Participatory approaches to security-building by the EU

Frameworks, practices, challenges and opportunitities

This report was produced under the Initiative for Peacebuilding, an EC funded project to develop and promote knowledge and expertise on conflict prevention and peace-building and recommend practical ways to implement people-centred approaches to security building activities. The project draws together the complementary geographic and thematic expertise of 10 civil society organisations (and their networks) with offices across the EU and in conflict-affected countries.

It has long been argued that public participation in decision-making has many benefits. It ensures that a wide range of voices is heard and that detailed and accurate information is available to those with ultimate responsibility for planning and implementing EU-supported projects and programmes. The EU has a number of policies, tools and frameworks which commit its institutions to taking a ‘participatory approach’ to programming, including in the areas of security and justice.

However, research by the Initiative for Peacebuilding (IfP) Security Cluster has identified a significant gap in the implementation of these commitments as evidenced by limited levels of public and civil society participation in EU security-related programming in a range of contexts. The IfP Security Cluster aims to enhance the understanding and uptake of participatory approaches to security-building by EU institutions by: mapping the relevant policy framework; identifying best practice, barriers and challenges to implementation on the ground through a series of case studies; and making practical recommendations on how to overcome the implementation challenges identified.

This report maps the EU policies, tools, frameworks and methodologies which are available at the institutional level that are relevant to participatory approaches and/or security-building. It identifies challenges to enhancing participatory practices across EU institutions in security-related activities and suggests some entry points to addressing them. The report seeks to answer the following key questions:


  • What does a ‘participatory approach’ to security-building look like and why is it important?
  • Which EU policies refer specifically to participation, and what tools and guidelines exist?
  • How are these policies and tools being implemented in practice? What challenges have been identified and how can they be overcome?

Find out more about the Iniative for Peacebuilding project