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Roundtable: We need partnerships in peace and security, but Africa must lead

On 15 August 2017, IPSS hosted a roundtable as one of many activities to commemorate its 10th year anniversary. The topic – “Should the intellectual challenge of peace and security in Africa be exclusively tackled by Africans and African think tanks?” – brought together a 40-member audience from various development partners, embassies, media and the African Union.

Event

16 August 2017

On 15 August 2017, IPSS hosted a roundtable as one of many activities to commemorate its 10th year anniversary. The topic – “Should the intellectual challenge of peace and security in Africa be exclusively tackled by Africans and African think tanks?” – brought together a 40-member audience from various development partners, embassies, media and the African Union.

 

The members of the panel, who drew on their experiences to contribute to the meaningful discussion, featured: Dr. Jean-Bosco Butera, Special Adviser and Chief of Staff, Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Hannah Tsadik, Resident Representative, Life & Peace Institute, Ethiopia; Mr. Osman Muktar, Senior Analyst , Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), African Union Commission; and Ms. Barbara Schäfer, Counsellor, Regional Development Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ethiopia.

 

IPSS Director Dr. Kidane Kiros and Associate Academic Director Dr. Yonas Adaye Adeto provided introductory remarks, highlighting the various milestones reached by IPSS. Dr. Kidane noted that the institute’s internationalization over the past 10 years has been a significant achievement. Boasting a high number of international students and faculty, the highest in Addis Ababa University, IPSS is known for its melting pot community. The organization’s longevity can also be attributed to the commitment of its staff and its partners.

 

Dr. Kidane further highlighted the significance of the roundtable’s theme, stating that the importance of recognizing the valuable contributions of Africa think tanks to the field of peace and security in Africa.

 

Dr. Butera played a role in the establishment of IPSS in his former position as the director of the Africa Programme at the University of Peace. Speaking in his personal capacity, he then argued that the rhetoric of “African solutions to African problems” has been plagued by contradictions, weak political will from states to shoulder African solutions, and a continued reliance on external partners. He further argued that home grown mechanisms have been proven to act as an anchor for sustainable peace, as they build long term ownership. However, a complimentary approach is required where African-led solutions are seriously considered and interrogated.

 

He argued that African research institutions should take the time to study new trends, anchor responses in local ownership and build capacity for the dissemination of knowledge and its effective delivery. He further highlighted that the successes of IPSS is evidence of what good partnerships can produce.

 

Ms. Tsadik argued that the topic raises many epistemologically pertinent questions such as what is knowledge and whose knowledge matters. She stated that it is sometimes difficult to label what an African institution or think tank is, therefore polarization may not be helpful. Further, she noted the importance of institutions working in Africa to pay attention to their methodology and whether they privilege local knowledge. She drew on examples from her own organization (Life & Peace Institute), which undertakes participatory action research. This approach ensures that community members are seen as not only informants or subjects but as having agency in peacebuilding processes. She further encouraged Africans to weigh in on global issues, for researchers to tackle idea homogeneity, and for peace and security scholarship to be interdisciplinary.

 

Mr. Osman Muktar weighed in on the topic saying there is a need for a complimentary approach between African and non-African institutions as contemporary security challenges are transnational e.g. terrorism, migration and cybercrime. He argued that the challenge for African research institutions is that their research agenda has not evolved enough to serve as authorities on contemporary issues such as climate change, free movement of goods and people as well as cyber economies.

 

Ms. Schäfer provided her insights from a partner’s point of view. She argued that whilst Germany’s investment in Africa’s peace and security cannot be attributed solely to philanthropy, it is also not purely about interests. Shared values and a shared responsibility to make the world better is what drive their partnership. She stressed ownership and listening as being key components to making partnerships work.

 

Mr. Salvator Matata, Head of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Liaison Office in Ethiopia, contributed to the discussion by arguing for the need for Africans to have more financial ownership, particularly for preventive work such as research and education. He further posed the question: “What can Africans do that is cheap and that can contribute to peace?” Dr. Butera responded by stating that it is difficult to speak about specific amounts of money as that often translates to percentage of ownership. Whilst money is important, it needs other complimentary efforts. He also expressed that prevention is a very important component as it promotes community engagement and investment prior to the outbreak of conflict.

 

In closing, there was a collective agreement that partnerships are important to tackling Africa’s peace and security challenges but that Africa needs to take the lead in doing so.

 

Click here to view photos from the roundtable.

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