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All together now? EU institutions and member states’ cooperation in fragile situations and protracted crises


Alexei Jones and Vera Mazzara, ECDPM paper, June 2018

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This publication is also available in French

Ever since the EU ventured into development cooperation, questions were raised on how its institutions and member states could better coordinate their activities. Numerous initiatives were launched to put into practice their repeated commitment to work more closely together, particularly in situations of fragility and protracted crisis.

In this paper we analyse three specific policy initiatives where EU institutions, member states and other non-EU players are working together. These are:

• the operationalisation of the humanitarian-development nexus in pilot countries,
• the Sahel Alliance, and
• the EU Trust Funds.

The three initiatives have so far managed successfully to bring together all the relevant actors, thus signaling the political commitment to have a joint, quick and effective response to complex challenges in fragile contexts. They have also agree that this response should combine short-term action with more structural engagement, in an integrated manner.

Yet, in practice, the implementation faces coordination obstacles, often because of the top-down and headquarters’ driven way these initiatives were conceived and led, and of their inability to link up with other ongoing processes on similar themes or regions. This, in turn, affects negatively the buy-in and ownership of actors at field level.

Our analysis suggests that incentives and disincentives for the EU institutions and the member states to work more closely
together are determined by a particular set of trade-offs:

• How to address the practical constraints to coordination while also maintaining a high level of political interest?
• How to accelerate procedures to allow faster and more flexible responses while preserving coordination and inclusive
processes that are more time-consuming?
• How to increase EU collective action and visibility while respecting the desire of the individual donors to maintain a high
profile on certain topics and/or leadership role in certain areas?

It is important to be realistic about what can be achieved and adjust the level of ambition accordingly.

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Photo courtesy of the European External Action Service via Flickr.

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European external affairsEU Development Policy and PracticeEuropean responses to violent conflict and crisisResponses to violent conflict and crisis in AfricaDiscussion Papers (series)AfricaEurope