Conflict Prevention in Africa: From Policy to Practice
17 September 2019

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The last few years have witnessed a surge in violent conflicts, which have become deadlier, costlier and more protracted. Meanwhile, the tools that the international community can use to address the outbreak or relapse into armed conflict, most notably, humanitarian action and peace operations, have become overstretched and unsustainable in terms of cost. This could not be truer than in the case of Africa, which is home to half of the United Nation’s (UN) peacekeeping operations, and to one-third of the world’s forcibly displaced population. As a result, the logic for investing early and adequately to prevent the onset of armed conflict is simply unassailable. Conflict prevention saves lives, and averts social, economic and physical destruction, as well as developmental reversals. It also pre-empts the need for significantly larger investments in conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction.To advance this conversation, and acting in its capacity as the Secretariat of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA)--in partnership with the African Union Commission, the Egyptian Embassy in Ethiopia and the Institute for Security Studies--organized an Expert Workshop titled “Conflict Prevention in Africa: From Policy to Practice”, on 16-17 September 2019, at the African Union Commission.

In his opening remarks, H.E. Osama Abdel-Khalek, Ambassador of Egypt to Ethiopia and the Permanent Representative to the African Union, highlighted Egypt’s commitment to advance the operationalization of the peace-development nexus in Africa as part of its championship of the peacebuilding agenda and Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) Policy in Africa; stating that “There is a growing agreement, both regionally and internationally, for the need for prevention as an effective means of fostering sustainable peace.” 

H.E. Ambassador Smail Chergui, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, praised the launch of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, as a unique platform to advance Africa’s peace, security and development agendas, and support the work of the Commission. “Today’s workshop is an important contribution to our work, our thinking and determination to silence the guns in Africa and promote development. Our approach should be holistic and our solutions should be homegrown to avoid relapsing into conflict,” he noted. 

Quoting the UN Secretary-General, Ms. Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the UN Office to the African Union, noted that “the fact that peace is never inevitable requires to put in place institutions, structures and partnerships that are viable, command popular legitimacy and are fit for purpose; and to ensure that the prevention interventions are coordinated, coherent, transparent, effective and efficiently undertaken.”

As highlighted by the parallel resolutions setting out the “sustaining peace” agenda (UNSCR2282 & UNGA70/262) and the joint United Nations-World Bank study Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict, the primary responsibility for preventive action rests with states, through their national policies. To prevent societies from descending into conflict, the prevention agenda must be integrated into national development policies and efforts, with the Sustainable Development Goals at the core of this approach. State institutions must invest in inclusive and sustainable development that not only creates growth and advances poverty alleviation, but also addresses inequalities, exclusion, and grievances (real or perceived). Moreover, acting preventively entails fostering systems that create incentives for peaceful and cooperative behavior.

In the African Union, both the African Peace and Security Architecture Roadmap (2016-2020) and the Agenda 2063 acknowledged the critical link between development and conflict prevention. Since its establishment, the African Union has developed elaborate structures and processes for conflict management (e.g. mediation, peace support operations, PCRD policy, etc.). However, progress in structural prevention continues to be limited, notwithstanding the development of an African Union Continental Structural Conflict Prevention Framework (2015).   

The workshop brought a select group of officials from African and partner countries, the African Union Commission, RECs/RMs, the UN, the African Development Bank, and African think tanks, together with experts and professionals in the fields of peace and security, development and humanitarian action, including civil society representatives. It aimed to exchange national and regional experiences, lessons learned and good practices of conflict prevention and sustaining peace in Africa. The workshop underscored the challenges of building viable, inclusive, legitimate and resilient state institutions, especially in countries involved or emerging from conflict. It also addressed the role of the African Union, including through its partnership with the UN, in advancing structural conflict prevention on the continent.

The workshop produced actionable policy recommendations to inform the design and implementation of new and innovative programs that leverage the complementary mandates and expertise of peace and security, development and humanitarian actors, so as to achieve effective structural prevention in Africa.

The Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development is an Egyptian initiative, owned by Africa, and supported by the international community.

This event was made possible in part by the generous support of the governments of Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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