The African Union's peace and security architecture has significantly developed over the past two decades, but Africa still faces persistent and resurgent armed conflict and war. The Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden – have established a robust partnership with Africa, supporting the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) through initiatives with African governments, the AU, regional economic communities and mechanisms, civil society, and research institutions.
The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) have produced a report, entitled: “A shared commitment: African-Nordic Peace and Security Cooperation”, that highlights African-Nordic cooperation in the area of peace and security over the last decade (2012–2021). The report is being launched today (17 October 2023) at the annual meeting of African and Nordic foreign ministers that is taking place this year in Algiers.
The report found that all the Nordic countries work across the conflict spectrum and use a wide array of tools for partnering with African actors, including knowledge generation, training, capacity building, deployment of personnel and technical experts. Between 2012 and 2021, Nordic countries pledged USD 4.96 billion in development cooperation funding to Africa's peace and security.
The report highlights the strategies adopted by the Nordic countries:
Denmark has invested heavily in democracy and regional stabilisation, with Kenya and Mali as priority countries, and it established its own Peace and Stabilisation Fund to facilitate a flexible, whole-of-government approach at the intersection between security and development. Finland has actively worked with the AU, EU, UN, and its African and Nordic partners to support mediation and reinforce inclusivity and sustainability.
Finland's Africa Strategy emphasises equal partnership over aid dependency, and its AU Mediation Support project is considered a flagship effort.
Iceland strongly focuses on combating climate change and strengthening climate resilience in its bilateral cooperation. It also places top priority to gender equality and the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda. It has developed a unique model, the Barbershop Toolbox, for mobilising men in the struggle for gender equality.
With over 30 years of peace diplomacy experience, Norway is enhancing the African-Nordic partnership’s capacity to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts in Africa and has supported the Training for Peace (TfP) programme for over twenty years. It also places great store on supporting the capacity building of the AU and other peace and security initiatives via the NORCAP roster of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Sweden has shifted its international development cooperation to Africa’s fragile regions while focusing on APSA, capacity building, and the WPS agenda. This has boosted civilian peacebuilding, mediation, conflict prevention, human rights, and democracy.
Nordic states have diverse approaches that seem traceable to their size, national capacity, and experience. However, their support to African actors covers the spectrum of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The cooperation includes technical support, training, research cooperation, joint programming, and civilian and military secondments to African institutions. Above all, there is a significant amount of comparative, accumulated action that is complementary.
While all the Nordic countries have been actively engaged in peace diplomacy, support for peace operations and countering violent extremism in Africa, a top area of support has been democratic practice. The key regions for African-Nordic cooperation are the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. Nordic countries have also supported local ownership, promoted African agency, and collaborated with African and Nordic non-governmental and civil society actors.
- The report is available here: A shared commitment: African-Nordic peace and security cooperation
Cedric de Coning is a senior advisor at ACCORD and a research professor at the Norwegian Institute of Internaitonal Affairs (NUPI).
Angela Muvumba Sellström is a senior researcher at the Nordic-Africa Institute (NAI).