Strategic coherence of global, regional and sub-regional peace operations

In times of increased global polarisation, the United Nations (UN) should consolidate its core values and develop functioning approaches and operational concepts. As highlighted in the UN Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace (NAP) policy brief, the world organisation needs to supplement its toolbox with deepened partnerships with regional organizations, like the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU), to strengthen the multilateral security architecture and to shore up the capacity of regional organisations to prevent and respond to conflicts. This will require mutual respect, common understanding and strategic coherence, based on leveraging comparative advantages.

Key takeaways from CAF23:

  1. Strategic fit-for-purpose partnerships. Strengthening the AU-UN peace operations partnership will firstly address the urgent and complex peace and security deficit in many parts of Africa; and secondly will pave the way for consolidating a more multifaceted peace and security “toolbox”, that eventually could be applicable in other conflict contexts.
  2. No actor can do it alone. In a time of networked multilateralism, a successful AU-UN partnership should be grounded in a mutual understanding of what needs to be accomplished, and an equitable political recognition of what different partners bring to the fore. It is key to deepen and consolidate a value-driven and smart partnership, with a shared understanding and common vision to resolve conflicts. Responses need to be guided by more systematic joint analysis and leveraging comparative advantage, across human, material, and financial spheres.
  3. When no peace to keep. Many parts of Africa face complex security challenges, without a peace to keep. In these contexts, there needs to be a tangible option for a new generation of AU peace support operations (AU PSO’s) as well, supported by the UN. As part of the future of peace operations, it is time to review and expand the UN’s “toolbox” with these AU PSO’s, alongside the full range of available multilateral mechanisms. These tailor-made operations could be short-term and composed of special forces with offensive capabilities.
  4. Primacy of politics. It is key to avoid an over-militarisation of responses. Peace enforcement should always be founded in the primacy of politics principle, and be complemented by holistic and comprehensive approaches, addressing the drivers of conflict and state fragilities. The primacy of politics approach needs to deliver functioning political strategies and political unity.
  5. Maintain an adaptable set of tools. The development of UN peace and security instruments, along with the global framework for UN peace operations, has been a gradual process spanning 75 years, with deployable resources, specialised competencies, training and agreed standards. The broad palette of different UN peace operations, including peacekeeping, remain viable instruments to address violent conflicts today. These established mechanisms must be preserved and remain ready for re-occurring situations.
  6. Host state consent. Regional peace support operations may have greater legitimacy in the eyes of host governments and local populations. It is nevertheless important to underline that consent can evolve over time, e.g. when missions do not fully deliver on mandates or expectations. As such, AU PSO’s can also face challenges to host country consent, particularly when trying to address drivers of conflict related to national elite interests and power balances.