The African Standby Force Fifth Annual Civilian Focal Points Retreat
20 Apr 2016
The role and security of civilian personnel during high intensity operations is a key concern for the African Union (AU). During an African Standby Force (ASF) Civilian Dimension meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in 2015, emphasis was placed on exploring and enhancing the roles of civilians in high-intensity operations. To take this forward, the AU is establishing a Civilian Strategic Support Group (CSSG) to provide technical advisory support on civilian-related issues in AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs). The AU was tasked to ensure that a civilian deployment in high-intensity operations will be informed by a robust assessment to determine and put in place measures to mitigate security risks and provide adequate support requirements to the AU civilian personnel, prior to their deployment. The AU, in collaboration with ACCORD/TfP, therefore convened a Fifth Annual ASF Civilian Focal Points retreat from 7-8 March 2016 in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss the establishment of a CSSG to Strengthen AU PSOs. The specific objectives of the ASF Civilian Focal Points Planning Workshop were to: (a) review progress attained in the development of the civilian dimension of the ASF at continental and regional levels over the period September 2013 – February 2016; (b) share current efforts underway at continental and regional levels on the development of the civilian dimension; (c) agree on the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the establishment of the CSSG; and (d) share projected work plans and priorities for 2016. At the retreat, the participants discussed civilians' roles and challenges in high-intensity operations; greater coordination between the RECs/RMs, AU and training centres; enhanced collaboration among the civilian, military and police components; and the management of civilian capacity before and during deployment. Modalities for the establishment of the CSSG were also prepared. The workshop developed draft ToR for the CSSG before the official launching of this structure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tentatively scheduled for later this year. The participants made recommendations with regard to the development of the CSSG and agreed that the group should help improve the coordination, roles and responsibilities of the civilian component. The CSSG should also promote a common understanding of what a civilian component can do or should be doing in high intensity operations when deployed. The workshop brought together experts, TfP partners, stakeholders and representatives from the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms who are directly responsible for, or have worked on, the development and daily management of the civilian component of the ASF.