Lesson 15: Learning


The emergence of a learning culture is a major development in the evolution of the CSDP and of conflict prevention and peacebuilding more generally, as compared to the period before 2003 (the launch of initial CSDP operations). This culture has been institutionalised throughout the EU’s civilian and military domains for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and also feeds into the training programmes and materials discussed in other lessons. It also involves the generation of lessons based on actual operational experiences, as reported in the earlier EUCONRES research programme (2008-13). Learning processes and lessons identified also inform the development of best practices and relationships with other organisations, as we as well as the production of broad EU strategies and more specific EU concepts/guidelines for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Overall, these learning processes are intended to help enhance the effectiveness of conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in host countries as well as (potentially) inspire reforms to the EU’s general approach to conflict resolution.

As always, however, there is room for improvement in this realm, as found by several EU-CIVCAP research outputs. For example, early warning followed by quick preventative action is a key part of the EU’s conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategy, yet most EU-CIVCAP outputs have found that the EU is still deficient in this area. The EU therefore needs to enhance the discovery of lessons identified from outbreaks of previous conflicts (whether the EU participated or not) and incorporate these lessons into its early warning/conflict analysis systems (see DL 2.1 and DL 3.2 in particular on this point). DL 3.2 also noted that both the EEAS and the Commission could enhance their methods of capturing lessons identified from past EU experiences in conflict zones, which could include a more effective knowledge management system to strengthen the EU’s the evidence base for future conflict prevention work.

A related lesson derived from EU-CIVCAP and EUCONRES research involves a need to ensure that the EU is following its own rules regarding the production and dissemination of lessons. This would involve the appointment of learning officers for most if not all CSDP/conflict prevention and peacebuilding missions, the production of periodic lessons identified reports according to a fixed schedule, and the release/dissemination of the lessons beyond their inclusion in a database or similar knowledge management system (including release to important EU partners, like the UN and AU; see DL 4.1). Although these learning mechanisms and processes have been in development in the EU for over ten years, various EU stakeholders still are not consistent in following them. This may require some form of compliance-monitoring and/or auditing in the realm of lessons/learning, beyond the informal methods that already exist.


Link the EU’s specific learning processes to the evolution of its more general approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding (see other lessons in this database) in terms of early warning and conflict analysis. This should include enhancing the monitoring of learning processes and pursuing greater synergies, if not complete harmonisation, between the learning activities conducted by all EU actors involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, particularly the EEAS and the Commission.

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_3-2DL 3.2
The EU’s Capabilities for Conflict Prevention

Authors: Davis, L., N. Habbida and A. Penfrat
Institution: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office

Published: 30 January 2017

[PDF, ~1MB; click to access]


dl_4-1DL 4.1
Reacting to Conflict: Civilian Capabilities in the EU, UN and OSCE

Authors: Dijkstra, H.P. Petrov and E. Mahr
Institution: Maastricht University

Published: 2 November 2016

[PDF, ~1.6MB; click to access]


DL 7.4
Institutional Learning and Lessons Identified in EU Civilian Conflict Prevention: A framework for analysis

Author: Smith, M.E.
Institution: University of Aberdeen

Published: 8 May 2017

[PDF, ~1.7MB; click to access]