November 18, 2011

A new EU impetus on conflict and fragility, or more of the same? Part 1: institutions and evaluation

Posted: 14:19 PM UTC

by Andrew Sherriff on November 18, 2011


The Arab spring and recent evolutions in Europe’s development policy have focussed those concerned with EU external action on new EU buzzwords of “deep democracy” and “inclusive growth”. Yet other developments over the last 12 months provide somewhat of an indication of how the EU institutions plan to deal with longer-term approaches to conflict and fragility. This article outlines the EU’s approach and takes a closer look at the institutional setup and discusses findings of a recent evaluation.

The challenge of dealing with conflict and fragility is that it requires an approach that integrates many different elements, and is mainstreamed across all areas of EU external action. This means that responsibility for conflict and fragility cuts across all institutions and policies. Yet someone within the institutions has to drive forward the integration and mainstreaming “bus”. The first indicator can be found in the recent institutional developments.


After some wranglings, a specific Division for Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention and Mediation (EEAS - VI.C.1) has been set up in the European External Action Service. At the same time a Unit for Fragility and Crisis Management (DEVCO - A5) has also been created in the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation – Europeaid, the first time the Commission’s development arm has a specific unit for the topic. Recently, the Heads of both these units have been appointed. Both come from outside the EU institutions yet they will be assisted by strong deputies with long institutional memory inside the institutions. This would seem like a good mix of fresh ideas with good institutional experience and thematic knowledge. Beyond DEVCO and the EEAS, the third institutional player for conflict and fragility is the Foreign Policy Instruments Service (FPI) and its Unit for Stability Instrument Operations, also a new creation. How these various units relate to their colleagues at the geographic desks in DEVCO and the EEA, the EU Delegations in partner countries and their hierarchies will be crucial, as will be how they relate to each other and the wider EU family. A good division of responsibilities and smooth working relationship will be important to secure good outcomes. It has been reported that a Conflict Prevention Group may be created to bring these and other key actors in the EU institutions working on this topic.

A positive indication of working well together was when the heads of all these three units mentioned from the EEAS, DEVCO and FPI were present with many of their staff along, at the launch of the Evaluation of the European Commission’s support to Conflict Prevention and Peace Building 2001-2010. It is the most comprehensive evaluation and review of policy and practice ever undertaken of the EU institutions on the topic. Therefore it provides a firm base for both seeing what was done and what needs to be improved. The prognosis of the evaluation – to which ECDPM contributed -was that while the European Commission broadly developed its policy framework over the last ten years, implementation was patchy and did not match the level of ambition. This was despite the best efforts of many and a number of incremental positive developments such as the number of EU countries strategies where conflict prevention or peace building became a focal sector, and a wealth of related policy development.


The EC has demonstrated its commitment for conflict prevention and peace building (widely defined) through an increase in financing, which for the period 2001-2010 totalled €7.7 billion or almost 10% of total EC assistance for this timeframe (not including third countries covered by DG Enlargement). Evidently European Institutions have some added-value in this field and the post-Lisbon EU institutional context only enhances this potential. Therefore there was a strong recommendation to the EEAS and Commission to stay engaged in the area of conflict prevention and peace building. The EU’s integrated approach should continue to be pursued and strengthened. On the “to do list” the evaluators composed for the EU institutions, were issues of improving conflict analysis, improving early warning to early action, strengthening coordination between EEAS, EC, Council and EU member-states, levering the Commission financial weight with non-financial support, and applying a differentiated approach to alignment. Finally, the evaluation noted that the Commission and EEAS should develop a more tailored human resource policy, knowledge management, and workable tools in this area.

The evaluation was generally well received, and seen as an honest document when it was presented in a seminar attended by member-states officials, officials from the European Parliament, civil society, associate experts society, as well as representatives of some of the countries that that were part of the case studies. All present stakeholders reaffirmed the importance of the goal of conflict prevention and peace building in EU external action, yet the real challenge will be in the follow-up.

The second and concluding part of this feature on the EU approach to conflict and fragility will focus on recent policy developments and will be published next week. ECDPM will be developing a new programme on Conflict, Security and Resilience as part of ECDPM’s new strategy 2012-2016.

Andrew A new EU impetus on conflict and fragility, or more of the same? Part 1: institutions and evaluation Andrew Sherriff is Senior Executive: International Relations at ECDPM and was part of the team led by ADE that completed the evaluation of European Commission support to Conflict Prevention and Peace Building 2001 – 2010.


This blog post features the authors personal views and does not represent the view of ECDPM.

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