Toward a just and durable peace: EU policy considerations

EU efforts to promote peace are being informed by insights gained during a recently concluded research project coordinated by Lund University. The three-year project explored practical and theoretical aspects of peace-building and yielded numerous recommendations for policy makers. Along with concrete suggestions for strengthening peace-building strategies, the researchers offer support for the development of a “new doctrine” for the European Union's Foreign and Security Policy. They also urge the EU to further develop its crisis management capacities, and review its appointment and deployment of peace envoys.

Drawing on the expertise of consortium participants in Europe and the Middle East, the JAD-PbP research project explored opportunities for better integrating peace-building and transitional justice activities in conflict-affected countries. While acknowledging that tension between these activities does exist (e.g. the pursuit of justice may delay peace-building efforts) the researchers argue that the processes may be complementary. For example, reduced penalties can be offered to former combatants who agree to engage with the transitional justice process, thus promoting disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration (DDR) – a classic peace-building activity. Linking DDR processes to those of reparations for victims is proposed as a further tool for ensuring that peace-building is not perceived as a process for rewarding perpetrators. In the second of nine policy briefs published by the project, the researchers encourage high-level decision makers to develop “more coherent policy statements” that identify where transitional justice fits into peace-building activities.

Some of the project's most engaging insights emerged during two regional seminars it hosted in 2009. The first of these seminars, focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was a two-stage event held at locations in Jerusalem and Ramallah. While these discussions confirmed the view that both peace and justice are necessary to resolve the conflict, they also revealed disagreement on how these processes might be conceptualised together. One important lesson drawn from the seminar was the need for third parties to understand the asymmetrical nature of the conflict and to recognise that “peace may be seen as a threat to people’s identities and way of life”.

The seminar also noted growing concern about the near total separation of Israelis and Palestinians that has come in the wake of the second Intifada. Far from being benign, the separation appears to be fostering hatred and prejudice, removing opportunities for these communities to meet in any context other than violence and military occupation. Lacking opportunities for interaction, Israelis and Palestinians have little incentive to learn the other's language, erecting yet another barrier to conflict resolution. With regard to the EU's own peace-building efforts in the region, seminar participants noted that a combination of political and institutional weaknesses have so far prevented the EU from becoming a powerful mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The project's second regional seminar, held in Sarajevo, focused on evaluating EU peace-building strategies in the Western Balkans. Highlighting the complexities of the peace-building process in the Balkans, the seminar concluded that any just and durable peace in the region has to be defined from a ‘bottom-up’ perspective. The summary report notes that the EU “finds it rather difficult to deal with the complexities of the political structures [in Bosnia and Herzegovina], while consensus between the three main ethnic groups appears to be impossible to find, let alone other minorities in the country”. The report stressed that the EU does have potential to make a positive difference in the region “if it manages to think beyond the standard categories and develops an approach that transcends a pure form of conflict management”.

Finally, in a policy brief on the emerging EU Peace-building Framework (EUPF), the project recommends that the EU “should be wary of the liberal peace-building consensus”. Instead, the EU should develop an approach that “combines traditional peace-building components with social solidarity and justice”, and which shows a greater sensitivity to local people's needs. At an institutional level the researchers recommend a review of how EU Special Representatives are appointed. They note that EU envoys “seldom appear in significant action” and had (as of August 2010) so far included no women. Although the evidence shows that the EU has been fairly successful as a third party when promoting peace agreements, JAD-PbP observes that this activity has decreased over time, offering a powerful reminder of the EU's unfulfilled potential.

JAD-PbP - Just and Durable Peace by Piece (duration: 1/2/2008 – 31/1/2011) was a Specific Targeted Research Project funded under the 7th Framework Programme for Research of the European Union, Thematic Priority 4 – Europe and the world.

See: http://www.lu.se/just-and-durablepeace-by-piece

Contact: Karin Aggestam, Karin.Aggestam@svet.lu.se