In an effort towards reducing the African Union’s (AU) financial dependency on external donors, the organization adopted a new funding mechanism at the recently concluded 27th AU Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda. The adopted approach, a tax levy of 0.2 percent on ‘eligible’ imports of all of its member states, had been recommended by a team led by AU Peace Fund high representative Dr. Donald Kaberuka. Starting January 2017, the new levy will contribute funds to the AU general budget and its programs and is expected to raise approximately $1.2 billion in 2017. This should enable AU member states to fully cover the costs for the functioning of the AU Commission and 75 percent of its programs (to date, 90 percent of the AU’s program budget has been funded by external donors). Additionally, each of the continent’s five regions have committed to paying $65 million into the AU Peace Fund. A gradual increase is expected to reach $80 million per region by the year 2020. This helps realize the commitment by African states made in 2015, to finance 25 percent of the cost of African peace operations.

If implemented as planned, the decision will lessen the AU’s financial dependency and help the organization move towards a more sustainable and transparent funding framework. Relating to peace and security, the plan contributes to providing more sustainable and predictable sources of funding for African peace operations. To date, more than 90 percent of the African peace and security budget as well as African peace operations have been funded by the AU’s external partners. Given the obvious signs of donor fatigue the AU’s new funding arrangement signals an eleventh hour political response by member-states to boost the autonomy of Africa’s institutions and meet demands from various partners who have repeatedly called for an equitable balance between domestic and external funding.

In a recent example, the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) created by the African Union on January 19, 2007 has been funded by the EU African Peace Facility (APF) and the UN. Earlier this year, the EU reduced its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent signaling that resources from the APF were also needed elsewhere on the continent, notably to support the fight against Boko Haram in West Africa. The decision perhaps had an inadvertent effect since it added to the pressures built up to shift the financial responsibility for African peace operations such as AMISOM more evenly across UN member states, as well as to increase levels of African self-funding.

African peace operations have deployed into some of the world’s most complex and active conflict zones such as Somalia, Lake Chad Basin and Central African Republic. These have been funded through unpredictable and ad hoc financing mechanisms, posing challenges for medium- to long-term planning of interventions, and favoring reactive security measures over more multidimensional ones. Placing such operations on a stable financial footing is a critical achievement not only for the AU and the sub-regional organizations, but also for the UN Security Council, particularly in the area of peace and security, where the UN and AU have shared interests in building a more cohesive and equal strategic partnership.

Dr. Kaberuka and the AU Peace and Security Commissioner, Amb. Smaïl Chergui met with the UN Security Council and UN officials on 26-28 July to discuss deadlines and options for crafting institutional linkages between the AU and the UN. It should be noted that the  inability of the AU to generate sufficient levels of member state funding for the AU’s budget and programs has been a major stumbling block in the development of a more institutionalized AU-UN partnership. If the UN Security Council members and other significant stakeholders now feel confident enough that AU member states will implement the new funding plan starting in 2017, new conversations can be held regarding the terms under which the AU can elicit UN mission authorization and UN assessed contributions for the remaining 75 percent of the costs of African peace operations. The need for “predictable, sustainable and flexible resources” for African peace operations formed an important part of the recommendations of the 2015 report by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.

The need for a more predictable global funding arrangement of regionally-led peace operations is very clear. Of note is the need for joint international and regional responses to ongoing instability and resumed fighting in South Sudan. On 11 July, the Horn of Africa regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) proposed that a robust African intervention brigade with troops drawn from the region reinforce the work by UN peacekeepers in the country. The AU Peace and Security Council endorsed this initiative, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed this show of resolve from IGAD and AU since it would help the UN carry out its responsibility to protect civilians fleeing the violence. The next UN Security Council mandate review for United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) takes place on 8 August 2016, and options regarding the concept and role of a possible embedded offensive mission are currently being discussed. Highly volatile contexts such as South Sudan demonstrate that the more the AU-UN (and EU) partnership coordinate and carry out joint analyses and actions regarding a specific country, the stronger the signal that will be sent to the warring parties that no breach of the ceasefire will be tolerated. It will also leave no one in doubt that targeted sanctions and/or coercive uses of force are among the ‘sticks’ to be jointly considered by third parties.

With AU-owned funds, the IGAD and AU will respond in a more timely manner (when diplomatic discussions regarding UNSC authorization, funding arrangements and concepts are ongoing) and employ a broad range of diplomatic and deterrent tools in line with Article 52 of the UN Charter through the AU political office in Juba in addressing the volatile developments in South Sudan. Financial independence in the form of the AU Peace Fund will make a great difference in relation to planning, decision-making and actions by the AU and its regional and international partners.