Joint Communication: ‘A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s external action’ – An opportunity for more political, long-term EU engagement in volatile contexts?

15/09/2017

By Dr Laura Davis

 

The EU Global Strategy (EUGS) marks a shift in how EU leaders see the EU’s role in the world. The 2003 European Security Strategy – for all its flaws – emphasised EU contribution to a better world by promoting values in its external action. The EUGS defines the EU’s external action in terms of defending the EU’s interests, without clearly articulating what these are. External action was always interest-based, of course, but this shift in discourse – and particularly the important position of the interests of the European arms trade in the EUGS – reflects a political climate in which external action is subordinated to stemming migration to the EU as fast as possible, and not necessarily by addressing the causes of forced migration.

In this broader political context, the Joint Communication: ‘A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s External Action’ offers some opportunities for addressing the root causes of conflict and suffering, common causes of displacement. It offers a very broad definition of resilience, which covers individuals, communities, societies and states – but two important characteristics stand out. First, it recognises the need for a political rather than purely technical approach to external action. Second, it recognises ‘the need to move away from crisis containment to a more structural, long-term, non-linear approach to vulnerabilities, with an emphasis on anticipation, prevention and preparedness.’

The Communication also gives some cause for concern. Women and girls get a couple of mentions, but gender equality has not been integrated. We know from thousands of years of experience that unless women’s rights are explicitly included in human rights, they are quickly overlooked, while the rights of gender and sexual minorities are rarely included from the outset. As with other EU policy documents, men and boys are absent and gender-less: their agency is assumed and their contribution to gender equality is not required. The underlying assumption is that women and gender minorities have to free themselves from oppressive social norms to bring about equality.

The emphasis on conflict prevention and the long-term, non-linear needs for building resilience in the Communication is welcome. There is, however, implicit tension with these and the short-term roles foreseen for Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions.

A particular area of concern is the ‘capacity building’ of state security services in fragile contexts. When divorced from reform programmes that ensure civilian oversight, centralised command and control and robust accountability mechanisms, ‘capacity building’ risks reverting to old-style ‘train and equip’ projects. The danger here is that abusive security agents become more resilient to reform and better equipped to abuse civilians and engage in organised crime, including trafficking migrants.

Finally, civic space is crucial for resilience. The “Arab Spring” has shown how brittle authoritarian regimes can be when faced with opposition. It has led to a cultural paradigm shift in which young men and women are more willing to express their dissent. Yet civic space is closing fast – and faster for women than for men. If civil society organisations’ main roles are as service providers, this is a sign of inadequate civic space and therefore poor resilience. Civic space is a mark of resilience.

As with all other policies, the value of the Communication will be proven in its implementation. Above all, the EU needs political leadership at every level to guide interventions based on rigorous analysis that integrates gender analysis as a matter of course. The challenge for EU external action has never been inadequate tools – when it has had clear objectives, it has used its available instruments and created new ones as needed. Without clear political leadership, based on the Treaty principles that govern external action, the instruments will never be fit for purpose no matter how carefully they are designed.

Dr Laura Davis is the Senior Associate responsible for EPLO’s work in pursuit of its Policy Objective 4 (To strengthen the implementation of a gender-sensitive approach in EU policy and practice which enables the EU to be more inclusive and effective in promoting peace).

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The new European Consensus on Development

28/08/2017

By Lorenzo Angelini

 

With the recent adoption of the new European Consensus on Development (ECD), the EU and its member states (MS) have put forward what they have described as their new ‘collective vision for development policy.’[1] It will notably help to guide their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Like the 2030 Agenda, the new ECD puts strong emphasis on the link between sustainable development and peace. In this blog article, I will offer my personal thoughts on the new ECD as it pertains to EU support to conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

Recognition of the link between peace and sustainable development

As part of the EU’s response to the 2030 Agenda and to ‘current global challenges and opportunities’,[2] the new ECD is more encompassing than its 2005 predecessor and seeks to address some of its limitations. From a peacebuilding perspective, it includes several encouraging elements. The eleven-paragraph-long Section 2.4 is entitled ‘Peace – Peaceful and inclusive societies, democracy, effective and accountable institutions, rule of law and human rights for all’. References to peace and peaceful societies can also be found in other sections, as the document stresses the existence of interlinkages between poverty, conflict and fragility. It argues that the root causes of these issues need to be addressed in a comprehensive manner, and that development co-operation should be used ‘as part of the full range of policies and instruments to prevent, manage and help resolve conflicts and crises, avert humanitarian needs and build lasting peace and good governance’ (although development co-operation’s primary focus remains ‘poverty eradication in all its dimensions’).

This renewed recognition of the connection between sustainable development and peace is indispensable, as violent conflicts are a foremost obstacle to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including its SDG 1 (‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’). Beyond this link, the ECD mentions the need to embrace a ‘long-term vision’ in order to find sustainable solutions to vulnerability and crises, calling for more effective synergies between peace, humanitarian and development actions (while acknowledging the necessity to uphold humanitarian principles). In this light, countries in situations of conflict and fragility are included among the priority targets for development co-operation. The EU and EU MS also assert that they will ‘integrate conflict sensitivity in all their work’ and build ‘risk assessments and gap analysis into their development cooperation programmes’ – an essential requirement to help ensure development actions respect the ‘do no harm’ principle. In addition, explicit support for the national and local ownership of development and peacebuilding processes can be found throughout the ECD.

The empowerment of people and of civil society

Another crucial aspect of effective peacebuilding actions is the need to adopt people-centered approaches. Human security is evoked three times in the new ECD, and it is highlighted as a key focus of EU efforts in security sector reform (SSR) in partner countries. Although the role of youth in peace building is not addressed in Section 2.4, particular attention is given earlier in the document to young people as ‘agents of development and change’, the aim being to ‘strengthen the rights of young people and their empowerment in the conduct of public affairs.’ The necessity to achieve progress with regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is also repeatedly emphasised, as the EU and EU MS stress that women should be supported ‘as positive agents for conflict prevention, conflict resolution, relief and recovery, and building sustainable peace’. This is of particular importance given that women are still too often described solely as victims who require protection (in particular in conflict situations), rather than as agents of change who should be equal participants in political and peacebuilding processes. The new ECD also expresses support for the political inclusion of minorities and of persons in vulnerable and marginalised situations.

In the current context of shrinking space for civil society in a number of countries, the EU and EU MS declare that they will defend ‘an open and enabling space for civil society, inclusive approaches and transparency in decision-making at all levels.’ They commit to ‘engaging with all stakeholders in conflict-prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes’, and state their support for multi-stakeholder and multi-level approaches throughout the new ECD. Likewise, in its section on partnerships, it promotes capacity building initiatives aimed at enabling civil society and other non-governmental actors to play their part in ‘designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating sustainable development strategies.’ As the obstacles faced by civil society organisations (CSOs) in different countries can take many forms, it is also vital for the EU to help build their capacity to engage their governments at all levels and at all stages of the policy-making process.

Limitations and future challenges

Despite these positive elements, the new ECD has a number of shortfalls. Firstly, although it asserts that the EU and EU MS’ joint implementation of development co-operation will be an inclusive process, open to contributions from civil society and other non-governmental actors, one-off consultations are still too often the norm. The EU and its partner countries need to develop institutionalised participatory processes in order to allow civil society actors (in particular local CSOs) to play a more meaningful, systematic and ongoing role in the shaping and monitoring of development strategies and financing. In this context, structured mechanisms of coordination with CSOs should be an essential pillar, with direct funding, of EU support to civil society. Similarly, while engaging in ‘capacity building for nationally owned monitoring frameworks, quality data collection, disaggregation and analysis’ can be of significant help to partner countries in their implementation of the 2030 Agenda, such help should not only be directed at governments but also at civil society actors and citizens in order to create pluralistic data ecosystems and to enhance the capacity of CSOs to engage in monitoring and evaluation activities.

Secondly, as mentioned above, the new ECD stresses that the EU and EU MS will ‘integrate conflict sensitivity in all their work’, states that actions should be tailored to local contexts (and thus argues that European development efforts should be characterised by flexible decision-making and implementation), and supports the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Yet, the new ECD would have benefited from a more extensive commitment to the further institutionalisation, at the European level, of cross-cutting conflict-, context- and gender-sensitive analysis at all stages of the policy process. Indeed, an in-depth understanding of local realities, power dynamics and capacities is needed at each of the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases, to guarantee the validity of the analysis, the effectiveness of actions and their adherence to the ‘do no harm’ principle. Gender analysis, in particular, should be fully integrated into any conflict analysis, rather than treated as an occasional add-on.

Thirdly, and more fundamentally, the new ECD does not sufficiently address concerns regarding the potential lack of coherence of European actions as they relate to development efforts. The fact that it applies in its entirety to both the EU institutions and EU MS is a step forward which should not be underestimated, and the new ECD repeatedly reaffirms their joint commitment to policy coherence for development (PCD) and policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD). It also states that the EU and EU MS will ‘integrate the respect of human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality into their political dialogue’ with third countries and implement ‘a rights-based approach to development cooperation’. However, as various observers have pointed out, the focus on migration which can be found in the new ECD is problematic. One obvious risk is that partnerships on migration control with repressive governments can reinforce such regimes internally and externally, and have terrible human costs. Morover, development co-operation and development resources should not be used to serve EU MS’ interests on migration control. References to ‘irregular migration’ do not belong in EU development vocabulary as the (contested) characterisation is irrelevant to development policy, and the emphasis should be on magnifying the positive contributions of migration to development and on reducing its potential negative side-effects. In addition, migration and forced displacement are separate issues, and while the document repeats several times that the EU and EU MS consider it essential to address the root causes of forced displacement, in practice this should be done as part of comprehensive efforts to tackle these situations of fragility on their own terms rather than as part of a narrow effort to avoid the movement of groups of people.

There are other threats to the coherence and effectiveness of development actions. One is the prioritisation of a short-term security agenda (notably on migration and terrorism/violent extremism) over long-term development and peacebuilding strategies. While the new ECD notes that any help provided to security sector actors in partner countries will aim to accomplish ‘sustainable development objectives, in particular the achievement of peaceful and inclusive societies’, the increasing use of development funds for “hard” security- and even military-focused co-operation risks seriously undermining development efforts (notably by blurring the line between the two and through the aforementioned shift in priorities and resources). Another threat pertains to the drive to associate the private sector more closely with development actions. Partnerships with the private sector can indeed have substantive positive effects, especially at the local level, if they lead to conflict-sensitive investments which spur inclusive economic growth and the development of a people- and environment-friendly local private sector. However, investments and business practices which are not conflict-sensitive can create and exacerbate tensions. This means that robust frameworks regulating any such partnerships with the private sector, in particular with EU companies, are required. In this regard, regulatory frameworks which ensure that the relevant actors engage in conflict-sensitive analysis and ‘do no harm’ assessments, and which establish transparency obligations as well as the legal accountability of EU firms for the actions of their sub-contractors throughout the production and distribution chains, are only a first step. More broadly, an in-depth analysis of the development benefits of any partnership with actors from the private sector should be conducted on a case-by-case basis, and development co-operation should not be instrumentalised to serve the commercial interests of EU MS or of other actors.

Concluding remarks

Overall, the new ECD includes encouraging commitments and language on several issues linked to peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in development actions. At the same time, various shortfalls remain, and current trends relating to migration, security-focused actions and private sector involvement in development pose risks to development and peacebuilding efforts which need to be taken seriously and addressed. The new ECD is longer and more encompassing than its 2005 predecessor, but it does not go as far as offering concrete guidelines on how to operationalise the general principles and declarations of intent which it contains. As always, its implementation and translation into existing/new practices and policies will therefore merit further and continued analysis.

Lorenzo Angelini is the Policy Officer responsible for EPLO’s work in pursuit of its Policy Objective 3 (To integrate peacebuilding into EU development policy, programmes and approaches).

 

[1] Council of the EU, The new European Consensus on Development – EU and Member States sign joint strategy to eradicate poverty, Press release; 340/17, 7 June 2017, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/06/07-joint-strategy-european-consensus-development/

[2] The New European Consensus on Development – ‘Our world, Our dignity, Our future’, June 2017, p. 5.


The EU and conflict prevention in Jordan

20/06/2017

This Civil Society Dialogue Network discussion paper by Laura Davis and Fatima Ayub is intended to stimulate discussion and reflection on what lessons for EU contributions to conflict prevention can be drawn from the case of Jordan.

Jordan is a good example of an important but not urgent situation where incremental efforts to prevent conflict may well yield greater returns over time than responding to crises when they become visible. But as these problems are not urgent, they require considerable political leadership and capital because success is less evident.

Jordan is seen by its partners, with the support of the Jordanian government, as the stable partner in a volatile region. Whether as part of the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), as a partner against Da’esh and in counter-terrorism, as a haven for refugees, Jordan’s role as a “Western ally” overshadows Jordan-as-Jordan. This paper argues that Jordan’s internal situation should be taken into consideration more effectively. It discusses four key drivers of conflict in Jordan, and the EU’s responses to them:

  • Rapidly changing demography, particularly owing to the resettlement of refugees;
  • Diplomatic relations and the geopolitics of the region;
  • Domestic political freedoms; and
  • Domestic fiscal management and economic policy.

The paper shows that EU programming documents repeatedly identify and address these key drivers of conflict. Yet by the EU’s own evaluation, Jordan is not working to mitigate the challenges related to inclusive and responsive governance and economic growth. Despite its extensive aid packages and trade arrangements, the EU has not been able to negotiate improvement on Jordan’s domestic conflict drivers.

A key obstacle is Jordan’s status as a lynchpin in regional stability and security, and here Jordan’s security and the security of the regime are seen as synonymous. Within this context, reforms that could lead to political instability may seem high-risk. On the other hand, doing nothing allows the problem to fester and also carries risk. Since the ‘Arab Spring’ Jordanians are more aware of the possibilities of challenging the existing order and the possibility that this discontent will manifest violently cannot be dismissed.

The EU could contribute to preventing conflict in Jordan if the EEAS facilitates, quietly, a better strategy for the country, supported by a good implementation plan led and owned by key Jordanian reformers and institutions for building a better, more inclusive society.

The EEAS could also muster political support from the relevant parts of the EU machinery and Member States to invest resources in supporting the reforms necessary to reduce the risk of violent endogenous conflict in Jordan. To build resilience, the EU – through the EEAS and/or well-positioned MS – needs to find a way to work with the Jordanian government, particularly the Royal Court and the security services, to build on the limited political and economic reforms it has achieved to date and extend them in the future. It should also find a way to support bridges between reformers and civil society to help develop a national dialogue for inclusive reform.

This would not necessarily require a change in EU policy or instruments, but the assumption of a quiet leadership role, using the tools at its disposal – such as political dialogue – more effectively.

The EC should use its funds more effectively before they shrink. The solution to Jordan’s serious and deepening fiscal crisis is significant political reform, rather than continuing to provide budgetary support or trying to build the private sector. The EU is presumably expecting to write off the loans it has made as the cost of keeping Syrian migrants out of Europe. This will not alleviate the problems: Jordan will share borders with highly unstable neighbours in Syria and Iraq for some time, but eventually international attention and funding will presumably turn towards reconstruction in these countries as Jordan’s regional role (and donor support) diminishes. There will likely be less funding available for Jordan in the future, but this may also provide the opportunity for the EC, EEAS and concerned EU MS to plan for new scenarios.

The EEAS and the EU Delegation to Jordan should also monitor closely the outcomes of their current governance and reform programming and align future funding to reflect progress made, as it is already supposed to do. The EU should not just seek to strengthen its partnership solely in the security arena, but should also stay attuned to meaningful if small measures that the government initiates (such as the recent proposals from a royal committee for justice sector reforms is a good example) and direct their political and financial support to encourage those reforms.

In this way, the EU could demonstrate leadership in preventing violent conflict, with results in Jordan and beyond.

This post gives the views of the author and does not represent the position of EPLO as a whole.

Click here to download the Civil Society Dialogue Network Discussion
Paper No. 11: The EU and conflict prevention in Jordan.


Countering Violent Extremism: A Peacebuilding Perspective

04/10/2016

Over the past decade, countering violent extremism (CVE) has emerged as a major global security concern and a key theme within governments’ counter-terrorism (CT) strategies throughout the world. The rise of terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere has prompted the European Union (EU) to acknowledge the importance of addressing VE and radicalisation as key components of the preventive aspects of its CT efforts.

A growing number of EPLO member organisations (MOs) have raised concerns that the mobilisation of domestic and international resources to tackle VE is often shortsightedly focused on reinforcing ‘hard’ security measures and response capabilities, and thus failing to acknowledge the need for a multi-dimensional approach in which emphasis is placed on prevention and the enabling conditions for VE are addressed.

Many EPLO MOs are working on preventing VE (PVE)/CVE as part of their broader approach to peacebuilding without necessarily labelling their work as such. They are contributing to the PVE agenda through programmes designed to prevent conflict, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and promote peace, tolerance and community resilience. A number of EPLO MOs take the view that applying a peacebuilding lens to the CVE agenda is vital to the effectiveness and sustainability of these efforts. This will require coordinated, context-specific responses which address the root causes of conflict and embrace a whole-of-society approach.

With VE ideologies gaining an unprecedented level of traction in different parts of the world, some EPLO MOs have called for an approach to PVE/CVE which includes efforts to understand how and why individuals become radicalised and turn to VE, and which attempts to identify and address the interplay of ‘push’ factors (e.g. structural conditions such as poverty, inequality, grievances, lack of access to justice and limited political participation etc.) and ‘pull’ factors (e.g. appealing extremist messaging which instills a sense of belonging, charismatic recruiters etc.).

The EPLO office has prepared a briefing paper on the EU’s policy and programming priorities regarding PVE/CVE. The paper outlines key developments since the adoption of the EU Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2005 until the presentation of the EU Global Strategy in 2016. It explains the way in which different policy documents have been revised and updated during this time to address new means and patterns of radicalisation, including issues posed by individuals supporting extremist ideology linked to terrorism, lone actors, homegrown terrorists and foreign fighters, as well as the role of the internet and social media for mobilisation and communication. The paper presents the EU’s approach to addressing both the internal and external dimensions of VE and radicalisation, and the core issues framing the EU debate on the need for a more coherent approach to the different dimensions of action underlying the internal-external security nexus. It also highlights links between PVE/CVE and traditional development co-operation, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected countries and regions.

The paper also includes an overview of EU’s programming priorities on PVE/CVE, both outside and inside the EU, and information about key institutional interlocutors and the main lines of cooperation at inter- and intra-institutional levels.

Click here to download the paper.


International Day of Peace 2016

21/09/2016

Today events are taking place all over the world to mark the International Day of Peace. Following the adoption of United Nations (UN) Resolution 36/37 in 1981, the 21st of September was designated by the UN General Assembly as a day devoted to ‘commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.’

The theme of this year’s International Peace Day is ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.’

A number of EPLO’s member organisations are organising events to celebrate the International Day of Peace:

In addition to the above-mentioned events, several EPLO member organisations have also marked the International Day of Peace by publishing a joint civil society statement entitled ‘Embracing the New Global Framework for Peace: A shared statement by peacebuilding organizations’.


EPLO Newsletter Volume 11 Issue 1

16/09/2016

Click here to download the latest issue of the EPLO Newsletter.


EPLO Conflict Prevention Newsletter Volume 10 Issue 1

31/07/2015

Click here to download the latest issue of the EPLO Conflict Prevention Newsletter.