African Union Commission 18 September 2015

The year of review of peace operations

Following months of investigation and consultations, the UN High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), which UN Secretary-General Ban ki-moon established in June 2014, finalized and submitted its report in June 2015. The last time a similar review focusing on UN peacekeeping was conducted was 15 years ago by the Brahimi panel. The report, which has reviewed developments and changes in the peace and security landscape of the world since its predecessor the Brahimi report, is expected to define the course of UN’s engagement in the maintenance of international peace and security for the coming decade or more.

Given the focus of the report on peace support operations, there is no region of the world to be affected more by the policy, institutional operational and financial implications of the proposals the report sets out than Africa. No part of the world features more prominently in the work of the UN Security Council (UNSC) than Africa. The UNSC dedicates more than 60% of its agenda to African issues. Africa also hosts more peacekeeping or peace support operations than any other continent. Of the 16 ongoing UN peacekeeping operations in the world, nine are in Africa. In terms of personnel numbers and budget size, the largest and most expensive peacekeeping operations are in Africa.

These facts also mean that for the UN, perhaps more than any other part of the world, developments in Africa have a significant impact on its peace operations.

Given that the review of UN peace operations is a once in a decade and half exercise, how the proposals of this report are translated into policy, institutional, operational actions is of strategic interest not only to the UN but also particularly to Africa.

Indeed, These considerations informed the decision of the AU (as contained in the AU 24th summit outcome document) and its member states to articulate an African position on the high level review of UN peace operations. A number of important aspects of the proposals in the African common position were favorably received and reflected in the final report of the HIPPO. Following the release the HIPPO report, the AU Peace and Security Council held a session on a report and commended the HIPPO for its work.

On 2 September 2015, the Secretary-General released a report on the implementation of the recommendations of the HIPPO. As the UN and member states start to look into the implementation of the recommendations of the HIPPO, it is of utmost importance for AU member states to reflect on, together with partners, the recommendations of the report and achieve the required preparedness for actively shaping and participating in the processes of pursuing the implementation of the recommendations.

To this end, the Permanenet Mission of Ethiopia and the Norwegian Embassy together with the AU and the UN Office to the AU will convene a working lunch on the HIPPO report.

HIPPO Report and Secretary-General’s report on the HIPPO: implications for Africa and the AU

The African common position argued for a strategic partnership between the AU and the UN underpinned by a number of principles within the framework of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. In a section dealing with what the HIPPO called a global and regional partnership for peace and security, this point has been addressed. Affirming the Secretary-General’s conclusion that ‘we have entered an era of partnership peacekeeping’, the report acknowledged the prominent role that regional and sub-regional organizations have come to assume. It in particular noted the increasing capability, reliability and assertiveness of African states serving under the AU flag. Taking into account the need to enhance partnerships in Africa, the report emphasized that the UN and the AU must strive for common approaches through shared assessments, sound consultative mechanisms for decision-making and tools for collaborative planning and operations across the conflict cycle.

With respect to UN-AU strategic partnership, it identified as founding principles cooperation, consultative decision-making and common strategy, division of labor based on respective comparative advantage; joint analysis, planning, monitoring and evaluation; and integrated response to the conflict cycle, including prevention. While most of these reflect those articulated in the African common position, the HIPPO report additionally added transparency, accountability and respect for international standards.

There are a number of issues that arise from these. One such issue is the assessment of the current state of and mechanisms for UN-AU partnership. The other is the identification of further modalities and mechanisms for a stronger partnership able to effectively and coherently respond to the peace and security challenges on the continent. Equally important is the analysis and determination of the comparative advantage of each for burden sharping and achieving mutual understanding on and acceptance of each other’s complementary role.

Apart from the various institutional arrangements and mechanisms framing AU-UN partnership, the rising contribution of Africa to UN peacekeeping also shapes UN-AU partnership peacekeeping. Africa has become the largest single regional contributor to UN peace operations, contributing approximately 45 % of the UN’s uniformed peacekeepers. In this regard, it is worth to look into the role of enhancing the representation of the voice of African troop and police contributors in the UN structures and decision-making processes for further strengthening AU-UN partnership for peace and security in Africa.

While the UN and the AU have made significant progress in developing an increasingly functional working relationship over the past seven years with respect to peacekeeping, the perennial problem that this partnership has not been able to resolve is the question of sharing the burden of financing AU-led and UN-authorised peacekeeping operations. For a long time, the AU advocated for the use of UN assessed contributions for funding UN authorized AU missions as the most predictable and reliable source of financing, while also mobilizing AU member states for increased contribution for funding AU missions.

Noting that the lack of provision of sustained, predictable and flexible funding to AU missions impacts the effectiveness of UN missions when taking over from the AU and recalling the recommendations of the 2008 Prodi Report, the HIPPO recommended the use of UN-assessed contributions on a case-by-case basis to support Security Council authorized AU missions. Additionally,

While this is a very positive development, whether and how this is going to be translated into action is critical. In this regard, the formulation in the Secretary-General’s Report on the implementation of the recommendations of the HIPPO report in this regard has failed to embrace the recommendation and meet expectations. While the HIPPO report specifically singled out the use of UN-assessed contributions, the Secretary-General’s report expresses agreement in general terms with ‘the Panel’s call for sustained, predictable and flexible funding mechanisms to support African Union peace operations’. Most notably, instead of adopting the recommendation of the HIPPO, the Secretary-General envisaged a joint ‘review and assessment of various mechanisms currently available to finance and support African Union peace operations authorized by the Council.’

This is one of the major areas of divide between the HIPPO report and the Secretary-General’s report. It is worthwhile to look into other areas of differences and what such differences mean on the follow up and implementation of the agenda for reform of UN peace operations and in taking AU-UN partnership to a more strategic level.

The HIPPO recommendation on the use of UN-assessed contributions has various institutional ramifications for the AU and it also affects the role of AU member states. As outlined in the HIPPO report, any African union peace support operation receiving UN-assessed contributions should provide regular reports to the council, financial report to the UN and comply fully with UN standards, such as human rights due diligence policy, and UN conduct and discipline frameworks. Secretary-General’s report further states that ‘financing provided by the United Nations will depend on institutional capability to effectively plan, deploy and conduct peace operations and will be contingent on compliance with United Nations norms, standards and financial rules and regulations.’

With respect to the AU, this requires increased alignment of AU’s working standards and procedures to the standards of the UN. Similarly, it also demands that the running, assessment and reporting of AU operations reflect and meet standards at the UN level. The institutional and reporting requirements also mean that AU’s training and deployment of troops are made to be in sync with those the UN use. From the side of member states, such requirements demand that their troops meet these standards and expectations and conduct themselves, ones in mission, accordingly.


As the UN holds the 70th General Assembly and member states discuss during a summit level meeting on UN peacekeeping, it is of high importance for the AU and AU member states to build on the progress made so far and identify priority areas for engagement. In this regard, a good starting point is to identify areas from the African common position that have not been reflected in the HIPPO report and need to be followed up within the AU and in the strategic dialogue with the UN.

While working on the follow up and implementation of the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the recommendations of the HIPPO report, there is also a need to identify those parts of the recommendations of the HIPPO report that have not been adequately reflected in the Secretary-General’s report which are of strategic importance deserving follow up.