Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

The era of non-indifference

The United Nations Charter lays emphasis on the responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security, but significantly also recognises the need for the SC to encourage regional arrangements to deal with peace and security.

This delegation of powers is subject to two conditions: no enforcement should be applied by regional organisations without the security council’s authorisation, and the latter should, at all times, be fully informed of the activities undertaken or contemplated by regional organisations in the maintenance of regional peace and security.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union of 2002 takes due account of the UN Charter, and the AU’s 15-member Peace and Security Council (PSC) protocol is also mindful of these provisions. Yet, African regional and sub-regional organisations, frustrated that the security council has not always lived up to its responsibility towards the continent, have decided to create some degree of self-sufficiency by setting up their own instruments to support peace, security and stability initiatives — usually at great sacrifice.

The AU deployments in Burundi (2003) and Darfur (2004) are cases in point. This position is underpinned by the challenging principle of “non-indifference” that emerged when the AU officially launched the PSC in Addis Ababa in May last year.

On that occasion, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to “the promotion of a stable, secure, peaceful and developed Africa”, and their “desire to assume a greater role in the maintenance of peace and security in Africa”. African leaders also spoke of the dawn of a new era of “non-indifference”, which they hailed as a marked change from the old non-interference policy that had crippled its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

The PSC makes it possible for the AU, in the name of non-indifference, to interfere in the internal affairs of member states in the event of an imminent threat to peace, security and stability.

Apart from practical necessity, non-indifference is warranted also as a moral imperative to concretise the ideal of African solidarity and accelerate regional integration.

Since the OAU morphed into the AU, the political and legal context has changed dramatically in terms of interference in the internal affairs of member states. The AU enjoys the use of broad prerogatives, yet the question is, can it really deliver on its promise? Put simply, can non-indifference really make a difference?

The answer depends, among other factors, on whether the AU is apt to build a genuine security partnership of trust and cooperation with national governments, sub-regional security mechanisms and other partners.

Central to this partnership is the problematic issue of member states’ commitment to live by the norms they have freely adopted within the framework of the AU, and whether they are willing to allow the union to enforce agreed norms. Also critical is the willingness and ability of member states to provide the AU with adequate and sustainable funding for its peace initiatives.

Musifiky Mwanasali was a political analyst in the conflict management centre of the AU Commission

The details

Contributors to this special focus on UN reform have written in their personal capacity. Yazeed Fakier, the communications programme manager at the Centre for Conflict Resolution, assisted with the editing.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies aged 84

The 84-year-old died as a result of complications from Covid-19

Kunming Declaration on biodiversity: A show of political will that...

More than 100 countries pledged to better protect nature at UN biodiversity talks last week

Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine turned down over HIV concerns

The vaccine might increase the risk of vaccinated males getting HIV, says SA’s health products regulatory authority

New electronic waste management regulations will take effect in November

Producers and importers of electronic goods will be legally responsible for end-of-life management of their products from 5 November
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×