African peace

Regional norms from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union

Author: Kathryn Nash

African regional organizations have played leading roles in constructing collective conflict management rules for the continent, but these rules or norms have not been static. Currently, the African Union (AU) deploys monitors, authorizes peace support operations, and actively engages in internal conflicts in member states. Just a few decades ago these actions would have been deeply controversial under the Organization of African Unity (OAU). What changed to allow for this transformation in the way the African regional organization approaches peace and security? Drawing extensively on primary source documents from the AU Commission archives, this book examines why the OAU chose norms that prioritized state security in 1963 leading to a policy of strict non-interference and why the AU chose very different norms leading to a disparate conflict management policy of non-indifference in the early 2000s. Even if the AU’s capacity to respond to conflict is still developing, this new policy has made the region more willing and capable of responding to violent conflict. The author argues that norm creation largely happened within the African context, and international pressure was not a determinant factor. The role of regional organizations in the international order, particularly those in the African region, has been under-theorized and under-acknowledged, and this book adds to an emerging literature that explores the role of regional organizations in the Global South in creating and promoting norms based on their own experiences and for their own purposes.

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