Empowering Civil Society for Peace: Initiatives and Collaborations by AU- ECOSOCC under the EU APSA IV Program


On April 20, 2023, the African Union Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (AU- ECOSOCC) hosted an interface meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting aimed to foster dialogue and collaboration between the ECOSOCC Peace and Security Cluster, the African Union Commission (AUC), RECs/RMs, and selected Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on African peace and security issues. Specifically, the focus was on enhancing civil society participation in the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), with a strong emphasis on civil society engagement as a key objective of the European Union Support Program to the African Peace and Security Architecture (EU APSA IV).

The meeting laid the foundation for developing a preliminary roadmap for cooperation between ECOSOCC, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the African Union Commission (AUC), and RECs/RMs and drafting a joint work plan for actions and activities. The areas of focus for the ECOSOCC Peace and Security Cluster include conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacebuilding, terrorism prevention, security reforms, and addressing issues like drug and arms trafficking.

In addition to the interface meeting, ECOSOCC hosted a two-day consultative workshop from 21 to 22 n April, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop was designed to create a consolidated database of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in the fields of peace and security. The objective was to enhance the institutional, human, and operational capacities of African civil society, with a focus on governance, peace, and security issues.

The database development is aligned with AU Agenda 2063's Aspiration 4, which envisions a peaceful and fully functional African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The EU APSA IV Program has been pivotal in accelerating coordination and partnership within APSA, including CSOs, to address emerging security challenges.

The participants of the workshop recognized that a challenge facing CSOs in Africa is the lack of reliable and up-to-date information about the sector. Mr. William Carew, Head of the ECOSOCC Secretariat, emphasized the need for such a database to foster collaboration, coordination, accountability, and transparency among CSOs. The database would also serve as a resource for governments, donors, and other stakeholders.

The ECOSOCC Peace and Security Cluster’s efforts, in partnership with the EU APSA IV Program, aim to empower CSOs to play a more active role in maintaining peace and security in Africa.

Building on the above momentum, ECOSOCC, in collaboration with the African Union's Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) department and COMESA, convened a coordination meeting with civil society organizations (CSOs) to enhance their engagement in the implementation of the European Union Fourth African Peace and Security Architecture (EU APSA IV) Program on July 6-8, 2023. The EU APSA IV Program is a significant framework for promoting peace and security across Africa. The meeting focused on strategies to strengthen CSOs' participation in APSA and foster greater collaboration among AU PAPS, ECOSOCC, and CSOs. The aim was to overcome challenges that CSOs face, such as limited resources and coordination gaps, and to empower them to contribute more effectively to conflict prevention, management, resolution, and peacebuilding.

The coordination meeting provided a platform for participants to share their experiences, best practices, challenges, and insights into civil society's role in peace and security initiatives. The discussions highlighted the importance of CSOs in amplifying community voices, promoting inclusivity, and enhancing sustainable peace in Africa. The meeting led to the development of recommendations to address identified obstacles, with the goal of mainstreaming civil society engagement in the EU APSA IV Program.

Furthermore, a regional training was held in Entebbe from September 14-16, 2023. This training aimed to equip CSOs from the Eastern region of Africa with the expertise needed to actively participate in conflict prevention, including the African Union Country Structural Vulnerability and Resilience Assessments (AU CSVRA) and the COMESA Conflict Early Warning System Structural Vulnerability Assessments (COMWARN SVA). Supported by the European Union through the EU APSA IV Program, the training empowered participants with essential skills to implement the Structural Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) process within their countries and communicate these concepts effectively to local governments and policymakers. The training reinforced the role of CSOs in conflict prevention and community resilience.

The training emphasized the significant role of CSOs in advancing peace and security, aligning with the AU's focus on the crucial role of CSOs in achieving peace, security, and stability in Africa.

ECOSOCC, in collaboration with the African Union, AUC-PAPS, and COMESA, co- hosted a roundtable discussion on the role of the European Union Fourth African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA IV) Program in promoting peace and security in Africa. The EU APSA IV Program, signed in February 2020, committed 40.5 million euros to support APSA initiatives from 2020 to 2024. The discussion aimed to retrospectively review the program to inform future EU APSA programs. The meeting highlighted the efforts of the AU, ECOSOCC, RECs/RMs, EU, and CSOs in advancing peace and security in Africa.