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Conceptualising “Standby” in Multinational Security Arrangements
29 Mar 2023
Research Report

Executive Summary

This paper examines the concept and practice of “standby” in multinational security arrangements. The paper outlines the divergence of “standby” force from the idea of a “standing” force and its intrinsic linkages with the notion of “readiness”. Standby thus refers to operational and strategic readiness, which involves the outcome of how the standby units are staffed, equipped, trained, and led to meet the demands of assigned missions. However, standby arrangements are context-specific, as evident from the significant multinational arrangements. The paper maps and examines the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force (NRF), the European Battlegroups (EUBG), United Nations Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS), and the African Standby Force (ASF) to draw out common features, divergencies, and recommendations in the exercise of standby.

Key Findings:

  • Rotational Framework: Most standby arrangements such as the NRF, EUBG, and ASF adopt two forms of the rotational framework. The first aspect practised by the NRF and EUBG involves the physical presence of a specific configuration at a designated base in their home countries, as described in table 1 below. The second aspect is the example of the ASF, which requires the HQs to take turns to be in a high-alert state to deploy but without deploying personnel to a base.
  • High Rapid Reaction Units: Another shared feature in standby practices is the need for an even higher rapid reaction force within the “regular” standby arrangements. This is evident from the UN PCRS's Vanguard Brigade, the NRF's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), and the ASF's Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC). The idea is that a high rapid reaction force will be deployed much earlier and within shorter timeframes before the regular force arrives.
  • Readiness Timeframes: Stipulated timeframes for deployment are the major readiness levels determinants. Although deployment timeframes differ, they provide the required urgency for arrangements to streamline their processes (i.e. decision making, force generation, training, and equipment) for deployment within agreed timelines. While shorter timeframes are desirable, long and short timelines have merits and demerits relating to maintaining a balance between the need to intervene rapidly and the need for retrospection and conflict-sensitive planning.
  • Cost Calculations: While standby arrangements have different approaches to covering costs, day-to-day operational and deployment costs are major factors that influence whether a standby arrangement is deployed or not. Standby arrangements with cost-sharing models have higher chances of deployment than those requiring contributing member states to pay for costs.
  • National Interests: Deployments are contingent on both states' willingness to deploy within a standby arrangement or accept troops within their territories. Standby arrangements constantly face challenges of matching deployment needs with national interests.
  • Rigid formations: Rigid and overly formalised processes of standby arrangements may fail to match context-specificities and the fluid interests of member states in terms of deployment.

Introduction: Concepts and Definitions

Since the establishment of the United Nations (UN) in 1945, debate persists on how to get multinational organisations to respond efficiently to crises on time. The idea of a “UN Force”[1] with two prominent models of “standing” and/or “standby” arrangements was proposed at the formative periods of the UN. The “standing forces are trained, paid, and commanded by the UN, while standby forces consist of donated material, and volunteer troops earmarked for U.N. duty, but are supported, trained, and commanded by their respective national authorities” before deployment.[2]

With the growth of several multinational organisations over the years, the option remains around a choice between standing or standby capabilities. During the formative years of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) in the 1960s, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana proposed the idea of an “African Army” at the final stage of the political and economic integration of the continent as a “common defence system with African high command” (Nkrumah 1963). Discussions among African leaders have often pitied the two ideas of “standing” and “standby” forces until the resolution to create the ASF in 2003. Indeed, the idea of “standing” and “standby” forces have different implications for multinational organisations.

Standing Arrangements

A standing force refers to a permanent capacity of “staff that are employed on a full-time basis, with the express purpose of being available as a surge capacity when the need arises.”[3] In most army structures, full-time soldiers and police forces are categorised as a standing force instead of a reserve or temporary army or police staff activated during emergencies and disbanded during normalcy. An example of a standing capacity in multinational settings is the European Corps (EUROCORPS), with about 1100 plus troops based in Strasbourg, France. The United Nations (UN) also maintains a relatively small Standing Police Capacity (SPC) of 36 personnel located with the UN Global Service Centre at Brindisi,[4] which provides policing expertise to UN peace operations and crises areas.

The major advantage with a standing capacity is the interoperability[5] within the troops that are specialised in a specific area of responsibility. Yet, many states are cagey about relinquishing the command and control of their forces to a multinational body. While standing capacities are common and justifiable within the state system, standing capacities within the multinational context often present complexities in command and control of forces and the issue of common funding of a permanent army, which may not be a priority to some member states. Moreover, the independent recruitment of soldiers by international organisations could further threaten the sovereignty and control of member states.

Standby Arrangements

Standby arrangements in multinational contexts require states to earmark specific units and equipment, define logistics chains and common protocols and procedures of operations, and undertake country-level training and joint command post field exercises in readiness to deploy.[6] Unlike the standing force, standby arrangements are not as readily available as a standing capacity, given that personnel and equipment have to be called upon to deploy. The understanding of standby arrangements is derived from the practice of active and reserve forces within most army structures across the globe. While the active forces are permanent soldiers on duty, the reserve forces have similar characteristics of “standby forces” in multinational arrangments because it refers to “members of the uniformed services who are not in active service but who are subject to call to active duty” as defined in the United States Army. [7] Today, there are various multinational standby arrangements. Despite its stark contrast with the concept of “standing”, it is important to understand the implications of “standby”.

Standby as Readiness

“Standby” is defined as “something available for use when needed, or the state of being ready for use”.[8]  By virtue of standing by, standby arrangements are implicitly “in readiness”. Rumbaugh outlined two principal meanings of the term “readiness”. In the broader sense, readiness refers to the overall ability of forces to achieve objectives given to it.[9] The narrow definition of readiness refers to the ability of specific aspects of the force's capacity (such as training, equipment, etc.) to make the military able to respond appropriately.[10] While reviewing the readiness of NATO Force, Jonathan Hill gives a similar view of the two concepts of readiness by noting that “to judge the readiness of NATO forces, one must take a comprehensive view that considers both the operational and the organisational, or strategic perspectives.” At the unit/operational level (narrow level), readiness is “about equipment, manning, training and interoperability”.[11] At the strategic level (broad level), Hill defines readiness in line with the US Department of Defence (DOD), which refers to “the ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions.”[12]

In both narrow and broad sense, the key feature of every readiness is that it transcends preparatory stages of staffing, equipping, training and appropriate leadership framework, which are required beforehand to enable an arrangement to be at a position of “standby”.[13]  Furthermore, while readiness is often associated with forces on standby, decision-makers are an integral part of readiness mechanisms. Decision-makers need to ensure that the procedures and quality of decisions are seamless and clear enough for a timely and meaningful response.

Nevertheless, how “standby” or “readiness” play out is context-specific, as discussed in the following sections. Various standby arrangements have adopted similar and divergent approaches to being in readiness. The next section maps the readiness postures of the NRF, EUBG, UN PCRS and ASF.

Converging and Diverging Features of Standby

The table below provides a mapping of the common features of major standby arrangements.

Table 1: Major Standby Arrangements (Source: Author)

Name Year Established & FOC Purpose Authorised Force Strength High Rapid Reaction Unit HQ Rotation Cycle Location of Troops in Rotation Readiness Timeframe Who pays for deployment
NRF Established (Est.): 2002.

Full Operational Capacity (FOC): 2006

Immediate collective defence response (prior to the arrival of other forces), crisis management & peace support operations, disaster relief, and critical infrastructure protection. 40,000 Troops Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) - 5,000 troops

(est. 2014)

Rotates between the Joint Force Commands in Brunssum, the Netherlands, and Naples, Italy) each year 12 Months In-Home Country base NRF: 30 days

VJTF: 2-7 days

Contributing Member states
EUBG Est. 2006

FOC: 2007

Deployment in emerging crises either under a UN mandate or to pre-emptively prevent atrocities or assist in providing humanitarian aid. Two battlegroups of 1500 troops each in every rotation cycle Not Applicable HQ provided by Framework/Lead Nation of each EUBG formation. 6 Month – In-home country base 5 to 10 days Contributing Member states
SHIRBRIG Est. 1996

FOC: 2000

(ended 2009)

To provide the United Nations with a rapid reaction capability for the initial six months of a peace support operation 4,000 to 5,000 troops. Not Applicable Garderkasernen at Høvelte, Denmark. Not Applicable Not in a base 30 days United Nations Assessed Contribution
PCRS Est. 2015

FOC: Based on an assessment of individual pledges

To register and maintain predictable capability pledges for timely deployment of quality peacekeeping capabilities. Open pledge system via the web-based platform Vanguard Brigade: 4000 Troops

Est. 2015

The Strategic Force Generation & Capability Planning Cell Not Applicable Not in a base PCRS: 60 days.

Vanguard Brigade: 10-30 days

United Nations Assessed Contribution
ASF Est. 2003

FOC: 2016

deployments to a political mission, observer mission, preventive mission, humanitarian and disaster support, multidimensional peacekeeping missions and AU interventions in member states. 25,000 military, police and civilian personnel  (5,000 each in five sub-regions) RDC: 2500 in each five sub-region Five HQs:

NARC  in Algeria.


ECCAS in Libreville

EASF in Addis Ababa SADC in Gaberone.

6 Months Not in a base ASF: 30 days

RDC: 14 days

The African Union

Rotational State of Readiness

The rotational state of readiness is a uniting feature of the NRF, EUBG and ASF. This rotational feature is twofold; one aspect involves a specific configuration of the standby arrangement being physically present at a designated base in their home countries for a specified duration in readiness for potential deployment.

  • NATO Response Force (NRF): As indicated by table 1, the NRF has a 12-month rotational framework where a group of NATO members commit their personnel and equipment at a designated location in their home countries in readiness to deploy. NATO's two Joint Force Commands (JFC), Brunssum in the Netherlands, and Naples in Italy, take turns as the HQ for each rotation cycle. When the 12-months elapse, another group of countries turn to deploy their personnel and equipment at a base in readiness to deploy while another JFC takes on the HQ role. While the commitments to each rotation cycle are voluntary, a roster is used to collate commitments with expectations that each member state should choose to participate in the rotation cycles. The initial rotational period was six months, but the period was extended to 12 months in 2012 to provide some stability in the planning processes.[14]
  • European Union Battlegroup (EUBG): For the EUBG, a rostering system of voluntary commitment by member states ensures that each rotation cycle is filled like the NRF. Member states make their commitments during a six-monthly Battlegroup Coordination Conferences (BGCC). The planning roster of commitments is six years. In the roster, a EUBG is formed when one EU member state chooses to serve as Framework Nations (FN) or as the lead nation by providing the HQ for the battlegroup while other members team up to participate.[15] After the rotation cycle, a new FN and other member states team up to form another EUBG. Once assembled, the EUBG are placed on standby at a base in their home countries.[16] This rotational aspect tends to foster a “readiness mindset” among the personnel in a base who are conscious of the possibilities of actual deployment.
  • It is worth noting that the EUBG is designed to be mutually reinforcing with the NRF. As such, members who belong to the two organisations will contribute to the NRF and the EUBG with a single set (same) of forces to either of the organisations. While this approach fosters complementarity, a challenge could arise if NRF and the EUBG authorise two separate missions simultaneously. It becomes a dilemma as to which mission should be prioritised by participating countries, although EU members ensure there are no clashes through their participation in the two organisations. In some cases, the EUBG is seen as a duplication of the NRF, but the exception is that the EUBG is often seen as a mechanism to respond to crises in the EU backyard, especially in Africa.[17] Indeed, most of the conflict situations recommended for EUBG deployment have been in Africa, as discussed on page 9.

The second aspect of the rotational arrangement of standby is where elements of a force take turns to remain on high alert to deploy when needed but without contributing members sending their equipment and personnel to a base.

  • The African Standby Force: The ASF began experimenting with a rotational framework in 2016, where each of the five regional standby forces takes turns to be at the highest level of alertness for six months.[18] While the rostering of member states within NRF and EUBG rotational cycles are voluntary, the five RECs/RMs of the ASF were rostered in the English alphabetical order continuously but open to changes based on consultation. The first rotation was:
    • East Africa Standby Force (EASF): 01 January – 30 June 2017,
    • ECCAS Standby Force (01 July – 31 December 2017),
    • ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF): 01 January – 30 June 2018,
    • North Africa Regional Capacity (NARC) Standby Force (NASF)[19]: 01 July – 31 December 2018
    • and SADC Standby Force: 01 January – 30 June 2019.
  • However, unlike the NRF and EUBG, members of the ASF regional standby forces do not necessarily send their troops to a specific standby base in their home countries. Rather, the HQs of the regional standby force is on high alert to call upon the standby components for deployment when needed. The challenge is that it is not certain how troops from one of the forces on high alert state could deploy to a crises country outside of their region. For instance, if the SADC Standby Force is on high alert and conflict erupts in Guinea within the ECOWAS region, it is uncertain how the SADC force could deploy because of the existence of the ECOWAS Standby Force and issues of jurisdiction.

High Rapid Reaction Units

Another shared feature in Standby practice is the need for an even high rapid reaction force within the “regular” standby arrangements. The major idea of having a standby arrangement is to provide a tool for swift response in crises situations. However, most standby arrangements have a high rapid reaction unit that provides an even higher or graduated level of readiness for deployment, as evident from the UN PCRS's Vanguard Brigade, the NRF's VJTF and the ASF's Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC).

  • The UN Vanguard Brigade, for instance, is a sub-set force of about 4000 troops within the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS). The PCRS was established in 2015 to replace the Stand-by Arrangement System (UNSAS) as a tool to regularly manage pledges of peacekeeping capabilities by member states.[20] The distinguishing factor of the PCRS from the UNSAS is that it is managed via a web-based platform ( Contributing states could decide to delete their pledges or choose their deployment preference except for pledges within the Rapid Deployment Level. The PCRS categorised pledges along with four different levels of preparedness.
    • Level 1: Refers to an incoming pledge via the online platform with all supporting documents.
    • Level 2: Refers to verified pledges following a UN Assessment and Advisory Visit (AAV)[21] to understand the preparedness of the pledged capabilities and how they are aligned with UN standards of training and performance. UN experts deployed for AAVs also provide advisory support to contributing countries on the UN DPKO/DFS Operational Readiness Assurance and Performance Improvement Policy and the Guidelines on Operational Readiness Preparation for Troop Contributing Countries in Peacekeeping Missions.
    • Level 3: Refers to verified pledges aligned with UN Statement of Unit Requirement (SUR). Contributing countries also provide a Cargo Load List and information on the port of embarkation and proposed readiness timelines via a Note Verbal.
    • Level 4 (Rapid Deployment Level – RDL): A verified pledge that is ready for deployment within 60 days of invitation to deploy without limitations or restrictions. The UN undertakes further RDL verification visits at this stage and reaches an RDL agreement with the contributing states.
  • The Vanguard Brigade is derived from the RDL, but it is designed to have 4000 troops, including one mechanised and three motorised platoons, a support platoon and a Level 1 Hospital.[22] It is to deploy as the first step before deploying manoeuvre units and force multipliers from the PCRS RDL.[23] The force's priority is stabilisation inclined including the “protection of civilians, security of UN personnel and installations, and the creation of a safe and secure environment that will enable humanitarian agencies to expand their operations”.[24]
  • The NRF VJTF, established in 2014, is part of the NRF envisaged to deploy between 2-7 days, while the regular NRF is expected to be deployed within 30 days of a decision. The NRF of 5000 troops is part of the NRF force of 40,000, and the VJTF could then be augmented with forces of the NRF per needs. Additional elements to the VJTF are the need for a NATO member willing to serve as a framework nation (also referred to as lead nation) to lead the battlegroup, similar to how a framework nation leads the EUBG.
  • ASF's Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC): The ASF’s RDC is designed for existing at the levels of the five regional standby forces. They are high readiness units that could be deployed across the continent within 14 days. The regular ASF has a deployment timeframe of 30 days. The RDC is to be made up of 2 500 personnel from each of the five RECs/RMs. However, the RDC has faced significant delays in terms of development due to the uneven capacities among member states within the five subregions.[25]

While the deployment timeframes of high reaction units vary, the common denominator is that they will be deployed much earlier before the regular force arrives. In the case of the NRF-VJTF and UN Vanguard Brigade, the regular force is expected to take over an operation from the high rapid reaction forces to enable the high reaction force to return to their high-readiness level in anticipation of potential emergencies. If deployed, it is still uncertain if the ASF RDC would hand over operations to a regular ASF force or it will become part of the regular force when it is deployed.

Readiness timeframes

Stipulated timeframes are among the major determinants of readiness in standby arrangements, as highlighted in the table above. However, these timeframes do not necessarily mean that the forces could deploy at the proposed timeframes when crises erupt. Rather, the timeframes provide the required urgency for arrangements to streamline their processes (including decision making, troops, and equipment) for deployment within agreed timelines.

Nevertheless, it is worth questioning whether shorter readiness timeframes are better than longer timeframes.

  • Longer readiness timeframes of 20 to 60 days tend to be unsuitable when rapid response is required in cases of genocide like the case of Rwanda and Srebrenica.[26] However, this timeframe allows room for even more retrospection and careful planning. For instance, rescinding the AU PSC decision to deploy the African Prevention & Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU) is a case where ample time for retrospection is required. If an ASF was deployed immediately after the AU PSC reached a decision in December 2015, it is uncertain what will be the fate of the forces in Burundi. This is in view of the rejection of the force by the Burundian government. The Gambia under Yahya Jammeh and some East African Standby Force members, particularly Tanzania, were also opposed to the decision.
  • Moreover, the PSC decision was taken at an ambassadorial level instead of the Heads of State level. Further deliberations on the topic revealed and clarified that every decision to deploy a mission rests with PSC Heads of States, not at the ambassadorial level. Eventually, the AU PSC at the level of Heads of States in January 2016 overturned the decision to establish MAPROBU.[27] This example outlines the value in retrospect.
  • On the other hand, shorter timeframes of 5 to 15 days provide a higher level of readiness for rapid action against sudden war crimes and genocides. Such rapid deployment timelines are possible with smaller force sizes, such as the high reaction forces and the EUBG composition. Yet, shorter deployment timeframes could, in some cases, be inimical when critical planning and conflict sensitivities are required, as described above.

Force Size

The size of the standby arrangements is often dependent on the preference of the participating countries. For instance, while the NRF maintains a larger force, the EUBG is a relatively small force of 1500 for the two battlegroups at specific periods. This makes the force easier to manage, unlike the NATO and ASF force. However, there are concerns that a smaller force with a wide range of tasks like the EUBG may not deliver when it comes to more demanding missions like peacekeeping.[28] The EUBG has a mandate to undertake peacekeeping, but the UN, which is adept at peacekeeping, often deploys forces between 10,000 to 20,000 troops in view of the significant size of areas of operation. Since 2021, the EU has been developing a European Union Rapid Deployment Capacity (EU RDC) of about 5000 troops to replace the EUBG.[29]

Cost Calculations

Contributing members of the NRF[30] and the EUBG bear both the costs of being in readiness during rotation cycles and the cost of deploying to undertake an operation.[31] For the EUBG alone, the cost of preparation and operating two Battlegroups for a six-month rotation cycle is projected at about 450 million Euros (500 million dollars) in 2014.[32] With such costs, member states struggle to schedule themselves in the roster. In the European Union Military Committee report on the EUBG commitments from December 2019 to 2025, there are several vacant areas that EU members fail to fill.[33] The rosters are sometimes filled following intense discussions and encouragement to member states. Cost implications also prevent EU member states on rotation from deploying to conflict settings.[34] To address the challenge of costs implications which also plays into national interest considerations, there are ongoing discussions on burden-sharing during deployment within the EUBG and NRF.

For the PCRS, the UN pays for troops and equipment maintenance costs once the pledges are deployed through the UN assessed contributions. Due to the Vanguard Brigade's high state of readiness, the UN pays up to 25% of major equipment maintenance while they are on standby and full payment of maintenance while deployed.

For the ASF, the AU is advocating for the use of UN assessed contributions and external contributions to cover 75% of its peace deployments while it plans to cover 25% of peace operations costs. However, in current practice, training and operational costs are often covered by external actors like the EU and bilateral donors like the US, France, China, and the UK. The estimated cost of the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with over 22,000 personnel is about $1.2 billion per year.[35] The annual cost of the G5 Sahel Force of only about 5,000 troops is about $500m.[36] While ASF deployment size could vary depending on needs, neither the AU nor the sub-regions can fully finance multinational training and deployment costs on their own. In such an unpredictable context, ASF deployment depends not only on the will of the AU and RECs/RMs but also on the willingness of external actors to fund a potential deployment.

National interests

In terms of national interests, contributing countries to EUBG, for instance, are not willing to deploy to conflict situations not only because of the costs but because of calculations of how conflicts outside the EU area affects them. For instance, most of the conflict situations recommended for EUBG deployment are in Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2006, Libya in 2011 and Central African Republic (CAR) in 2014. Yet, the EU members on rotation during those periods failed to respond. This is partly due to the inability to match national interest (along with cost) with the need to deploy. While the need to deploy may be in the broader interest of the EU, member states who could not link it with their national interest are not willing to jeopardise their troops and commit their resources.

The situation is similar to the ASF challenges with deployment. The regular ASF formations could not deploy to address the challenges of violent extremism in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin leading to the formation of the G5 Sahel Force and the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF). In the two cases, the affected sub-regions could not cooperate and deploy jointly. Rather, the affected member states in each region teamed up to form ad hoc forces to address the crises. The AU is developing a framework to establish a Special Unit for Counterterrorism within the ASF framework to address the gaps leading to the formation of ad hoc arrangements.[37]

Apart from the interest of member states to deploy, another aspect of national interest involves a willingness to accept troops from other countries. The NRF and EUBG face the challenge of being accepted, especially in some countries, due to suspicions and projections of neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism. The ASF, on the other hand, face a significant challenge, especially when neighbouring countries intend to intervene in crises. The NRF and EUBG were designed to protect the sovereignty of member states and not interfere in the internal affairs of member states. On the other hand, the ASF forces are primarily designed for deployment in crises of fellow member states, which complicates and politicises the deployment landscape. In the increasing volatile globe, there is a need to consider whether or not the ASF could deploy outside of Africa to protect the sovereignty and interest of AU member states in terms of stabilisation missions or humanitarian support?

Rigid formations

Lastly, standby arrangements' formalised and somewhat rigid formations are sometimes unfavourable for deployment. The NRF and the EUBG have never been deployed in actual conflict situations since their establishment. The ASF framework has been drawn on and deployed in the Gambia, Lesotho and Mozambique. Yet, some of the deployments do not follow the strict structures of the ASF, thereby raising debates about whether these deployments are by coalitions of willing.[38] In the Gambia, for instance, the mission was composed of troops from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Togo. Yet, this is not exhaustive of the 15 countries that make up ECOWAS Standby Force. However, one significant lesson derived from recent ASF deployment is the flexible nature of the deployment, including the potential of having smaller coalitions of regional forces deploying within the ASF framework.

While reviewing the ASF arrangement, de Coning (2016) proposes a “just-in-time arrangement” where trained troops are generated from willing, capable and ready member states to deploy across the continent.[39] This is because each conflict situation requires a unique solution and different configurations of coalitions to respond, like in the cases of the G5 Sahel Force and MNJTF. Flexibility in deployments is why ad hoc arrangements are preferred and deployed instead of strictly defined structures. A flexible approach could enable lead nations to form coalitions to deploy within the ASF. A coalition of ready-elements across the regional brigade could team up to deploy in other cases.


This paper examined the nexus between “standby” and readiness. In practice, however, standby arrangements such as the ASF, NRF, EUBG and UN PCRS provide standby converging features in terms of rotational framework, readiness timeframe, and rapid spearhead units. While standby arrangements provide the opportunity for rapid response, they face significant deployment challenges due to issues relating to costs, national interest and rigidity of standby arrangments.


[1] Wu, David, A 2005. Canada’s Past, Present and Potential Future Contributions to a United Nations High-Readiness, Rapid Reaction Military Capability. Canadian Military Journal, Autumn 2005

[2] Morrison, Alex 1995. The Theoretical and Practical Feasibility of a United Nations Force, Cornell International Law Journal, Volume 28, Issue 3 Symposium 1995.

[3] De Coning, Cedric 2010. Civilian Capacity in United Nations Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Missions, Policy Brief 4, NUPI

[4] The UN also has a Justice and Corrections Standing Capacity (JCSC) of 6 staff members established in 2010.

[5] Interoperability refers to the ability of different military troops to conduct joint operations.

[6] De Coning, Cedric and Breidlid, Ingrid Marie 2010. Civilian Capacities and Non-Governmental Rosters: Report of the Study on Civilian Capacities within Non-Governmental Rosters. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

[7] US DOD 2021. DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.

[8] Cambridge Dictionary 2022. Definition of Standby.

[9] Rumbaugh, Russell 2017. Defining Readiness: Background and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service

[10] Ibid

[11] This is in line with the US DOD definition of operational readiness as “the capability of a unit/formation, ship, weapon system, or equipment to perform the missions or functions for which it is organised or designed”.

[12] US DOD 2021. DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.

[13] CRS 2021. The Army’s New Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, In Focus, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Updated 09 March 2021.

[14] The NRF is also open to partner countries once approved by the North Atlantic Council.

[15] For instance, in the second half of 2020, Italy chose to be a framework nation by leading a battlegroup that was participated by Greece and Spain. Some other members partake as members of the battlegroup. In some cases, some countries like France, Germany, the UK, etc., singlehandedly form the EUBG by providing both HQ and troops.

[16] Finabel FINABEL. “European Union Battle Group Manual”. Guidance for operational preparation and tactical use. Promulgation of report FINABEL Nr A.25.R-T.37.R. European Land Forces Interoperability Center

[17] Xavier, Ana Isabel 2013. The EU‘s Battlegroup in perspective: addressing present challenges for future deployments. Austria Institut für Europaund Sicherheitspolitik.

[18] AU STC 2016. 9th Ordinary Meeting of the Specialized Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 04 June 2016

[19] Composed of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, NARC was established to fill the void of an active sub-regional organisation in the north due to the dormancy of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) since its establishment in 1989.

[20] United Nations DPO/DOS 2021. Guidelines: Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS). Reference: 2019.01 Approved by: Jean-Pierre Lacroix, USG/DPO; Atul Khare, USG/DOS

[21] The Strategic Force Generation and Capability Planning Cell request the conduct of AAV while the contributing country provides a formal request inviting the UN for the AAV. Not all T/PCCs will receive an AAV, and the decision to conduct an AAV will depend on the UN priorities, the type of pledge and current/future UN requirements.

[22] UN DPO/DOS 2019. The Rapid Deployment Level of the Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System Guidelines.

[23] The Vanguard Brigade has some similarities with the defunct Stand-by High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), which was established in 1996 in the context of UNSAS. SHIRBRG is a high readiness force of about 5000 troops to be deployed within 60 days of a UN decision. Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans' Association 2016. Peace Support Operations: Canadian Deployment and the United Nations Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System.  For Consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence in Support of the Defence Policy Review

[24] UN DPO 2017. United Nations Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System: Rapid Deployment Level Generic Statement of Unit Requirement for Force Protection Company. Office of Military Affairs, United Nations Department of peacekeeping operations.

[25] Due to the slow pace of operationalising the ASF and its RDC, the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) was established in 2013 to provide some flexibility in deployments beyond regional configurations pending the full functioning of the ASF. Yet, ACIRC, composed of 14 voluntary members of the AU, was not deployed in any conflict situation until it was officially dissolved in 2020.

[26] Seybolt, Taylor B. 1997. Coordination in Rwanda: The Humanitarian Response to Genocide and Civil War. Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, Working Paper:

[27] AU PSC 2016. Communique 571st Meeting of the PSC Heads of State. Addis Ababa. 29 January 2016. Available from:

[28] Yf Reykers (2017) EU Battlegroups: High costs, no benefits, Contemporary Security Policy, 38:3, 457-470, DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2017.1348568

[29] EU Strategic Compass 2022. European Union Rapid Deployment Capacity (EU RDC). Available from:

[30] While the NRF has not been used deployed in conflict settings, elements of the force have been used employed in disaster relief, for example, to protect the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and to support the Afghan presidential elections in 2004. The NRF, specifically the VJTF, was for the first time activated in February 2022 and deployed to Eastern Europe as a defensive measure in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, the force has not been deployed in an active combat operation.

[31] Reykers, Yf & Karlsrud, John 2017. Multinational rapid response mechanisms: Past promises and future prospects, Contemporary Security Policy, 38:3, 420-426, DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2017.1348567

[32] McCray, Matthew W.  2014. Rapid Reaction Capability of the European Union, Marshall Center Occasional Paper, no. 27, December 2014,

[33] Council of the European Union 2019.  EUMC Report to PSC on the Outcome of BGCC 2/19 – Enclosures: EU Battlegroup Offers and Commitments: Training and Certification Programmes. Brussels, 10 December 2019. Available at:

[34] Yf Reykers (2017) EU Battlegroups: High costs, no benefits, Contemporary Security Policy, 38:3, 457-470, DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2017.1348568

[35] The estimated cost of all AU PSOs in 2016 is $772 million. (AU Peace Fund 2016. Securing Predictable and Sustainable Financing for Peace in Africa. African Union, August 2016.)

[36] Essa, Azad 2017. G5 Sahel counterterrorism force explained. Available from:

[37] Ani, NC 2021. Politics of Intervention within the African Peace and Security Architecture: The Fluid Roles between the African Union and Sub-Regional Organizations. Africa Amani Journal, Vol 8, Issue 1, 2021.

[38] AU PSC Report 2020. Report of the Peace and Security Council on its Activities and the State of Peace and Security in Africa, for the period from February 2019 to February 2020. Thirty-Third Ordinary Session, Assembly/AU/5(XXXIII), 9-10 February 2020, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

[39] De Coning, Cedric 2016. Adapting the African Standby Force to a just-in-time readiness model: improved alignment with the emerging African model of peace operations, in De Coning, Cedric, Karlsrud, John and Gelot, Linnéa (eds) 2016. The Future of African Peace Operations: From the Janjaweed to Boko Haram. Zed Books. Available from:

Picture: AMISOM

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Author: NUPI
Year: 2023

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