Time is running out for Africa’s contribution to the Future Summit

Time is running out for Africa’s contribution to the Future Summit

Africa cannot afford to remain absent from the major restructuring of global governance undertaken by the UN.

September’s United Nations (UN) Future Summit is being touted as a crucial moment to forge a new pact that can better address global governance challenges. The UN calls the event a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate global action, renew commitment to founding principles and further develop the frameworks of multilateralism to make them fit for the future.”

Why should Africa care about the summit?

The global conflict rate increased more than 40% between 2020 and 2023, with a 12% increase in 2023 compared to 2022. Two of the world’s 10 most violent countries are in Africa: Nigeria and Sudan. In these and other hotspots such as eastern DRC, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, insecurity is rising while the humanitarian situation deteriorates.

These challenges highlight gaps in global and regional peace and security frameworks. Divisions in the UN Security Council (UNSC) have hampered its ability to resolve crises such as the war between Ukraine and Russia through, for example, mediation. The council has also not authorized a new peacekeeping mission since 2014. Numerous missions have had to be reconfigured due to waning political support from the UN Security Council or the host government.

Africa’s collective responses to the conflict are equally fraught. The Chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, recently lamented that the recurring decisions of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) are ignored and violated, and have become unimportant and without impact. Divergent interpretations of the principle of subsidiarity governing relations between the AU and regional blocs continue to hamper coordination in addressing regional crises.

The UN Security Council has not authorized a new peace mission since 2014

The summit could help address these security challenges. Since the zero draft of the Future Pact – the summit’s preparatory document – ​​was published in January, negotiations have gained momentum in New York, with UN member states firmly committed to the various versions.

Africa has a unique interest in these debates. It holds 28% of the UN membership and the continent’s security issues often dominate the UNSC agenda. The summit could be used to advocate for reforms that adapt to Africa’s changing security needs. But so far, both the summit and the pact have received a lukewarm reception in Africa, including in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the AU.

Among other things, the draft Compact for the Future highlights the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for AU subregional and peace support operations. Welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2719 on peacekeeping and encourages enhanced collaboration between the UN and AU to ensure its implementation.

These discussions are especially relevant considering the recent withdrawals of UN peacekeepers in Africa and the pressing question of how to fill the security gaps they leave behind. The summit could even provide the impetus to implement the AU’s July 2023 decision to review the African Peace and Security Architecture.

It is also an opportunity to discuss reconfiguring the UNSC and strengthening the UN’s role in addressing contemporary crises. The draft pact includes a section on reform of the UN Security Council, which could correct Africa’s insufficient representation on the council. Text-based negotiations could help achieve the AU position that Africa has two permanent seats with veto power and five non-permanent seats, according to the Ezulwini Consensus and the 2005 Sirte Declaration.

Africa has 28% of UN members and its security issues dominate the UNSC agenda

The pact’s zero draft also includes a section on reforming international financial institutions, a crucial step in creating a global economic system that better meets Africa’s development needs.

The pact specifically refers to Africa and the AU, recognizing the body and its subregional actors as partners to lead a new generation of peace enforcement missions and counterterrorism operations.

And yet, there has been limited engagement with the issue in the AU or among member states. Although some AU officials have spoken about Africa’s priorities at the Future Summit, the last AU summit did not cover the event or its preparatory processes.

A co-facilitator of the pact said few African states were helping to shape Africa’s position. The most visible commitment came from the AU Economic, Social and Cultural Council, which raised awareness and held consultations on input for the pact.

Perhaps the AU’s focus on the G20 since its admission in September 2023 has overshadowed preparations for the Future Summit. The limited interest from African countries may also reflect their skepticism that the event will produce tangible changes in the face of unprecedented global divisions. In any case, failure to compromise runs the risk of relegating African priorities in the final version of the pact and, ultimately, in the summit.

The summit is also a springboard for the UN’s review of peacebuilding by 2025. Africa could use the opportunity to design monitoring mechanisms that reflect the continent’s needs.

The summit has received a lukewarm reception in Africa, including in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the AU.

AU member states and other African stakeholders could participate in the summit in several ways. Firstly, the PSC could organize a specific open session on the event and mobilize Africa’s position according to the five chapters of the pact.

As co-facilitator of the summit and member of the PSC, Namibia could brief PSC members on key issues and ways to obtain input from African states. Namibia could also coordinate its mission in New York and Addis Ababa to brief the PSC on developments.

The role of the United Nations African Group in New York in the negotiations must be prioritized. Achieving strong continental positions requires coordination between the PSC in Addis Ababa and the group. The three non-permanent African members of the UNSC (Algeria, Mozambique and Sierra Leone) could also brief the African Group on the summit and its possible outcomes.

Civil society organizations can help broaden the coalition for the compact at the UN Civil Society Conference on May 9-10 in Nairobi, which focuses on the Future Summit. African think tanks and networks can provide analysis and advocacy using platforms such as the AU Think Tanks for Peace Network, which fosters strategic alliances between the AU and researchers.

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