Concept Note


Intending to play a crucial role in bringing about sustainable peace and contributing to the implementation of the African Union’s Tripoli Declaration of August 2009, the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) at Addis Ababa University (AAU) convenes an annual security event, the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, or popularly known as Tana Forum. The Tana Forum is an initiative that responds to the Declaration’s appeal for “African-led solutions” and its call for responding to peace and security as a collective “intellectual challenge”. As a result, the annual Tana Forum emerged as an independent platform initiated by IPSS and eminent African personalities, including Meles Zenawi, the late Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The Tana Forum brings African leaders, decision-makers, and stakeholders to engage and explore African-led security solutions.

The centrepiece of the Tana experience is the baobab tree. Its symbolism of dialogue facilitates an informal and collaborative environment to discuss topical issues related to peace and security. The main Forum is complemented by panel discussions and bilateral talks, leading to frank and candid discussions and experience sharing. The Forum derives its name and takes place each year at Lake Tana in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

The Context

This year (2022) marks the 10th anniversary of the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa. It coincides in a critical moment in Africa and the world as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed fragilities and divisions while highlighting inequalities, globally and locally. While old fault lines remain, new ones are producing tensions and threats that are converging within – rather than outside- states in a way that is exposing the underbelly of fractured state-society relations.

The signals of threats to peace and security across the African landscape are evident in the decline of democratisation, weakening of critical public institutions, the resurgence of ethnoreligious and other parochial identities, food insecurity and weak preparedness of African state to address its impact and externalities, the proliferation of actors and risks in ways previously not contemplated, and the limitations of reactive, military responses. Yet even at that, the prevailing cloud of uncertainty provides the opportunity to think deeply and act tenaciously to confront such triggers and enablers of today’s insecurities. Understanding Africa’s security threats today also requires rethinking the role of actors and initiatives at national, regional and continental levels and that of international partners in soliciting solutions.

This year’s Tana Forum is invariably about how best to respond resolutely to emerging socio- economic, political, governance challenges or manage such threats in a way that does not lose sight of the continent’s most valuable resource: its citizens. How arts, culture and heritage, as well as resilience in nutrition and food security, the AU theme for 2021 and 2022, respectively, can be harnessed to promote enduring peace considering the continent’s myriad challenges needs to be interrogated. By shifting focus away from states and institutions to citizens who, ultimately, have the legitimacy and influence to make change happen, the course of a better future becomes clearly defined and attainable.

The theme of this year’s Tana Forum is framed around the following issues: Building resilience has gained new currency in light of new fragilities imposed by the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and state measures to curb it,Measures towards building resilience must be deliberate in placing citizens at the centre, recognising their agency in the process of reimagining governance and peacebuilding, Building resilience is not a one-off event but a process that takes time and resources, The state may only play a role that is necessary and desirable in building resilience if the deeply fractured social contract with citizens is repaired, and The international community may contribute to building citizens resilience but must do it in a manner that is cognizant of their priorities.

Download the full Tana 2022 Concept Note documents  Concept Note(en).