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...

The Militarization of Peacekeeping

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC. UN peacekeeping has come to dominate the field of international conflict resolution and the mediation of peace settlements, to the extent that the UN has even grown accustomed to boasting about how it deploys more military forces globally than any country except the US. But why should the US “empire of bases” be considered a legitimate comparison for an international organization supposedly devoted to peace? This speaks to just how far militarization and imperial ambition has overtaken peacekeeping. UN peacekeeping is in danger of being locked into perpetual expansion: the more it does, the more it is expected to do. It is high time this blue helmeted leviathan was scaled back, in order to allow alternative, more authentically pacific peace-providers and peace-making entrepreneurs to emerge, and for greater political experimentation and creativity to flourish in the provision of peace-making services. Why should the peace-making potential of good offices functions, technical commissions and ceasefire observation missions be monopolized by this aging relic of the Second World War? In the post-Cold War world, the impartiality of UN peacekeeping has been hollowed out as it has been scaled up into nation-building and become the military arm of the Security Council. This is shown by the fact that UN and its assorted agencies and peacekeepers are increasingly considered targets in the world’s war zones. In such a world, it is likely that there will be other actors – states and non-state peace-providers – who could develop a more credible reputation for authentic...

Local Knowledge and Peacebuilding

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.   Following is a list of suggested reforms to improve inclusivity in peacebuilding. Reform 1: Increase UN Support to Local Conflict Resolution For details and evidence, see my book The Trouble with the Congo. Local conflicts over land, resources, and political power sustain violence in many war and post-war environments. In the rare cases where there have been comprehensive bottom-up peacebuilding efforts, these initiatives have been successful in helping make peace sustainable. However, the dominant peacekeeping culture usually precludes action on local conflicts. Most international actors interpret violence as the consequence of national and regional causes alone, and UN staff view intervention at the macro levels as their only legitimate responsibility. The resulting neglect of local peacebuilding regularly dooms the international efforts. In addition to any top-down intervention, conflicts must be resolved from the bottom up. Whenever possible, local actors (subnational authorities, grassroots non-governmental organizations) should be in control of the bottom-up peacebuilding process. UN peacekeepers should increase financial, logistical, and technical support to these local actors. Reform 2: Value More Local and Country-Specific Knowledge For details and evidence, see my book Peaceland, part I. Peacekeeping missions value thematic and technical knowledge over local and country-specific expertise. This has many unintended consequences that decrease the effectiveness of international efforts. Although the UN should continue to hire individuals with thematic expertise, they should also recruit foreign staff with an in-depth understanding of local contexts and knowledge of local languages. They would do well to include these latter criteria in...

Corruption in Peacekeeping

This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.   Peacekeeping missions are seriously affected by corruption. Conflict and post-conflict environments are difficult, and the fact that corruption is often endemic in mission areas immensely complicates the work of the UN, other international organizations, and post-conflict actors generally. Peacekeeping missions may have no option but to work with local actors known to be involved in corruption in order to help stabilize a particular region. Additionally, while peacekeeping missions are expected to behave with integrity themselves, they can exacerbate the problem if they “turn a blind eye” or are unwitting accomplices through being unaware of the threat posed by endemic corruption to the mission’s ability to implement its mandate. The likelihood of missing the significance of the threat is increased by the fact that little guidance exists and very little is done to train personnel before they deploy on mission, particularly troops and police who will come into daily contact with the population. Indeed, the complexities of international military operations, including peacekeeping, are poorly understood. In the 2013 Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, which assessed degrees of corruption risk, the average integrity score of international military operations across 82 countries was 28%; this is telling in terms of the lack of acknowledgement countries give to corruption as a strategic issue, institutionalize operational training, operational corruption monitoring, or control contracting while on operations. While taking a position on endemic corruption may increase the complexity in the early stages of a mission, it will pay dividends in terms of institution building...
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