Conference on EU-UN-AU Trilateral Cooperation in Peacekeeping

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The Institute for Peace in Partnership organized a public conference on Wednesday 20th April 2016 on “EU-UN-AU Trilateral cooperation in Peacekeeping” at Vesalius College, Brussels, Belgium. The conference was held in accordance with the High-Level Panel on Peace Operations’ call for stronger global-regional partnerships. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon demanded to build on past experiences to establish a stronger partnership between the UN, the EU and the AU.

The conference aimed:

  • to engage experts, scholars, and students in a dialogue on how best to strengthen partnership between these three organizations in the field of peacekeeping with focus on short-term priorities and lessons learned from bilateral relations (EU-UN) (EU-AU) and (UN-AU) in peacekeeping operations;
  • to share experiences and challenges on peacekeeping.
  • to identify the basic principles, methods and strategies for developing a plan for a strong trilateral cooperation in peacekeeping;

Over 40 participants attended, including representatives from the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), the Slovak Permanent Representation to the EU, the European Commission, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, and students across different universities in Belgium.

Bora Kamwanya opened the conference by welcoming participants, expressing IPP’s great honour to host such an important event with the presence of Lisa Sundstrom, Policy Officer, EU-UN Cooperation Crisis Management Planning Directorate at the EEAS and Lieutenant Colonel (LCL) Benoit Lot, Peace and Security Advisor, Pan-African Affairs Division at the EEAS.

Lisa Sundstrom made the initial statement, explaining that the EU-UN cooperation in crisis management has extended and deepened since the 2003 Joint Declaration on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management and 2007 Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management.

The bilateral cooperation is based on added value, offering mutual benefits, effectiveness and coherence in which the European Union is able to play a bigger role in multilateralism as it provides political leverage to UN.

Furthermore, Mrs Sundstrom took the time to elaborate on the EU-UN document: “Strengthening the UN-EU strategic partnership on peacekeeping and crisis management: Priorities 2015-2018”, which identifies seven different priorities for deepening EU-UN cooperation in the following year. To begin with, EU-UN cooperation aims to elaborate modalities for a Rapid Response (RR), which would facilitate the deployment of CSDP force in support of UN missions, or as bridging force. Second, EU-UN aims to provide support to the AU and develop a closer trilateral cooperation EU-UN-AU by supporting the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), along with the African Standby Force and African Capacity for Immediate Response. Furthermore, this strategic area aims to support the AU in training and capacity building for which on-going discussions are held regarding the potentiality of a police deployment. Third, the EU Member States seek to facilitate their contribution to UN peacekeeping by constantly providing niche capabilities, critical enablers, modern technologies and uniformed personal. Current discussions are based on the establishment of a possible platform to allow the UN to communicate directly with member states of the EU. Fourth, better cooperation in the areas of Rule of Law and SSR is needed through the establishment of a mapping study of UN and EU support efforts to SSR, which will better coordination and avoid duplication. Additionally, both organizations are currently working towards the development of a joint SSR missions with the AU. Fifth, informational and analysis exchange are maintained notably through Steering Committees that focus discussions on specific areas such as strategic reviews, cooperation in planning, etc. Sixth, the finalisation of the framework agreement on support and logistics needs to be facilitated because current situation constitutes a real challenge when it comes to the deployment of missions of both organizations in the sample place. Current discussions to finalize this priority are particularly based on mutual support in the field, and the hand-over of equipment. Finally, EU-UN works on the follow-up to the EU Plan of Action, and seek to continue the implementation of actions.

Mrs Sundstrom ended her address by reiterating the importance of EU-AU cooperation. Stating that EU-AU cooperation is key as most of UN peace operations occur in Africa. In light of this, it is crucial that both organizations develop a common understanding with its limitations and possibilities in order to bring tangible results in the field. For this to happen, smaller and context-specific projects need to be established.

Benoit Lot

LCL Benoit Lot took the floor and spoke about three topics. The first one elaborated more on the importance of EU-AU partnership, he then emphasised on how the trilateral cooperation would tackle today’s challenges in the EU-AU cooperation and finally shared some good experiences in trilateral cooperation.

LCL Lot started by clarifying that the cooperation in peacekeeping between the EU and the AU is quite peculiar as it is not only a relationship between two organizations managing their own peacekeeping operations in the same area but also a relationship between a donor and a beneficiary, with all the possible implications. The AU-EU cooperation is a classical one, in the sense that they deploy military operations in the same area (EUFOR). However, the currently deployed missions are: security sector capacity building missions (SSR), including EUCAP, EUTM, EUNAM. He noted that in this cooperation, there is little cooperation on the ground, re-hatting and handing over is not possible.

LCL Lot further explained that EU-AU bilateral cooperation is also done through the African Peace Facility (APF), which enhances the African Peace and Security Architecture, but is only achieved upon the request of the AU. He indicated that the African contingent is ready to launch tough combat missions that neither the EU nor the UN can do. In his perspective, this bilateral cooperation is facing a few challenges. The first one emanates from the AU because it has weak financial management capacities and it is unable to do the procurement fast enough. Moreover, it lacks efficiency on the ground, mainly due to its lack of training and equipment. On the other hand, the EU stresses on the financial resources and its training capacity and equipment for contingents is limited.

Furthermore, the EU expects the following for a better trilateral cooperation: More transparency when the AU requests financial, equipment or logistical support from the EU, UN or any other donor. Transparency would avoid overlapping and enhance a better burden sharing, along with improving cooperation between missions on the field and exchange of information. An area that could be explored is the creation of a liaison embedded officers between the three organizations. However, this last recommendation would not be viable because, contrary to the AU, the EU cannot allow an external officer to be briefed on its matters before the Member States.

Additionally LCL Lot went over the practical experience in the trilateral cooperation. In fact, since January 2015, the AU-UN-EU have had monthly cluster meetings on current and potential crisis situation in Addis Ababa (Ethiopa). The African Union Commission (AUC) and the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) together with EU delegations meet to share assessment of each other’s organization and identify possible joint actions. Secondly, there is a fruitful trilateral cooperation in the Security Sector Reform (SSR), aiming at building and developing the capacity of the AU in this area in term of technical, managerial and material resources. This cooperation works in the following way: it is financed by the EU, implemented by United Nations Office For Project Services (UNOPS), for the benefit of the AU. The main outcomes are the establishment of an AU SSR office, the organization of seminars and joint assessment of missions conducted in Guinea Bissau, CAR, Madagascar and Mali.

As a closing remarque, LCL Lot mentioned that the trilateral cooperation is still in an infancy stage. An enhanced trilateral cooperation could help us address some of the issues the three organizations are facing in peacekeeping. The first step should be the mutual understanding of each other’s organization. Finally, this trilateral cooperation should not be seen as the Holy Grail, therefore it should not prevent us “to tied up our own houses in order to improve our capacities”.

Our two speakers both agreed that the trilateral cooperation in peacekeeping was important for the three organizations. However, a common understanding is imperative. Besides, efforts need to be done from each organization in order to achieve this goal at the strategic, political and operational level.

The conference was followed by a light reception where our guest speakers kindly accepted to join and share more of their experience.

The Institute for Peace in Partnership would like to thank Lisa Sundstrom and Benoit Lot for honouring us of their presence and their fruitful insight. We would also like to thank Vesalius College for hosting this conference.

Magalie Bemba & Bora Kamwanya

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