The Surge to Stabilise: Lessons for the UN from the AU’s Experience in Somalia

The APSTA PeacekeIPIeping This Month is pleased to share with you a report the increasing incidence of stabilisation operations by UN, but in the absence of an explicit definition of or framework for the concept of stabilisation operations that are characteristically conducted by coalition forces, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a critical look at this paradigm, the co-authors, Paul Williams and Walter Lotze, compare the United Nations (UN) adaptation of the concept, under quite different circumstances of UN peacekeeping operations, with the approach by the African Union (AU), typically the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

In consideration of the operational and other challenges of AMISOM, the authors proffer some suggestions for shifting AMISOM’s operational gear from a “clear-hold-build” strategy to a “hold-protect-stabilise” strategy, while drawing nine lessons for consideration in AU as well as UN peace operations with a stabilisation mandate, namely: 1) the right configuration of mission; 2) political-military strategy synchronisation; 3) differentiation of the task of “extending state authority” from peacebuilding; 4) balancing territorial expansion and the effort to degrade spoiler capabilities; 5) crucial need for strategic coordination among relevant partners, as a key political task; 6) taking note of the negative political and military effects arising from the lack of coordination; 7) positive relationships between peacekeepers and the local population; 8) predication of exit on the building of capable, legitimate, and inclusive national security forces; and 9) alignment of UN organisational frameworks and bureaucratic culture to supporting war-fighting operations. Are the two strategic approaches intrinsically separate, or could they form part of a strategic continuum, namely: “clear-hold-protect-stabilise” which invariably will include the full array of peacebuilding measures? The discourse by the Authors underscores the need for a clearly defined, comprehensive concept and doctrine of stability or stabilisation operations by the AU and the UN.

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