Kick-off Event – “Preventing and responding to conflict”

Correspondent: Ana E. Juncos
Host: University of Bristol
Location: Bristol, UK
Date: 11 December 2015

On 11 December 2015, EU-CIVCAP held its inaugural workshop, at which Partners and members of the Advisory Board gathered to receive an introduction to the project and exchange ideas about the work programme. The project title is: Preventing and responding to conflict: developing EU Civilian Capabilities for a sustainable peace (EU-CIVCAP). Ana E. Juncos is the Principle Investigator and Consortium Coordinator, with Ryerson Christie and Timothy Edmunds as Co-Investigators, and Gilberto Algar-Faria as the Project Officer. The work programme includes 12 different institutions and organisations from across 8 countries in Europe and will be led out of the University of Bristol‘s Global Insecurities Centre. Below is a summary of the introduction to the project.

The goals of preventing the outbreak of conflict and promoting sustainable peace remain a fundamental challenge to policymakers and analysts alike. The European Union (EU) and its member states require an adequate set of capabilities if they are to address this challenge in a timely and effective manner. EU-CIVCAP will provide a comprehensive, comparative and multidisciplinary analysis of EU civilian capabilities for external conflict prevention and peacebuilding in order to identify ‘the best civilian means to enhance these capabilities’ and address existing shortfalls. To this end, the project will gather, synthesise, further develop and disseminate knowledge and learning on civilian conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

According to the World Development Report 2014 approximately 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence (World Bank, 2014: 146). Although the number of total armed conflicts has declined in recent years (Themnér and Wallensteen, 2013), the consequences of ongoing conflicts remain devastating, as illustrated by the cases of Iraq, Syria or Libya. The impact of conflicts extends from direct civilian casualties, internally displaced persons and human rights violations to regional and international security threats such as humanitarian crises and refugee flows (Rotberg, 2003). They also constitute a breeding ground for international organised crime and terrorism (UNSG, 2004: 45). Moreover, conflicts have a detrimental effect on economic and human development (Gates et al., 2012). As mentioned in the text of the call, these conflicts are also ‘a liability for the external and internal security of the EU’ (see also Council of the EU, 2003).

Given the scale and the nature of the consequences of conflicts in the countries concerned and beyond their borders, it is no surprise that the EU has sought to strengthen its capabilities to prevent and respond to conflicts in recent years. Conflict prevention and peacebuilding are the EU’s responsibility, according to the joint communication on the EU’s comprehensive approach, not only because of its normative commitment to peace, but also because it is in the EU’s interest (Commission and HR/VP, 2013: 3). The Lisbon Treaty has provided the strongest mandate yet for the EU and its member states to engage with conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Article 21(2) states that ‘[t]he Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to […] preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security’. Article 42(1) lists ‘peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security’ as the objectives of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). For the first time, conflict prevention is also listed among the CSDP tasks in article 43. The EU’s potential to contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding is also said to be particularly promising given the unique mix of instruments that the Union can bring to these situations (Blockmans et al., 2010).

Yet, despite its political and rhetorical commitment to preventing and responding to conflicts, the EU’s record so far leaves room for improvement (Dijkstra, 2013; Howorth, 2014; Juncos, 2013; Peen Rodt, 2014). While (the lack of) political will has been at the heart of some of the EU’s policy failures, inadequate or insufficient capabilities continue to be a problem affecting EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding (see Council of the EU, 2011a). In other words, the ‘capability-expectations gap’ described by Christopher Hill (1993) more than two decades ago continues to hinder the EU’s role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding., in particular, when it comes to civilian capabilities. By capabilities, this project refers to the resources, instruments and institutions that the Union possess in order to succeed in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, including personnel, hardware, financial instruments, legal frameworks, institutions and procedures. EU-CIVCAP will provide a comprehensive, comparative and multidisciplinary analysis of the EU’s civilian capabilities in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in order to identify existing shortfalls.

Please click here to go to the online bibliography for this report.

People Involved

Ana E. Juncos

Ana E. Juncos is the EU-CIVCAP Consortium Co-ordinator and team leader at the University of Bristol. She is a Reader in European Politics at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Gilberto Algar-Faria

Gilberto Algar-Faria is the Project Officer for EU-CIVCAP and a Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies.

Ryerson Christie

Ryerson Christie is a Senior Lecturer in East Asian Studies. His research focuses on the interaction between local communities, NGOs and the state.

Timothy Edmunds

Timothy Edmunds is Professor of International Security and Director of the Global Insecurities Centre at the University of Bristol.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.