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Peacebuilding: An opportunity to develop a new social contract

Peacebuilding is a transformative process that should assist societies emerging from conflict to form a social contract between the “governors” and the “governed”.


06 December 2017

IPSS, in collaboration with United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU), hosted a briefing session on “Building Trust in Peacebuilding Processes: Best Practices from the UN and the AU” on 6 December 2017.


The session brought together an all-inclusive panel of experts moderated by Dr. Kidane Kiros, IPSS Director. The panel consisted of Amb. Tewolde GebreMeskel, Director of the Peace and Security Division at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); Dr. Alhaji Sarjoh Bah, Acting Head, Crisis Management and Post-Conflict and Reconstruction Division (CMPCRD) at the African Union Commission (AUC); Njanja Fassu, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (UN-PBSO) and Col. Cédric Dénier, Defence Attaché in the Political Section, Delegation of the European Union to the African Union (EU-AU).


The conversation revolved around the following questions:

  • What are the guiding principles for AU and UN peacebuilding frameworks? What are the challenges for their implementation?
  • What deliberations arise on good practices and emerging lessons on peacebuilding interventions by the AU, UN and EU in light of the newly proposed Kagame reforms? How should these integrate meaningful participation from women, youth and academic institutions?
  • How can good practices shape future peacebuilding interventions in Africa?


Review of UN the peacebuilding architecture: A turning point

Fassu’s contribution focused on three areas. First, he discussed the 2015 review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. He highlighted that during the review, which brought together experts and member states, it was established that for too long peacebuilding has been understood as an activity that happens after conflict. Following this review, along with the UN Security Council (UNSC)/UN General Assembly (UNGA) landmark Resolution 2282 (2016), a new approach was adopted, that of “Sustaining Peace” - peacebuilding that happens throughout the cycle of conflict.


The above saw the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) adopt a more flexible approach, from a focus on six countries over the past 10 years, namely Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Guinea and the Central African Republic, to an extended approach that will include non-African countries such as Colombia, Sri Lanka and the Solomon Islands. There has also been a move to incorporate a regional approach, particularly in the Mano River region, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and the Great Lakes. These changes have helped the PBC refine its role, a component of which is sustaining international attention in countries that need it most.


Second, Fassu stressed the importance of strengthening and deepening partnerships, the AU-UN partnership being essential. He stressed the need to consistently bring together actors from both sides for the harmonization of efforts.


Third, regarding the mobilization of resources, he argued that peacebuilding requires funding particularly at the early stage of a crisis. He further highlighted that activities such as transitional justice and security sector reform are peacebuilding activities that can be costly.


PCRD: A means to form a new social contract

Dr. Bah noted that peacebuilding in the AU is referred to as post-conflict reconstruction and development (PCRD) and its policy framework is built on six pillars, namely security, political governance and transitions, humanitarian assistance, socio-economic reconstruction and development, human rights, justice and reconciliation, and finally women and youth.


He argued that in its essence, peacebuilding is a transformative process that should assist societies emerging from conflict to form a social contract between the “governors” and the “governed”. He further stressed that peacebuilding is as much a political process as it is technical.


Dr. Bah then underlined six guiding principles he views as important to peacebuilding:

  1. African leadership - at all levels of peacebuilding;
  2. National and local ownership - through strengthening the capacities of local actors. The case of Sierra Leone is exemplary as they were able to define their own process and destiny;
  3. Inclusivity, equity and non-discrimination - peacebuilding processes should address all of these issues;
  4. Co-operation and coherence;
  5. Capacity building - particularly of national and local institutions in order to take forth the vision and aspirations of that society.

He further stated the importance of mutual accountability between national authorities as well as the work of the AU and UN work, which needs to be carried out in good faith. He also noted the importance of having gender sensitive processes that include women not as a favour but as a right.


Dr. Bah then identified challenges that still exist such as the lack of capacity both at the level of the AU and of the liaison offices; gaps that exist on the political level, particularly in understanding what is meant by and required from PCRD, and the lack of resources; the cost of PCRD activities are large yet often underestimated.


The current AU reform process presents a number of opportunities as it will look at the AU Commission and Liaison Offices to determine whether they are fit for purpose; the financing reform strategy may give the PCRD unit breathing space in supplying the required funding; the role of RECs will be more clearly defined allowing for the establishment of responsibility and better division of labour in PCRD; and the recommitment to the African Solidarity Initiative by reaching out to more key segments such as civil society and the private sector to get involved in PCRD.


Best practice: The cases of Somalia and South Sudan

Amb. GebreMeskel provided examples of best practices by rooting his contribution to IGAD’s involvement in South Sudan and Somalia. He argued that the case of Somalia is a good example of cooperation between the AU, UN and a REC as they support the capacity building of governance structures in the region. This is a good example of how the principle of subsidiarity can work well.


One of the key lessons learnt from the South Sudan case is that the process of resource distribution is an important component of the peacebuilding process. In shaping the revitalization of the peace process led by IGAD, the incorporation of all stakeholders is a key component - this includes civil society organizations (CSOs), government and opposition forces. Another lesson learnt from the South Sudan case is that the role of the RECs is very important but member states need to speak with one voice and with the same principles to strengthen peacebuilding processes.


Amb. GebreMeskel identified establishing the nexus between security and development as a key challenge. In Somalia for example, there are not enough investments or development programmes which would give the government additional confidence in the direction of the country. South Sudan is the same – in order to augment the peace process, investments such as a road built between Juba and Nairobi are key.


The role of the EU in peacebuilding

Col. Dénier provided a summary of the EU’s peacebuilding involvement in Africa. He outlined that: a) the EU is a new actor in international relations, citing the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon as its official entry point, therefore it is still trying to mature in this regard; b) the EU within itself works using the approach of consensus - its member states do not have the same opinions, and some countries are reluctant while others are more assertive and c) the EU is not just a donor country, it currently has nine missions in Africa, five of which are military.


Col. Dénier then shared the guiding principles of EU missions. He argued that they support democratic principles and values and they follow a comprehensive approach, believing they will not achieve stability if their approach is not holistic in having political development and humanitarian components. Furthermore, they require the ownership of the host country, as nothing can be carried out without their permission. The final guiding principle is complementarity, as there is sometimes competition amongst international actors. A clear division of labour and clarity of mandates is therefore a priority.


In outlining some of the challenges that exist in peacebuilding processes, the nature of insecurity and the limited resources that exist to address them were at the top. Col. Dénier also argued that there exists a paradox between the need for urgent immediate answers through rapid response and the necessity to take time for more durable solutions. He further made the point that, with changing approaches, militaries find themselves in the centre of a evolving security landscape which requires more robust mandates and diverse capabilities.


In conclusion, it was established that the AU and the UN are each other’s key strategic partners in peacebuilding. Both the 2015 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture and the AU reform process were identified as being crucial turning moments in better defining what peacebuilding entails and better demarcating the roles and responsibilities of the various actors involved. More so, it was established that at the heart of peacebuilding processes are the societies that they serve, therefore, these processes should be inclusive, allowing various stakeholders to shape peacebuilding outcomes.


Click here to view photos from the session.