Parallel Session 5
EU External Politics in the Nexus Peace, Development, and Security - What are current trends in EU External Policies in these areas?
In this session it was emphasised that there is a trend for peacebuilding and development instruments to be increasingly used to finance issues related to security (i.e. combatting terrorism and organised violence, and preventing migration). These questions gain crucial importance, given that fundamental shifts and changes in the financial architecture for external and development issues have been announced. In 2017, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) was amended to enable the EU to support so-called “Capacity Building for Security and Development” (CBSD), which implies the provision of training and equipment for military actors in partner countries (a particular focus lies on countries in Africa). Church-related and secular NGOs alike have argued against this and made clear that this is an abuse of a civilian financing tool for military ends. Similarly, the amendment was also criticized by certain elements within the European Parliament (the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, the Group of the European United Left /Nordic Green Left and some other members (MEPs) expressed doubts that it was in accordance with the EU‘s legal framework as established by the Lisbon Treaty. However, ultimately a majority of MEPs supported the reform of the IcSP to enable CBSD.
The IcSP was been established as an instrument specifically dedicated to peacebuilding and can be used for financing long-term and flexible short-term activities in conflict-affected countries. The Regulation establishing the IcSP runs until 2020. In its proposal for the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the period 2021-27, the European Commission (EC) envisages merging and restructuring previously separate funding instruments. The proposed ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument’ (NDICI) would replace well-established and hitherto self-standing funding programmes such as the European Development Fund (EDF) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), but also the IcSP and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). It would also have ‘a strong emphasis on migration’ and include CBSD. Several NGO networks such as the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD), the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), and EPLO have all published position papers in which they argue in favour of maintaining separate instruments for development, peacebuilding and human rights. They fear that development will be subordinated to short-term EU-policies and interests in the areas of security and migration control, and that access to EU funding will be more difficult for NGOs if flexible and accessible funding programmes such as the IcSP and the EIDHR will be merged into a single external instrument.
Furthermore, it was reported that a so-called ‘European Peace Facility’ (EPF) is planned with a budget of € 10.5 billion (outside the regular EU budget). However, the EPF is likely to be used mainly for military support rather than civilian peacebuilding. This may threaten the credibility of the EU as a force for civilian peacebuilding and marginalise the peacebuilding community. Another point of concern is the huge emphasis that the EU has put on strengthening military co-operation, for instance by establishing ’Permanent Structured Cooperation’ (PESCO) and the highly expensive ‘European Defence Fund’ (€ 13 billion).
Recommendations and next steps
However, the session was also intended to focus on some positive questions: How can the EU contribute to peacebuilding and conflict prevention on a global level? What should the EU do to foster these initiatives? A number of positive peacebuilding examples were presented and there were criticisms that a ‘security drive’ is dominating EU peacebuilding discourse which results in ‘hard’ security issues being prioritised over humanitarian needs and solidarity. The securitisation trend results in a shift away from human-centered approaches to a top-down approach, which have an excessive focus on migration and other ‘hard security’ issues. These trends may inform the EU’s external policies. Peacebuilders need to strengthen networks, which advocate for civilian peacebuilding in order to counter this trend, and they must work to ensure that local voices reach policy- and decision-makers.
In the discussion, several participants expressed a strong wish that peacebuilders raise awareness and undertake a lot of lobby work both in EU Member States (EU MS) and at the EU-level in order to create political pressure to save the instruments related to development, human rights and peace. Given that EU MS have seem to have diverse positions on NDICI, there is clearly some room for maneuver. However, there is also a strong consensus among EU governments on reducing immigration and a majority seem to be in favour of a military definition of security.
Other participants stated that in order to be more effective, peacebuilders should not only focus on “what not to do” but also engage in trying to shape alternative visions. In addition, several raised questions on strategic communication: How can we frame criticism of the EU’s role in securitising peacebuilding without fostering anti-EU sentiment and without risking being excluded from consultation processes, especially given that civil society space continues to shrink? Also, how can civil society networks engage earlier in relevant processes and gain access to strategic information at the right time so that they are not always reactive?