Defend Truth


Financing African peacekeeping operations in a new era of UN-AU relations

Financing African peacekeeping operations in a new era of UN-AU relations
UN secretary-general António Guterres has unveiled the New Agenda for Peace. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Miguel A. Lopes)

A new momentum in 2023 presents the AU with the perfect opportunity to secure funding for sustainable peace support operations through the United Nations.

Since its inception in 2002, the African Union (AU) has been actively engaged in conflict resolution, positioning itself at the forefront of the global peace and security landscape.

However, despite the willingness to deal with peace and security matters, the financing of the AU’s Peace Support Operations (Aupsos) has long been a contentious issue in the dialogue between the United Nations (UN) and the AU. The unveiling of the New Agenda for Peace by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 20 July 2023, and evolving UN Security Council (UNSC) dynamics therefore presents a unique opportunity to address this long-standing issue.

Relations between the UN and the AU can be traced back to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, 18 years after the founding of the UN. In 2002, the OAU was succeeded by the AU. Since its founding, it has worked closely with the UN to mitigate the continent’s multiple conflicts, and the proliferation thereof.

These joint endeavours span a spectrum of crises, from military operations to diplomatic mediations. A notable example is the AU’s intervention in Somalia, via the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), where the UN’s logistical support was pivotal. Another model was the deployment of the first (and so far only) hybrid mission between the UN and the AU in Darfur, Sudan via the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (Unamid).

In light of this, the New Agenda for Peace (NAP) explicitly recommends that the UNSC and General Assembly ensure that operations authorised under Chapters VII and VIII of the Charter of the UN have the necessary resources to succeed, including providing UN-assessed contributions where required.

UN-assessed contributions can be described as obligatory payments by member states to the UN, based on a country’s GDP. Chapter VII of the UN Charter relates to “Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression”. In particular, Article 39 states that the Security Council shall determine the existence of any act of aggression, breach of the peace or threat to the peace, and shall make recommendations, or decide on what measures shall be taken, in accordance with Articles 41 and 42 to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Additionally, Chapter VIII of the UN Charter relates to regional arrangements, in particular Article 52, which states that the charter does not preclude regional arrangements or agencies dealing with matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security, as long as these arrangements or agencies are consistent with the purposes and principles of the UN.

Military spearhead

Since 2003, the AU, regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs and RMs) have launched about 27 peace and support operations, with each presenting a unique set of challenges and successes. These challenges include an overreliance on military-heavy deployments, the absence of a guiding political strategy, as well as the lack of multidimensional skills and capabilities.

According to an AU press release in 2017, Amisom has made significant progress in countering violent extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab. The history of seeking UN-assessed contributions for Aupso’s dates back to January 2007, when the AU’s Mission in Sudan (AMIS), faced the brink of collapse due to a lack of funding. The NAP’s Action 10, which relates to support to the AU and subregional support operations, is particularly relevant. It underscores the necessity for a novel approach to counter-terrorism and peace enforcement operations spearheaded by African states.

Moreover, the lack of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding has affected the majority of these deployments. According to the International Crisis Group, Amisom came with an annual price tag of $1.2-billion. In 2022, Amisom was replaced by the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis), according to UNSC Resolution 2628 (2022).

Read more in Daily Maverick: Africa cannot afford to fast track withdrawal of peacekeepers without solid security plans

Atmis, similar to Amisom, is a multidimensional mission (civilian, police, military) mandated by the UNSC and authorised by the AU. Atmis became operational on 1 April 2022.

Despite the emergence of new security threats, the extent of violent conflict across the continent has reduced over the last decade. The A3, the group of three African states serving on the UNSC (Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique), have tried individually and collectively to advance the discussion on funding Aupsos through UN-assessed contributions.

AU evolution

The AU’s role has evolved dramatically over the years, adapting to shifting expectations and placing it in a pivotal, albeit challenging, position. According to the International Crisis Group, the growing influence of armed non-state actors, including jihadist and other groups means that operations often need to be of an offensive nature, falling outside the traditional scope of UN peacekeeping.

As the complexity of its missions has grown, so too has the need for increased financial resources. According to Amani Africa, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, drug and human trafficking, porous borders, transnational criminal networks and more recently, public health emergencies like Covid-19, are features of the evolving security landscape that present further challenges to peace operations.

Unfortunately, the AU’s operations have become heavily reliant on external funding. According to the Institute for Security Studies, approximately 75% of the AU’s initiatives are financed primarily by the European Union (EU) and other individual European states.

Funding shortfalls

The issue of financing, which has been a source of strain between the UNSC and the AU Peace and Security Council (Aupsc) since 2007, has significant implications. According to an AU press release in 2017, as the AU Commission became increasingly focused on externally financed activities, it has undermined ownership in this critical area of the AU’s mandate, leading to strategic drift.

Even with funding from the EU (€120-million) and the United Kingdom (€25.8-million), Atmis faced a funding shortfall of €25.8-million in 2022, according to Amani Africa. However in 2023, the funding shortfall has increased considerably. The failure of the UNSC to agree to a proposal led by African states and backed by the PSC in 2018, which would have provided 75% of the funding for AU peace support operations, with the AU covering the remaining 25%, brought relations to an all-time low.

However, the change in the United States administration in 2021, and the endorsement of the “African Consensus Paper” on predictable, adequate, and sustainable financing for Aupsos at the 36th AU Summit in February this year has given renewed hope to the debate on the financing of Aupsos.

The African Consensus Paper proposes three options regarding the financing model to support AU-led PSOs using UN-assessed contributions. These include joint AU-UN hybrid missions, an enhanced UN Logistics Support Package (LSP), and envisioning sub-regional PSOs as benefitting from UN-assessed contributions.

These closely align with calls for systematising already tested examples of cooperation between the two organisations like in Darfur, Somalia and the Sahel. Most recently, in a communiqué at a meeting of the AUPSC at ministerial level on the financing of Aupsos on 23 September 2023, the council noted with serious concern the premature drawdown and closure of many PSOs and other peacekeeping initiatives on the continent as a result of financial challenges.

The council also requested that the UNSC support the efforts by the AU to ensure the predictable and sustainable funding of Aupsos in an attempt to address the critical issue of funding.

New era for UN-AU relations?

Looking forward, the New Agenda for Peace presents a unique opportunity to bridge the divide and usher in a new era of UN-AU relations in anticipation of a draft framework resolution by the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Mozambique) on the issue expected by the end of 2023.

It offers a chance to redefine the partnership, moving away from a relationship characterised by financial dependency towards one of mutual respect and shared responsibility.

The future of peace operations in Africa hinges on the ability to seize this opportunity and work together towards a more peaceful and secure continent. The onus is now on the UN and AU Member States to bridge the gap. DM

Keanen Isaacs is a Konrad Adenauer Foundation Scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider