Analysis of African Union Assembly decisions from February 2023: African agency, but little money to show for it

Though it took over two months, the Assembly decisions of the African Union Annual Summit 2023 are finally available. The long scrubbing process is nothing new, but it lasted particularly long this year – 1/6th of the time until the next summit has already passed.

The 2023 Summit is yet another reality check for the AU’s ambitious reform goals. While some very small progress has been made, long-standing ambitions continue to haunt an AU membership that struggles through multiple crises.

The full decisions can be found here.

AU institutional reform delayed again


Member states have once again extended the deadline for implementation of AU institutional reform, to July 2023. Significant disagreements remain, and as evidenced in this decision, the AUC leadership faces increasing pressure and oversight from Member States to deliver.

UN-AU peacekeeping finance: The devil is in the details

Assembly/AU/Dec.842(XXXVI), paragraph 31

Heads of states and governments adopted the African Consensus Paper on Adequate, Predictable, and Sustainable financing of AU Peace and Security Activities. Security Council Report made available here. I provide an unlocked version for easier copy-pasting here.

The paper is an important building block for sustaining momentum for UN peacekeeping budget contributions to AU peace support operations. The paper constitutes a Common African Position that could form the basis of an African position, should a resolution by tabled in the UN Security Council, although it is probably too thin on substance and fallback positions to sustain a joint African position in the negotiations; A3 unity was famously weak (and externally undermined) when the issue was last discussed on the UN Security Council in late 2018.

The Consensus Paper is honest about significant outstanding issues in eventual negotiations, including:

  • Implementing the Human Rights Compliance Framework for AU Peace Support Operations
  • Defining what an African 25% contribution means. The Consensus Paper argues that “the 2015 AU Assembly decisions does not mean that the AU makes a systematic commitment to financing 25% of each AU mandated or authorized PSO. The decisions mean that the AU Assembly committed to financing 25% of its overall peace and security activities, and not only peace support operations.” This is all but a reversal of Assembly/AU/Dec.561(XXIV)) from 2015, which states that Member States will “fund the Peace support operations budget at 25% [emphasis added]”. The UN Security Council has never taken position on this question, but a lowered level of AU commitment is likely to complicate eventual negotiations.
  • The choice of funding modalities as identified in the 2017 Secretary-General’s Report. The AU voices a preference for hybrid missions à la UNAMID and UN Support Offices à la AMISOMS/UNSOS. The AU likely overestimates the UN’s willingness to approve modalities ex ante, making these preferences less important for an eventual operationalisation of the provisions.

$5 million for Peace Fund operationalisation

Assembly/AU/Dec.842(XXXVI), paragraphs 32 and 33

In a major achievement for the (long delayed) operationalisation of the AU Peace Fund, Member States approved a small number of projects through the Crisis Reserve Facility. These projects aim to “support the deployment and operations of the EAC Regional Force and to fill the financial gap in ATMIS”.

The sum to be disbursed is a modest $5 million, which the AU’s Executive Council approved already in July 2022, limited to “interest accruing from the investment of the Peace Fund” (EX.CL/Dec.1168(XLI), paragraph 92). Issues around the replenishment of the Crisis Reserve Facility remain complex, and until broader questions around the Peace Fund’s scale of assessment and replenishment are resolved, the Peace Fund will very likely only make small symbolical contributions to the the AU’s peacekeeping budget, which stands at $252 million in 2023 (EX.CL/Dec.1168(XLI)).

Despite disappointingly slow progress, the glass is filling for the AU Peace Fund, even if it is only a drop at a time. The optimistic scenario is that those Member States that currently distrust the AUC to deliver through the Peace Fund would be reassured by these early disbursements, and consequently drop reservations about replenishing and assessing Peace Fund contributions.

No consensus on a new scale of assessment


The scale of assessment apportions individual budget contributions to AU Member States according to a number of socio-economic indicators. Member States already extended the last scale of assessment once due to lacking consensus, and have still not found agreement. The Executive Council will decide on the issue in July, meaning that AU Ambassadors in Addis Ababa currently have to deliberate the 2024 budget without a clear indication what their countries’ precise assessed contribution will be.

No Peace and Security Council membership reform


No news is bad news: Aspired reforms on the composition of the PSC are failing to find consensus among member states, who have delegated the issue to a “High Level Ad-hoc Committee of Heads of States” – likely, not much will come out of this process.

Towards African representation at the G20


For the first time, the AU Assembly has taken position on the AU’s G20 representation, which represents a welcome institutionalization of President Macky Sall’s hitherto more personal activism for this cause.

The Assembly has gone beyond calling for representation and has made procedural clarifications that the “Chairperson of the African Union assisted by the Chairperson of the Commission shall represent the African Union in the G20”. If the AU’s bid is eventually successful, it will immediately raises questions about AUC capacity to shoulder yet another important external representation mandate.

Note in the context of African representation in multilateral organizations that Japan recently disinvited South Africa from its G7 meeting, and replaced South Africa with Comoros President Azali Assoumani in his role as Chairperson of the African Union 2023.

Towards an AU position on reparations


Last year has seen reinvigorated interest in the long-standing AU issue to call for reparations. The 2022 Accra Declaration, which is not an AU document, calls for reparations for the “crimes to chattlellize Africans, (Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade), enslavement, colonialism, apartheid, and genocide”. The AU’s endorsement of the Declaration comes through a conference to be held in 2023 in Ghana on “Building a United Front to Advance the Cause of Justice and the Payment of Reparations to Africans”.

Still no African readiness for text-based Security Council Reform


Despite pressure from some Member States to transpose African aspirations of better representation at the UN Security Council, the Assembly curtly recalls its decision from 2022 that “given the wide-ranging divergences in views and positions of the respective interest groups vis-à-vis the inter-connectedness of the five key clusters as set out in Decision 62/557, engaging in a text-based negotiation, at this stage, without agreeing on the principles will not only be premature but counter-productive” (Assembly/AU/Dec. 819(XXXV), paragraph 81). This insistence is testimony to continued divisions among African states on the substance of African representation in multilateralism.

Upcoming meetings

The 2024 Summit dates are as follows:

  1. Forty-Seventh (47th) Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC), from 15 to 26 January 2024;
  2. Forty- Fourth (44th) Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, 14th and 15th February 2024;
  3. Thirty-Seventh (37th) Ordinary Session of the Assembly, 17th and 18th February 2024.

5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting and preceding Executive Council and PRC Sessions:

  1. Forty-Sixth (46th) Ordinary Session of the PRC from 19thJune to 04th July 2023 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;
  2. Forty-Third (43rd) Ordinary Session of the Executive Council from 13th and 14 July 2023, Nairobi, Kenya ;
  3. Fifth (5th) Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the RECs on 16th July 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya;

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