Update on Peacekeeping in Africa

An UN peacekeeper in Darfur

An UN peacekeeper in Darfur

Africa at UN.

Versione italiana

Sept 23rd 2009.

The African Problem will be at center stage when today, September 23rd, the UN Security Council, chaired by President Barack Obama, will meet with the ten major contributors of human resources to the UN peace keeping operations, to discuss the issue of peace keeping in the world.

African wars in fact take up over 70% of all the resources dedicated by the United Nations to Peace Keeping operations and there has been no peace for decades in many parts of  the continent. From the Horn to the Great Lakes to West Africa conflict is endemic. The cost is staggering. Millions of people have been killed  billions of dollars that have been spent. Associated problems such as poor infrastructure, environmental threats, displacement, diseases, mean that the aftermath of conflict is more damaging and long lasting than the conflict itself. Though military capability may be part of any potential solution, peace on the African continent cannot be achieved only through the deployment of military forces. Measures such as early warning, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction should be part of Peacekeeping Capacity.

The UN Security Council surely has full responsibility for keeping peace and security, and UN peacekeeping has undergone an exponential increase since the early 1990s.

However it is becoming more and more clear that these crucial objectives cannot be achieved without a much deeper involvement of African Institutions, such as the African Union and the Regional Organisations which can take care of wars spreading beyond national borders which have been drawn with no care for tribal, ethnical or religious realities.

A significant amount of synergy to be achieved by drawing on the respective capacities of these organisations, but  the African Union has recognised the need to develop its own capacity to respond to crises on the continent.

I believe it is extremely important to create the conditions for increasing the participation of the AU in the decision making process and execution of peace operations on the African continent and to bolster through financing it a ‘peacekeeping capacity’ so to  transfer, eventually ,  responsibility and ownership of the operations to AU.

But, up to now, important countries such as France and UK have opposed  the empowerment of the African Union to take care of African Peace. 

The assumption is that the Africans have not the capacity to do it and, throwing money to the problem, would not help to solve it. 

This is right , in principle, but does not consider that without doing something concrete, visible and with a long term perspective, we end up in the ‘chicken or egg syndrome’ and nothing will ever change.

But something new is coming.

The panel I chaired on Peace Keeping in Africa proposed, among other recommendations, a ‘Long Term Multidonor Trust Fund’, specifically designed for  African Union Capacity Building.

The report of the United Nations Secretary General to be released the 23rd  emphasizes the relevance of a strong strategic partnership between AU and UN.

It is very likely that President Obama will support these steps and as he said in his recent speeches on Africa, he will be strongly against policies which might even bring to memory some colonial culture. Policies which not only are very dangerous  for peace in Africa, but have effect going well beyond the issue of peace keeping . 

The same who oppose the idea of a strong AU are those who privilege bilateral relations with those African countries where old ties exist. This bilateralism is preventing the creation of markets large enough to foster a significant economic growth. The internal trade in Africa is very low and projects for infrastructures at the continental level for transportation, energy and communication are totally insufficient. Also China, which is present in Africa all over, following a well visible continental policy, deals with the African Countries one by one and does not help their integration in a larger reality.

Rather then blaming the Chinese for their ‘exploitation’ of natural resources we should try to find with them a common policy toward the continent, aiming to a strengthening of the role and of the power of the African Union and to define long term strategies at the continental level, respectful of all the local ethnical, religious and tribal realities.

Economic support and assistance to those who are more in need are surely very important, but from peace keeping to diffusion of democracy and economic development a new integrated African Policy is badly and urgently needed.

Romano Prodi

Chairman of the UN-AU Panel for Peacekeeping in Africa

Former President of the European Commission and Italian Prime Minister

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settembre 23, 2009
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