‘Against School Aggression Partnership’: A community-based school programme to reduce school violence and conflicts


EPLO Member Organisation blog Post No. 10

By Dr Daniela Kolarova

The values of freedom, tolerance, respect for diversity and non-discrimination are fundamental for European societies. There are alarming proportions of bullying and violence in European schools which is a worrying signal for educators, civil society and communities. Bullying has serious and long-term effects for both victims and perpetrators. It affects mental and physical health as well as the academic performance of students.

From a policy point of view, if not addressed, bullying corrupts the school environment, poisons the climate and, in the long-term, can create a generation of apathetic citizens, bystanders of political processes and non-believers in the significance of actions for change.  The lack of will to combat bullying at school maintains the impunity of perpetrators, rewards those irresponsible for their actions and sows the seeds of cynicism, antisocial attitudes and disrespect for law and order and for the school institution as a whole. It also undermines the values of equality, dignity and liberty.

In 2015, three organisations – Partners Hungary Foundation, Partners Bulgaria Foundation and SOS Malta – joined forces to launch a pilot project aimed at developing and testing a community-based school programme for effective prevention and treatment of aggression and bullying, based on alternative conflict resolution methods. The long-term goal of the project was to achieve cultural change in schools through the dissemination of nonviolent communication, the introduction of alternative conflict resolution practices, the prevention of bullying and school conflicts, and a decrease in aggressive and other risk-related behaviour.

The research results in the pilot schools demonstrated that one of the programme’s important effects was an increase in respondents’ awareness. Bullying and aggression have been recognised as a problem and many of its aspects (i.e. types, scope, frequency etc.) have been addressed. The programme contributed to a better understanding of these phenomena and the schools’ sensitivity towards them increased. This can be seen in various suggestions for improving the school climate, measures and policies. Students’ proposals showed that they wanted a safer and child-friendly environment at school:

  • “We have to talk normally and understand each other
  • Some students must stop making themselves interesting by spoiling the atmosphere
  • “Teachers have to try to understand us better”.

Some students insisted on stronger disciplinary measures, including suspension and/or exclusion for those who engaged in bullying. A notable finding was the extent to which students insisted on the implementation of rules of co-existence at school and of their active reinforcement by adults. As a result, the suggested interventions reinforced school rules and encouraged students to think about ways to manage their relationships and disputes in a nonviolent way. A number of recommendations were prepared in order to engage educational authorities in conflict prevention and anti-bullying policies. The project showed that co-operative efforts to promote a child-friendly environment at school can be effective in stimulating learning and ensuring the well-being of all involved in the school system. The school educational process should accommodate measures and activities focused on maintaining co-operative and friendly relationships. In short, students need to learn how to co-exist with others in a peaceful way and to embrace their diversities. As the results demonstrated, dislike of others who are different, was shown to be one of the most common reasons for bullying and aggression. There is a strong argument for academic curricula to be taught in a culture of human rights, solidarity, co-operation and civility.

The programme contributed to the reduction of school aggression and bullying by establishing and strengthening co-operation between different institutions. It provided accessible and easy to adopt tools to reduce school violence and bullying. These tools were tested and further developed in three secondary schools in Bulgaria, Hungary and Malta. The programme also promoted alternative conflict resolution, anti-bullying procedures and restorative methods to be used in schools. These practices could help to prevent conflicts and minimise the occurrence of aggression, bullying and other behaviour, as risk factors for potential future criminality. They could also provide support for teachers and other educators when they need to tackle such cases.

Dr Daniela Kolarova is the Executive Director of EPLO member organisation the Partners Bulgaria Foundation.

For more information about the ‘Against School Aggression Partnership’, please visit the project website.

The project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.


Capacity building in support of development and security for development: Recommendations for implementation


By Lorenzo Angelini

In December 2017, the Council of the European Union (EU) and the European Parliament (EP) adopted a regulation amending the Regulation establishing the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP)[1] in order to enable the EU to provide support for ‘Capacity building of military actors in support of development and security for development’ (CBSD). The same provisions were included in the proposal for a Regulation establishing the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) put forward in June 2018 by the European Commission (EC) for the EU’s next Multiannual financial framework (2021-2027).[2]

In a contribution to the 2016 public consultation on CBSD, EPLO highlighted a number of risks involved in the initiative, including risks to human rights and peace, the risk of reinforcing oppressive and illegitimate power structures, and the risk of diverting human and financial resources away from existing civilian conflict prevention and peacebuilding measures.

Following the adoption of the new regulation, EPLO published a statement to provide recommendations to the EC, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and EU delegations (EUDs) on how to minimise the risks involved in the implementation of CBSD measures in partner countries in the coming years. The points raised in the statement included that:

  • CBSD measures must be context-specific and part of a broader EU political strategy for long-term peace and development. They must facilitate longer-term reform processes in order to improve human security.
  • The EU must ensure that CBSD measures do not strengthen unaccountable and corrupt institutions and their capacity for violence. The provision of IcSP support for CBSD should thus be conditional, inter alia, on:
    • binding commitments from partner governments and military forces to adhere strictly to human rights standards regarding the treatment of all men, women, boys and girls coming under their jurisdiction;[3]
    • the existence of EU transparency and accountability mechanisms, and of robust civilian oversight of military forces in partner countries;
    • the establishment of mechanisms allowing all members of the population, and especially the marginalised, to voice grievances, to engage with their security providers in order to communicate their needs and concerns, to develop solutions with them and to monitor the implementation of these solutions.
  • The EU should design CBSD measures with the primary objective of reforming military forces to make them more transparent, accountable and respectful of the human rights of all people coming under their jurisdiction.
  • The EU should also use CBSD assistance to provide support and training to civil society actors, including men, women, boys and girls from diverse segments of society, to develop their capacity to monitor the actions of military forces.
  • During each of the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) phases of CBSD measures, the EU should systematically:
    • conduct rigorous conflict analysis which integrates gender analysis;
    • assess the (potential) impact of each CBSD measure beyond immediate military capabilities in order to ensure that it is conflict- and gender-sensitive, that it does no harm and that it actively contributes to human security and sustainable peace;
    • actively involve inclusive civil society, ensuring the full participation of diverse women, men, girls and boys, including in the above-mentioned conflict analyses.
  • The EU should monitor and evaluate CBSD measures based on their broader impact, and assess in particular whether they contribute to improving people’s perceptions and experiences of security (i.e. M&E processes should not simply describe how many members of the military forces were trained or how much equipment was provided to them).
  • When engaging in CBSD measures with a training component, the EU should insist on the inclusion of male and female civilian expertise, and should involve inclusive civil society organisations when possible.
  • Article 3a of the amended IcSP Regulation prohibits the use of IcSP funding to finance ‘the procurement of arms and ammunition, or any other equipment designed to deliver lethal force’. In addition to respecting this legal requirement, the EU should clarify the types of equipment which can be provided as part of CBSD in general and as part of each CBSD measure, in order to ensure transparency and to facilitate monitoring by civil society. The EU should also ensure that IcSP funding is not used to finance the provision of equipment which can be used to violate human rights. Similarly, it should clarify how it will ensure that the equipment will only be used by the intended recipients, and it should lay out what measures are foreseen in cases when the said equipment is not used by the intended recipients and/or for approved uses.

If you would like to read these (and other) recommendations in more detail, please consult the above-mentioned EPLO statement on CBSD. As the EU is looking to maintain CBSD in its next Multiannual financial framework – and possibly to expand the scope of EU capacity building activities through the European Peace Facility[4] –, it is essential for the EU to ensure that CBSD measures do no harm and contribute positively to human security and sustainable peace in the contexts in which they are implemented.

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] Regulation (EU) 2017/2306 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2017 amending Regulation (EU) No 230/2014 establishing an instrument contributing to stability and peace.

[2] Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, COM(2018) 460 final (see Title I, Article 9), pp. 31-32.

[3] This also includes non-binary people.

[4] One of the three pillars of High Representative Mogherini’s Proposal for a Council Decision establishing a European Peace Facility would consist in “capacity building activities in support of third countries’ armed forces in pursuit of CFSP objectives” (p. 2).

The next EU Multiannual Financial Framework

On 2 May, the European Commission (EC) published its overall proposal for the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. According to the EC’s proposal:

  • Current Heading 3 (Security and Citizenship) would be replaced with Heading 4 (Migration & Border Management) and Heading 5 (Security &  Defence)
  • Current Heading 4 (Global Europe) would be renamed Heading 6 (Neighbourhood & the World)
  • The European Development Fund (EDF), which is currently off-budget, would be integrated into Heading 6
  • The Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) should not be maintained as a separate instrument. However, a new ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument’ (€89.5 billion) would include, inter alia, thematic pillars on ‘Stability and Peace’ and ‘Democracy & Human Rights / Civil Society in Development’,  and a ‘rapid response’ pillar for ‘quick response capacity for crisis management and conflict prevention, resilience building, including liking relief, rehabilitation and development, and short term foreign policy reaction’
  • There would be an off-budget ‘European Peace Facility’ to ‘close the current gap in the EU’s ability to conduct Common Security and Defence Policy missions and to provide military and defence assistance to relevant third countries, international and regional organisations’ (€10.5 billion)
  • There would be a ‘European Defence Fund’ (€ 13 billion) and a ‘Connecting Europe Facility – Military Mobility’ (€ 6.5 billion) under Heading 3.

Several organisations have published their initial reactions to the EC’s proposal:

In June 2018, the EC will publish legislative proposals for all of the financing instruments which are foreseen under the overall MFF proposal.

EPLO will publish its initial reaction to the EC’s legislative proposals in July 2018 based on the initial position which was set out in our February 2018 statement entitled ‘How will the EU support peacebuilding after 2020?’.

For more information about EPLO’s work on the next EU MFF, please contact Ben Moore.

Doing what is reasonable and routine: EU trade, development and due diligence in conflict-affected contexts


By Terri Beswick

Conflicts cost

The cost of conflict is undeniable. Counting the number of people who lose their lives from conflict, however, only tells part of the story. Those living with violence also face the additional costs of protracted psychological trauma, physical injury, sexual violence, destroyed infrastructure, mass displacement, divided families, homes lost and polarisation among societies. The consequences of conflict are far-reaching and clearly threaten the EU’s expressed core values of peace, security, sustainable development, poverty reduction, and human rights. Therefore, all the organs of European Union external action should be concerned with making sure that the EU’s engagement in environments affected by conflict (1) does no harm and (2) is designed to reduce the risks of conflict and maximise sustainable peace. For European populations funding development or delegating responsibility for EU trade relations through their governments, being aware of how the EU does ‘due diligence’ in such high-risk contexts is an important element of accountability.


Due diligence is often associated with a legal liability argument, as it places responsibility on actors to demonstrate that they did all that was reasonable in advance to avoid causing harm or damage. It is also associated with commercial contexts, where thorough research and analysis of the market, significant players, and consumer behaviour is seen as a reasonable and even routine step in order to avoid future losses and protect investments. The legal liability and commercial framing for due diligence maps neatly onto two EU responsibilities: (1) to do no harm and (2) to maximise the effectiveness of the time, human resources and financial investment in development and trade engagements. As a global actor with approximately 140 delegations and offices around the world, the EU is big business. It disbursed 10.3 billion EUR of overseas development aid in 2015 and represented around 60% of the world’s foreign direct investment for that year.

What would ‘due diligence’ look like in EU development and trade? 

In order to be precise about what to do and what to avoid doing to meet its responsibilities, the EU needs a broad and deepanalysis of the conflict context that incorporates the root causes, contemporary drivers, and the obvious and less obvious stakeholders, and covers the many facets of the conflict. To meet the criterion of being ‘due’ and ‘diligent’, this kind of analysis cannot be ad hoc, optional or superficial.

  1. The first component of due diligence in conflict-affected environments is an obligation to analyse the political, economic, social, environmental and security aspects of the context and to explicitly make the link to the risks of violence. If a commercial actor were entering such an uncertain and high-risk context, it would be remiss for it to focus purely on economic, financial or business analysis while disregarding the broader factors that influence and interact with those sectors. Likewise, though the central government and security sector may appear to be the most relevant sectors for analysis at first glance, conflict requires a much broader lens. Analysis of economic mismanagement in Venezuela, the geopolitics of trade in Ukraine, demographic shifts in South Africa, divided households and gender roles in Kyrgyzstan, drought and rural-urban migration in Syria, and the abuse of security forces and the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria all make the case for analysing multiple facets of a context.
  2. The second component of due diligence relates to a need to understand the full spectrum of conflict stakeholders at various levels, including non-state actors and population groups. In commercial terms this would be the equivalent of being able to identify the key players in a market, as well as those with the capacity to influence it, and importantly the behaviours and preferences of consumers. Conflict stakeholders could be (directly and indirectly) affected population groups, those most active in the conflict, those carrying out violence, allies, spoilers, and even the international and regional actors with aid engagements in the context. The term ‘conflict stakeholders’ should quite literally encompass all those who have a ‘stake’ in the conflict. Without this clarification, the term ‘stakeholder’ in isolation has little meaning. Consequently, analysis of conflict stakeholders is clearly a more expansive task than what is understood by more commonly used aid language, which only extends to mean ‘vulnerable groups’, ‘civil society’, ‘leaders’ or ‘local communities’.
  3. At some point, thorough analysis of the context has to be linked to more reflective assessment to identify the opportunities and limitations of the EU as an actor. This generated a third component: reflection on the position and perceptions of the EU in the conflict context. After all, the messenger can be as important as the message. This aspect of due diligence analysis would look at whether the EU is best positioned to engage, which is just as relevant for development and trade as it would be for other foreign policy engagements such as diplomacy. Though this is more likely to be factored in at the initial strategic decision-making stage, the speed with which dynamics evolve in conflict-affected contexts recommends a frequent process that is tied to flexible decision-making, for example on the adaptation of development programmes, as is foreseen to some degree in the EU’s risk management framework for budget support.
  4. The fourth component is designed to probe theories of change that overestimate positive effects or overlook conflict risk in the design, implementation or evaluation of development programming or trade. While there is global recognition of (and increasingly data that demonstrate) the economic and developmental damage resulting from conflict, the relationship is not unidirectional. Unequal development and economic marginalisation can themselves drive conflict. Therefore, it is crucial to assess the potential positive and negative interactions between the EU’s development and trade engagements and the conflict dynamics in the given context(s) to maximise effectiveness (commercial due diligence) and to avoid harm (legal due diligence). This would mean a shift to assessing impact in a way that can reveal when even ‘successful’ development programming or access to international trade might have a negative effect on a conflict, for example by shifting the dynamics of political or economic power in a context, and triggering a negative reaction from one or more conflict stakeholders.
  5. Ultimately, due diligence is not research in a vacuum: it is undertaken for the sole purpose of making decisions or adjusting a course of action to be more prudent and to be better able to avoid possible harm. This means that a due diligence process is only complete if and when it shapes real decisions. The fifth component, therefore, relates to opportunities embedded in EU development programming cycles and the milestones of EU trade relations to review whether the instrument or approach is appropriate and able to meet conflict prevention and/or peacebuilding objectives given the analysis revealed by due diligence research. Or more simply, whether the structure of EU development and trade instruments allows for failing interventions to be either abandoned or adapted in the interest of reducing the risks of violence occurring.

The ambition to prevent conflict and promote peace in EU development and trade

According to the European Centre for Development Policy Management, the EU’s institutions and selected EU Member States are among the biggest supporters of peacebuilding, representing five out of the top ten conflict, peace and security donors (measured in terms of aid contributions). At the same time, the EU has reiterated its commitment to conflict prevention and peace in treaties, policies, statements, and speeches for more than 15 years. Expertise in managing conflict and promoting peace is presented as an intrinsic characteristic of the European Union project. Thus, the analysis of the EU’s due diligence with regard to key development and trade instruments given in the EU-CIVCAP report ‘Due Diligence in Contexts Affected by Conflict: EU Development Aid and Trade’ offers a systematic analysis of how the EU seeks to meet its commitments to preventing conflict and promoting peace in practice. The proposed due diligence framework may be ambitious, but with so much at stake it does not make sense to set the bar low.

The fifth AU-EU Summit: Supporting youth, peace and security in the AU-EU Partnership


By Lorenzo Angelini

On 29-30 November 2017, the fifth AU-EU Summit was held in Abidjan. The meeting, whose theme was ‘Investing in youth’, was an occasion for European and African leaders to redefine and give new impetus to the AU-EU Partnership. Ahead of the summit, EPLO published a statement on ‘Supporting Youth, Peace and Security in the renewed AU-EU Partnership’. In it, we stated that an increased participation of civil society, including young men and women [1] and youth-led organisations from Africa and Europe, in both policy formulation and the implementation of activities related to peacebuilding and conflict prevention, can make a significant contribution to the achievement of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy’s (JAES) objective of strengthening and promoting peace and security.

The political declaration that resulted from the Summit strongly emphasised the importance of creating decent employment opportunities for young women and men. In this light, and given how the summit unfolded, some key points from our statement seem particularly pertinent:

  • Firstly, it is crucial that EU efforts (and partnerships with the private sector) to support the creation of decent employment opportunities, in particular for young men and women, are implemented in a conflict- and gender-sensitive manner, and are sensitive to youth needs.
  • Secondly, the EU’s support to the youth, peace and security (YPS) agenda in the framework of the AU-EU Partnership should be based on the principle of ownership and on the needs of young women and men as identified and defined by them. Based on their relevant expertise, young men and women from Africa and Europe should participate in defining EU priorities and in the development of EU actions on YPS.
  • Thirdly, through its support to the operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA), the EU should strongly promote the participation of young women and men, and of civil society in general, in their decision-making processes.
  • Fourthly, the EU should provide more extensive and long-term support (notably through actions involving capacity building and direct financing) to peacebuilding initiatives in Africa engaging young men and women, youth-led organisations and civil society organisations in general. In doing so, the EU should be flexible and adapt its support to their needs and their initiatives as they design, manage and implement them.

In addition, in order to achieve the JAES’ objective of promoting a ‘people-centred partnership’ and in a global context of shrinking space for civil society, it is essential that the structures of the AU-EU Partnership themselves provide space for the participation of civil society actors, including of young women and men and youth-led organisations. It was therefore extremely disappointing that civil society representatives were prevented from addressing the AU-EU Summit despite being scheduled to present the declaration agreed at the 3rd Africa-EU Civil Society Forum in July. [2] Although several EU officials and European leaders expressed their support for civil society during and after the Summit [3], it is crucial to further defend and institutionnalise civil society participation in the AU-EU Partnership. Civil society representatives, including young men and women and youth-led organisations, should be able to provide the relevant AU-EU bodies with regular reports and briefings on the implementation of the JAES and of the Partnership’s strategic priorities. They should also be involved in shaping these priorities.

Overall, the EU should continue to enhance and strengthen its support to young women and men and youth-led organisations, and to civil society in general, in the framework of the AU-EU Partnership. Young men and women should be provided with opportunities (and the means) to participate in an inclusive, systematic and meaningful manner in political processes, and particular attention should be paid to their different needs and aspirations.

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] This also includes non-binary people.

[2] Despite initially facing similar opposition, youth representatives from the European Youth Forum and the Pan-African Youth Forum were eventually able to address the plenary, thanks in particular to the support of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and of various EU Member States. Civil society representatives, however, remained barred from addressing the event.

[3] See for example this comment from EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and this speech from the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven.

Gender analysis: Making P/CVE more effective


By Dr Laura Davis

In October, EPLO organised a Civil Society Dialogue Network meeting ‘Preventing/countering violent extremism more effectively: Experience from the ground’ between practitioners from a range of contexts (e.g. Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Niger) and EU officials.

The need to be “context specific” has become a mantra for preventing and/or countering violent extremism (P/CVE) effectively. EU and Member State P/CVE policies and programmes are highly gendered – the violent perpetrator is usually assumed to be a young man, for example – yet the context analysis underpinning these policies rarely includes any gender analysis. Context analysis that does not integrate gender analysis is not fit for purpose.

Violent groups often have highly gendered recruitment policies that offer different women specific opportunities and recognise their agency. These are particularly effective when girls and women feel excluded in their communities. In contrast, P/CVE policies are often based on untested assumptions. This means that women/girls are either ignored or assumed to be passive, victims and/or nonviolent. The Western male gaze may think of women’s power as “hidden” but this is not hidden to these women or their communities. The possibility that women/girls may make a rational choice to join a violent group based on their assessment of their best interests/the interests of their communities is not considered, neither is the possibility that men may be primarily victims of violence (e.g. by Boko Haram/state security agents) rather than perpetrators.

There is plenty of good practice on the ground for ensuring that context analysis is gender inclusive that EU and Member State officials can learn from. Practitioners conduct detailed analysis of the gender dynamics (i.e. the power relationships between different men and different women, boys and girls in different circumstances, bearing in mind that no group is homogenous) at play in communities at risk of VE. These processes are often highly consultative, including of groups (e.g. girls) who are often considered “hard to reach” and going beyond urban, elite groups who may otherwise give a distorted view of the situation. These analytical processes and their outcomes are more legitimate, credible and robust when owned by the different parts of the communities concerned.

VE flourishes in unequal, exclusive and corrupt societies, particularly where the state security apparatus is abusive. Gender, social, ethnic and religious equality including equal access to services and resources can reduce the attraction of VE groups. Measures that reduce equality or strengthen a non-responsive state heighten the risk of VE. Rather than treating the promotion of gender equality as a luxury add-on – as the EU and its Member States tend to do – P/CVE policies and programmes for working with state and non-state actors should be rooted in promoting gender equality as this works against the patrimonial and exclusive forms of governance that feed VE.

In a direct echo of colonial ‘indirect rule,’ donors too often seek out easy interlocutors – the loudest – rather than the most legitimate (note that legitimacy looks different to different people). External actors often reinforce regressive social or religious ‘leaders’ at the expense of women, young women and men, and other non-elite men. Local civil society, including women and women’s associations, youth organisations and organisations led by young men and young women, play a crucial role in articulating positive alternatives to VE. These voices should shape donor advocacy, not vice versa. Instrumentalising women and women’s associations in P/CVE will reduce women’s status and agency still further, but promoting gender equality and organisations that work to improve women and girls’ inclusion and status in their communities should be part of core programming.

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).

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?


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).