Dimanche 26 Mai 2019  
 

N°70 - Deuxième trimestre 2005

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     Editorial
 
  M. / Mr Pierre-André Wiltzer

The multiplication of conflicts in poor countries:
How is this challenge to be addressed?
 
 
By Mr Pierre-André Wiltzer, Former French Minister Delegate for Cooperation and francophony, High Representative for Security and Conflict Prevention
 
 
 
By Mr Pierre-André Wiltzer, Former French Minister Delegate for Cooperation and francophony, High Representative for Security and Conflict Prevention
 
 
 
The history of mankind has, alas, been marked by conflicts since the origins of time. But the nature of those conflicts changes with the times. Since the end of the Cold War between East and West, new types of conflicts have developed. They do not necessarily set States against each other and are often triggered by the exacerbation of tensions and internal divides whose political, economic, ethnic and religious motivations are intertwined. Such conflicts often affect poor countries. Poverty, illiteracy, endemic diseases, corruption and lack of democracy are a breeding ground for the emergence and persistence of those deadly internecine wars.
The link between instability and poverty was highlighted in a report published in 2003 by the World Bank: the systematic analysis of conflicts recorded in the world since 1960 has shown that 80% of those have occurred in 20% of the world's poorest countries.
The African continent of course does not hold a monopoly on conflicts but is the worst affected. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, 15 out of the roughly 50 African countries have been or are affected by conflicts.
This situation has led the international community to become increasingly involved in the management of those crises. First, for humanitarian reasons, but also to stop unrest from flaring up in vast regions of Africa, the demise of all development efforts and the appearance of hotbeds of violence that threaten global stability.
But this involvement has ended in failure on a number of occasions, tragically at times as in Rwanda in 1994.
This entails seeking more effective ways of preventing crises in time, ending unprevented conflicts more swiftly and helping countries achieve lasting peace once the fighting has stopped and peace agreements have been signed.
Identifying solutions and making proposals to improuve conflict prevention and management mechanisms both at national and international level, such is the mission entrusted to me by the French Government a few months ago.
Improving prevention
There are conflict warning signs: the multiplication of human rights violations, growing insecurity, degradation of the functioning of public institutions, accelerating impoverishment in certain regions, and the eruption of rebellions locally. These are described in reports by the diplomatic representations in the countries concerned. Information is received by the international institutions, the UN and its Agencies in particular, as well as certain Non-Governmental Organisations.
However, there is as yet no genuine international early warning system that would make it possible to immediately launch initiatives to prevent the spiral of violence. Diplomatic contacts, mediation, pressure and even targeted sanctions imposed by the international community might prove effective provided interventions are swift and co-ordinated. To this end, it is necessary to identify the principal "crisis risk" indicators, collate and analyse them before providing them to the international bodies responsible for policy-making, in particular the United Nations Security Council.
This issue is currently under debate, within the framework of the United Nations reform, in connection with the possible creation of a Commission for Peace Consolidation. This would be a standing body attached to the Security Council and provided with specific resources and a fund for its functioning. France is actively involved in drafting proposals with a view to this, together with its European Union partners.
Progress can also be achieved nationally in pooling and using information collected on risks of crisis in the countries with which France has close relations. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with its diplomatic network and different Directorates, and the French Defence Ministry, thanks to its sources of intelligence and to our community-based and economic operators serving as relays abroad, can contribute to this. Synergy between those various poles should be improved and an interministerial unit set up to use the data collected for the Government and to give the alert when a risk is clearly emerging.
Bringing nascent conflicts under control sooner and better
Swift action is required to halt violence when prevention proves impossible or fails. Yet experience has shown that the international community is often slow in reacting. Cumbersome procedures, the multiplicity of the institutions and countries concerned, the difficulty even of reaching a political consensus within the UN Security Council and the time required to marshal resources for intervention, blue helmets contingents in particular, all account for this situation. In this area too progress is needed.
There has been a new development as regards Africa where the greatest number of conflicts are ongoing: the African Union (AU), established in 2002, has taken over from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was above all an intergovernmental policy-making body and has established itself as a key actor in peacekeeping and peacemaking.
The AU has undisputed political legitimacy and wants to fully shoulder its responsibilities in the field of security and stability on the African continent. One of the members of the African Union Commission (AUC), the counterpart of the European Commission, specialises in this mission. The AU has already proved active and effective in the political and diplomatic initiatives intended to resolve crises, whether for instance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire or Togo. It wants to go further, however, by implementing peacekeeping military capabilities.
A military staff is being built up at the Organisation's headquarters in Addis Ababa. The African Union has already started acting in conflict-affected countries by sending military contingents, as in Darfur now. The African Stand-By Force (ASF), which relies on four Brigades stationed in four regions of the continent and trained in peacekeeping operations, is being built up.
Thus a new peace and security architecture is being built on the African continent: it rests on existing sub-Saharan subregional organisations, such as ECOWAS in West Africa, ECCAS in Central Africa, the SADC in Southern Africa and IGAD in East Africa.
These organisations, which already were active partners in the resolution of conflicts occurring in their member countries, are becoming a framework in which the regional Brigades of the African Stand-By Force are being set up.
It is therefore essential for the developed countries and international institutions to provide the AU and African subregional organisations with the technical and financial resources they need to achieve this ambitious undertaking. Africans are in the best position to resolve crises arising on their continent. It is our responsibility to provide them with strong and swift support to achieve this.
For its part, the European Union, which was until now devoting all its efforts to development assistance, has decided to become involved in the maintenance of stability and restoration of peace in Africa. Operation Artemis in Ituri in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a decisive turning point: European contingents under French command intervened for the first time under a mandate from the UN to restore security in an area ravaged by violence.
All these developments demonstrate the international community's growing involvement in countering armed conflicts in Africa. This calls for close cooperation between the different multilateral organisations concerned in order to clearly establish who does what and for interventions to become increasingly swift and effective.
Thanks to its presence in Africa through forces prepositioned in four strategic regions (West Africa, Central Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean), France is one of the key actors in this initiative. It makes a significant contribution to African peacekeeping efforts, in particular through its Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities (RECAMP) programme aimed at providing training and equipment for African military officers and contingents responsible for conducting this mission.
The multilateral nature of peacekeeping actions nowadays has led us to enhance the RECAMP concept with a view to a dual partnership with the European Union on the one hand and the African Union on the other. Proposals were made in this connection to the two Organisations to jointly define new modalities for implementing RECAMP. In this spirit, a new cycle of the RECAMP concept and related operations is to be launched on 20 June 2005 at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Sustainable restoration of stability in post-crisis countries
To end fighting and lead warring parties to sign peace agreements and embark on a transitional phase leading to elections is not enough. This was demonstrated by countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa and Haiti in the Caribbean, which again lapsed into conflict once this process had first been implemented by the international community. Nothing solid nor sustainable can be achieved without resolving the problem of the reintegration of combatants and the reconstruction of society and institutions in countries ravaged by civil wars.
In this respect, the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) mechanisms serving as a frame of reference for international interventions need to be reviewed. The "reintegration" component, in particular, has proved a failure most of the time. In countries plagued by all the ills of poverty, whose infrastructures have been destroyed, whose society is deeply traumatised by civil war and where the government lay in ruins, the presence of tens of thousands of ex-militiamen left to their own devices is a highly dangerous factor for instability and insecurity. The growing number of boy and girl child soldiers is a further difficulty owing to the tragic traumas suffered by the children concerned as a result of those conflicts. The reintegration of all combatants is therefore an essential precondition for the sustainable resolution of conflicts.
Yet the current international doctrine is based on the idea that it is the post-crisis countries' own responsibility to successfully achieve this extremely difficult task.
Although the international community does release funds to that end, one cannot fail to observe that results are not forthcoming. The new national institutions responsible for ensuring transition generally prove incapable of implementing reintegration, assuming that the actors in this transition, who had so fiercely confronted each other, truly have the will to do so. It is necessary, therefore, to study ways for the international community to support the authorities of the country concerned more closely in implementing the process for reintegration and reconstruction.
This is an issue the Mission that I head is actively working on with a view to drafting proposals that may be submitted for discussion in international bodies.
All in all, one needs to review and strengthen the system for conflict prevention, on-the-spot management and sustainable resolution if one is to effectively combat the multiplication and persistence of hotbeds of insecurity and violence in poor countries. A salutary realisation of this has occurred at international level, which is encouraging. Yet much remains to be done. In any case, one point must be made: instability largely stems from underdevelopment, which causes bad governance and unrest. It is therefore more than ever essential for rich countries to urgently marshal additional resources to ensure the development of the countries of the South.
This is the price to pay for peace in vast regions of the world and this goal is within our reach provided we are determined to achieve it.
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