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Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (II): Southern Africa
Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (II): Southern Africa
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership
Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership
Report 191 / Africa

Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (II): Southern Africa

To preserve Southern Africa’s relative peace in the face of rising challenges and threats, Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states must collectively reinforce its peace and security architecture.

Executive Summary

The last part of Africa to be decolonised, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, remains one of the most peaceful. Yet, despite comprehensive protocols and agreements, SADC faces acute challenges characterised by tensions between member states, resource deficits, citizens’ exclusion, social discontent and limited internal and external coordination. Regional security cooperation requires adept infrastructures underwritten by political commitment; but the organisation’s Secretariat appears powerless to ensure policy implementation. It must develop an effective common security policy framework, improve coordination with international partners, harmonise and clarify its role with other SADC structures, broaden engagement with civil society, ensure member-state commitment to African Union (AU) efforts on human and people’s rights and build capacity for evaluation and monitoring. As long as national sovereignty prevails over regional interests, however, the success of SADC mechanisms, notably in conflict resolution, will remain limited.

The region faces a range of evolving peace and security threats, including maritime security and piracy, cyber and technology-driven security threats, and socio-economic unrest. Beyond efforts to respond to these challenges, policy implementation capacity and information and response mechanisms are urgently required. SADC’s intervention in Madagascar and Zimbabwe has exposed the region’s limited capacity to enforce agreements it has brokered. Ad hoc and under-resourced mediation imposes additional burdens and responsibilities on the mediators. Civil society engagement in SADC processes in the two countries has been at best tangential, confirming the gulf between the regional body and its citizens. The Madagascar and Zimbabwe cases also highlight that structural governance deficits and politicised security sectors exacerbate conflict. SADC’s mediation efforts reveal the complexities and challenges of dealing with unconstitutional changes in government, contested elections and violations of the region’s electoral code.

A fragmented approach to crisis and the absence of a common policy hinder security cooperation. Member states pursue detached objectives without a consistent set of principles and policies in this area coordinated at the regional level. This reinforces their reluctance to cede authority to a SADC centralised structure. Regional commitment to the rule of law suffered from the decision of the SADC heads of state and government to confine the jurisdiction of its tribunal to interpretations of treaties and protocols relating to disputes between member states. The decision removes the right to individual petition, and without an alternate explanation from SADC’s leadership, can be considered a reversal of previous gains in human security and people’s rights.

SADC is keen to establish a mediation unit led by “elders” appointed by consensus between member states and supported by a credible and efficient resource team. Though the framework and operational methodology were approved in 2010, the organisation is yet to implement it. Regional conflict resolution efforts must incorporate military diplomacy options to address growing security sector influence in conflicts and their potential resolution. The establishment of national committees in each member state will buttress civil society participation in SADC policy formulation and implementation, as mandated by the treaty.

A culture of political solidarity among member states remains, fostered by a common liberation struggle history and a stated commitment to non-interference in the internal politics of others. This has inhibited effective preventive diplomacy and provided justification for non-engagement in cases of potential conflict and security threats. Despite the establishment of an early warning system in 2010, it is not clear if and how SADC utilises the conflict signals arising in the region and how best this infrastructure could be enhanced. Decision-making is consensual and rests solely with the heads of state and government and ministerial committees. The secretariat is expected to function as SADC’s implementing arm, but lacks capacity and the authority to enforce decisions and is not empowered to engage in independent diplomatic action to address conflict situations.

The SADC Standby Force has demonstrated its readiness for deployment, successfully conducting joint exercises, though it needs further strengthening to expand its humanitarian and disaster management roles. It has not fully incorporated a civilian component, which is necessary to provide for human security as specified by the AU. SADC has no post-conflict reconstruction program or security sector reform policy framework to underpin sustainable peace. This reflects the prominence of bilateral over multilateral security cooperation, as well as varying geopolitical interests, the exclusive alliance of countries with liberation struggle history, and sensitivities regarding possible hegemonic domination. South Africa’s role and potential in this regard are particularly pertinent, as are its relations with Angola, the second most influential SADC member.

Foreign partnerships around peace and security are disjointed and are not tied to a coherent strategy to build infrastructure and capacity. This manifests in the misapplication of resources and competing interests among SADC’s international cooperating partners (ICPs). The organisation should support the implementation of the regional coordination platform for international partners, and consider how best to broaden engagement beyond traditional donors and partners.

The inter-governmental status of SADC limits the enforcement and monitoring of member states’ compliance to its peace and security framework. Although political solidarity exists, relations between some of the regional leaders are fragile, even fraught, which has negatively affected sustainable regional security cooperation. However, compared to other challenges on the continent, Southern Africa is regarded as relatively peaceful. This affords it an important opportunity to build and consolidate its peace and security capacity.

Johannesburg/Brussels, 15 October 2012

Kofi Annan’s Lessons in Global Leadership

Originally published in Project Syndicate

Sadly, principled statesmen and women who can forge bold, morally consistent responses to today's global problems are in short supply. We must therefore safeguard and promote the virtues that the former UN secretary-general embodied.

The world is facing a set of acute crises without recent parallel: a war in Europe that could escalate into a nuclear conflict, skyrocketing food prices that are hitting the poor the hardest, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the climate emergency. We need principled statesmen and women to forge bold, morally consistent responses to these and other global problems. Sadly, such leaders are in short supply.

Many politicians prefer to advocate polarizing policies, avoid hard choices, and deny the scale of the threats at hand. Others have tried to address these issues honestly. But those who favor cooperation and solidarity in dealing with global threats are on the defensive, as last year’s underwhelming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and grossly unequal global access to COVID-19 vaccines clearly illustrate.

In times like these, we should recognize and honor those leaders who do try to tackle global challenges responsibly and constructively. Twenty-five years ago, one such figure, Kofi Annan, became UN secretary-general at another moment of global disorder, amid the political uncertainty and regional conflicts that followed the end of the Cold War. Although he could not have known it then, the UN system would soon face the traumas of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

Kofi led the UN with humanity and strategic vision. He revolutionized international development programming by launching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursor of today’s Sustainable Development Goals. He built innovative partnerships such as the Global Fund – which brings together civil society, the private sector, and international agencies – to combat HIV/AIDS. He oversaw the dispatch of UN peacekeepers to stabilize and rebuild weak states, like Liberia, and help build new ones, like Timor-Leste. And he ushered in the idea of an international “responsibility to protect” the vulnerable from mass atrocities.

[Kofi Annan seeked] to make [the UN] more open, inclusive, and transparent.

As the UN’s administrator, Kofi cared deeply about the institution where he had spent most of his working life, seeking to make it more open, inclusive, and transparent. He was also the first secretary-general to develop a link between the UN and the private sector, and strongly supported civil society.

Moreover, he urged the major powers to reform the Security Council to reflect post-Cold War realities. He would not have been surprised by the Council’s current inaction over Ukraine, although it would not have deterred him from doing all he could to halt the conflict.

As a public figure, Kofi enjoyed a level of global recognition and respect that most national leaders he worked with could only envy. This was partly because he had a decency and instinctive respect for others that struck all those who met him. He brought out the best in his colleagues and could laugh with them – and at himself – even in moments of high pressure. He connected easily with young people, inspiring them and giving them hope. While UN officials respectfully referred to “Mr. Annan,” to many, including us, he was simply “Kofi.”

In addition to his personal qualities, Kofi grounded his leadership in certain basic principles. One of these was a deep respect for the rules and institutions of the post-war international order, reflected in the UN Charter, which he saw as undergirding peace and security.

This does not mean that he was always cautious. Although he could be pragmatic when necessary, he also took risks. In 1998, he traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in an effort to avert war in the Middle East, and he supported the establishment of the International Criminal Court, despite fierce opposition from successive US administrations.

[Kofi Annan] was dogged in his pursuit of peace, even where … the chances of success were slim.

To be sure, Kofi knew that not all of his diplomatic gambles would pay off. He was dogged in his pursuit of peace, even where – as with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the chances of success were slim. After stepping down as secretary-general at the end of 2006, he continued to work as a peacemaker in countries ranging from Kenya and Syria to Myanmar. He was sometimes frustrated, but he continued the demanding work of building relationships with mistrustful political actors until his death, in 2018.

Kofi was driven by a fundamental concern for the dignity and welfare of all people, especially the most vulnerable. This informed his advocacy for not only the MDGs but also fair elections and democratic institutions. He cast himself as a global advocate for the common good, arguing that countries shared a “common destiny” and that “we can master it only if we face it together.”

It is easy to admire Kofi’s virtues in retrospect, but it is more difficult than ever for leaders to replicate them in the present. In an era of populism and division, those who champion solidarity and unity – within or between countries – are often drowned out in public discourse. It is therefore vital to speak up more loudly on their behalf.

For this reason, our organizations – the Kofi Annan Foundation, the International Crisis Group, the International Peace Institute, and the Open Society Foundations – have joined forces to launch a new initiative to celebrate leaders who reflect Kofi’s qualities. Later this year, and in each succeeding year, we will invite a national leader or inspiring international figure to give a lecture in New York on the values of international cooperation. We will select the speakers based on their commitment to human rights, international solidarity, and the defense of the international system that characterized Kofi’s life and work.

“I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead,” Kofi said in 2014. “Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.” Now more than ever, we must safeguard, celebrate, and promote the virtues he embodied.

For more information about the Kofi Annan Lecture series see here.

Contributors

Nane Annan
Wife of the late Kofi Annan, nutrition advocate, artist, and former lawyer
President & CEO
EroComfort
Susana Malcorra
Co-Chairs Crisis Group, former foreign minister of Argentina
Mark Malloch-Brown
Member of Crisis Group's Executive Committee, former deputy United Nations secretary-general, co-chair of the UN Foundation, and President of the Open Society Foundations
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
Former UN high commissioner for human rights, President of the International Peace Institute