International Order & Conflict

African Capacity-Building for Peace Operations: UN Collaboration with the African Union and ECOWAS

in Program

Peacekeeping in Africa has grown dramatically over the last five years, with the continent hosting more peacekeepers than any other region. In early 2005, the United Nations led seven peace operations there, in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Western Sahara, with an eighth planned for Sudan. With increased demand for peace operations worldwide, including large and complex missions led by multinational coalitions, attention has focused on the ability of the United Nations and African organizations to respond to crises and to manage peacekeeping operations effectively.

Fueled by ambitious leadership and prompted by multiple conflicts, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are developing more capacity to tackle regional peace and security questions. The AU and ECOWAS successfully deployed troops and led recent operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Liberia and Sudan. Donor governments are offering support bilaterally, through regional venues, and via the Group of 8 (G8), to leverage African national, subregional and continent-wide capacities for such efforts.

Ten years after the Rwandan genocide, the horrific crisis in Sudan further heightens international attention on questions of intervention and peace operations. Which African groups have the will and mechanisms to plan, deploy, manage, and sustain peace operations? How do efforts to improve peacekeeping at the UN relate to similar capacity building initiatives at the AU and ECOWAS? What is the United Nations’ relationship with the AU and ECOWAS? What are their capacities for peace operations and how do they – or can they – work together with the United Nations? This study examines these questions.

The report offers four major recommendations:

  • The AU and ECOWAS must receive support to leverage their capacity for peace operations, ranging from logistics and planning to funding and rule of law support.
  • The UN should create a mechanism which actively supports regional and sub-regional peace operations.
  • There should be better coordination of bilateral aid to African organizations.
  • An assessment of how the UN could work more effectively with African organizations in the many phases of peace operations must be performed.

These and other collaborative measures are explored in this report, with a view that many of them would be beneficial and worthy of support.


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