Approximately 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence. Although the number of total armed conflicts has declined in recent years, the consequences of ongoing conflicts remain devastating, as illustrated by the cases of Iraq, Syria or Ukraine. The EU-funded Horizon 2020 project EU-CIVCAP (“Preventing and Responding to Conflict: Developing EU Civilian Capabilities for a Sustainable Peace”) aims to improve EU civilian capabilities to prevent and respond to conflict. EU-CIVCAP is led the principal investigator, Dr Ana E. Juncos (SPAIS, University of Bristol). Professor Tim Edmunds, Dr Ryerson Christie and Gilberto Algar-Faria, also from the University of Bristol, are co-investigators. The University of Bristol leads a consortium of 11 institutions across eight different countries in Europe.
The EU-CIVCAP project provides a comparative and multidisciplinary analysis of the EU's current conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities in two key regions: the Western Balkans and the Horn of Africa. Moreover, through its Expert Network and the organisation of several events (workshops, Peacebuilding Fora and Research Meets Policy seminars), the research consolidates linkages between the policy community, academia and stakeholders from the NGO and think-tank sphere. This research has also benefitted from an ESRC IAA grant PeaceCapacity which engages with civil society groups to help strength local capacities for inclusive peace processes. Ana E. Juncos also co-ordinates the WUN research network Resilient Peace which seeks to explore the links between resilience and peacebuilding in West Africa.
By developing a catalogue of lessons learned, a best practice toolkit and a handbook for practitioners, this research seeks to make EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding more effective, comprehensive and inclusive. For instance, our research shows that the EU and other international donors should be more strategic (by concentrating where they can make a difference), but also more realistic about what can be achieved in the medium and long term. While mentoring, monitoring, training and advice are crucial in building individual and organisational skills, (lack of) appropriate equipment and infrastructures should not be underestimated. As well as material constraints, the EU needs to recognise that capacity building programmes are affected by local politics and international and local power asymmetries.
EU-CIVCAP research has also highlighted the lack of local ownership and the need to fully integrate affected communities in EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Increased local ownership correlates with increased representativeness, improving the sustainability of peace processes, especially regarding vulnerable groups, e.g. women/minorities. PeaceCapacity sought to support capacity building in the Western Balkans and the Horn of Africa by engaging civil society actors from marginalised groups, with workshops organised in Pristina (Kosovo) in October 2017; Hargeisa (Somaliland) in November 2017; and London in January 2018.