President Cyril Ramaphosa just returned from the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) that was held in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia over the weekend.
The main focus of the AU summit was institutional reform within the continental body, stock of progress made thus far, deliberated on outstanding issues and challenges and considered a variety of proposals and recommendations. South Africa has been a strong supporter of institutional reforms of the organisation and the creation of an efficient and cost-effective union.
Towards the start of 2019, South Africa will be one of Africa’s three representatives on the UN Security Council (UNSC), replacing Ethiopia – the largest troop-contributing country to the UN and a strong champion of peacekeeping during its term on the council.
“The country can use this opportunity to actively promote more effective peacekeeping responses by the UN, while also repositioning itself as a troop-contributing country,” said Gustavo de Carvalho, Senior Researcher, Peace Operations and Peacebuilding, at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.
Peacekeeping has been a priority for South African foreign policy since the late 1990s, and was presented as one of the key focus areas during its campaign to join the council, explained de Carvalho. During previous tenures on the UNSC Pretoria successfully pushed for the strengthening of UN-AU relations.
However, in relation to peacekeeping discussions in the Security Council, it won’t be an easy task for South Africa, asserted the ISS analyst.
A recent study by the ISS showed that despite its diplomatic successes the country has also lost some of its visibility in UN peace and security matters and has contributed less to peacekeeping contributions over the years. Currently it employs 1 242 personnel in UN operations, mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Ramaphosa will have to deal with how effective peace operations on the continent are being compromised by continual geopolitical differences between UNSC members, particularly the permanent members of the organisation, when it takes its seat at the beginning of next year.
In addition to the political differences,there have been numerous debates on peacekeeping budgets, largely pushed by the US, as well as calls for strengthening accountability and the behaviour of African leaders to be used as a litmus test for performance measurement.
But creative politicking by European and African leaders, including Ramaphosa, has identified ways to overcome the disagreements which regularly deadlock UNSC debates.
South Africa has already began to engage with the Council informally. Two days of talks together with Sweden were hosted last week with the E10 (non-permanent members of the UNSC), including outgoing and ingoing countries.
“Some incoming members, such as Belgium and Germany, have strong interests in peacekeeping and have previously served on the Security Council with South Africa. Alliances could be made to move discussions forward,” said de Carvalho.
-African News Agency (ANA)