What to do when the guns have been silenced?


What to do when the guns have been silenced?

ISS, 06 May 2016

On 26 April 2016 the Peace and Security Council (PSC) discussed the crucial issue of post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa.

Despite the many reports and documents on this issue, the continent is still struggling to find the right ways of helping countries that have recently emerged from conflict. There is a dire need for these processes across the continent, from the Central African Republic (CAR) to Mali and South Sudan.

In 2016 the African Union (AU) Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) Policy Framework is 10 years old. Since its adoption in Banjul, The Gambia, the AU’s PCRD Policy Framework has faced an interesting dichotomy. From a policy and normative point of view the AU has one of the most comprehensive and inclusive peacebuilding policies globally. From an implementation point of view, however, PCRD is still lagging and needs further support from AU member states.

The policy framework is an attempt by the AU to ensure it has the relevant mechanisms to respond to and support countries emerging from conflict. It is based on the pillars of security; humanitarian/emergency assistance; political governance and transition; socioeconomic reconstruction and development; human rights, justice and reconciliation; and women and gender.

At its meeting on 26 April, the PSC met to discuss the second progress report of the chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC) on the AU’s efforts on PCRD. The meeting provided an important opportunity to discuss what the AU has achieved to date, including the provision of support in developing PCRD responses in the context of security sector reform; disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion of ex-combatants; and reconciliation initiatives. It was also important in building an increased momentum to ensure that PCRD responses are seen as an integral supporting tool of the AU’s African Peace and Security Architecture.

More meetings but no real implementation

PCRD is increasingly being discussed at African policy levels, especially at the various AU summits and within the PSC. But while interest from member states has been translated into policy frameworks and discussions, it has not led to the widely effective implementation of different PCRD strategies. This is mostly due to a combination of challenges regarding financial capacity, coordination and political buy-in. In an attempt to respond to these challenges, the AUC and the PSC have had frequent interactions where the commission provides the council with updates on the implementation of PCRD, its challenges and opportunities. This was the core objective of the 26 April meeting.

Challenges regarding effective implementation are not solely those of the AU, and have also affected the peacebuilding field at large. In response, the chairperson’s report provides various entry points in terms of possible AU strategies to strengthen its PCRD efforts. It moves away from the idea of dealing purely with policy frameworks and talks instead about practical measures that can be undertaken by the AUC, the PSC and member states in ensuring an effective PCRD policy.

Its recommendations to the PSC revolve around three core issues: the need for member states’ political buy-in; the importance of financial support; and the structures and mechanisms that increase the efficiency of the PCRD Policy Framework. It deals with internal matters that can be improved, as well as some of the external factors that challenge the commission in its full implementation. By doing so, it hopes to ensure that the AU is prepared to deal with long-term and complex processes, where results are often only seen long after the implementation of activities.

AU departments should work together more closely

The chairperson’s report places particular emphasis on the importance of member states’ cooperating with global peacebuilding frameworks, including the United Nations (UN) Peacebuilding Commission, the African Development Bank and other AU partners. At the same time it deals with the challenges in and importance of internal coherence within the AU, emphasising the need for continued collaboration between the Department of Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Department (PSD).

A number of structural and institutional recommendations were presented, including the operationalisation of the AU PCRD inter-departmental task force. This would enable PCRD to move from being a range of activities implemented by the PSD to becoming an institution-wide strategy that is implemented by different internal and external parties. These ideas show that, in order to be effective, PCRD needs to develop further connections within the AU itself. While not directly mentioned, the interaction between different departments shows linkages not only with peace and security matters but also with achieving the goals of the African Governance Architecture.

AU should play a greater role in the CAR’s reconstruction

The importance of engaging with Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) is also highlighted in the report. It is the one of the aspects that require the most attention, due to the need for increased collaboration. The Institute for Security Studies is currently finalising a policy brief aimed at assessing the role of the AU in peacebuilding efforts in the CAR. One of its critical findings is that while there is interest in increasing the engagement between the AU and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), this has not been without its challenges. The development of PCRD policy at the ECCAS level and the continuation of support and coordination from the AU are critical. This would ensure that the AU has a stronger presence on the ground, and that its liaison offices are more relevant, stronger and better positioned vis-à-vis the RECs.

In principle, there is general agreement that PCRD efforts are critical in enabling countries to sustain peace efforts, through addressing the root causes of conflicts rather than just stopping the violence. But getting the necessary support has become more challenging. The limited funding provided to the African Solidarity Initiative, a flagship initiative aimed at increasing intra-African cooperation with and support for PCRD efforts, shows the impact of limited interaction and buy-in from member states. It highlights the fact that political actors must sustain their own long-term commitment through a well-considered, prioritised and integrated process. In order to do that, the AU requires more consistent and responsive structures.

A long-term strategy with many challenges

While peacebuilding and PCRD is a long-term strategy, it is often hampered by its fluid nature, the large number of actors and short-term constraints. PSC members need to build capacity and create a political environment that enables the AUC to operate effectively. The most pertinent recommendations of the report provide ways to ensure that internal/external complementarity can be used as a critical avenue for concrete achievements.

Some say that the AU must decide whether it should be a facilitator or an implementer of PCRD responses. However, current discussions should form part of a well-considered and integrated process within a wider and clear political strategy. While the AU can play an important brokering role in ensuring effective PCRD strategies, it also provides an important implementation role in specific spaces. Even then the AU has to be able to prioritise and identify the areas and issues where it can have the greatest impact.