Saturday, May 15, 2010

Africa: Nigeria, South Africa move for security reforms at UN

A strategic alliance is forming between Nigeria and South Africa at the United Nations (UN), as both countries are now leading efforts to refocus the world body's Security Sector Reform (SSR). At the sane time, Africans are now also beginning to press for more leadership positions at the global body.

The United Nations Secretariat had come under increased pressures following claims from African diplomats who, for instance are dissatisfied that many of the UN missions in Africa are headed by non-Africans, a situation that is partly forcing some African countries to push back against such UN missions.

UN sources reveal that a recent instance is the case of the UN mission in Chad where the Africans simply asked the UN to close its mission in the country, forcing the UN to negotiate a short extension till the end of this year. But UN Secretariat sources also explained that the incumbent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is expected to increase the involvement of which African diplomats in leadership positions in UN peacekeeping missions as discussions on the matter continue at the world body.

Specifically, of the six active UN missions in Africa, only two are manned by Africans - a Nigerian and an Egyptian. The four others are leaded by nationals from UN member-states like the United Kingdom, South Korea, Pakistan and Portugal.

Similar, the situation is the same at the UN Security Sector Reforms which deals with the issue of how to restructure the security agencies in a country just coming out of wars or other civil and military conflicts. While many of such countries which the United Nations engage with on Security Sector Reforms are from Africa, Nigeria and South Africa are expressing concern that the current UN approach lacks adequate African perspective.

A joint statement issued at the UN earlier this week announced that the permanent missions of both Nigeria and South Africa would be hosting a major UN High-Level Forum today to deal with the issue and proffer alternatives to the world body. Although Nigeria and South Africa are jointly hosting the event, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Netherlands to the UN is credited with providing "generous funding," to facilitate the forum.

For instance, while most of the current UN SSR programmes have an exit strategy of getting the UN peacekeepers out of a conflict zone, Africans at the UN, led by Nigeria and South Africa are arguing that the SSR should actually be an entrance strategy that could help such post-conflict states to properly develop effective and long-lasting security sectors over time.

According to the statement issued by the Nigerian and South African missions to the UN, "as experience in several cases has shown, SSR sustainability and viability are dependent on the legitimacy, which comes from the perspectives of and ownership by states and societies undergoing reform."

Continuing, the statement added that "there is a gap in prevailing SSR-related policy discourse, which tends not to adequately integrate the perspectives of African member states as both recipients and providers of SSR assistance."

Specifically, the two countries are demanding that the UN create a dedicated unit for "articulating African perspectives on SSR as a critical contribution to the UN SSR agenda." Also, both countries are asking for the promotion of the AU-UN Strategic partnership on SSR.

The UN High Level Forum will be held at the Nigeria House in New York, where it will be co-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Nigeria and South Africa, Ambassadors U. Joy Ogwu and Baso Sangqu, both of whom will speak at the event.

Other speakers include the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Mr. Tete Antonio, the Permanent Observer, African Union Mission to the UN. Dr. Adedeji Ebo, the Chief of the SSR unit at the UN Department of Peacekeeping, will moderate the forum, which, according to the joint statement, is being funded by the government of The Netherlands.

A background paper on the High-level Forum stated that "there has been only limited dialogue among countries receiving external SSR support and few opportunities to openly discuss the dynamic challenges and opportunities of SSR assistance, including donor coordination, conceptual issues and other challenges."

The forum will therefore bring together all UN Permanent Representatives and UN secretariat officials to discuss the issue and develop new strategies that might lead to creation of specific units within the UN to manage SSR from the African perspectives.

By coming together to host this forum, Nigeria and South Africa may be sending a notice of a renewed African solidarity to push for the advancement of African issues generally at the UN.

By Laolu Akande

Source: The Guardian (14/05/2010)

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