Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 262-279)

Mr Nicholas Grono, Mr Gareth Evans AO QC and Mr Romit Jain

21 MARCH 2006

  Q262Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for seeing us. As you already know, we are conducting an inquiry into the European Union Strategy for Africa and, in particular, its implementation. We are not really questioning the strategy. As I say, it is the implementation aspect that we are looking at. I do not know whether there is anything that you want to say in general, or whether we should proceed to questions.

  Mr Grono: I have no general comments. The only point we should make at the outset is that obviously our expertise and focus is on conflict and conflict prevention. I am certainly no development expert, although we come across those issues and grapple with them.

  Q263  Chairman: Accepting that is your particular area of expertise, do you nevertheless agree that that is probably the most urgent priority within the strategy?

  Mr Grono: Yes.

  Q264  Lord Lea of Crondall: If you say that it is an emphasis on conflict prevention rather than dealing with conflicts, there is perhaps a question that it would be useful to have your take on. In terms of financial resources and in terms of the policies, the governance questions and other questions about the failed states phenomenon explain why the fire brigade has to be called out so often. So conflict prevention is not just a question of what you do when there is a conflict.

  Mr Grono: That's correct. We traditionally analyse conflict as a cycle, in the sense that you can have instability and your actions are geared towards long-term peace-building activities; but if that process fails, the country becomes less stable, you may engage in short-term conflict prevention measures. If you fail on that, you have your conflict; you have the measures you might take to resolve conflict and, post-conflict, you have the long-term reconstruction. If you are unsuccessful in your post-conflict reconstruction efforts, then there is a risk of countries slipping back into conflict. There is a very disturbing statistic, which the World Bank cites on a regular basis, that half the countries coming out of civil war will fall back into conflict within five years. Hence, one of the key indicators of future conflict is past conflict, and so long-term conflict prevention measures are key.

  Q265  Lord Lea of Crondall: How many of the conflicts would you say are territorial between states these days and how many are domestic? When I say "between states", I mean an Eritrea type of idea, and perhaps one or two in West Africa; but all the rest are what you might call civil conflicts. Would you say that is broadly the position?

  Mr Grono: Less than five per cent are what are classified as inter-state conflicts. There was an excellent report put out last year called the Human Security Report, put together by an academic, Andy Mack, at University of British Columbia. I have put together some slides, where you see internal conflicts, civil wars in which the state is a party, and inter-state conflicts. It is a very low number.

  Q266  Lord Lea of Crondall: (Pointing to slide) Is that 1952?

  Mr Grono: Up to 2002. So fairly steady in terms of inter-state conflict; a peak of internal conflict, civil wars in the early 1990s.

  Q267  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: That is Bosnia.

  Mr Grono: Bosnia, and Africa immediately post-Cold War. Lots of proxy support from Russia, and so on. You have the Congo. What we have seen—and it is quite a nice statistic—is a 40 per cent decline in these civil conflicts over the last 15 years.

  Q268  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: But still at a high level.

  Mr Grono: Still at a high level, and these are the statistics for Africa. But these statistics are only where a party is a state. It is still internal, but it is government versus insurgency group or rebels. In fact, if you take into account conflicts where you have two non-state parties, like militias in the Congo, or rebel groups and militias, you have as many conflicts again—although still showing that long-term-trend decline. I will pull out one other statistic from this. It is battle deaths. You will see that most of the deaths in these conflicts are in Africa. At the turn of the century there were more battle deaths in Africa than the rest of the world combined, in these predominantly civil conflicts. There is a falling-off in 2002, but then you will have to take into account Darfur, for which the statistics are not captured here. It is just a snapshot of some of the conflict issues in Africa.

  Q269  Chairman: The strategy seems to be saying that what the EU should do is channel resources through the Africa Peace Facility and the African Union, to enable them to respond themselves. Do you think the strategy is soundly based in that way?

  Mr Grono: It is difficult. There will always be this mix of measures that needs to be adopted. A strategy, in so far as it approaches the problem with the perspective of African ownership, understandably focuses on things like the Peace Facility, which is squarely in the ambit of African ownership. However, any strategy that is looking at Africa and looking at peace and security up front has to be broader than that. Some of the issues that struck me were about EU direct involvement. We see perhaps one of the most valuable roles that the EU can play as being in this issue of direct involvement in peacekeeping missions. We have seen it with ARTEMIS. This is the EU and the Member States that I am talking about. We have seen it with the French going into Côte d'Ivoire. We have seen talk of the Germans leading an EU battle group into the Congo, Kinshasa. What you have in Africa in terms of the peace architecture is the desire of Africans to have effective peacekeeping capabilities. So they are seeking to develop their capabilities in terms of the Standby Force; they are seeking to develop their internal capacity to deal with this, but it will be a long time until they can do that. They are talking of the African peacekeeping force being operational by 2010. I doubt very much whether that will be the case: in which case there is lack of capabilities to intervene in conflicts like the Congo, Darfur—and we are seeing that right now, whereby the Darfur mission is soon to be re-hatted, one hopes, as a UN mission. So there is a willingness and capabilities that can be supported by the EU, and that is absolutely key if you want African solutions, but there is still a lack of capability, and the EU and the West can effectively support African solutions by directly intervening where appropriate.

  Q270  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I take what you say and rather agree with it, but do you not think that one way through this is to think more in terms of integrated operations that involve not just Africa but also the Europeans, rather than the Europeans themselves operating on their own? There are problems about this because of the EU command and control arrangements, and so on, which are very tricky in this respect. However, I keep asking people why we cannot move closer to an integrated approach in which the EU, the UN and the AU all play to their comparative advantages. There are all sorts of areas in which the Europeans do have comparative advantages, the civilian aspects being obviously the heavy lift, but also logistics, and so on. On the other hand, the Africans do not have too much problem finding infantry battalions. It strikes me—I do not know what you think about this—that one of the directions we ought to be pushing the European Union along, and the UN for that matter, is a greater capacity to integrate operations in that way. Does that make sense to you?

  Mr Grono: It makes absolute sense. You will not have African ownership until you have African capability. You will not get African capability without extensive support. We have seen in the AU mission in Sudan, AMIS in Darfur, a beginning of this exercise. In some ways it is a little unfortunate, because you have the newly established AU coming into place in 2002, and its Peace and Security Council in 2004. Then suddenly it is thrust into Darfur, which it seizes as an opportunity because it wants to demonstrate its capability. However, Darfur is way beyond the capabilities of a fledgling AU mission. You have had some EU support logistically and NATO support, and a lot of it is taking place by placing EU military officers in with African officers in AMIS. We did a report on it late last year and the feedback we had was that this was effectively capability development on the run, by necessity. As I said, this mission was probably too big for the AU to cope with, but they were learning on the ground and the interaction with NATO and EU officers was an effective process. Sometimes you will still have difficulties. If you need to intervene within a month or within 10 days, you may not immediately be able to arrange this merging of African capabilities with EU capabilities; but in the long term that is a very effective way of getting there. When it comes to development policy, one of the challenges is that there is often this desire for short-term results, which means that you go in, completely take over the operation—be it peacekeeping or be it institution-building—and then pull out, on the basis that you have a stable situation or you have an institution handed over to key Africans, only to find that in fact you have not built the capacity in the process and therefore there is no long-term sustainability.

  Q271  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I think that is what several people who have talked to us have said, in the same sense. The other thing, however, is that at the moment it seems that everything is being done on an ad hoc, one-off basis. Each time, whether it is Aceh, helping AMIS, or whatever it is, you start from the ground upwards, and no attempt so far seems to have been made to approach this at all systematically; to work up building blocks, as it were, that can be fitted into each other; to work out how each other's accounting systems, for example, are to mesh together—and all sorts of nitty-gritty things like that, without which you just have endless difficulty, grinding in the gearbox, improvisation, and so on. Do you think that is a direction which we ought to be recommending people should push a bit more?

  Mr Grono: Yes, but it is always problematic. A different but related problem is to call for better co-ordination. Everyone talks about the need to improve this. It is mentioned throughout the strategy—improved co-ordination—yet I am astounded by the utter lack of co-ordination we so often see and in so many ways. I am not just talking about the EU here, although it can happen in the EU at the most basic levels. We looked at the EU in Afghanistan and were astounded to find that there were not regular meetings between the EU Special Representative and the delegation in Kabul, and that the EU Special Representative had not seen the draft Country Paper being prepared by the delegation. We put this in our report. They now have weekly meetings. However, you would not have thought that it would take an ICG report to encourage co-operation at that level.

  Q272  Lord Lea of Crondall: No, but is that not because the analysis of what you have just been saying is not quite accurate? We have been discussing "ownership". It is a word which we thought we would ban from our vocabulary, but now, from Solana downwards, everybody is using it all the time, so we have to use it about Africa. It is true in Brussels as well, is it not? Is not what we are talking about here the different grabs at ownership of the policy? Ownership therefore begs the question about people's political necessity to get ownership. I am slightly over-egging the pudding, but could you comment on the fact that there is no point in our criticising Africa pointing out that they have conflicts of ownership of the policy when there are conflicts of ownership of the policy in Brussels.

  Mr Grono: Issues around who owns the policy?

  Q273  Lord Lea of Crondall: Yes.

  Mr Grono: Yes, there are big issues.

  Q274  Lord Lea of Crondall: And totally analogous. It is not just an African problem; it is the European Parliament.

  Mr Grono: Absolutely.

  Q275  Lord Lea of Crondall: It is not just a question that some idiot is not co-ordinating with somebody else and showing them the document—although we can understand why people do not show people documents. It is a question of who owns the policy.

  Mr Grono: And that is a reflection of lack of ownership of the policy and it has to be determined at the highest political levels. If you cannot get EU bodies to co-operate in a country, then it will be difficult to expect co-ordination—

  Q276  Lord Lea of Crondall: No, I am not talking about EU bodies taking all the rap here; I am talking about national governments not transferring ownership, any more than Liberia wants to transfer ownership.

  Mr Grono: Again, you can look at it in various ways. If you are talking about ownership at the EU and Member State level, so between these, there are big problems. We are going to see it in Guinea any time now. This is something we have just been looking at very closely. The President of Guinea was MedEvac'd on Friday to Switzerland. Guinea is a transitional state; the EU is very actively involved there, and in fact has played a pretty productive role, with conditionality on aid which has begun to lead to political changes. However, EU policy and certain Member States' policy are quite different in Guinea, as they were in Togo when we had a coup and a transition process. Some Member States take the approach that stability is best guaranteed by dealing with those parties in power or close to power. The EU is taking an approach in Togo, and in Guinea, that you need a democratic transition. There is a conflict there. Because many of the European states have close ties to former colonies or to regions, there will be a disconnect—not always, but often there will be a disconnect at some level—between Member State policy and EU policy. I do not know how that gets resolved. I know that there is talk of developing grand strategies, but—

  Q277  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: In that case, when you say "EU" you mean the Commission, do you?

  Mr Grono: EU Commission in Guinea?

  Q278  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Yes.

  Mr Grono: Yes. I talk about it very loosely, but also the political direction provided by the Council. If there is a threatened coup or something, the Council and Solana will be out there—

  Q279  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: When you said that there was a disconnect between some Member States, presumably France in particular—

  Mr Grono: On West Africa, yes.

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