Peacebuilding Forum 4 – “In reform we trust: Improved EU-UN cooperation in preventing and responding to conflicts?”

Correspondent: Giovanni Faleg
Host: Centre for European Policy Studies
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Date: 11 September 2017

Executive Summary

Ahead of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations, this event was devoted to EU-UN cooperation in mustering civilian capabilities for conflict prevention, crisis response, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The United Nations are undergoing momentous institutional reforms, with a renewed focus on conflict prevention, to achieve greater collaboration between the peace, security, development and human rights pillars of the UN system. The European Union, as part of the implementation process of the EU Global Strategy, has revamped its peacebuilding toolbox, namely through the elaboration of an integrated approach to conflicts and crises, and of a strategic approach to resilience in the EU’s external action.

As the global security outlook in the EU’s neighbourhood still displays immense challenges, and given the limited ability of international actors to address fragility, conflict and violence, are the new tools sufficient to reduce vulnerabilities, grievances, and can they guarantee impact on the ground to prevent and respond to conflicts? How can a reformed EU-UN effectively cooperate with key humanitarian, development and security actors? In addition to addressing these questions, the early findings of an EU-CIVCAP study conducted by a CEPSIAIEPLO team led by Dr Giovanni Faleg were presented during the event.

Full Report

The European Union and the United Nations are undergoing policy and institutional reforms to improve their tools and structures to better prevent and respond to external conflicts and crises. As a follow-up to the EU Global Strategy, new frameworks have been developed – such as the Integrated Approach and the Strategic Approach to Resilience – as part of a general rethinking of the EU’s engagement in fragile and conflict-affected situations around the world. In the UN, an important reform of the peace and security pillar is ongoing, following the recommendations of the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, to increase the coherence and impact of UN integrated responses to crises, with a strong focus on the prevention of violence conflict.

It is against the above background that CEPS on 11 September 2017 held the fourth Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Policy Forum as part of the EU-CIVCAP project. The panel was chaired by Steven Blockmans, Head of Europe in the World at CEPS.

Giovanni Faleg, Nabila Habbida and Bernardo Venturi kicked-off the event by presenting the early findings of the EU-CIVCAP report on the EU’s Comprehensive Approach, which compares comprehensive tools for crisis prevention and response in the EU, the UN, the OSCE and NATO. Although the full report will be published in December 2017, the authors offered a preliminary assessment of the EU’s Comprehensive Approach, from its origins until its recent evolution into the Integrated Approach. Faleg exposed the uniqueness of the CA–IA frameworks vis-à-vis other international organisations, which stems from the specificities of the EU system, and outlined a few recommendations for EU policy-makers to successfully implement integrated actions on the ground, including a better results framework for monitoring and evaluation, a stronger incentive system to “break the silos” and encourage staff to pursue a joined-up approach, and an update of the operating procedures of EU delegations. Habbida presented the perspective of non-governmental actors, and stressed the need to bring-in the local perspective and better cooperation with the civil society, while Venturi focused on a practical case of implementation of comprehensive actions, the Sahel, outlining key opportunities and challenges for EU-UN cooperation, based on lessons learned – in particular, the presence of shortfalls in terms of capacities and resources and the lack of a common vision and a shared idea leading to a truly regional approach. The presentation of the EU-CIVCAP study, and the conclusions on the EU’s role in theatres where comprehensive interventions are needed, was nicely complemented by Jozef Batora, who presented the findings of an EUNPACK study on perceptions of the EU’s role in field-level crisis management in Kosovo, based on recent data collection in Mitrovica (North and South).

Rory Keane (UNLOPS) outlined the key pillars of the current reform of the United Nations, stressing the need for policy-makers to show that multilateralism can work in an increasingly unstable international system, characterised by growing threats and more limited budgets for foreign interventions. Keane went through the main features and rationale of the proposed reforms of the peace and security pillar, emphasising a need to move towards the goal of sustaining peace, through a strengthened focus on three dimensions: people, politics and partnerships (with a focus on relations with the EU). The presentation also focused on the UN’s emphasis on conflict prevention, as well as the need to develop a deeper awareness of what triggers conflicts, and how they can be prevented.

Maria-Manuela Cabral (DG DEVCO) emphasised the differences between the UN and the EU in terms of mandates, organisational structures and culture, but pointed out that peace is a fundamental component in both organisations’ work. This creates the need for more systematic and sustained cooperation, bearing in mind the differences in mandates and approaches. The European Commission is currently putting a lot of effort into understanding what types of interventions can be launched in each stage of a conflict (for example, in the transition and stabilisation phases). It is investing in forging new partnerships and in cooperating with other international organisations, as shown by the Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment process (a collaboration between the EU, the UN and the World Bank). As a result of this, DEVCO’s role in conflict and initiatives to address conflict dynamics are expanding, in cooperation with partners.

Questions from the audience concerned:

  • the differences between the Integrated Approach and the Comprehensive Approach;
  • the need to bring the private sector into complex security-development interventions;
  • the role of gender and the need emphasise the gender dimension in the reform processes and in the new policy frameworks; and
  • the political and security relations of the EU and UN with NATO, the G7 and G20.
Jozef Batora presents the empirical findings of the EUNPACK study on the perceptions of EU crisis management in Kosovo


People Involved

Bernardo Venturi

Bernardo Venturi is a researcher in the European Affairs area. He works mainly on EU civilian crisis management, CFSP/CSDP, development cooperation and African affairs.

Giovanni Faleg

Giovanni Faleg is a former EU-CIVCAP Staff Member. This profile represents his biography at the time he worked for the project.

Nabila Habbida

Nabila Habbida joined EPLO in June 2013 to support EPLO’s analysis and advocacy towards EU Member States on EU policy and thematic issues related to peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

Steven Blockmans

Steven Blockmans is a senior research fellow and the head of the ‘EU foreign policy’ and ‘politics and institutions’ units of CEPS.

About the Author

Giovanni Faleg

Giovanni Faleg is a former EU-CIVCAP Staff Member. This profile represents his biography at the time he worked for the project.

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