The challenge

Despite the media’s intense coverage of conflict in Africa, research shows that the onset of armed strife has in fact declined over the past 20 years1. However, the nature of conflicts has changed. Today there are more inter-state conflicts, and radical movements increasingly undermine government authority in fragile states. The persistence of certain civil wars on the African continent and the events that have unfolded in North Africa, Central Africa, South Sudan and the Sahel are also continuing concerns.

On the African continent, the African Union (AU) plays a key role in maintaining peace through its African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). There is growing evidence of the APSA’s contribution to reducing conflicts and concluding peace agreements. Beyond the AU, other continental institutions, such as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, have taken initiatives to counter instability and war.

Escaping and preventing fragility and conflict remain top priorities on the global peace and security agenda. To that end, international organisations and networks have designed comprehensive frameworks that link short-term emergency and stabilisation actions with long-term support to peacebuilding. The EU, in particular, plays an important part in conflict prevention and peacebuilding worldwide. In the past year, the EU has made considerable progress in mainstreaming its work in conflict prevention and fragility, particularly through the Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Mediation Division of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Fragility and Crisis Management Division of the European Commission's DG DEVCO. Both of these EU institutions support African peace processes.

Joint efforts to foster peace and stability seem to have yielded positive results, as negotiated settlements have brought an end to an increasing number of conflicts. Even when peace deals collapse, they have dramatically curbed death 
tolls due to subsequent fighting2. Yet, peace is more than the absence of violence, and fragility and conflict will likely remain major issues in a number of African countries. The South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS) forecasts that a large number of African countries will continue to experience poor governance, chronic poverty, widening inequality, and continued vulnerability to violence and armed conflict
well into the future3

Current international, continental, regional and national approaches to peace and stability are increasingly recognised as insufficient. Institutional incentives continue to be geared more towards acute crisis management, with less attention given to post-conflict reconstruction, governance and development. Furthermore, current frameworks have had mixed implementation results. Coordination and coherence between frameworks and instruments remain challenges as well. To truly foster peace and stability, a solid foundation of institutional effectiveness is required and structural causes of conflict and fragility must be addressed. For this, new approaches are needed, in which institutions and society work together in more integrated and comprehensive ways.

"The emergence of more inter-state conflicts in Africa underlines the need for early warning systems and prevention measures. This is recognised within EU institutions and within the EU's cooperation with the AU. But that concern has so far failed to translate into a sufficiently effective response."

Volker Hauck, Head of the Conflict, Security and Resilience programme (pictured)       

ECDPM's role

ECDPM supports strengthened capacity of EU and African institutions and societal actors to address conflict in an effective and consolidated manner. Our activities emphasise a thorough understanding of the underlying dynamics and drivers of change at the local, regional, continental and global levels. We apply a range of strategies, including enhancement of dialogue between international policy actors and societal stakeholders, brokering knowledge through independent research and analysis, and facilitation to ease policy processes and close the implementation gap. In 2013, we focused on three streams of work:
  • Reinforcing the EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding agenda
  • Facilitating international policy processes on conflict prevention and peacebuilding
  • Supporting African processes and institutions dealing with conflict management 
Reinforcing the EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding agenda

ECDPM continued to contribute to consolidation of the EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding agenda. We supported the Conflict Prevention, Peacebuilding and Mediation Unit of the EEAS in its efforts to strengthen capacity for conflict prevention and transformation. In particular, we provided input to the Unit on mainstreaming conflict analysis and conflict-sensitive programming through the EU institutions; and on developing ways to address structural risk factors for conflict in a timely and systematic manner. A lessons learnt exercise on mediation capacities within the EU was highly valued by the EEAS and the European Parliament, as were the fact sheets we produced on mediation. Consequently, we were invited to contribute to a European Parliament conference on enhancing the EU’s mediation capacity. ECDPM was also approached for advice on how the EU can best perform its role as peacebuilder.

“Your intervention provided a valuable combination of experience and analysis... and enriched delegates’ understanding of the potential of mediation as a tool of first response to conflict.”
Joint letter of thanks from the Irish EU Presidency, the European External Action Service and the European Parliament for ECDPM's contribution to the 'EU as a Peacemaker' conference on 28 May 2013

The EU made considerable efforts in 2013 to enhance coherence and cooperation in its approach to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. It formulated and implemented regional security strategies and devised its ‘Comprehensive Approach’ for responding to external conflicts and crises. It also committed to the New Deal – an initiative by the g7+ and international development actors towards a new development architecture and new ways of working to build peaceful states – and developed and implemented new financial instruments for support to fragile states. ECDPM actively monitored and played the role of sounding board on these EU instruments, processes and approaches. This work proved helpful to our African, ACP and other international partners too, who through us gained a deeper understanding of EU policy and practice on conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

In particular, we took part in the public discussions towards formulation of the EU’s Communication on the Comprehensive Approach. We also analysed initial experiences with the EU’s Statebuilding Contracts, a new form of budget support provided to fragile and transition countries. Finally, we discussed the EU’s regional approach towards the crisis in the Sahel and its implications for EU-Africa relations, among others through our well-received publication ‘The Mali Crisis and Africa-Europe Relations’. These activities were undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from ECDPM’s Strengthening European External Action programme.

“ECDPM has made a valuable contribution to establishing the practice of conflict analysis within the EU.”
EU Official

Facilitating international policy processes on conflict prevention and peacebuilding

ECDPM actively contributed to international policy processes on conflict prevention and peacebuilding throughout 2013. The year was also marked by accelerated debate on the post-2015 global development framework. We actively contributed to this through blogs and publications, stressing the need to include peacebuilding and statebuilding goals more prominently among the new sustainable development objectives.

We provided, as one of the few external parties, analytical and operational support to the g7+, a self-selected group of fragile states, on implementation of the New Deal. We began by helping in development of indicators for measuring progress against peacebuilding and statebuilding goals. This evolved into a request for direct support to the g7+ on policy matters, through our research and participation in g7+ events. Our direct engagement with the g7+ and the New Deal process enabled us to identify opportunities and bottlenecks. ECDPM analyses were utilised in several g7+ papers which contributed to a shift in focus among the international community – away from global monitoring frameworks to more country-specific configurations.

“Your inputs to the process are insightful and valuable.”
Habib Ur Rahman Mayar, Senior Policy Specialist, g7+ Secretariat

Global debates on responses to conflict and fragility increasingly acknowledge the need for country-specific pathways to be built on existing strengths and context-specific solutions. The neoliberal institutional model is not always the best template for this. More locally rooted forms of international cooperation and new concepts need to be developed and tested in the search for more effective responses to conflict and fragility. ECDPM contributed several publications to this discussion in 2013. One of these, ‘Resilience: A Trojan Horse for a New Way of Thinking’, unpacks the concept of resilience, exploring existing resources for resilience and presenting creative thinking about hybrid ‘best-fit’ institutional models for contexts of institutional multiplicity. Such ideas are being used to foster more integrated and comprehensive perspectives on institutional development in fragile contexts.

Supporting African institutions and processes dealing with conflict management

We engaged with African, European and global stakeholders to promote enhanced linkages between internationally-led and African-led policy processes for conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The message of Africa-European cooperation, meanwhile, has been incorporated in the 2014 work priorities of the g7+ and was reiterated at a high-level conference hosted by the Centre and organised jointly with the other members of the European Think-Tanks Group (ODI, DIE and FRIDE). That conference focused on the future of Europe-Africa relations and brought together key African and European stakeholders responsible for implementation of various priorities in the EU-Africa partnership.

We strengthened partnerships with African institutions and non-state actors, engaging in joint efforts to advance conflict prevention and security. ECDPM continued to build on its partnership with the South Africa-based ACCORD (the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes). We also established a new partnership with the Zambia-based Levy Mwanawasa Regional Centre for Democracy, Good Governance, Human Rights and Civic Education, the think tank of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. The collaboration will start in early 2014 and will focus on youth employment in post-conflict countries, a topic rapidly rising on the peace and security agenda. Finally, we worked with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), on formulating a method assessing the impact of the APSA and the quality of its interventions. 

1) Smith, D. 2013. The state of the world atlas (ninth ed.). Oxford: New Internationalist.
2) Human Security Report Project. 2012. Human Security Report 2012. Sexual violence, education, and war: Beyond the mainstream narrative. Vancouver: Simon Fraser University.
3) Cilliers, J., Sisk, T.D. 2013. Assessing long-term state fragility in Africa: Prospects for 26 'more fragile' countries (ISS Monograph, number 188). Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.