Developing capacity for peace and security of African States requires sustained partnerships

ICRC Statement to the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Peace and Security in Africa: Strengthening peacekeeping operations in Africa”

Mr. President, thank you for giving the ICRC the opportunity to contribute to this debate on Strengthening Peacekeeping Operations in Africa.

The largest peacekeeping operations are currently deployed in Africa. Regional coalitions have also increased in response to the security challenges on the continent. The ICRC is aware of these challenges because we operate in the same contexts. Forty percent of our budget is dedicated to this region. From South Sudan to the Sahel, the ICRC is mandated to protect and assist victims of armed conflict on a neutral, impartial, and independent basis.

Today, I want to address two points on how the international community can effectively assist the AU and African States in building their capacity for peace and security.

First, we can support the commitment of African States to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and other applicable legal frameworks.

It is critical that the UN and AU-mandated forces are clear on which legal framework governs their operations. Promising steps have been taken by the AU to establish a framework that will foster greater respect for IHL and international human rights law. The AU and its member States have also committed to high standards in the conduct and discipline of their peacekeeping personnel.

On our part, the ICRC has long assisted African States in the integration of international standards into their national law. The ICRC is currently supporting the AU in the enhancement of its Compliance Framework. In addition, every year, the AU and the ICRC co-organize a roundtable in Addis Ababa to discuss challenges and best practices of peacekeeping operations, addressing IHL and the protection of civilians.

Second, we can provide assistance in terms of training.

In this time of enhanced partnership, the UN, the AU, Member States and international organizations must ensure that troops and police are adequately trained on applicable legal standards. Training modules need to be comprehensive, tailored to the mandate and relevant to operational needs. For example, many peacekeeping operations conduct law enforcement tasks. Therefore, police components need to be reinforced; and when military contingents are involved, law enforcement principles should be translated into actionable military guidance.

On the ICRC's part, we contribute to the training effort. Last year, we conducted sessions on legal standards and humanitarian priorities for more than 25'000 peacekeepers, including 16'000 from African States. The ICRC also participates in the AU-led discussions on training standards, including on the operationalization of the African Standby Force.

In addition, the ICRC has expertise on health to share, from its first-aid and pre-hospital emergency care programmes to the treatment and management of the weapon-wounded.

The determination of the AU and African States to resolve their own problems is commendable. In engaging together on peacekeeping operations, the ICRC has seen the benefits of close collaboration on both the respect of legal norms and on training.

Developing the capacity for peace and security of the AU and African States is critical and requires sustained partnerships within the international community.