Lesson 18: EU development aid and trade


A central feature of the EU’s comprehensive, or integrated, approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding involves the use of a full range of foreign policy tools. Here the EU has a distinct ‘value-added’ relative to many other international organisations, as it can draw upon a number of instruments ranging from diplomatic to economic measures (trade and aid), and from light police/military power to heavy military power. With its status as the world’s largest development aid provider, and with 141 EU delegations around the world, the EU has a vast network of aid delivery mechanisms that could be deployed in the service of conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks. The EU also hopes to enhance the political and economic development of many host countries where it operates, as part of its broader, long-term approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in general and conflict prevention in particular. The EU’s own experience in promoting reform in its own member states as part of their accession process also helps inspire this effort, which in turn gives the Commission a key role to play in the realm of conflict prevention and peacebuilding given its responsibility for EU trade/development policy.

However, as most conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts take place in less-developed countries, some of which are linked to the EU through other policy instruments (such as the European Neighbourhood Policy), and which suffer from many other problems beyond conflict, it is worth investigating whether there is room for improvement here. DL 3.3 examined this question in detail and found that despite the mention of ‘conflict’ in various EU trade/aid policy statements, there was little consistency in terms of definitions regarding the terminology associated with conflict and conflict prevention, a finding very similar to those in other Lessons Identified regarding concepts, procedures, and conflict analysis (Lessons 7, 8 and 16). This problem in turn may affect the perceptions and behaviour of various conflict stakeholders in host countries where the EU engages in conflict prevention and peacebuilding and trade/development activities.

In addition, DL 3.3 framed this problem in terms of a need for more ‘due diligence’ (i.e., research & analysis) on the part of EU actors involved in these activities, for two general reasons: 1) to minimise the potential for harm where the EU engages in conflict prevention and economic development activities; and 2) to maximise the EU’s responsible use of its resources in such a way that would enhance their overall effectiveness. The critical point when engaging in such efforts is to not just harmonise the EU’s terminology involving the conceptual links between conflict, aid/trade, and development, but also to ensure that those concepts are clearly reflected in terms of the EU’s operational efforts in host countries. These efforts, in turn, can vary depending on the specific circumstances on the ground, which would be investigated in terms of due diligence through the use of conflict analysis, early-warning tools, fact-finding missions, and other measures.


In addition to harmonising its overall terminology regarding conflict and conflict analysis, the EU should consider developing a clear framework for due diligence regarding the link between its trade/aid policy and conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks. Toward this end, a five-part checklist of key components for such a framework is suggested by DL 3.3 (p. 66).

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

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