The Peace and Security Council (PSC) is the standing organ of the AU for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. It is a key element of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which is the umbrella term for the main AU mechanisms for promoting peace, security and stability in Africa
The PSC was established to be a collective security and ‘early warning’ arrangement with the ability to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations. The PSC’s core functions are to conduct early warning and preventive diplomacy, facilitate peace-making, establish peace-support operations and, in certain circumstances, recommend intervention in Member States to promote peace, security and stability. The PSC also works in support of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction as well as humanitarian action and disaster management.
The PSC’s authority derives from article 20 (bis) of the Constitutive Act (as inserted by article 9 of the Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act 2003) together with article 2 of the 2002 Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.
Under article 7 of the Protocol, the PSC’s key powers include to:
- Anticipate and prevent disputes and conflicts, as well as policies, which may lead to genocide and crimes against humanity
- Undertake peace-making, peace-building and peace-support missions
- Recommend intervention in a Member State in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity
- Institute sanctions
- Implement the AU’s common defence policy
- Ensure implementation of key conventions and instruments to combat international terrorism
- Promote coordination between regional mechanisms and the AU regarding peace, security and stability in Africa
- Follow-up promotion of democratic practices, good governance, the rule of law, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law
- Promote and encourage the implementation of conventions and treaties on arms control and disarmament
- Examine and take action in situations where the national independence and sovereignty of a Member State is threatened by acts of aggression, including by mercenaries
- Support and facilitate humanitarian action in situations of armed conflicts or major natural disasters.
The PSC is the successor to the OAU Central Organ of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. The Central Organ was the OAU’s operational body mandated to make decisions on matters of peace and security. It was composed of nine and later 14 Member States. Like the PSC, the Organ operated at summit, minister and ambassador levels.
The PSC has 15 members. All are elected by the AU Executive Council and endorsed by the Assembly at its next session. Five members are elected for three-year terms and 10 for two-year terms, usually to take up office on the first day of April following endorsement by the Assembly. Retiring members are eligible for immediate re-election.
Members are elected according to the principle of equitable regional representation and national rotation. National rotation is agreed within the regional groups. Regional representation is usually:
- Central Africa: three seats
- Eastern Africa: three seats
- Northern Africa: two seats
- Southern Africa: three seats
- Western Africa: four seats.
Article 5(2) of the PSC Protocol lists criteria for members including: contribution to the promotion and maintenance of peace and security in Africa; participation in conflict resolution, peace-making and peace-building at regional and continental levels; willingness and ability to take up responsibility for regional and continental conflict resolution initiatives; contribution to the Peace Fund and/or Special Fund; respect for constitutional governance, the rule of law and human rights; and commitment to AU financial obligations.
The PSC Secretariat, established under article 10(4) of the PSC Protocol, provides direct operational support. The Secretariat sits within the AU Commission’s Peace and Security Department (see the AU Commission section for more information about the Department).
The PSC meets in continuous session. All members are required to keep a permanent presence at AU Headquarters. Meetings can be held at three levels: permanent representatives, ministers or Heads of State and Government. Article 8(2) of the PSC Protocol requires Permanent Representatives to meet at least twice a month, and Ministers and Heads of State and Government at least once a year. Article 8(6) provides that the Chair shall be held in turn by the members, in the English alphabetical order of country names, for one calendar month. PSC meetings include closed sessions, open meetings and informal consultations.
The PSC Chairperson is mandated to draft the provisional programme of work and the agenda. The Chairperson may bring to the PSC’s attention any matter that may threaten peace, security and stability in the continent, and may request briefings from PSC committees and other AU organs and institutions. The agenda is based on proposals submitted by the Chairperson of the AU Commission and by Member States. The inclusion of any item on the provisional agenda may not be opposed by a Member State.
PSC decisions are guided by the principle of consensus. Where consensus is not possible, decisions on procedural matters are taken by a simple majority; and on substantive matters, by a two-thirds majority (PSC Protocol, article 8(13)). A member that is party to a conflict or situation under consideration by the PSC may not participate in the discussion and decision- making process relating to that conflict or situation (PSC Protocol, article 8(9)).