Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Saferworld

  This submission focuses on the impact of the reforms of European development assistance for the effectiveness of conflict prevention. The EU has the world's biggest single market and second most generous provider of development assistance. However, its influence and impact as a global player, both as a political power and as a donor, are far below its potential. The failure of the European Union to take effective action to prevent violent conflict in the Balkans, Middle East, Central Africa and other regions of the world, demonstrates the urgent need to ensure that conflict prevention is effectively integrated into EU development assistance and the Common Foreign and Security Policy. With the agreement of the EU Programme for the Prevention of Violent Conflicts at the Gothenburg Summit in June 2001 and the publication of the European Commission Communication on Conflict Prevention in April 2001, conflict prevention is at last firmly on the EU's political agenda. The immediate challenge is to build on and implement these initiatives.

  The EU reform process represents a significant opportunity for the EU to adapt the way it works in order to effectively tackle the root causes of conflict and mainstream conflict prevention within strategies and programmes. Whilst there have been some positive developments, a lot more remains to be done.


  Despite an enhanced policy framework for conflict prevention, the range of instruments available and the ongoing reform process, recent experience in terms of implementation of conflict prevention policies by the Commission is not positive. The institutional, decision-making, management and financial set-up remains poorly adapted to the provision of assistance that targets the root causes of conflict in a flexible and coherent way and which recognises the regional nature of conflicts.

Aid management and decision-making

  The new Cotonou Agreement has been accompanied by a rationalisation of cooperation instruments and the introduction of more flexibility in the use of European Development Fund (EDF) assistance. However, a serious weakness remains in the complex, bureaucratic and burdensome financial control procedures governing aid disbursement. The European Commission (EC) has been hampered in its efforts by over-centralised decision-making procedures and restrictions imposed by Member States. Subsequent delays hamper implementation and can increase tensions on the ground. Whilst the reform process is attempting to address these issues through a delegation of authority to the field level, a number of issues remain:

    —  The EC should streamline and adapt decision-making procedures and funding systems further in order to create the flexibility and adaptability required when working in conflict-prone or affected areas.

    —  It is vital that the proposed decentralisation of authority to the delegation level is matched by adequate levels of staffing from the outset.

Concerning trends in the targeting of development aid

  There is a move to concentrate development assistance (eg EDF assistance) on a limited number of sectors within a country or region. However, there is a real concern that this may lead to interventions failing to address the full range of conflict risks. Parallel to this, the increase in the scale of interventions mitigates against the implementation of small-scale activities which build local ownership and can positively influence local initiatives and dynamics in support of peace-building and conflict prevention. Finally, increased emphasis on budgetary support increases the risks the diversion of funds for belligerent purposes or in favour of particular regions within the recipient country. This can increase the risk of EU development assistance exacerbating conflict risks, rather than addressing root causes.

    —  The EC should strengthen mechanisms for ensuring complementarity with other donors, in particular EU Member States to ensure that even where interventions focus on a limited number of sectors, the full range of conflict risks are addressed.

    —  The EC should ensure that small-scale interventions are not overlooked and that a proportion of financial support (eg EDF) is allocated towards such interventions.

    —  Delegations should ensure that solid and transparent accountability systems are in place to prevent the diversion of funds where budgetary support is provided.

Regional structures

  An integrated approach to conflict prevention at the regional level is vital if regional conflict dynamics, risks and issues such as cross border arms trafficking are to be addressed. There have been examples of activities at the regional level by the EC, such as support to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Horn of Africa, yet the EC's structures and mechanisms for the provision of support at a regional level, and ensuring the complementarity of regional support with national support, are still inadequate.

    —  The EC needs to develop and strengthen structures and mechanisms which facilitate the development of strategies, programming and implementation at a regional level and which ensure complimentarity and coherence with national strategies and programmes.

Policy priorities: Security sector reform

  Countries with unaccountable or abusive security forces, weak justice systems and inappropriate levels of military expenditure are particularly susceptible to violent conflict. There is increasing recognition in the donor community that tackling these issues is vital for conflict prevention and sustainable development. The OECD has recently published a policy paper on the issue entitled "Security Sector Reform and Development Co-operation: A Conceptual Framework for Enhancing Policy Coherence." Yet, some Member States remain reluctant to target development assistance to security sector reform and are resistant to the Commission playing a substantial role in this.

    —  The EU should take an integrated approach to security and development and recognise that security sector reform is fundamental to conflict prevention and development.

    —  The EU Development Council should agree a Resolution stating that it is appropriate to use resources from the EC development budget for security sector reform and agree guidelines for this support.


Institutional reforms and capacity building

  The effective implementation of EC-funded programmes in conflict areas requires capacity building at all levels. In particular, it requires skilled human resource capacity. However, despite the reform process, the EU has not prioritised the enhancement of delegation capacity in relation to tasks or the employment of country delegation staff with experience and expertise in conflict prevention and engagement with local authorities. Partly as a result, projects have often failed to take account of the priorities of local populations, increasing the risks of violent conflict emerging between them. It has also restricted the EU's ability to assess the impact that previous development programmes have had on conflict and to feed the results into the formation of new projects. The small size and limited capacities of many country delegations feeds the trend of supporting large-scale projects as the funds are easier to disburse and mitigates against EC support for smaller community-focused projects which could help prevent conflict.

    —  The EC should enhance the size and capacity of country delegations to enable conflict prevention and peace-building practices to be carried out in line with policy.

    —  The EC should introduce training for delegation staff in mainstreaming conflict prevention into EU policies and programmes, including the development of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments. Training should be based on existing good practice and experiences, and should be developed in collaboration with those whose capacity they are designed to enhance.

    —  The EC should enhance the capacity of delegations to identify a broad range of legitimate and credible non-state actors which can contribute to conflict prevention and peace-building (for example through research, employing staff with specific experience in this area).

    —  The European Commission should pool knowledge and expertise with other donors, Member Sates and local capacities.

Financial resources to conflict prevention

  There is a serious mismatch between the commitment to conflict prevention at a policy level and the levels of funding allocated to implement these policies. For example under the "European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights" (EIDHR) funds of a mere 4 million euros have been allocated for conflict prevention and resolution, the same amount as for support for the abolition of the death penalty.

    —  It is vital EIDHR funds allocated to conflict prevention and resolution are enhanced.


Aid to least developed countries

  Many violent conflicts take place in the poorest countries of the developing world, particularly where there has been a break down in state authority. However, there is reason for concern about the long-term trend in the reduced proportion of EU development aid going to ACP countries, which constitute the largest number of least developed countries. This is at a time when the proportion of assistance directed to the regions in the immediate vicinity of Europe is increasing dramatically. While 51.3 per cent of all community aid went to less developed countries (LDCs) in 1986-87, it was only 33.6 per cent in 1996-97. Furthermore, funds from the EC's 2001 draft budget that were originally set aside for LDCs have been reallocated to the reconstruction of Kosovo. Support to the Balkans is vital but it must not be at the expense of support to the world's poorest countries. The Commission's funding pattern for 2002 continues to be significantly predisposed towards the near abroad.

    —  The EU should increase the proportion of development assistance it provides to LDCs, especially those threatened by violent conflict.

Requirement of sustained political will

  Political will is vital, on the part of the Commission and the Member States, to sustain engagement in conflict-affected and prone areas and to ensure that such engagement targets the root causes of conflict. Shifting priorities in terms of sectors and regions risks undermining this will. This is an issue of particular concern as international attention shifts towards central asia and the fight against terrorism.

    —  It is vital that the EU promotes and maintain a constructive engagement by the Commission in conflict affected areas, particularly in Africa.


Coherence and co-ordination

  The EU has made some progress in establishing new mechanisms for the management of the EU's external aid budget under the new EuropeAid Co-operation office. Another aspect of recent EU reforms is the initiative to decentralise decision-making to EU delegations in recipient countries. Furthermore, a Policy Planning Unit (PPU) has been established in the Council Secretariat. However, the EU needs to ensure that these institutional changes maximise its capacity to prevent violent conflict.

    —  Links and coherence between DG-Development, RELEX, EuropeAid and the Council Secretariat should be enhanced.

    —  Coordination between the Commission and member states needs to be enhanced at the delegation level to increase coherence and the pooling of resources.

    —  The Policy Planning Unit should concentrate on developing non-military mechanisms for conflict prevention and response, and should ensure that the current resource emphasis on military response is shifted to prioritise conflict prevention.


9 November 2001

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