Security and development in Africa: strengthening conflict prevention, resolution and management

The EU and the African Union are developing a security and development partnership, based on enhancing dialogue between warring factions, overseeing Africa’s peace and security architecture, and supporting African security operations, speakers told an EPC Policy Dialogue organised in cooperation with the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung. This should also focus on providing security as countries emerge from conflicts in order for them to develop, and civil society should be encouraged to play a major role in this.

Martin Kastler, Head of Department, Development Policy and Coordination of EU projects, Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung, said the Union must strengthen its responsibility towards Africa through a clear, fair partnership. The EU is supporting African security and development, and fostering an EU-African-Union (AU) framework. As part of this, the Union is working with the AU Peace and Security Council, supporting its capacity building and crisis management programmes.

Key priorities

Daniela Dicorrado Andreoni, Head of the Peace and Security Sector, Directorate-General for Development, European Commission, said that while the EU is working with the AU on security and development, this has to take account of the asymmetries between the two bodies. Firstly, it took the EU 50 years to develop its European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), whereas the AU is a fledgling organisation which has put security and defence at the heart of its policies. Secondly, Africa’s security architecture is designed to be implemented within the continent, whereas ESDP operates outside the EU.

These differences mean one cannot predict how the strategy will be implemented, said Ms Dicorrado. Previous relations were built on economic and development aid links, but globalisation gives the EU more scope for using its security capacity to help solve conflicts in Africa. This strategy encompasses and articulates the “nexus between security and development”, she said, and is based on three priorities: enhancing dialogue between warring factions; overseeing Africa’s peace and security architecture; and supporting African security operations.

Most importantly, it avoids a “top down” or “Brussels” approach and concentrates on decentralising operations in Africa, moving beyond an institutional approach to involving civil society and other actors who have a stake in settling conflicts. The EU Implementation Team on the Africa-EU Partnership on Peace and Security, chaired by General Pierre-Michel Joana, Special Advisor for African peacekeeping capabilities, will work with the African Union’s implementation team as well as with regional teams. The EU has moved on from the time when it just “signed cheques” for the activities it supported in Africa.

Defining the ‘security-development nexus’

Stefan Mair, Director of Studies, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), said one needed to start by defining the term ‘security-development nexus’. There is a broad consensus that development and security are inextricably linked: development is impossible in a security vacuum and a country which is under-developed risks sliding into conflict. However, the causal relationship between these elements has never been proven and there have been cases, such as Yugoslavia, where security collapsed in what was a reasonably well-developed country. One must also examine the terms ‘development’ and ‘security’, as current definitions of ‘security’ are so broad that they can include ‘development’. Since 9/11, ‘security’ has been expanded to included new risks, such as climate change or migration.

The meaning of ‘security’ also depends on the continent. In the US, ‘security concerns’ cover migration or terrorism, whereas in Africa ‘security concerns’ apply to the activities of a dictator or to criminal gangs. So how should this security-development policy be implemented? asked Dr Mair. Some believe that development should be a tool to support security. For example, during the Cold War, development aid was used to bolster authoritarian leaders in Africa to keep them within the Western bloc, while today, US development aid supports President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.

Since 9/11, European governments’ ministers responsible for development cooperation argue that development aid is a means of countering the root causes of terrorism, and therefore demand increased funding. Dr Mair said that while he did not disagree with the general consensus on the meaning of the development-security nexus, it was too simplistic and could lead to conceptual confusions, making it impossible to set priorities.

Focusing on post-conflict reconstruction

Cheryl Hendricks, Senior Research Fellow, Pretoria Office, Institute for Security Studies (ISS), South Africa, explained that her organisation is a think tank that concentrates on African peace and security issues and assists the African Union’s Peace and Security Council. While agreeing about the conceptual confusion between ‘development’ and ‘security’, she said the concept of protecting ‘human security’ has been accepted for more than a decade and must be supported by ‘hard security’ at the local level.

In Africa, the number of civil wars is decreasing, but the number of inter-state wars and low-intensity conflicts is increasing. Given the fragility of states that emerge from these conflicts, more attention should be focused on post-conflict reconstruction, establishing security in order for development to get underway. As part of its peace and security architecture, the AU has established the 15-member African Peace and Security Council, and a ‘Panel of the Wise’ to advise on peace activities, although this panel needs to “flex its muscles” more.

African peace-making takes two forms: either using elder statesmen to persuade people to conclude peace agreements, or involving civil society to negotiate peace, and she felt this second approach should be employed more often. The EU is helping Africa develop a “continental early warning system”, and the ISS has begun training those who will be involved. While the EU-Africa partnership is far more equal than before, asymmetries still exist and the Union sometimes fails to understand what is required.

Ms Hendricks praised the increasing use of United Nations Resolution 1325 on ‘women, peace and security’, which gives women a larger role in peace-building, but said more women need to be active in the armed forces before they can take a lead in post-conflict reconstruction.

In addition, more attention should be paid to disaster management in Africa. For example, the South African Development Community (SADAC) attempted to solve the crisis in Zimbabwe through the offices of South Africa President Thabo Mbeki, but this failed because of the lack of legal tools or instruments to back it up. Much of the EU’s action plan for security in Africa is based on building capacity, and while Africa may lack skills and experience, it has capacity but this is underused. Any training should build on this, not start anew, said Ms Hendricks.

Overall, it would be better to set fewer targets, rather than designing a “shopping list” of actions, as success in a few areas would have greater impact.


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