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An Open Debate on “Peace and security in Africa: Capacity-building for sustaining peace”

On Monday (8 August), the Security Council will hold an open debate on “Peace and security in Africa: Capacity-building for sustaining peace”, one of the signature events of China’s August Council presidency. Bankole Adeoye, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the AU Commission; Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith of Bangladesh, the chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC); and Under-Secretary-General Cristina Duarte, the Special Advisor on Africa to the UN Secretary-General, are expected to brief.

Monday’s open debate builds on a theme that China explored in May 2021, when it last served as Council president. On 19 May 2021, under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, China convened a high-level videoconference open debate on “Addressing the root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa” (S/2021/490). In connection with that meeting, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement stressing the need for greater support to African countries, especially those affected by conflict, to recover from the pandemic (S/PRST/2021/10). The statement expressed concern that African countries had only received two percent of vaccine doses administered globally. It is possible that China will also pursue a presidential statement on the issues raised during the 8 August open debate.

The objective of the open debate is to identify challenges to securing durable peace in Africa and to explore ways to support capacity-building on the continent to address these challenges. In a concept note circulated in advance of the meeting (S/2022/592), China outlines several factors contributing to conflict and instability in Africa, including weak governance and security institutions, external interference, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and terrorism. It states that geo-political tensions have contributed to increased food and energy prices in Africa, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed many development gains. The note maintains that fiscal constraints and limited donor assistance have hindered the ability of African countries to sustain peace through development.

While emphasising the importance of national sovereignty and ownership, the concept note proposes ways to help African countries achieve peace and sustainable development. It highlights the importance of supporting effective security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programmes. It calls for targeted support for African efforts to implement the UN Global Counter-terrorism strategy. And it maintains that the UN Security Council could explore “more effective ways to strengthen its cooperation and coordination with the African Union and other regional organizations” on peace and security issues.

The concept note includes several questions to help guide the discussion, including:

Muhith is expected to brief on the PBC’s engagement with African countries and regional and sub-regional bodies regarding efforts to sustain peace on the continent. He may underscore the importance of inclusive, accountable, and effective institutions in promoting trust and empowering African populations; in this regard, Muhith may highlight the importance of women, youth and vulnerable groups in decision-making processes. He may also discuss the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s support for national and local institutions in developing the rule of law, promoting transitional justice, and fostering the extension of state authority. He may also emphasise the need for predictable and sustainable funding for peacekeeping and peacebuilding needs in Africa.

Adeoye is likely to highlight the connections among peace, security, and sustainable development in Africa. He might speak about the AU agenda 2063—which is the AU’s framework for promoting sustainable and inclusive development—and the overlap between this agenda and the UN’s sustainable development goals. He may call for UN-assessed contributions to be used to support AU-led peace operations. And he may discuss the AU’s work in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, while advocating for more cooperation with and support from the UN in this respect.

In their interventions, member states may highlight the importance of addressing the root causes of conflict, such as under-development, unaccountable and ineffective security and rule of law institutions, and political and economic inequalities. Some member states may emphasise the need for the Security Council to work more effectively with the PBC and regional and sub-regional organisations to promote security and sustainable development on the continent. Some members may underscore the importance of women, youth and civil society in making decisions and implementing plans that address challenges facing the continent. They may also stress the need to listen to the ideas and voices of local actors. African member states may advocate for UN-assessed contributions to fund AU peace operations; this is an issue that they have raised frequently over the years. Some member states that provide training and financial support for security sector reform in Africa may emphasise the importance of national security forces abiding by international humanitarian and human rights law.

Monday’s open debate is one of two signature events that China is planning to convene during its August presidency. The other will be a briefing scheduled for 22 August on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Promoting common security through dialogue and cooperation”. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief at that meeting.

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