU, the Food and Agricultural Agency, the UN Economic Commission for Africa reported that while the hunger situation on the continent has been worsening since 2013, it witnessed the most deterioration during 2019 and 2020. According to the three entities, 281.6 million Africans are undernourished in 2020. They warned that the situation will deteriorate further in 2021. Confirming this warning, early last month, the ICRC announced that the food security crisis in Africa has reached a disaster level that has gone unnoticed. In terms of the magnitude of the problem, the ICRC reported that 346 million people (one in four Africans) are facing severe food insecurity. Indications are that this trend of worsening food insecurity will continue in 2022 as well. Coupled with the fact that Africa is identified one of the two regions in the world that registered the lowest public investment in agriculture, this trend will mean that there is going to be regression in terms of the sustainable development goals target of ending hunger by 2030. According to AU data from the 3rd Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) biennial review unveiled despite progress made by one-third of 51 AU member states, only one is on track to achieve the ending hunger target.

It is also worth noting that the tabling of this theme on the agenda of the PSC also comes amid heightening concerns about the impact of the war in Ukraine. FAO food price index indicated that world food prices jumped nearly 13 percent in March to a new record high as the war in Ukraine continues to rage. Given the already difficult food security situation and the dependence of many countries on imports of agricultural products and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, Africa is facing to feel the impact of this development disproportionally. Apart from its adverse impact on the already dire food insecurity particularly in conflict settings in Africa, the socio-economic pressure that ensues from rising food prices is feared to create further fertile ground for social tension and instability.

The formulation of tomorrow’s session with particular focus on ‘food security and conflict’ rather than food security in general fits the mandate of the PSC, as a body primarily concerned with peace and security and matters arising in that context. In this regard, it is worth noting that while climate change and the impact of COVID19 are among the factors that drive food insecurity in Africa, conflict continues to be the major factor that leads to and accelerates food insecurity. Certainly, the relationship between conflict and starvation or hunger is non-linear. However, it is now adequately established that conflict is the main driver of hunger and starvation in conflict affected countries. Conflicts produce hunger and starvation both directly and indirectly.

Often the contribution of conflicts to hunger and starvation is indirect. Such is the case where conflict disrupts food production and/or trading of agricultural produce. The insecurity arising from fighting often means that people could not farm nor source food sources from the market as fighting also disrupts flow of goods from conflict free areas. Conflict also indirectly induces hunger and starvation as fighting limits the distribution of humanitarian assistance.

However, increasingly conflicts also directly cause hunger and starvation due to the actions of conflict parties. Indeed, one of the main causes of hunger and starvation in conflict situations is the direct or indirect restriction that conflict parties impose on humanitarian access including through deliberate targeting of humanitarian actors and/or the blockade of humanitarian access. Such cases were reported in relation to the war in South Sudan during 2013-2015 and in the conflict in northern Ethiopia. Conflict also directly contributes to hunger and starvation where conflict parties deliberately target crops, livestock and other food sources on which the civilian population depend for their survival. Similar conditions also emerge where conflict parties use food as weapon of war not only by deliberately destroying food sources and agricultural infrastructure but also by preventing people from producing food and/or from having access to food.

As the data from various sources shows, much of the most severe conditions of food insecurity in Africa, as in other parts of the world, are in territories affected by conflict. The report on ‘Hunger Hotspots’ identifies ‘conflict or organized violence’ as the ‘key drivers of acute food insecurity’ in countries/territories on the continent notably CAR, Central Sahel, eastern DRC, northern Ethiopia, northern Nigeria, northern Mozambique, Somalia, the Sudan, and South Sudan. As highlighted in the graph in the concept note prepared for tomorrow’s session, out of the 15 countries having populations of more than 1.5 million facing acute food insecurity, all except three are countries experiencing conflict. It is therefore little surprise that there is direct convergence between the conflict map of Africa and the map of ‘acute food insecurity hotspots’ on the continent.

The role of conflict as major driver of severe food insecurity becomes particularly clear in its relationship with the emergence of famine conditions. The emergence of famine conditions or risks of famine is mainly attributable to conflicts. Thus, during the past decade the places on the continent where the existence of famine conditions has been declared are all in countries experiencing conflicts in parts of their territory. In 2011, the food insecurity in Somalia was considered to have created famine conditions. Similarly, all of the four famines or near famine situations except one (Yemen) that the UN declared in 2017 were in Africa, all of them countries with territories affected by conflict. These were Somalia, South Sudan and north-east Nigeria. According to FAO and WFP, this year as well all of the four countries except one (Yemen) that have the highest alert level and with parts of their populations identified or projected to experience starvation and death are in Africa. In the latest list, Ethiopia, where in its Tigray region UN reported in 2021 the emergence of famine like conditions, is added to two (South Sudan and north-east Nigeria) of the countries identified in the 2017 UN data.

In terms of UN’s engagement on the subject of food security and conflicts, the UNSC adopted Resolution 2417 (2018) on the link between armed conflict and food insecurity, including the threat of famine. Apart from highlighting the link between conflict and hunger and the obligating of conflict parties, the resolution envisages the inclusion of information on the risk of famine and food insecurity in the Secretary-General’s regular country-specific reports and for the Secretary-General to report to the Council, by way of early warning, on risks of conflict induced-famine and widespread food insecurity in the context of armed conflict.

In the light of the grim state of food security in Africa in general, one of the issues that the session should consider is on ways and means of ensuring sustainable financing, mobilization of resources commensurate with the food security gaps, and strengthening AU’s humanitarian architecture as outlined in African Common Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness. While the upcoming AU extraordinary summit is hoped to play its role towards the operationalization of the African Humanitarian Agency (AUHA) and mobilization of resources, it also remains important to ensure operationalization as well as harnessing in a coordinated form the role of relevant structures such as the Special Emergency Assistance Fund (SEAF), Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) and the PRC Sub-committee on the Special Emergency Assistance Fund for Drought and Famine Relief in Africa. There is also the issue of AU member states implementing commitments under the CAADP. It is to be recalled that African countries pledged to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budget to agriculture and rural development, as well as to achieve agricultural growth rates of at least 6 percent per annum. Also worth applauding is the announcement by the African Development Bank (AfDB) of the establishment of the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan designed to support countries to rapidly produce around 38 million tones of food to mitigate the impact of the Ukraine war on food prices.

The other issue worth highlighting in the session is the imperative of ensuring compliance by conflict parties with human rights and humanitarian law standards. The use of starvation as a tactic of war and destruction of agricultural inputs, products and infrastructure in some context of armed conflicts is very concerning and is capable of creating the grave circumstances envisaged in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU. The Geneva Conventions clearly prohibit starvation of civilians as a method of combat. They further prohibit attacking, destroying, removing, or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of civilian population, such as foodstuffs and agricultural areas. Attacking humanitarian actors and blocking or interfering with humanitarian access are also contrary to human rights and humanitarian law standards.

There is also the issue of enhancing AU’s role in humanitarian diplomacy as both a tool for preventing the emergence of conditions that lead to starvation and hunger and in mitigating or averting those conditions once they arise. This would include advocating for mobilization of support for people facing food insecurity and the use of diplomatic missions for facilitating unhindered humanitarian access, securing guarantee from conflict parties for safe, free and voluntary passage for civilians in conflict settings to areas where they can access assistance, respect for and full cooperation with humanitarian actors and compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law standards.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. Council may express its grave concern over the rising level of food insecurity in the continent and the accompanying humanitarian crisis. Council may emphasize the need for implementing AU’s CAADP initiative, including by meeting the target of dedicating a minimum of 10% of their budget to agriculture and rural development. PSC may encourage Member States not only to diversity their sources of agricultural imports, but also and most importantly, to increase their agricultural productivity and enhance intra-continental trade. With respect to exogenous factors such as the impact of the war in Ukraine, Council may call for international cooperation for establishing emergency plans and platforms for financing and facilitating access to agricultural products and inputs. The Council may also welcome the AfDB’s $ 1.5 billion Africa Emergency Food Production Plan and call for its global support and effective and timely implementation. In relation to food security and conflict, Council may underscore the role of conflict as the main driver of much of food insecurity in the continent and it being responsible for the most acute forms of food insecurity. In this respect, the PSC could express its concern about attacks on humanitarian actors, the deliberate targeting of agricultural produce and infrastructure and the use of food as an instrument of war. Council could request along the lines of UNSC Resolution 2417 reports on conflict situations on the agenda of the PSC to include analysis on risks of food insecurity and famine. The PSC could also request the AU to include to its existing peace and security tool box as a dedicated tool humanitarian diplomacy and propose as one of the outcomes of the Malabo summit on 28 May the development of strategy for the effective use of humanitarian diplomacy by the AU. The PSC could also stress the need for Member States and all parties to conflict to strictly comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights laws. In light of the magnitude of the problem of food insecurity in the continent and the role of conflict as main driver of such insecurity, Council could decide to have food security and conflicts as a standing thematic agenda of the PSC during which the PSC receives briefings on trends on food security and conflict in Africa.

Briefing on the state of humanitarian actions in Africa

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 4 May 2022

Tomorrow (04 May), the African Union (AU) Peace Security Council (PSC) is expected to receive a briefing on the state of humanitarian actions in Africa, as one of the agenda items of its 1081st session. The briefing takes place ahead of the AU Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference scheduled to take place within the month, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Following opening remarks by Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of May, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), is expected to make a statement. AU Commission for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Minata Samate Cessouma is also expected to make a presentation. President of the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Representative of the United Nations (UN) High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are also expected to deliver statements at tomorrow’s briefing.

The briefing by Minata Samate Cessouma is expected to present an overview of the humanitarian situation in the continent. It is also expected that the Commissioner will provide an update on the progress around the operationalization of the African Humanitarian Agency (AUHA). The briefing will also present an update on the preparations undertaken towards the convening of the AU Humanitarian Summit.  The Summit and Pledging Conference is taking place in line with the Executive Council Decision EX.CL/Dec.1076(XXXVI) which forms part of the various deliberations by the Council on the AU theme of 2019 and humanitarian situation in Africa.

Across various regions of the continent, challenges to humanitarian action are increasingly becoming more and more complex with the need for humanitarian assistance rapidly increasing as capacity and access to aid show significant decline. In all of these regions, protracted and violent conflicts, drastic impacts of climate change, high food insecurity and extreme poverty as well as lack of good governance are some of the shared features characterising factors underlying the dire humanitarian crises. Moreover, as emphasised by Council at its previous session on the theme – the 1044th meeting – civilians continue to be overwhelmingly impacted by the challenging context under which humanitarian action is availed in the continent. Tomorrow’s briefing is expected to draw Council’s attention to these challenges and provide key recommendations in addressing them.

According to data provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 61 million people in west and central Africa will require humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022. In the Sahel region, about 14 million people are facing acute food insecurity with a 30% increase in displacement rate noted in the region throughout 2020 and 2021. In conflict affected countries of the central African region, particularly Central African Republic (CAR) and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), civilians are facing extreme protection crisis with high numbers of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) being reported.

In east Africa, OCHA has recorded 9.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 4.7 million refugees and asylum seekers as of 2021. In the region, over 33.8 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure, while 12.8 million children are projected to be acutely malnourished. Ethiopia and South Sudan are particularly facing major food insecurity, with more than 400,000 people in Ethiopia and 100,000 people in South Sudan and experiencing catastrophic food insecurity. SGBV and the use of rape as a weapon of war also remain major concerns in both countries.

Although relatively better, north and southern Africa also face considerable humanitarian challenges. In southern Africa, Tropical Storm Chalane (December 2020), Tropical Cyclone Eloise (January 2021), and Tropical Cyclone Emnati (February 2022) have affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Some parts of the region are further affected by severe draught leaving thousands of people faced with catastrophic food insecurity. Moreover, in the restive Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique, violent attacks continue to affect civilians fuelling the displacement crisis. According to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) database, 34 violent events were reported in the province during February 2022, resulting in 77 reported fatalities and spiking the displacement rate.

In north Africa, Libya continues to be the country most affected by humanitarian challenges. Despite some notable decrease in the rate of displaced persons and success obtained in returning some of the IDPs to their areas of origin, access to essential goods and services is still an issue the populations continue to struggle with. In addition, the country continues to host over 500,000 migrants according to data recorded by IOM, a significant number of which are held in detention centres and living under dire circumstances. In that regard, it is worth recalling Council’s call at its 997th session addressing the situation in Libya, for Libyan authorities to ensure all detention centres/camps in the country are dismantled in order to mitigate vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants.

As the continent struggles with an acutely rising humanitarian crisis, national, regional and international response has unfortunately been constrained over the past couple of years, due to the negative socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 pandemic. In African countries where resilience of populations has already been frustrated due to conflicts, economic shocks, natural disasters and weak national public health infrastructure and collapsing social services, the Covid-19 pandemic not only exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis, but also became an impediment to the provision of humanitarian assistance. For instance, studies conducted on in-camp and urban-based refugees in Kenya demonstrate that measures taken to control the spread of the pandemic have had disproportionately negative impacts on employment rates of these refugees, particularly refugee women. With respect to that, Council’s note at its 921st session on the importance of ensuring part of the AU Covid-19 Response Fund is directed towards assisting refugees, IDPs, undocumented migrants and other vulnerable parts of society has been significant.

Another worrying trend in the continent that has been causing much concern among humanitarian actors is the diminishing commitment of belligerents to ensure humanitarian access for conflict affected civilian populations. At the 1022nd session of the PSC where Council was briefed by the ICRC, this issue formed part of the key concerns addressed and Council took note of the limited cooperation by national authorities to ensure access to populations in need of humanitarian assistance. Since that session, not much seems to have improved with civilian populations in various conflict affected countries remaining cut from accessing basic humanitarian assistance including food, medicine and lifesaving healthcare. In addition to reiterating the issue of limited humanitarian access, ICRC’s President, Peter Maurer is expected to highlight in his briefing, the growing trend of attacks on medical personnel and facilities by parties to conflicts, either as a deliberate military strategy or due to lack of understanding of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) norms. It is also to be recalled that the PSC dedicated its 1044th session to the specific issue of “protection of medical facilities and personnel in armed conflict”, where it took note of and condemned the increasing pattern of stigmatization and attacks against medical personnel and healthcare facilities in situations of armed conflict.

The use of unconventional means and methods of warfare, particularly the increasing use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has also been a major threat to civilians and their livestock, not only claiming thousands of civilian causalities, but also disrupting the main means of sustaining their livelihoods. Furthermore, the use of IEDs poses a specific challenge to humanitarian workers in the discharge of their duties and becomes a hindrance for the provision of much needed humanitarian services to populations in need.

Worse still, humanitarian response in the continent is likely to show further decline in the near future if the Russia-Ukraine war continues to escalate. Africa being heavily reliant on both of these countries for the import of essential food items including basic cereals and oil, the price shocks and disruptions to supply chains are already being felt. As African governments struggle to meet development and humanitarian needs under such circumstances, they may face further challenges due to cuts in humanitarian and development aids coming from funding partners such as the European Union (EU), who may be cornered towards re-prioritising and pulling humanitarian finances from other crises in order to meet growing needs in Ukraine.

Tomorrow’s briefing serves the Council to reflect on these and other humanitarian challenges in the continent and to discuss ways forward for ensuring effective response and sustainable solutions to Africa’s growing humanitarian needs, despite the existing difficulties. It also presents the opportunity to highlight some of the key areas of action and planning that need to be addressed at the coming AU Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference.

The expected outcome of the session is a Communiqué. Council may express deep concern over the escalating rate of humanitarian need in the continent as compared to the constraints and decline in humanitarian action. It may particularly take note of the increasingly limited space for delivering humanitarian assistance to people in need in the context of armed conflicts and urge warring parties to respect their IHL obligations by refraining from imposing sieges against civilian populations. It may emphasise the need for member States as well as the AU through its Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), to anticipate and take preventive measures in order to avert violent conflicts which culminate in dire humanitarian crises. It may also underscore the need for member States to resolve underlying root-causes of humanitarian crises including poor-governance, human rights abuses and poverty.

Council may also appeal to international partners to remain committed and to continue their humanitarian support to affected communities across the continent. Having regard to the increasing threat IEDs pose on civilians, Council may reiterate the call made at its 1072nd session, for the AU Commission to finalize the AU Mine Action and Counter-IED Strategies and submit to Council for consideration. It may also emphasise the importance of AU agency in coordinating and facilitating humanitarian aid in affected member States and accordingly, reiterate its call for the full operationalisation of the AUHA. It may further reiterate the call made at its 1025th session for the AU Commission to ensure regional presence of the AUHA once operationalised, through the formation of “Regional Humanitarian Centres in the five geographical Regions of the AU, to enable close cooperation with AU Member States and RECs/RMs at National and Regional Level”.

Protection of Medical Personnel and Facilities in Armed Conflicts

Humanitarian Issues

Date | 05 November, 2021

Tomorrow (5 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1044th session to discuss the protection of medical personnel and medical facilities in the context of armed conflicts.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the AU, Mohamed Omar Gad, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. Council is also expected to receive statements from Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General and Head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU); Bruce Mokaya, Head of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Delegation to the AU; and a Representative of Doctors without Borders.

While this is the first session of the PSC dedicated to the specific theme, Council has at its various previous thematic and country specific sessions condemned attacks on medical personnel and facilities, such as its 862nd and 965th sessions. The protection of medical personnel, units and transport is a core principle stipulated under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and also forms part of customary International Humanitarian Law (IHL). As such, in both cases of interstate and internal conflicts, attack against medical personnel and facilities engaged in discharging professional activities is prohibited under international law. Moreover, having regard to the growing cases of attacks against healthcare providers and facilities in conflicts, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted in 2016, Resolution 2286 which calls on States to “develop effective measures to prevent and address acts of violence, attacks and threats against medical personnel, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities in armed conflict”. Despite the existence of these and other normative standards necessary for the protection of healthcare in conflict situations, recent trends signify the growing rate of attacks perpetrated against medical personnel and facilities.

As reports indicate, in the period from 2016 to recently, there have been well over 4500 incidents of attacks against healthcare providers and facilities in armed conflicts across the world, which include killings, kidnappings, and sexual assault perpetrated against medical personnel as well as looting, damage and destruction to medical facilities. In Africa, countries such as Central Africa Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Libya and Nigeria have experienced the highest rate of attacks. In the DRC for instance, 434 incidents of violence against and obstruction of healthcare were recorded only during the year 2019. Added to the outbreak of Ebola throughout various regions of the country, the impact had been nothing short of catastrophic. In Libya, 77 cases of attacks against and obstruction to healthcare were recorded during 2020. In addition to resulting in injury and death of health workers, these incidents have been cause for multiple hospitals in the country to cease operation, therefore creating serious healthcare vacuum and constraints in the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

While these exemplify incidents that were recorded, it is not hard to imagine that these numbers would increase significantly if unrecorded cases of violence against healthcare in those and other conflict affected countries in the continent were to be considered. Such trend has grave implications not only on medical personnel and facilities, but also on civilian populations in conflict affected areas and their access to humanitarian assistance. This is further aggravated in times of pandemics as has been witnessed in the period from February to December 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was at peak. According to data recorded by the ICRC, there were 848 Covid-19 associated violent incidents perpetrated against health workers in that period. It is also important to note that in addition to its immediate impacts, attack on medical facilities also endangers years of developmental efforts and progresses obtained in the medical field.

One of the major reasons behind the persistent attacks against medical personnel and facilities in conflict settings is the lack of awareness and guidance among belligerents regarding the relevant international rules protecting healthcare in armed conflicts. In addition to the lack of awareness of these rules, armed forces are usually not sufficiently trained to understand the overall applicability of IHL, which is fundamental in regulating military operations. Particularly, the basic IHL principles applicable to the conduct of hostilities – distinction, proportionality and precaution – are essential to minimise civilian casualty in conflicts, including healthcare. It is therefore important for States to ensure that the core principles of IHL are made part and parcel of their military doctrines and manuals and that their troops are well trained on abiding these rules throughout any engagement in hostilities. This would contribute towards ensuring that medical personnel and facilities as well as other protected persons and objects under IHL are not deliberately targeted and that their risk of being subject to indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks is minimised. Mandatory and periodic trainings which target senior leadership as well as junior members of States’ armed forces are also important in translating these basic rules and principles into action. On top of training armed forces to identify and avert attacks against healthcare, it is as important for military manuals to provide guidance on how armed forces can assist and provide protection to medical personnel and facilities.

In addition to integrating IHL rules into military manuals, it is also important for States to develop domestic legal frameworks protecting medical personnel and facilities in times of conflicts. This includes particularly rules which emphasise the prestige and significance of emblems such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement’s. Such rules would be instrumental in propagating the protected status of medical units, transport and personnel bearing such emblem, thereby protecting them from attacks throughout their operations in conflict settings. Laws which criminalise and prescribe penalties for attacks against and obstruction to healthcare are also necessary not only to deter, but also to fight related impunity and to set precedent of consequences for such acts.

Misconceptions around the provision of neutral and impartial medical treatment in conflict settings also often put medical personnel at risk of attacks. The principles of neutrality and impartiality under IHL oblige health workers to provide medical care to all sick or wounded persons without regard to their status – civilian or combatant/fighter – or their affiliation or lack thereof with either one or more of the conflicting parties. Despite the rule however, medical personnel have in various cases been targeted and attacked by conflicting parties, for providing medical assistance to members of adversary forces or individuals perceived to be affiliated with the “enemy”. This indicates the need for raised awareness regarding not only the obligation of medical personnel to provide care without distinction based on affiliations, but also regarding Geneva Convention I and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which provide for the protection and humane treatment of persons not taking active part in conflicts, including those rendered “hors de combat” due to wounds or sickness.

Both States and non-State armed forces have been implicated in multiple armed conflicts for attacks on medical personnel and facilities. It is therefore important to emphasise and support initiatives of impartial and neutral organisations to create awareness of domestic and international norms protecting healthcare in the context of conflicts to ensure that belligerent parties comply with such norms.

The outcome of tomorrow’s session will be a communiqué. The PSC may express concern over the growing rate of attacks against medical personnel and facilities in situations of armed conflicts in Africa. Council may urge member States to ensure increased efforts towards raising awareness on international standards protecting medical personnel and facilities in the context of conflicts. It may also call on member States to strengthen domestic laws and military doctrines to sufficiently integrate IHL rules on the protection of healthcare in armed conflicts and to fight impunity and ensure that violations are properly addressed. It may also encourage member States to report on implementation of Resolution 2286(2016) of the UNSC. Moreover, Council may urge both State and non-State conflicting parties to put their best efforts towards minimising civilian casualty from their engagement in hostilities, including to health workers and medical facilities, and to ensure that medical personnel are granted safe environment to provide medical care and assistance to all in need, in a neutral and impartial manner.

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.

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.

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.