Promoting peace: The African Union at 50

Promoting peace: The African Union at 50

This paper examines how the African Union, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, can enhance its contribution to sustainable peace. This is part of our Peace Focus series.

This year Africa celebrates 50 years of collective action: first through the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and more recently the African Union (AU).

This is also a critical juncture in African history: the post-colonial period is over and the African Renaissance is underway; economic growth has been steady for a decade; and the number of wars and coups d’état has declined. However, Africans still face many challenges, and this anniversary year is an opportune time to examine how the AU can enhance its contribution to sustainable peace.

The OAU was a vehicle for pan-African solidarity at a time of struggle for liberation. Its successor the AU is part of the international peacebuilding system, making a significant contribution to peace in Africa. So far, however, this has focused primarily on preventing and reacting to large-scale violence – what is sometimes known as “negative peace”.

The AU can do more to promote the conditions for “positive peace” – that is, sustainable peace and prosperity. This includes addressing some of the key issues facing Africans, such as disaffected youth, international terrorism, organised crime, and the risks accompanying transitional political systems, natural resource extraction and climate change. At the same time, it can provide leadership to protect Africa from ill-adapted external “solutions” and exploitation, which undermine peace.