Lesson 16: CSDP missions I – Integrating conflict analysis


Several EU-CIVCAP outputs have noted the varying approaches to, and definitions of, key terms such as conflict, prevention/early warning, local ownership, and so on; these problems directly inspired Lesson Identified 7 on ‘concepts’. This challenge also applies to the use of CSDP missions for the purposes of conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks, as discussed in detail on the ‘Report on integrating conflict prevention in CSDP’, as part of DL 3.3, which relied in part on original survey data to investigate this issue.

Specifically, DL 3.3 notes that in addition to other problems already cited in previous Lessons Identified, CSDP in particular has not been very useful as a conflict prevention tool. This problem is traceable to not only a lack of resources and political differences among EU member states; it also stems from what the authors of this report call the ‘human factor’: differing interpretations about what ‘conflict prevention’ involves, and a corresponding gap between conflict prevention and peacebuilding policy and practice owing in part to those differing interpretations. These different interpretations are apparent across a range of EU actors/partners and can involve the time frame of the interventions (i.e., short versus long-term), the targets of the interventions (i.e., state versus societal stakeholder), the end goals of the interventions, and other factors.

These different interpretations also stem from a range of other differences among actors/stakeholders involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, based on psychological, sociological, historical, and national/cultural factors. Such factors help determine how we interpret critical terms such as ‘peace’, ‘security’ and ‘violence,’ and then how the EU acts upon those interpretations, e.g. when deciding about the need for a CSDP mission involving conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks. Although such missions may be backed by a support network of like-minded professionals in Brussels, who may even share some elements of an esprit de corps or even an EU strategic culture, they are typically staffed at the operational or field level on a case-by-case basis by individuals with highly varied professional backgrounds, and those mission staff in turn may be susceptible to these differences of interpretation regarding their roles and objectives.

Drawing attention to, and attempting to explain, such differences, is a necessary initial step in attempting to mitigate their effects when debating a new CSDP mission for the purposes of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Raising overall awareness of the issue through the use of surveys, staff selection methods, feedback/learning tools, and other measures should become a regular part of the EU’s approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Further, this should be done on a regular basis to help facilitate a common understanding of conflict dynamics. However, recognition of this problem must by followed up by changes to other elements of the CSDP decision-making process, as will be discussed in Lesson Identified 17.


Integrate a more holistic approach to conflict analysis in the context of deploying civilian CSDP missions for conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks; this approach would address various aspects of a specific conflict such as cause-effect dynamics (including root causes), stakeholders, and objectives in the host country and for the EU as a global actor (i.e., the EU’s own political interest in becoming involved in a specific conflict).

Related Deliverables

DL 3.3
Reports on integrating conflict prevention in CSDP, EU trade policy and EU development policy

Authors: Beswick, T., L. Angelini, L. Conti, S. Wander, C. Cogitore, A. PenfratB. Moore and N. Habbida
Lead Institution: European Peacebuilding Liaison Office

Published: 30 November 2017

[PDF, ~1.4MB; click to access]


DL 5.4
The EU’s Comprehensive Approach and its Implementation

Authors: Zartsdahl, P.H.K. Đokić and S. Simons
Lead Institution: Roskilde University

Published: 29 November 2018

[PDF, ~2.1MB; click to access]