"The Future of Peacekeeping in Africa" – Report from the MSC Roundtable and Panel Discussion on Human Security at the Tana Forum 2019
On May 3, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) – in partnership with the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa (Tana Forum) and the African Union (AU) – hosted a roundtable and a panel discussion on the sidelines of this year’s Tana Forum in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. More than 40 high-ranking representatives of governments, research institutions and civil society came together to discuss the future of peacekeeping missions on the African continent. The event in Ethiopia was the first of three MSC meetings to be held in Africa this year.
The political dynamics in the Horn of Africa were the overarching topic at the Tana Forum 2019 in Bahir Dar. Against this backdrop, the MSC sought to address the role of peacekeeping missions in Africa overall and the case of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in particular. The security situation in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea has evolved into one of the most complex in the world. Local, regional, and global actors with diverging interests are active in an area where security challenges range from increasing militarization to transnational threats and questions of human security. In this context, peacekeeping operations such as AMISOM have an enormous importance for regional stability, yet face increasing challenges. Participating nations have to find adequate solutions for ensuring local ownership and balanced burden-sharing for these operations.
Throughout the event, experts repeatedly stressed the importance of understanding the changing nature of peace missions and the environments in which they are carried out. The nature of conflicts has changed dramatically since the post-World War II period when the first “classical” peacekeeping operations were conducted. Today, it is common for a plethora of stakeholders to be involved. With the dramatic rise of transnational actors – organized criminals or terrorist networks, for instance – UN peace operations face additional pressure to adapt. Participants highlighted that in order to sustainably improve the performance of UN peacekeepers, it is crucial to synchronize strategies between them and other local and international actors.
The roundtable participants also highlighted the importance of African ownership of peacekeeping operations. Although international support was still seen as necessary and important, African governments need to become more involved in the process of formulating and implementing African mandates. After all, many regional problems are home-grown and the result of a lack of good governance.
The Lakeside Chat on the banks of Lake Tana, which followed the roundtable discussion, shed light on the lessons learned from previous peace operations. In this context, discussants highlighted the role of AMISOM for stability in the region. One of the demands formulated during the discussion was that Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, the three nations militarily engaged in Somalia and most affected by its instable status, should formulate a joint and long-term (exit) strategy. This should be done while involving the federal government in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and the local elites in the country. However, participants argued, the first and most important step towards stabilizing the Horn of Africa would be for Somalia to take responsibility for its internal disputes and define a consistent vision for domestic unity and peace.
This event was part of the Human Security Series.
Over the past decades, security threats have become ever more complex. Accordingly, the traditional notion of national and international security had to be broadened to reflect the multitude of threats to human livelihood. Some of the past years' most significant security crises have further alerted the security community to the fact that human hardship – caused by climate change, environmental degradation, or human rights violations – oftentimes is the root cause of serious, sometimes even armed conflict.
Effective responses to these challenges must build on a cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. That is why the Munich Security Conference organizes events on issues such as health, migration, and the environment and thus promotes discussions and collaboration between the security community and development officials and experts, NGO leaders, international organizations, the research community, and the private sector. Building in particular on the success of its activities of the issue of health security, the MSC is now grouping its activities on these issues in the Human Security Series.