Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The African Union's "Situation Room" Compared to the EU's newly-created "Situation Room"

If ever there was a temptation by Afro-pessimists to conclude that the AU is incapable of results, I would want to point to the AU's situation room as one element to totally de-bunk that myth.

Back in March this year, when I had the opportunity to also visit the AU's situation room, alongside then-colleagues of the Africa Peace and Security programme(APSP), I had to say I was impressed by this very screen here [this picture is from Derek Henry Flood of http://the-war-diaries.com/?tag=new-african-union], which I also remarked, but felt it was not possible to take a picture of! I would have thought that the AU Situation Room might want to keep it confidential you know!

Anyway, the point ought not to be lost on you that the AU Situation Room has been around for a while--in fact since 1998--and I want to cull what I found from an AU report:

59.       Ambassador Ki-Doulaye gave a brief overview of the Situation Room of the Conflict Management Center. He pointed out that after the establishment of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Management and Resolution in 1993, with the Central Organ as its main decision-making body, there grew an increasing need to understand African conflicts better, in order to prevent them. It was commonsensical at that time that a thorough understanding of African conflicts required timely and reliable information and analysis, providing the decision-makers with actionable options.  These growing concerns provided the impetus for convening, in 1998, of the meeting of experts to identify the political, economic, social, and military indicators, which could be considered to qualify a conflict.

60.       The Acting Head of the CMC informed the experts that it was following the outcome of that meeting in 1998, that the Situation Room was established, to serve as an initial step to the establishment within the CMC of a full continental early warning unit, which would strengthen the capacity of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. The Situation Room is now serving as the center for the collection, processing and dissemination of data and information on crisis situations around the continent.

 --from: http://www.google.com.gh/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=13&ved=0CCEQFjACOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.africa-union.org%2Froot%2Fua%2FConferences%2Fdecembre%2FPSC%2F17-19%2520dec%2FRpt%252030-31Oct%2520%252003%2520Background%2520n%25201.doc&rct=j&q=%22AU%20situation%20room%22&ei=M6UuTtq_LojIhAeb6_Uj&usg=AFQjCNF9Pg_NkCkfxXYpRHNsXTrjiqH3Gw&cad=rja

A bit too long, but I guess you get the point that to read that -- and then to read the latest news over the weekend that no less than the European Union was establishing an EU "Situation Room" under the new External European Action Service(EEAS) could only prompt questions as to whether the EU might have copied the AU--but never admit it! Let's see the dates: 1998 and 2011. Some 13 years down the line? I do not think anyone can convince me that the bilaterals that have taken place over the years between the AU and the EU Commissions might have touched on peace and security and, by extension, the situation rooms!

Check the objectives for the EU Situation room and you might get the picture:

The EU Situation Room is part of the EEAS Crisis Response Department. It is operational since 15 July 2011.

The main tasks of the EU Situation Room are the following:

  • To lead, manage and develop all EEAS permanence and situational awareness capabilities;
  • To staff and support the EEAS Crisis Platform;
  • To ensure that all EEAS services can continuously have access to accurate and updated situational awareness as regards the political situation worldwide, the particular situations affecting EU Delegations and EU CSDP Missions/Operations as well as events and situations potentially affecting EEAS staff from a duty-of-care perspective;
  • To manage and develop relations with similar crisis mechanisms in certain International Organisations and a number of third countries.
 from: http://www.europa-eu-un.org/articles/es/article_11223_es.htm

The key words are "similar crisis mechanisms" -- and frankly, the EU was not original this time!!

Suffice-to-say, whether it is regional integration or regional cooperation, this blog here has always emphasized "the regional way". To see that "similar mechanisms" to manage and prevent conflict are being established is a glimmer of hope that for those of us who wish to see a global governance predicated on regional institutions, the reality might be closer than we could ever imagine.

Though I cannot ever foresee the EU situation room and the AU situation room exchanging ideas in a kind of "knowledge management" bubble, I can foresee the emergence of a progressive and critical look at regional integration!

ekbensah AT critiquing-regionalism.org

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