International Peacekeeping in Africa

International Peacekeeping in Africa

The Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, will hold a conference from 23-24 November 2012 on International Peacekeeping in Africa. Over the last decades, the African continent has witnessed a marked increase in peacekeeping missions and the number of actors involved in them. In turn, these increases have led to new and diverse types of peacekeeping operations. This conference seeks to analyze these developments, both in their entirety and comparatively, in order to identify the most significant challenges and trends that international peacekeepers face in Africa today.

Africa has been the scene of numerous armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Recent events in Congo, Sudan, Somalia, or Côte d’Ivoire remind us that violence remains endemic on the continent and continues to hamper institutional, social, and economic development. The international community has attempted to address this problem through a variety of means, of which peacekeeping efforts have become the most visible. Yes, this preferred means of conflict resolution lost its luster after the setbacks experienced in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, and Rwanda, but after a period of reflection and reappraisal peacekeeping operations regained their stature as an efficient and reliable way to promote peace. As a result, the number of these missions has proliferated in Africa.

Simultaneously, the increase in missions has been accompanied by an increased number of participants, which has led to a change in their nature. UN operations, for example, have been joined by regional organizations, most prominently the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU), and by sub-regional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At the same time, and in light of what has been identified as a ‘new scramble for Africa’, great and regional powers have rekindled their interest in the continent and, as a consequence, in local peacekeeping efforts. This multiplication of actors, along with the varying interests and motivations they represent, has led to missions that have become increasingly diverse in terms of their typology and composition. But despite what has become a multitude of missions, actors, and approaches, international peacekeeping efforts in Africa continue to face many challenges and have disputed impacts.

Indeed, the recent proliferation of peacekeeping missions and those who participate in them has not been sufficiently analyzed, either comparatively or in terms of its entirety. Our ability to extrapolate general trends has therefore not been easy – there are, after all, the combined interests and actions of various actors to consider. Given these problems, this conference seeks to identify these actors, their particular interests and strategies, and their interactions. The focus will be not only on the actors on the ground, i.e., the peacekeepers, but also on those powers and organizations that influence peacekeeping missions more broadly, both during their establishment and once they are deployed. Furthermore, the conference aims to take a closer look at the composition and the types of recent or current peacekeeping missions. Whereas the majority of operations are being carried out by the UN, there are also missions being conducted under the flag of individual countries or under the auspices of regional or even sub-regional organizations. If this division of labor isn’t complicated enough, we then have the role of pivotal states to consider, the multinational composition of the forces deployed, and the different types of partnerships that different organizations and countries might enter into.

Ultimately, we cannot understand international peacekeeping operations in Africa today if we fail to analyze the different types of missions being performed, the relevant actors who create them, and the most significant challenges and trends they face. As a consequence of exploring these issues, conference participants will finally publish their selected papers in an edited volume or/and a journal special issue.