Enhanced AU-UN collaboration is a non-negotiable.

As the African Union (AU) has become a stronger actor in peace operations, coordination with the United Nations Security Council has risen in importance. Beyond just working together on a case-by-case basis, such as the Somalia hybrid mission, the two organizations are seeking a broader and more complimentary relationship. In the last year, we have witnessed an increasing convergence with the development of the AU Common Position on the Peace Operations Review and Joint UN-AU Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. These were followed by the recommendations stressing the important of partnership with regional organizations from High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) and the Secretary-General’s response to this seminal report. But it is not an easy task for the two organizations to converge. As preparations for a recent high-level meeting showed, there remain some institutional and political challenges that make working together inherently difficult for both organizations. Competing agendas The 10th annual Joint Consultative Meeting between the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) was held in New York on 23-25 May 2016. The meeting’s final agenda was set to discuss the crisis in Burundi and the mandate of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which expires at the end of May. It was dictated by the UNSC, with little compromise over the issues raised by the AU. The initial agenda proposed by the AU PSC members in mid-April included discussions on Western Sahara, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, and countering terrorism and violent extremism – all key challenges on the continent with global implications. On 25...

A Legal Framework for UN Peacekeeping

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC. A main weakness of UN peacekeeping operations is the lack of an overarching legal framework. As a result, there are systemic weaknesses and gaps in the laws particularly relating to accountability. Peacekeeping operations are undermined by the different immunities and jurisdictional gaps that exist when peacekeeping personnel (troops and civilians) commit criminal acts. The current legal position is that (i) troops are immune from host state jurisdiction, and (ii) civilian personnel are immune from the jurisdiction of any national court. The counterbalance for troops is that TCCs are under a duty to prosecute troops who commit crimes. The counterbalance for civilian personnel is the existence of a waiver. In practice those counterbalances are deployed only very rarely. That (a) undermines peacekeeping operations and (b) is in violation of victims’ fundamental rights to access a court and a remedy. The current laws have resulted in a culture of impunity. Personnel use the cloak of immunity to commit crimes knowing that they will not be held to account. Although the Zeid Report identified key reforms to address the culture of impunity surrounding sexual abuse, little has been done to implement those reforms. In order to strengthen peacekeeping operations’ legitimacy and activities it is vital to revisit and address the issue of immunity and jurisdictional gaps. Rather than tinkering around the edges of existing laws, it is time to explore a more concrete and viable alternative. To counterbalance immunities, the UN must consider creating courts to prosecute individuals who commit criminal...

New Geopolitics of Peace Operations

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.   Some would argue that the shift of influence from established to emerging powers runs the risk of destabilizing contemporary arrangements for international conflict management. For instance, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently stated that the efficacy of the UN Security Council is at stake ‘when there is limited consensus—when our actions come late and address only the lowest common denominator’. Despite such pessimism, the preliminary results from an ongoing SIPRI research project suggest that consensus remains possible in the future peace operations landscape. Contrary to the popular assumption that increasing multi-polarity is detrimental to cooperation and consensus on peace operations, emerging powers have largely expressed a positive sentiment towards peace operations. Traditional and emerging powers have common interests in conflict management in many key regions, particularly in Africa. In the past few years, debates about peace operations have been riddled by misconceptions that have often led to a counter-productive and polluted exchange in policy circles. By focusing the discussion on the exceptional cases, discussions become unnecessarily polarized. In the long run that may lead to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Many of the current operations require risk-taking, while only a limited number of contingents are able and willing to take these necessary risks. Acknowledging and dealing more openly with the risks that peace operations entail is vital. There is an unbalanced approach to burden sharing in peace operations and an oversimplification of what constitutes an equitable division of labor in the eyes of TCCs....

Protection of Civilians and Raised Expectations

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.   In recent years, the United Nations has made significant advances with respect to the protection of civilians (PoC). Yet in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and elsewhere, these words from the “Brahimi Report” still ring true: “Promising to extend such protection establishes a very high threshold of expectation. The potentially large mismatch between desired objective and resources available to meet it raises the prospect of continuing disappointment.” It is therefore imperative that the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations place PoC at the heart of its analysis. The Panel should identify ways to improve PoC across the entire UN peace operations process – from budgeting to accountability. But crucially, the Panel should also acknowledge that UN missions cannot effectively protect civilians in all situations, and it should identify those settings in which different protection actors should be deployed. Since the “Brahimi Report,” the Security Council has included PoC more consistently in its operational mandates, and the UN system has enhanced its PoC doctrine and training. These changes, bolstered by leadership from certain member-states and individuals, have saved lives. However, key parts of the peace operations system have not made sufficient progress toward supporting PoC. The UN’s budget should incentivize troop-contributing countries to not only provide working equipment, but also to protect at-risk populations. Member-states should address the persistent shortfalls in logistics and information-gathering that hinder the UN’s response. And the near-total lack of accountability for troops – and troop contributors – for protection failures must be remedied....

Operational Recommendations for the Future of Peace Operations

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.   Several recommendations can be made with regards to the future of UN peace operations, in particular with regards to troop-contributing countries from the Global South, arms embargos and the protection of civilians. 1. Making use of the full potential of TCC experience from the global South (ed. There is an important feedback process here of UN experience into national contexts, in terms of strengthening public-sector capacity including law enforcement.): a) tapping into Southern domestic development experience, especially inequality/poverty reduction and anti-corruption measures, as a means to address conflicts’ root causes, making substantive contributions possible without requiring direct participation in robust Ch. VII action; b) active, sustained support for recruitment and training of police and civilian personnel in Southern states (specifically including women). Extensive sharing of knowledge is required, and recruitment and training costs are presently often borne by (poorly remunerated) candidates themselves. This includes a bidirectional learning process on gender policies; c) more active pursuit of partnerships with regional arrangements beyond AU and NATO, including for extra-regional deployments.   2. Renewed attention to the role of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the conflict cycle: a) renewed attention to effective enforcement of arms embargos to conflict regions, in accordance with the extensive formal measures already in place, such as marking/tracing and provisions of the ATT. This includes supply-side sanctions such as naming and shaming of producers whose weapons are in widespread illicit use in a conflict zone; b) increased and concerted discursive and material UN support for...
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