Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300-319)

Mr Nicholas Grono, Mr Gareth Evans AO QC and Mr Romit Jain

21 MARCH 2006

  Q300  Lord Lea of Crondall: Does that also apply to the multinational corporations? Some NGOs contend that kleptocracies have every reason to embrace multinational corporations with a few backhanders, because that suits both sides. How do you get out of that?

  Mr Grono: Certainly some corporations, in resources or actively engaged in commerce in West Africa, have an interest in a close relationship with the ruling elite, whoever they are, and stability, and perhaps do not have a particular interest in democracy. So, yes, there can be problems that way. You can address that by things like the EITI, trying to exert pressure in other ways. Soros's Publish What You Pay initiative, the Kimberley process—promoting transparency and creating disincentives or incentives to affect your behaviour, but you are doing that by raising the costs of engagement, or raising the costs if you do not behave appropriately, but it is still incentives and disincentives.

  Q301  Chairman: We use the term "good governance" in all these documents and in conversation. Have we tried sufficiently hard to ensure that there is a common understanding between ourselves and, say, the African Union as to what we mean by that?

  Mr Grono: I do not think that there are any real problems at the African Union level in understanding what is good governance; I think that the real challenge is understanding how to get there. You have many African states that have excellent governance, starting with somewhere like South Africa, with governance fully understood. If you read NEPAD, there is a clear understanding of where you want to end up. What is far more difficult is the process of getting there. That is challenging partly because there are big differences between countries. You cannot approach governance in Africa as a one-size-fits-all. The governance problems in Côte d'Ivoire are utterly different in many respects from governance in Ethiopia. That is the challenge, but I do not think that there is a lack of understanding about what forms good governance generally.

  Q302  Lord Lea of Crondall: What sort of dialogue do you think is the most productive? Because we are looking at the EU strategy agreed in December, the logical next question is: what is the capacity of the dialogue partner? That is the African Union, faute de mieux. That is how things are. Would you think that there should be quite different ways of looking at it than beginning from there, or in addition to beginning from there?

  Mr Grono: We have said all along that we think that the African Union is a very significant improvement on what went before it, and a very important player. For the most part, you have seen a qualitative difference in the way the AU has approached Darfur. The AU identified that there was a real problem; the AU got involved at an early stage. We can be critical that perhaps it has not gone far enough but, compared to past efforts, the AU has done extremely well. To the extent that the strategy focuses on strengthening the capacities of the AU, I think that is absolutely critical. You have to remember that the AU is not just a peace and security organisation. All the focus and attention has gone on peace and security capacities, but it also has eight other directorates. It has health, trade and industry—where very little effort has gone into developing those because, unfortunately for the AU, Darfur has landed on its doorstep.

  Q303  Lord Lea of Crondall: Because that is where its strengths are. Some people say that the first strength is in the peace and security, and maybe there is a cluster embracing governance; but, when it comes to health, education, AIDS, that is not where its comparative advantage lies. The possible exception is looking at cross-Africa infrastructure, although the critics will say there that that is ridiculous. It is the sort of back-of-an-envelope, Cape to Cairo railway, and that is a waste of money.

  Mr Grono: That is moving out of my conflict expertise, but the AU is a very effective dialogue partner for the EU and the AU will be much more effective at speaking to African states about health, infrastructure, trade and so on, than perhaps the EU will be, particularly if you are talking about African ownership. So I would have thought that there is a lot of interest in building up the AU's capacity across the board: partly because if you create an elite, effective African institution, hopefully you attract the best and the brightest, and hopefully then it provides a mechanism by which there can be much more effectiveness. The EU is much better set up to have a dialogue with the AU than with—

  Q304  Lord Lea of Crondall: Is it also the fact than the AU, looking at the medium term presumably, could legitimately think in terms of the nature of the European Union, and being a member state organisation with aspirations to develop its role in things such as the rules governing mergers, or labour markets, and so on. In other words, that it has experience of a unique relationship between the capacity to deliver at EU level and at member state level. Does that not legitimately have some attractions as a model? Even though people have consistently told us, "Please don't overstate the analogies between the European Union and the African Union", nevertheless it is obviously a thought that has crossed the mind of the architects for the future of the African Union, is it not?

  Mr Grono: I think that—big picture, long term—that is feasible; even if it is on a basis that you can develop the AU's capacity to offer technical assistance. Being Australian, I have always wondered what the Commonwealth does now as an organisation. But I recall talking to someone who was working there and their saying, "So much of our work is the technical capacity-building: holding these workshops, doing the low-level stuff, providing copies of the statutes, and so on"—which is critically important if you have an environment in which that can take hold. There is no reason, if down the track you have a capable AU with active engagement for international partners, why it cannot perform that role, probably much more effectively than outside organisations. I do not know whether you will have the AU, in the next decade or so, promoting a single market in trade and services. I think that we have a way to go. It is also interesting, because the EU started as a small organisation which has gradually increased confidence, and only now is getting into foreign policy in a big way; whereas the AU has done it the other way round, where it has stepped right into peace and conflict issues.

  Lord Lea of Crondall: That is a paradox, is it not? The very things that we are now thinking about and where the most reluctant Member States, i.e. Britain and possibly France, now think that we should take more prominent role, is exactly where the AU started from.

  Q305  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: That is slightly wrong, because the AU is talking about the relationship between its members. The EU is talking about its relationship with countries that are not its members. So it is a slightly different thing. You are right, though, that the AU is trying to develop instruments for regulating the relationship within and between its members which go beyond anything that the EU ever tried to do in its initial stage. It did not need to, because the American federator was doing it for them and was making it clear that they would not put up with any intra-European quarrels. You are right to that extent, but it is not quite the same thing as foreign policy. Policy amongst Africans is not really, for Africans, foreign policy.

  Mr Grono: No, except that it is adopting a leadership role and becoming a preferred interlocutor. I do not need to tell you about the High-Level Panel report or In Larger Freedom, talking about engagement with regional institutions, setting them up as the preferred partners of the UN. There is certainly a perception that that is an effective way to go.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Yes, that is my view.

  Q306  Chairman: Can we go back again to the Peace Facility and your particular interest? In a sense, we talk very easily about the EU role: that it can help with command and control; that it can help with heavy lift and logistics generally. That is fine. In your opinion, do the African countries, or at least some of them, actually have forces that lend themselves to that sort of assistance, i.e. in terms of numbers, basic training, discipline, equipment at the lower level of things?

  Mr Grono: Some do, but the capacities are limited. We have seen that with AMIS. We have had some African countries providing reasonably capable troops—Nigerians, Rwandans—but very limited in terms of their equipment. Most of the contributions have had to be extensively outfitted when they arrived; completely limited in things like lift capability, so it has been NATO—and so on. A lot of work needs to be done on development of indigenous forces.

  Q307  Chairman: Is there an EU role in this?

  Mr Grono: With the EU, in terms of the Member States, it is already happening. There is lots of bilateral engagement; there is lots of training, often between former colonies and so on. There is French engagement in training. There is actually a bit of a problem, as I understand it, which is different training standards, different objectives: the British training troops; the French training troops; Belgians engaged in training processes in the Congo; Americans very actively engaged in training some elites in certain countries, primarily focused on counter-terrorism. So, to the extent that the EU could get engaged and, at least on the Member States, impose some kind of uniformity, yes, that would be welcome.

  Q308  Chairman: We cannot do it amongst ourselves!

  Mr Grono: It is problematic. I have tried to get some information on this African Standby Force, about where it is at: the proposal is that you will have an African Standby Force by 2010, which will consist of five brigades, basically one brigade for each of the Regional Economic Communities. ECOWAS is by far the most advanced. It usually reflects one highly capable, or relatively highly capable, state taking a lead—so Nigeria taking the lead in ECOWAS—but there does not seem to be much happening on the Standby Force. You need to bear that in mind because, more often than not, the strategy talks about supporting African capabilities, of which the Standby Force is one; but if you are not going to have a Standby Force, then the need for European engagement will continue at that level.

  Q309  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: One way I suppose you could see it evolving is that the Europeans do a sort of short-term involvement, with a battle group or whatever it is, which is then taken over in the longer term by an African force. That would remedy the lack of an African Standby Force for some time, if it could be done.

  Mr Grono: Yes.

  Q310  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: That has not yet been tried, of course, but it is one of the things that could be tried. As far as the capacity of African troops is concerned, if you read Romeo Dallaire's book—I do not know if you have read that?

  Mr Grono: I have read parts of it.

  Q311  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Apart from the fact that it was one of the most bloodcurdling books I have ever read, it is perfectly clear that the only troops who were any good in Rwanda that he had were the Ghanaians. The other two, the Belgians and the Bangladeshis, vied with each other in total incompetence, and then both ran for it when things got difficult; whereas the Ghanaians stuck it out. I think myself, from that and other examples, that the African ability to undertake these operations, if given the things they totally lack—like equipment, training, logistics, backing and so on—is pretty considerable.

  Mr Grono: I do not have enough detail about individual capacities. I know that, when we have looked at ECOWAS engagement in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past, it has been problematic. Whether it is leadership issues, lack of support, discipline, there is a deep resentment towards Nigerian troops in certain West African countries, because of the past history of engagement. I don't want to single out one country, but it is more that they are better placed to provide the troops. This is not limited to African troops; you have problems with the UN. There are about 62,000 UN troops worldwide.

  Q312  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: 80,000, I think.

  Mr Grono: 62,000 troops. This does not include military observers and police. Most of them are in Africa. There are big problems with the quality of many of the member contributing countries, to the extent of even not being able to speak one of the languages.

  Q313  Lord Lea of Crondall: In order to put some of those figures into the record, you say 50,000 are in sub-Saharan Africa out of a UN total of 61,600.

  Mr Grono: I can email this to you.

  Q314  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The Sudan figure will go up exponentially if the Darfur expedition—

  Mr Grono: It will automatically be re-hatted. You have about 7,000 at the moment.

  Q315  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Yes, they will basically be most of the AMIS troops with blue helmets out there.

  Mr Grono: Yes. But, again, huge problems. They are predominantly African troops there now; a strong desire on behalf of the AU that they stay predominantly African, but there needs to be an expansion. Crisis Group has consistently argued that you need between 12,000 and 15,000 at a minimum in Darfur. There are about 7,000 now. We put out a report last week, arguing that you need a stabilisation force led by, we said, France, but ideally led by a military-capable country. However, the African contribution will be a significant player, whatever the UN force is in the end.

  Q316  Chairman: Is that just because of unsuitable troops, or there is just not that number of troops?

  Mr Grono: When we argued for the French?

  Q317  Chairman: No. You were saying that the African Union would want the additional troops to be African, and you said that there was great difficulty.

  Mr Grono: It is African ownership.

  Q318  Chairman: Yes, and I understand that. It is getting the numbers; it is not just flying them in, is it? They just do not exist in trained numbers on the ground within the continent.

  Mr Grono: This is just UN peacekeeping. You did have an African Union mission in Burundi, which has been re-badged as a UN operation; but I presume predominantly African troops there. Africa is just sucking up the demand for peacekeeping troops, and there are problems. The French want an expanded UN mission in Côte d'Ivoire. The UNSG has asked for an increased mission in the Congo. Europe will come to the party with a short-term mission there. It is just a lack of numbers: both African and troops worldwide. Part of the reason being that Europeans are very actively engaged elsewhere, and there is a distinct unwillingness to contribute troops on the ground in Africa.

  Q319  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Do you think that Australia has anything to teach the European Union on its experience in the south Pacific?

  Mr Grono: There is very little attention paid to a very interesting exercise, which was the Australian-led mission in the Solomon Islands, which in many respects has been very successful. It is quite different from many of the peacekeeping missions you have seen. It was predominantly a police mission. It went in with the explicit authorisation of the Solomon Islands Government. There was a very strong focus on rule of law, to the extent of going out and arresting people and processing them through the courts. It stabilised the situation and has slowly drawn down, and promised a long-term commitment. Australia went in there and was able to say, "We will give you a ten-year commitment", which is something we argue for all the time in terms of engagement in Africa. A small engagement but a very tricky one, that I think has been relatively successful. So there are lessons to be learnt from that. There are lessons to be learnt from Australian engagement in East Timor under the UN ambit. Again, quite a successful mission in very difficult circumstances, partly because one country was prepared to contribute much of the resources—which has all sorts of advantages in coherence of the operation, and so on. So there are some lessons that can be learnt.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2006