Aswan Forum: Fostering Africa’s ownership of its peace and security agenda

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Between December 11 and 12, 2019, the inaugural meeting of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development under the theme: “An Agenda for Sustainable Peace, Security and Development in Africa,” was held in Aswan, Egypt

 

African leaders at the inaugural Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development in Aswan, Egypt    Photo credit: Aswan Forum

 

One of the greatest threats to Africa`s immense potential for growth is the myriads of armed conflicts currently swaying in various parts of the continent; these conflicts which include the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad region, separatist armed insurgencies around the territories of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the Al Shabab militant group operations in East and Horn of Africa regions as well as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operations in the Sahel and Maghreb regions, amongst others.

These series of interconnected conflicts have been recognized as constituting one of the greatest impediments to achieving peace and stability in Africa, including the successful realization of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, whose Aspiration 4 seeks for sustainable peace, security and development in Africa.  Consequently, the continent remains one of the world’s most conflict burdened region with millions of Africans currently displaced all across the continent.

It was in recognition of the critical importance of attaining sustainable peace and stability on the continent that the AU came up with the Silencing the Guns in Africa campaign – one of the flagship projects under the First Ten Year Implementation Plan (FTYIP) of Agenda 2063.  The campaign is aimed at achieving a conflict-free continent i.e ending all wars, civil conflicts, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), human rights violations in Africa, by 2020.

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It was also on this premise, upon Egypt’s assumption of the chairmanship of the African Union, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt H.E. Abdelfattah el-Sisi, announced the launch of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development: a unique platform for conversations on the nexus between peace, security and development in Africa.

The inaugural Aswan Forum, which featured the signing of an agreement between AU and Egypt on Egypt’s hosting of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AUC-PCRD), further consolidates Egypt’s role as champion of post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa. Scheduled to be held December of every year, the Forum aims to address the interrelationship between sustainable peace and development as well as championing Africa-led solutions to the continent’s myriads of security challenges, by strengthening policies-practices linkages.

Held December 11 – 12, 2019, in Aswan, Egypt, delegates at the well-attended maiden Aswan Forum deliberated on the greatest threats to peace and security on the African continent. It had in attendance high-level African leaders including some African Heads of State and Government as well as representatives of various regional, continental and global multilateral organizations, private sector and civil society.

“[The Forum] provided national, regional, and international actors and stakeholders with a unique opportunity to take stock of current opportunities and challenges of achieving peace, security and development in Africa, so as to develop context specific and action-oriented recommendations and tools to advance the implementation of sustainable development and sustaining peace agendas in Africa,” says the Aswan Forum.

According to the outcome statement of the Forum, the nature and scope of the opportunities promising to transform the continent’s security and development landscapes, underscored the need for a quick paradigm shift from crisis management to achieving sustainable peace and development, by means of a ‘peace-development continuum.’ The Forum also emphasized the adequacy of Africa’s existing normative and legal frameworks in advancing this paradigm shift. It however noted as Africa’s primary challenge, the operationalization of these frameworks.

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To achieve this transformation, the Forum noted, Africa must take ownership of its peace and development agendas and take measures such as operationalization of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AUC-PCRD); Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda; Ending situations of forced displacement; Managing extremism and building post-terrorism governance orders; as well as Making African-led Peace Support Operations (PSOs) part of the broader political engagement process.

“Conflict prevention is a state-owned responsibility. It requires political leadership and commitment. If owned by the state, conflict prevention becomes a sovereignty enhancer. To prevent societies from descending into conflict, the prevention agenda must be integrated into national policies with the sustainable development goals at the core of this approach,” noted the Forum.

Furthermore, outcome of the Aswan Forum encouraged African countries to utilize the various continental conflict prevention instruments provided by the AU Continental Structural Conflict Prevention Framework such as the Country Structural Vulnerability Assessments (CSVRAs) and the Country Structural Vulnerability Mitigation Strategies (CSVMSs), to help in identifying and addressing the root causes as well as structural drivers of conflict and violence on the continent.

Regarding the utilization of African-led Peace Support Operations (PSOs) as part of a broader political engagement, the Forum noted the need to ensure synergy and complementarity between military operations aimed at containing violence and generating stability and the reinforcement of long-term post-conflict reconstruction and development efforts. “In this connection, African countries and the AU are encouraged to continue to adapt the AU’s PSO doctrine, as well as the African Standby Force (ASF) concept, to better reflect the kind of operations that the AU and Regional Economic Communities/Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) have undertaken over the past decade, and are likely to undertake in the future,” said the statement.

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The Forum further urged the AU to support Member States in their quest to advance the comprehensive and meaningful implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda as well as support African countries emerging from conflict to develop, adopt, and implement National Action Plans (NAPs). It also urged the AU to leverage the unique position of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise-Africa) in advancing the broader agenda of conflict prevention and sustaining peace on the continent.

The inaugural Aswan Forum, which took place on the eve of the commencement of the AU’s year for silencing the guns in Africa (2020) couldn’t have come at a better time than now. The Forum’s outcome will no doubt feature in discussions at the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, taking place under the AU’s theme for 2020: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” come February 9 – 10, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

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