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Partnership peacekeeping: Challenges and opportunities in the United Nations–African Union Relationship

By Paul D. Williams and Arthur Boutellis The relationship between the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) has at times been characterized by considerable conflict, mistrust, and tension, often hindering the predictability and conduct of effective peace operations. This article analyses the challenges facing UN–AU cooperation on peace and security issues and examines their partnerships in various peace operations. Specific attention is paid to the crucial cases of Somalia and Mali, which exemplify some of the positive and negative aspects of this relationship. We argue that while great power politics and the international normative context have played important roles in structuring debates about peace operations in contemporary Africa, so too have two more bottom-up factors: the specific operational and financial challenges generated by the AU’s big missions in Darfur, Somalia, and Mali, and the organizational cultures and bureaucratic constraints within which both institutions have had to work. Greater focus on these bottom-up factors could bring significant improvements to the decision-making processes in Addis Ababa and New York, to operational responses, and to the conduct of peace operations.

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