Conflict prevention as a core goal of the international community has re-emerged as a critical element within international discussions on peace and security responses. As a response, ISS, in collaboration with the Danish Embassy in Pretoria, hosted a seminar on South Africa’s foreign policy and conflict prevention on 11 October 2016. The seminar aimed at providing the space to discussion for South African stakeholders, from academia, non-governmental organisations and think tanks, diplomatic missions, as well as the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
While enhancing the focus on conflict prevention, the seminar encouraged a critical reflection on achieving a better understanding of issues around: how the current international debate on conflict prevention relate to South Africa’s foreign policy and the impact it has on its position regarding conflict prevention in relation to the UN, AU and regional economic communities (RECs); the perceptions in decision making circles regarding conflict prevention and strategies that could enhance South Africa’s influence within the UN, AU and RECs for effective conflict prevention. The seminar is expected to have enabled South African stakeholders to better reflect on how to respond to increasing demands for conflict prevention initiatives, and to support development of national positions on the topic.
The relevance of the seminar cannot be underestimated considering it took place at a time when there is a growing momentum regarding the need to bring conflict prevention to the forefront of all peace and security initiatives. The African Union (AU), in particular, in its efforts to achieve its vision for Africa in 2063, has declared its efforts to silence the guns by 2020. The AU has noted in its African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) 2016-2020 roadmap that the “culture of firefighting” has a high impact on human, financial and material levels of prevention. This focus on conflict prevention comes from the overall realisation that the international community needs to become more effective in its efforts to prevent the (re)emergence of conflicts.