Lesson 14: Local capacity-building II – Effectiveness and local ownership


Local capacity-building (CB) programmes have been pursued by the EU in various settings, but as with the CFSP/CSDP more generally, most attention has been directed towards the Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa (including the Horn of Africa). These efforts provide several important lessons regarding the potential and limits of this approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, as detailed in DL 6.1 specifically, which examines their effectiveness, sustainability, local ownership, and legitimacy.

In terms of effectiveness, for example, one critical area of opportunity is the need for the EU to develop more robust and consistent measures of whether various CB programmes actually produce the desired results, and not just in narrow terms of fulfilling their mandates. This is especially difficult, but still important, in complex sectors (like maritime security) and in terms of a more holistic (i.e., comprehensive) approach that recognises how the reform of one sector could be highly dependent on other sectors. The existence of multiple donors/EU partners, as in the Horn of Africa, as well as multiple local owners/stakeholders, only intensifies this need for a more holistic, coordinated approach to make sure they are not working at cross-purposes.

Sustainability can also be framed as part of effectiveness, if CB programmes are meant to reduce the reliance of host countries on donors and become self-sustaining at some point. Yet this outcome is highly contingent on the local capacity already present in the host country, which may be too limited to benefit from short-term or sector-specific CB programmes. Every CB project therefore needs a critical mass of local, adequately trained and motivated staff who can be empowered to take over once the donor leaves. Under such circumstances, it is possible to achieve fairly sustainable results, as with the Peace Support Operations Training Centre in Bosnia.

Finally, both sustainability and effectiveness are partly contingent on the degree of local ownership, which in turn also impacts upon the legitimacy of CB programmes offered by outside donors. As DL 6.1 notes, however, defining who is ‘local’ and what ‘ownership’ actually means in terms of rights and responsibilities can be very sensitive issues. The same holds true of defining ‘legitimacy’: certain host government officials (i.e., the ‘entry points’ discussed in DL 6.1) may welcome CB programmes, but do they have the wider support of the public as well, so that legitimacy is ‘thick’ rather than ‘thin’ or superficial? These problems especially require more involvement by ‘locals’ in planning CB programmes, and more in terms of what host countries actually require rather than what donors are willing and able to offer. Instead, a ‘supply-driven’ approach rather than a ‘needs-driven’ approach was in evidence both in Africa and (to a lesser extent) the Balkans, which may have limited the success of these programmes in terms of their effectiveness, sustainability, local ownership, and legitimacy. Therefore the strict process of devising CB programmes within the EU before ‘offering’ them to host countries (as in the case of EUCAP Nestor for example) may need to be seriously reconsidered, if the EU really intends to enhance the local ownership and legitimacy of such efforts.


Develop a clear concept regarding the evaluation of various conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks in terms of their effectiveness (short and long-term). This concept should incorporate and define other key parameters such as sustainability, local ownership, and legitimacy, as well as the overall cost-effectiveness of specific conflict prevention and peacebuilding actions.

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 2.5
Dual use technologies and civilian capabilities: Beyond pooling and sharing

Authors: Aversano Stabile, A.A. MarroneN. Pirozzi and B. Venturi
Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali

Published: 25 September 2018

[PDF, ~0.5MB; 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 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

None so far.


Regions/countries: Africa Balkans

Institutions: N/A

Policy phases: Implementation

Conflict-cycle stages: Conflict prevention Conflict management

Cross-cutting issues: Local ownership

Topics: Personnel

Back to the Catalogue of Lessons Identified