Lesson 13: Local capacity-building I – General points


Local (i.e., host country) capacity-building (CB) is now a central part of the EU’s longer-term approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. This is a natural progression from earlier, but often fairly small scale, CSDP missions that pursued similar tasks (i.e., monitoring, mentoring, and advising; security sector reform; rule of law; and training). In some cases, such as the Horn of Africa, such efforts are part of a major, broader regional approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding-related problems; in other cases, such as EU SSR Guinea-Bissau, the effort is isolated and minor. Following on from this wide difference in scale of effort, a variation in CB outcomes is also evident when examining specific cases, as noted in DL 6.1 in particular. These findings suggest several important lessons regarding this aspect of the EU’s approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding and related tasks.

One is that the success of CB is highly contingent on various elements of the local context. The local context is the ‘raw material’ targeted for change by CB programmes of the EU and other stakeholders. Therefore such outside stakeholders must gain as much local knowledge as possible when planning and implementing such programmes, which includes engaging meaningfully with interlocutors (and not just local elites) to determine the nature and scope of the challenge at hand. Local actors should be central to the planning, implementation and evaluation of EU projects and activities, as well as those of EU partners engaged in CB in the host country (see DL 4.2 on this point).

Following on from this point, CB that is not sensitive to local needs and based on in-depth fact-finding or exploratory missions (including pilot projects with local experts) are not likely to succeed. This ‘fit for purpose’ approach should be the norm rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. This lesson also extends to the training of EU personnel who will serve in the host country, which would include local knowledge and language training where possible; the EU should also give due consideration to the possibility of extending the duration of deployments (also see DL 2.1 on staffing/training issues).

Fact-finding missions should also help to match the external resources required to achieve the scale of change necessary for CB to succeed. If such programmes are driven (or hampered) by resource limitations, which is often the case, then the ambition of donor programmes should not exceed the resources available to support them (especially material resources, which are valued more highly). Such expectations-management by the EU could also help to secure local ownership and therefore enhance the legitimacy of programmes once they succeed in achieving their aims. Therefore feasibility and impact assessments, including assessments of potential winners and losers of reform, should be carried out before and after the deployment of EU missions and operations, both by internal and external evaluators.


Identify and involve local actors as early as possible in the planning of conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks (including the fact-finding process). Modify their roles as necessary during the implementation stage to meet local needs while also managing expectations about the resources the EU can provide to meet those needs.

Related Deliverables

dl_2-1DL 2.1
Procedures, Personnel and Technologies for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding: An Assessment of EU Member States’ Capabilities

Authors: De Zan, T., P. Tessari and B. Venturi
Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali

Published: 30 November 2016

[PDF, ~2.1MB; click to access]


DL 3.5
Report on the EU’s support to the conflict prevention work of other actors

Authors: Habbida, N., J. Adama Mohammed, K. Tumutegyereize, L. Heinzel, F. Colchester and D. Tucker
Lead Institution: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office

Published: 30 September 2018

[PDF, ~0.7MB; click to access]


DL 4.2
Partners in conflict prevention and peacebuilding: How the EU, UN and OSCE exchange civilian capabilities in Kosovo, Mali and Armenia

Authors: Dijkstra, H., E. Mahr, P. Petrov, K. Đokić, P.H. Zartsdahl
Lead Institution: Maastricht University

Published: 4 September 2017

[PDF, ~0.6MB; click to access]


DL 6.1
Evaluating international efforts on local capacity building

Authors: Juncos, A.E., G. Algar-Faria, T. Edmunds, K. Đokić, E. Plänitz, K. Abdi and S. Simons
Lead Institution: University of Bristol

Published: 25 May 2017

[PDF, ~0.9MB; click to access]


DL 6.3
Report on best practices in EU local capacity building

Authors: Christie, R.G. Algar-FariaA.E. JuncosK. ĐokićM. IgnjatijevićN. HabbidaK. AbdiS. Simons and E. Gillette
Lead Institution: University of Bristol

Published: 24 September 2018

[PDF, ~0.7MB; click to access]


Related Lessons


Regions/countries: Africa Guinea-Bissau

Institutions: AU EC EEAS UN

Policy phases: Implementation

Conflict-cycle stages: Conflict prevention Conflict management

Cross-cutting issues: Local ownership

Topics: Personnel

Back to the Catalogue of Lessons Identified