The Peace and Security Council (PSC) is the African Union's (AU’s) standing decision-making body responsible for the maintenance of continental peace and security. It has 15 members, elected by the AU Executive Council on regional basis (three from Central Africa; three from East Africa; two from North Africa; three from Southern Africa; and four from West Africa).
Members are elected for three-year (five members) or two-year (ten members) terms and can be re-elected immediately for another term. There are no permanent members and no veto. PSC chairmanship rotates on a monthly basis, in alphabetical order of the English-language names of member states.
At the AU inaugural meeting in Durban, the African leaders signed the “Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the AU” which came into force on 26 December 2003. The Protocol defines the PSC as “a standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. The PSC shall be a collective security and early-warning arrangement to facilitate timely and efficient response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa”.
The Protocol also stipulates that “The Peace and Security Council shall be supported by the Commission, a Panel of the Wise (PoW), a Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), an African Standby Force (ASF) and a Special Fund.”
In March 2004, the PSC adopted its Rules of Procedure and sat for its inaugural meeting one day later, thereby marking the beginning of the operation of the PSC. Indeed, two months later, the PSC was solemnly launched at the level of Heads of State and Government on 25 May 2004.
promote peace, security and stability in Africa;
anticipate and prevent conflicts;
and where conflicts have occurred, undertake peace-making and peace-building functions for the resolution of these conflicts;
promote and implement peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction activities to consolidate peace and prevent the resurgence of violence;
co-ordinate and harmonise continental efforts in the prevention and combating of international terrorism in all its aspects;
develop a common defence policy for the Union; and,
promote and encourage democratic practices, good governance and the rule of law, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law, as part of efforts for preventing conflicts.
The PSC is required to meet a minimum of two times a month at ambassadorial level. The agenda is based on the assessment of ongoing conflict and crisis situations, and the assessment can be initiated by any member or by the Commissioner for Peace and Security, in consultations with the Chair. According to the PSC Rule of Procedure, “The inclusion of any item in the provisional agenda may not be opposed by a Member State”. The rules foresee the following types of meetings and their respective participants:
open meetings; to which the PSC may invite to participate, “without a right to vote, in the discussion under its consideration:
(a) any member State of the AU, which is not a member of the Council, when the interests of that Member States are specifically affected, or when a Member State brings to the attention of the Council a matter that threatens national or regional peace and security; and
(b) any Regional Mechanism, international organization or civil society organization, which is involved and / or interested in a conflict or situation related to the discussion under consideration by the Council.”
Any AU member state invited to participate in the discussions of the Council may submit, through a member of the Council, proposals and propose draft decisions for consideration. The rules also say that the Council may invite the media to attend its open meetings.
Most PSC meetings are held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, but the PSC has the option of choosing other venues.