Good intentions, mixed results - A conflict sensitive unpacking of the EU comprehensive approach to conflict and crisis mechanisms

Project Details


The project unpacks EU crisis response mechanisms, with the aim to increase their conflict sensitivity and efficiency and to provide new insights how they are being received and perceived on the ground by both local beneficiaries and other external stakeholders.

By combining bottom–up perspectives with an institutional approach, the project increases our understanding of how EU crisis responses function and are received on the ground in crisis areas. This entails exploring local agencies and perceptions in target countries without losing sight of the EU’s institutions and their expectations and ambitions. It also entails examining the whole cycle of crisis, from pre-crisis, through crisis, and into post-crisis phase. The project analyses two gaps in EU crisis response. First, the intentions–implementation gap, which relates to 1) the capacity to make decisions and respond with one voice and to deploy the necessary resources, 2) how these responses are implemented on the ground by various EU institutions and member states, and 3) how other actors – local and international – enhance or undermine the EU’s activities. Second, the project addresses the gap between the implementation of EU policies and approaches, and how these policies and approaches are received and perceived in target countries, what we refer to as the implementation¬–local reception/perceptions gap. Our main hypothesis is that the severity of the two gaps is a decisive factor for the EU’s impacts on crisis management and thereby its ability to contribute more effectively to problem-solving on the ground. We analyse these gaps through cases that reflect the variation of EU crisis responses in three concentric areas surrounding the EU: the enlargement area (Kosovo, Serbia), the neighbourhood area (Ukraine, Libya), and the extended neighbourhood (Mali, Iraq, Afghanistan). The results of our research will enable us to present policy recommendations fine-tuned to making the

Key findings

Based on this project, the research team developed five key policy recommendations:

1. The EU needs to get a better grip on the real needs of the people on the ground. This can only be achieved by establishing a sound local knowledge base built on micro-political approaches to grounded data and intelligence gathering. The EU needs to establish contacts with local civil society organisation and other traditional and non-traditional sources of knowledge and information. This might also be facilitated by some innovative thinking about diplomatic representation from the EU side. Instead of high turnover of generalists, it might be better to have longer term postings of personnel with in depth competence and interests for the country where they are stationed.

2. The EU needs to institutionalise systematic procedures for vertical lessons learnt about local root causes of conflict and how they can be addressed most effectively in a legitimate and transparent manner.

3. The EU must be clearer about its intentions and objectives and acknowledge and work with local beneficiaries to overcome the ‘information-local ownership’ gap. The EU must improve its capacity to communicate clearly with a broad spectrum of the population when it is engaged in a crisis response.

4. The EU must recognise that its priorities – notably the fight against terrorism and halting migration – are not necessarily aligned with the interests of various segments of the local population. EU representatives must actively try to work with, instead of against, local populations’ views and ideas in this regard.

5. The EU always needs to combine short-term crisis response with more long term engagement to avoid unintended consequences. Fragile countries are not only those most in need of external crisis response, but also those where it will be most difficult to get such external programming to work due to a combination of very weak domestic administrative capacity and often governments without much real popular legitimacy.
Short titleR:HAF EUNPACK
Effective start/end date1/04/1631/03/19

Collaborative partners

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute


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