Column by Alex Shaner
However, a procedural advantage for the United Nations is to develop and create policies on a regional level.
Several organs of the UN focus on regional actors such as Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa to name a few. The African Union was created in 2001 to replace a previous regional organization — the Organization of African Unity.
There are several core ideas for the AU. They include achieving greater unity within the continent as a whole, promote peace, security, and stability, encourage international cooperation with the various projects of the United Nations and aspire to democratic principles of popular participation and reinforce good government just to name a few.
There are currently 54 member states, which include all countries excluding Morocco. However, there are three nations currently excluded including Guinea Bissau, Egypt and the Central African Republic due to coups and a breakdown in authority.
There are several institutions within the A.U. including a Council of Ministers and parliament for legislative activities.
The A.U. also has the power to assign peacekeeping forces in conflict areas.
However, there are several questions to consider.
Is the A.U. effective in promoting regional security and good governance?
For decades, military juntas, dictatorships and one-party states have ruled several countries in both North and South Africa.
In recent conflicts in Darfur, the AU sent peacekeeping forces but lacked the funds for sustaining a long-term presence. The US Congress in 2006 increased funding to the African Union in order to strengthen the peacekeeping missions to various places on the continent including Somalia.
An additional concern is size of the union. While it is important to achieve regional stability and cooperation, Africa is a continent with different languages, cultures, governments, and religions.
Can the A.U. work as one? One might point out that the U.N. comprised of around 190 nations has the same problems. That is true.
However, the A.U. has a dramatically smaller budget and the U.N. relies on smaller regional partnerships in addition to the continent-based organizations.
Within the economic associations, there are around eight “economic communities” in the AU divided into regions including the Maghreb (North Africa), Western Africa and various states in South Africa. There have been numerous difficulties in achieving a uniform policy between all eight groups.
I believe that the African Union is a critical organization that is needed in order to promote peace, security, and unity in Africa. However, there needs to be structural changes.
The economic communities are a good idea, but each organization should develop a plan to address the other seven communities.
Together, the A.U. needs to identify continent-wide initiatives. Then, the smaller communities need to provide economic cooperation on a continental level as a united front. For the peacekeeping exercise, the A.U. should partner with other organizations including the U.N., the E.U. and potentially NATO.
By securing greater cooperation with other international organizations, the AU can benefit by sharing the financial and political burden and still remain effective in various projects within the continent.
Shaner is a senior international relations and politics double major and can be reached at email@example.com