UN peacekeeping officials meet with the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic. Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic, July 6, 2014. (UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina)

UN peacekeeping officials meet with the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic. Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic, July 6, 2014. (UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina)

One of several landmark decisions taken at the 27th African Union Summit held earlier this month in Kigali, Rwanda, was approval of a funding model for the new AU Peace Fund. Indeed, AU Chairperson Idriss Déby said it was the most important outcome of the summit. “For the first time, the continent is taking charge of its own destiny,” Deby said, adding that the plan would put an end to the “frustrating and troublesome dependency on outside financing.” The announcement moves the AU toward a more complementary relationship with the United Nations. Rather than act as an effective subsidiary of the world body, it will be able to fund more of its own peace operations and work to achieve the overall strategy of the AU Peace and Security Architecture.

In January 2015, African heads of state agreed to pay for at least a quarter of the AU’s peace and security activities by 2020, with the remainder coming from the UN. The outgoing African Development Bank President, Donald Kaberuka, was subsequently appointed High Representative for the AU Peace Fund and asked to formulate a clear roadmap for financing these activities. The recent AU Summit approved Dr. Kaberuka’s recommendations, with the fund expected to gain $65 million a year from each of the continent’s five sub-regions ($325 million total) through a levy of 0.2% on selected imports into Africa. This provision will increase to $80 million per region by 2020. This levy should enable member states to fully fund the functioning of the AU Commission and cover 25% of African peace operations. The central beneficiaries will be the AU’s five peace and security programs: the African Standby Force, the Panel of the Wise, the Continental Early Warning System, Capacity Building, and Conflict Prevention.

Previously, between 2008 and 2011, African states provided just 2% of the AU’s core peace and security activities, with five countries—South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Libya, and Algeria—covering the bulk of it. The remaining 98% came from international donors, which resulted in a very strong interdependence and a subordinate role for African countries in decision-making. Not only did African peace operations led by the AU need UN authorization—in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter—but the continent’s leaders were also unable to credibly claim that Africa could solve its own problems. Now, the AU could, for the first time, have a predictable and sustainable funding mechanism that grows over time, providing it with more independence and greater leverage. The new funding model will also lay the groundwork for a more complementary and equal relationship with the UN, which is a long-term goal of both institutions, as highlighted in the African Common Position on the Peace Operations Review, as well as last year’s High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s response to its report. Read more