Research Meets Policy Seminar 2 – “A year on: Implementing the EU Global Strategy”

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


Executive Summary

The second Research Meets Policy Seminar of the EU-CIVCAP project took place on 11 September 2017 under the title: “A year on: implementing the EU Global Strategy”. It was organised and hosted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels and more than 20 experts and policymakers attended.

The first part of the seminar, chaired by the University of Bristol, focused on the first year of implementation of the EU Global Strategy, assessing progress on the strategic approach to resilience in the EU’s external action. The second part of the seminar, chaired by CEPS, was devoted to an assessment of the role of gender in the implementation of the new framework and in the prevention and response to gender-based violence.

The Research Meets Policy Seminar is a closed-door discussion, by invitation only and under the Chatham House rule, is designed for EU policy-makers and experts to exchange views and identify key research gaps that can feed into EU-CIVCAP’s research agenda.


Full Report

The two sessions of the Second Research Meets Policy Seminar were held under the Chatham House rule; in consequence, this report has been drafted to prevent individual comments from being associated with particular participants.

The first part of the Seminar, chaired by Ana E. Juncos from the University of Bristol, analysed one year of implementing the EUGS through the lens of resilience, focusing on practical implementation, inconsistencies identified in EU-CIVCAP’s research, and the main challenges according to policy-makers.

It was noted that the policy papers following-up from, and feeding into the resilience concept did not reflect a deeper engagement with the conceptual literature and that there was a danger of buzzwords and using resilience as a pragmatic tool to justify pre-existing policies. The early discussions were centred on an Anglo-Saxon understanding of the state-society relationship, with distinct neoliberal undertones: society was framed as individual and community responsibility. In the Anglo-Saxon literature resilience is located away from the state while the EU focuses on state and society resilience; one must question whether this is resilience properly understood. Current understandings are also based on the premise of a more complex world with complex actors, without a debate exploring that presumed complexity. The whole-of-society approach of the EU is in tension with the UK’s approach, which divides populations into resilient and vulnerable. Robustness in French and German documents is a fancy description of pouring money into the status quo while the UK’s approach aims to be transformational.

A focus on institutional coherence causes more problems than it solves. Building a bridge between short-term and long-term opens up divisions, for example between DG ECHO and DG DEVCO. Why are the Horn of Africa documents drafted by ECHO and those addressing the Sahel written by the EEAS, for instance?

At a policy level, humanitarian crises are on the rise, underscoring the importance to move from crisis containment to a long-term, structural approach to vulnerability and early action. More collective and effective action is needed while also respecting different roles and mandates – humanitarian, developmental and diplomatic. Joint analysis and assessment on the ground should be encouraged.

There is a certain tension between conceptual work and implementation. The Commission/EEAS develop policy together with field staff, who want to know what kind of tools can be provided to help them to do their work. Research could be useful for policymaking, for example along the lines of how the International Crisis Group operates, to enable on the ground analysis and early warning.

There is much work going on in various countries on joint analysis, for example the OECD resilience systems analysis, but historically while the EU has been excellent at identifying risks, it has not been commensurately effective at developing coping capacities. How can we strengthen these systems? One example is the World Bank’s fragility assessment, an internal document that has now been changed into a risk and resilience assessment.

The added value of the Commission/EEAS joint communication on resilience of this year is to broaden the ownership of the concept. Compared with the 2012 communication, much more focus is given to working with governments, not just individuals and communities. This makes the new approach complementary to the old communication.

What kind of governance mechanisms do we need to strengthen resilience? NEAR has done a lot of good work on this in the neighbourhood. But in many countries such analysis is not available. Resilience is the one priority of EUGS that best encapsulates the entire strategy. The imperative to act has increased but the difficulty of doing so has also grown. How does one shape events in third countries effectively while also being sustainable? The concept of resilience helps us to address this.

There is a need to analyse and evaluate local coping capacities. Good strategies are available but they are not always linked to local capacities. The EU provides aid, but it is not a given that locals actually buy-in to the type of project the EU supports: the EU needs to learn about how the local population actually operates – but does the EU have the capacity to analyse local dynamics? Staff in the delegations are already struggling to carry-out the analyses asked of them, and now there are additional demands placed upon them related to resilience. One way to engage well, and to generate political will, is to deploy strong senior diplomats and provide them with enough resources to employ advisers with excellent country and regional knowledge.

The second part of the Seminar was chaired by Toby Vogel (CEPS) and considered EUGS implementation from a gender perspective. Panelists stressed the need to study how the EU functions as a gendered institution in foreign policy and what effects this has. Women are recognised as victims of conflict but at the same time the framing of women as victims reduces the potential of gender for radical change. The EU’s approach replicates other approaches (e.g., that of the UN) that associate gender with women. Gender is being reduced to sexual violence in conflict, and also to issues affecting women. Gender is used as a foreign policy tool rather than a lens through which to look inwards, e.g. at the gender balance in these organisations. The current approach is to provide money to women’s causes instead of analysing the gendered effects of particular policies.

There is no need for yet more studies on women in CSDP missions to be carried out while analyses of the internal/external nexus are insufficient. We face challenges on the policy, research, and practical aspects. More evidence is required on the causality between the presence of women in missions and what will happen in terms of policy approaches. It is a messy field, which enables organisations and individuals to use it to increase their visibility and symbolic capital. Gender issues have become instrumentalised and monopolised by people at the top. There is much visibility without much concrete action.

We need to start doing things that mean something. The goal must be to transform the lives of individuals on the ground. We need to focus on implementation: we know quite a lot so we should do something meaningful with what we know. There is a preconception that if one publishes papers this will automatically bring about change, and meanwhile seminars give the impression that a lot is happening but that is not the case. There is a widespread feeling in the field that academia has never done anything useful for us. Civil society should be monitoring the gender dimension of EUGS and how it is being implemented, but of course they are dependent on EU funding, even more so than academics are in fact.

In 2004–06, there was a policy upswing on gender in the EU. From 2008 onwards, this settled into a certain form, with certain policy documents, and an emphasis on recruiting women (currently, women make up 25% of personnel in civilian missions and 7–8% of personnel in military missions). We have the policies but not the tools for actually integrating gender into EU crisis management. Our method is to decide we should do it and then appoint a focal point or adviser. How does this translate into impact on the ground? There has been very little change on the ground, and it has been very difficult to work on gender issues within the EU’s institutions. The focus has been on the low-hanging fruit, on doing what comes easily – trainings, communications, and so on. We need to become more strategic if we are to actually make a difference.

What does this mean for researchers? Those who do research should stop talking to gender specialists and instead talk to everybody else. There is a sense that in a crisis, gender becomes less important, that crisis situations are difficult enough without further complicating them by insisting on gender sensitivity. The absence of tools to promote gender equality internally diminishes the EU’s capacity to go abroad and tell others how to do it.

The debate that followed the panel presentations noted that LGBTI issues had not been mentioned even in passing. However, it was also pointed-out that rather than trying to explain more complex issues to do with gender, focusing on equality between men and women could be a helpful shortcut in certain situations. There was a suggestion to include gender sensitivity as a requirement in job descriptions, along the lines of the UN’s practice.

Research Meets Policy Seminar 2 – discussion

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.

Toby Vogel

Toby Vogel is a writer on foreign affairs based in Brussels, where he also works as a research communications officer in the foreign policy unit of CEPS.


About the Author

Toby Vogel

Toby Vogel is a writer on foreign affairs based in Brussels, where he also works as a research communications officer in the foreign policy unit of CEPS.

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