EU’s response to conflict-affected countries: The operational guidance for the implementation of the Cotonou Agreement

This summary report presents the main findings of a research programme on ‘EU cooperation with politically fragile countries’. It centres on the main trends and innovations that were identified in the field with regard to development cooperation with conflict-affected countries. It also draws practical conclusions on the options for improving the overall performance of EU support to these countries.

Over the past decade, political instability, crisis and protracted conflicts have been on the rise among the ACP countries and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The human cost of these conflicts has been extremely high. Several countries seem trapped in a vicious circle of war, chronic instability, insecurity, human rights violations, economic and social collapse, and rising poverty. Most of the conflicts have had major regional dimensions, thus amplifying the effects of the crisis situations to a substantial part of the continent.

The proliferation of conflicts is facing the international donor community with major political and development challenges. Yet traditional cooperation strategies, approaches and instruments are ill suited to effectively address the wide range of needs in crisis-ridden and conflict-affected countries. In addition, the current political climate is not conducive to a bold and comprehensive approach towards conflict-affected countries.

Despite this general trend, there have nevertheless been certain encouraging developments. The topic of conflict prevention, management and resolution is now moving up higher on the political agenda. The linkage between development and conflict prevention is widely recognised. New policy frameworks have been adopted, including by the EU.

The recently signed Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and the ACP countries is another promising evolution, as it provides a solid legal and institutional framework to address conflict prevention, management and resolution issues. The challenge for the EU is now to make the best possible use of this new framework.

It was in recognition of this that, in 1998, the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) launched a research programme under the heading of ‘EU cooperation with politically fragile countries’. Executed in collaboration with various partners including International Alert, it was intended primarily to gather lessons from the EU’s involvement in conflict-affected countries and to identify ways and means of improving the EU’s overall political and development cooperation response.