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‘African Union’s peace and security architecture: Filling the gaps’

Published: 31st Aug, 2020

African Union’s Peace and Security: the foundation for the Continent’s continued progress and socio-economic transformation, is today suffering from internal challenges and gaps.


African Union’s Peace and Security: the foundation for the Continent’s continued progress and socio-economic transformation, is today suffering from internal challenges and gaps.

Let’s analyse how significant and effective is the African Union’s peace and security, and is this institution best placed to deal with Africa’s security problems?


  • Since its inception in 2002 the African Union has been under pressure to resolve the extensive peace and security challenges facing the continent.
  • In particular, it’s tried to address the limitations faced by its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU), in this area.
  • The biggest change has been the shift away from the OAU’s so-called non-interference stance to the AU’s more interventionist approach.
  • This is most explicitly found in Article 4 of the AU Constitutive Act.


The Peace & Security Council

  • The AU’s African Peace and Security Architecture was established when the organisation adopted the Protocol on the Establishment of the Peace and Security Councilin July 2002.
  • It is guided by the AU’s mandateand its interventionist approach.
  • The architecture, which has five pillars composed of AU organs and bodies, drives the AU’s peace and security work.
  • Its aim is to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts by working collaboratively with the Regional Economic Communities and Mechanisms.
  • Therefore, the peace and security architecture has a role to play from the early warning and conflict prevention stages to that of post-conflict development.
  • The five pillars are:
    • the Peace and Security Council
    • the Panel of the Wise
    • the Continental Early Warning System
    • the Standby Force
    • the Peace Fund
  • While not all pillars function as intended, there have nevertheless been a number of success stories in which the architecture was instrumental.

About African Union

  • The African Union (AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent.
  • It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
  • The AU is guided by its vision of An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

Assessing the African Peace and Security Architecture

Peace and Security Council

  • The Peace and Security Council is the main decision-making body of the peace and security architecture and can take decisions on a number of fronts. These include:
    • implementing the AU’s common defence policy,
    • performing peace making and building functions,
    • authorising and overseeing peace support missions,
    • recommending Article 4(h) interventions for situations of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, and
    • impose sanctions for unconstitutional changes of government, to name a few.

Panel of the Wise

  • It acts as the advisory body to the Peace and Security Council. It has a mediation and preventative diplomacy role.
  • The panel has successfully undertaken various roles, including when there’s been need for a neutral, respected diplomatic intervention.

Continental Early Warning System

  • The mandate of the Continental Early Warning System is conflict prevention and anticipating events.

African Standby Force

  • Composed of contingents from the five regions, the African Standby Force’s job is to implement decisions made by the Peace and Security Council.
  • This includes authorised interventions, conflict and dispute prevention, observation, monitoring and any type of peace support mission, humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding.

Peace Fund

  • The Peace Fund is tasked with the mammoth role of ensuring availability of funds.

Recent development between India and Africa

India has become the fifth largest investor in Africa, with cumulative investments of more than $54 billion. Bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $62.16 billion in 2017-18, up 21.56% year-on-year. India is Africa’s third largest export destination that sources nearly 18% of its crude oil requirements besides LNG from the region.

Lucknow Declaration

  • In February, 2020, India and 50 African countries adopted the ‘Lucknow Declaration’.
  • The declaration states that all the signatories “commit to continue our collaboration in the fields of peace and security including conflict prevention, resolution, management and peace building through exchange of expertise and training, strengthening regional and continental early warning capacities and mechanisms, enhancing the role of women in peace keeping and propagating the culture of peace”.
  • The declaration also stated that all member countries “encourage enhanced cooperation between India and Africa on the evolving concept of Indo-Pacific and welcome the AU (African Union) vision for peace and security in Africa that coincides with India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region)”.

Financial grant:

  • In 2019, India extended a grant of $50 million package to sub-Saharan Niger, which the French-speaking West African country has utilised to finance the high-profile African Union (AU) summit it hosted last weekend.
    • This was the first time India has extended a grant for an AU summit.

The Gaps

  • Lack of accuracy and will: The mandate of the Continental Early Warning System is conflict prevention and anticipating events, which rely on accurate data and political will to act, yet the Peace and Security Council tends to react more to conflicts rather than preempt them. The Continental Early Warning System continues to suffer from staff and funding shortages, building capacity is ongoing.
  • Long Delays in operation: Despite the 2003 decision to establish the force, it was only in 2016 that the African Standby Force was officially considered to have obtained full operational capacity. Since then, it has yet be deployed.
  • Struggling with funds: The vast majority of AU members struggle to meet their membership dues, and self-financing of the AU has yet to prove possible. This means that the fund struggles to secure support from African states.

Ways to improve the structure

  • Improvisation in financing: In order to cope with the huge security problems in Africa there must be an increase to the PSC’s severely undersized budget and scant staff.
  • Stronger relationship with strong organizations: The PSC must develop a stronger relationship with the UN Security Council, the G8, the EU, and other sources of external funding.
  • Strengthening the structure: Institutional design must be strengthened, particularly in respect to addressing the non-military dimensions of security (such as environmental degradation and disease), and the relationship between military and non-military elements.
  • More focus to increase efficiency & consistency: PSC personnel must continue to implement working procedures to increase operational efficiency and consistency.


In the medium- to long-term the PSC has the potential to become an important institutional environment for socialisation among African governments, influencing attitudes and responses through official statements and peace operations. Overall, the success of the African Peace and Security Architecture is paramount for Africa’s development and human security. Its value in the continent’s peace and security agenda should not be underestimated.

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