Lesson 27: Capabilities-Based Assessment


Previous EU-CIVCAP Deliverables and Lessons 6, 7 and 8 revealed a need to clarify some general concepts and procedures regarding conflict prevention and peacebuilding-related goals/tasks to help enhance the overall coordination of this domain; this problem also extends to the ongoing development of a general strategy for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Part of this challenge, which is summarised here as Lesson Identified 27, involves the identification of existing EU capabilities in the realm of conflict prevention and peacebuilding and foreign/security policy more generally, and the systemic identification of gaps that need filling in this area. DL 2.6 directly addresses this problem, by adopting a more long-term and holistic approach to the various opportunities that exist for the EU to advance its role in this realm. This approach can be summarised as a Capabilities-Based Assessment (CPA).

The CPA approach follows on from a more general problem involving the EU’s approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding: the decentralised/fragmented nature of the policy domain and of the various capabilities/resources available to support it, which can involve EU institutions in Brussels and in various EU member states. To help address this problem, DL 2.6 has identified a number of shortcomings in the EU’s conceptual approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding and attempted to offer some initial solutions. These involve more specific definitions of key concepts (conflict prevention, peacebuilding, resources, capabilities); in turn, these can be operationalised in ways that could help the EU measure/monitor its existing capabilities as well as contribute to the development of new ones.

As capabilities are closely linked to resources, DL 2.6 also provides more detail about how to catalogue the various resources that could be available for EU initiatives in the realm of conflict prevention and peacebuilding; adapting from military terminology, these can be summarised as doctrines, organisation, training, material, leadership, personnel, finances, and facilities, all of which directly relate to many other previous Lessons Identified. The key point is that these various resources must be linked directly to EU objectives in the area of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, in terms of what is required to conduct specific conflict prevention and peacebuilding-related tasks in an effective and efficient manner. This involves, in turn, a systematic process of identifying objectives, determining current capabilities, identifying gaps in capabilities, and making recommendations about filling those gaps. Therefore, as the process starts with objectives rather than resources, the EU must be far more explicit in terms of setting those objectives in the realm of conflict prevention and peacebuilding, in both functional and geographic terms (i.e., ‘preventing piracy in the Gulf of Aden’). The process then leads to the identification of functional ‘capability clusters’ required to fulfil the objectives, such as (for example) command & control, engage & implement, inform, set up & sustain, and duty of care. With the CPA approach, the EU should be able to ensure that its limited resources are adequate to meet its conflict prevention and peacebuilding objectives while (hopefully) avoiding waste or duplication of effort.


The EU should consider the formal adoption of a CPA approach to its various conflict prevention and peacebuilding tasks, using the conceptual elements summarised in DL 2.6. In this light the EU also must be clearer and more forward-looking regarding its objectives in the realm of conflict prevention and peacebuilding and foreign/security policy more generally, as an effective CPA approach cannot be undertaken when such objectives are too vague.

Related Deliverables

DL 2.6
EU Capabilities for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding: A Capabilities-Based Assessment

Authors: Juncos, A.E. and G. Algar-Faria
Institution: University of Bristol

Published: 23 May 2017

[PDF, ~0.8MB; click to access]