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The EU and post-2015: towards a decent peace for all?

5 April 2013 - Sebastien Babaud

The EU’s latest proposal for the post-2015 development framework is on the right track. But, says Sebastien Babaud, as Member States reflect on this document to adopt Council Conclusions in May, more effort is needed to spell out how a future framework can support and measure progress towards sustainable peace.

On 27 February, the European Commission (EC) released a Communication entitled ‘A decent life for all: ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future’, setting out a proposal for a common EU approach to the post-MDG framework. The EU’s vision revolves around five priorities that are seen as the building blocks of a decent life for all. These are: basic living standards; inclusive and sustainable growth; sustainable management of natural resources; equality, equity and justice; and peace and security. The inclusion of peace and security as one of the building blocks of the framework highlights recognition by the EC that “Where there is physical insecurity, high levels of inequality, governance challenges and little or no institutional capacity, it is extremely difficult to make sustainable progress on the key MDG benchmarks”.[1]

This reflects the growing body of evidence on the impact of conflict and violence on development, and underlines the fact that the MDG framework has been a bad fit with the needs of conflict-affected and fragile contexts. It is also very welcome that the Commission stresses that more attention needs to be paid to preventing countries from slipping into conflict in the first place. The on-going crisis in Mali is a strong reminder that the future framework needs to help build just, peaceful, inclusive and sustainable societies if it is to foster development.

Saferworld has repeatedly emphasised that building sustainable peace is a multidimensional endeavour requiring synergised efforts in all sectors of development. This would mean linking efforts to ensure equal access to decent livelihoods and to fair and accountable social service delivery with efforts to ensure more responsive and accountable governance, people’s access to security and justice, and that the external stresses that fuel conflicts (such as transnational crime, price shocks, illicit arms flows, and so on) are tackled.  

To a certain extent, the EC Communication concurs with this perspective and recognises the need to aim for a genuinely game-changing framework post-2015. This means a framework that tackles sensitive issues and highlights the factors that can result in transformational change. For example, when talking about basic living standards, the Communication rightly stresses the need to also address inequalities; and when talking about sustainable management of natural resources, it highlights the need to also aim for more transparency, accountability, good governance and social benefit.

However, for the EU position to support effective peacebuilding and statebuilding post-2015, it will need to go beyond broad principles to ensure that the key building blocks of peace mentioned above are translated into meaningful targets and indicators. One of the main strengths of the current MDG framework is its simplicity: it is easily understood, has a high public profile, and has been able to foster international mobilisation. For these reasons, a new set of global targets and indicators, contributing to global goals, will be needed to uphold progress and commitments and to enable objective comparison between countries.

As a recent Saferworld briefing notes, these global goals, targets and indicators should be focused on genuinely universal key issues. For example, targets would consist of broad, whole-of sector outcomes such as: ‘all social groups are free from violence and insecurity’, or ‘end impunity and ensure access to justice for all social groups’. Progress towards such targets would then be measured by using a balanced basket of relevant indicators, looking at a range of key factors such as public perceptions of security and access to justice, official crime rates, and capacities to tackle crime and violence. At the country level, progress could then be measured through tailored benchmarks and baseline data reflecting the specificities of each context in relation to shared indicators.  

A second area of consideration is whether it is best to articulate peace-related targets in the framework through a single goal or as a theme that cuts across different sectors. A lot of discussions at the EU level have revolved around a ‘peace goal’. While this option might be easier from a policy point of view, Saferworld believes that it would be stronger to take an integrated approach. This would mean a post-2015 framework consisting of both a goal (or respective goals) on people’s security and justice, state-society relations, and external stresses, as well as conflict-sensitive goals in other areas – such as improved social services, inclusive growth, and sustainable management of natural resources. This combination would be more coherent and effective both for strengthening development effectiveness and for acting on the lessons of past international peacebuilding efforts to advance a credible global agenda for conflict prevention.

There are also risks. It is important that the EU upholds its core values by advancing a people-focused peace agenda in the post-2015 framework. Faced with the risk that a holistic peace agenda could be boiled down to commitments that focus on hard security and the absence of war, the EU must be staunch in working towards goals, targets and indicators that incentivise progress towards participatory, responsive, fair and accountable governance in all sectors of public life, through more conflict sensitive development processes.

In conclusion, while we can celebrate that the EU wants to ensure peace and security challenges are effectively addressed in a post-2015 framework, institutions and Member States now need to live up to this commitment and spell out what this means in practice. It will be critical that:

  • the upcoming Council Conclusions highlight the multidimensional nature of peacebuilding and statebuilding. The EU needs to ensure that, in every framework configuration, the key building blocks to peace are translated into meaningful goals and targets across all sectors that can effectively support and measure progress towards peace – through people-focussed and conflict sensitive processes;
  • the EU adopts a more outspoken and supportive approach to the integration of peace into the framework throughout the negotiation process. There are sensitivities to take into account, but a determined approach from a key stakeholder like the EU is needed to ensure the post-2015 framework is genuinely game-changing.

[1]European Commission: A Decent Life for all: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future, Brussels, 27/02/2013.

Sebastien Babaud is Saferworld’s EU Advocacy Coordinator.

Read our comment piece Will the High Level Panel answer the world's call for a progressive development framework?

Read more about Saferworld's work on Post-2015.

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While we can celebrate that the EU wants to ensure peace and security challenges are effectively addressed in a post-2015 framework, institutions and Member States now need to live up to this commitment

Sebastien Babaud