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Research Report

Monitoring a region in crisis:: the European Union in West Africa

Marie V. Gibert
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2007
Pages: 85
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-8)

    Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire … For many, these names conjure up political crises and violent conflicts. The five West African countries that constitute the Mano River Basin have attracted significant international and regional attention and preoccupation over the last fifteen years.

    Due to its history of colonial involvement in Africa, Europe shares a common past with these countries and has maintained a close partnership with them ever since their independence. This was done through the Yaoundé (1964-1969) and Lomé (1975-2000) agreements, which established a preferential trade and development aid partnership between European member states and the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific...

  2. (pp. 9-18)

    Although the wars that plagued Sierra Leone and Liberia throughout the 1990s finally came to an end, stability and peace in the Mano River Basin remain fragile and vulnerable to any new crisis. The region’s leadership, however, is increasingly taking control of matters. This is done with the assistance and support of the international community, which currently favours a holistic approach that underlines links between security, political stability and economic development. Taking a look at West Africa’s security and politics is therefore an interesting opportunity to study the scope and extent of peace-building solutions that are currently being explored. It...

  3. (pp. 19-28)

    Several policy shifts, over the last twenty years, have occurred in donor programmes in Africa and explain and support the current international focus on conflict prevention. During the second half of the 1980s, democracy and good governance slowly came to the fore, based on the assumption that economic development for all could only be achieved in a democratic and stable environment.30 Security, democratisation and economic development came to be automatically associated. This triangle gave way to holistic programmes that are best illustrated in the Washington consensus and in ambitious democratisation programmes. Former ‘fragile states’ would, through these reforms, recover their...

  4. (pp. 29-40)

    In line with the current holistic approach to conflict prevention and peace-building policies, the EU asserts its determination to ‘enhance the capacity to deal with tensions and insecurity as early as possible to prevent the outbreak of violence and address structural causes of conflict as well as ensuring that violent conflicts do not re-emerge in the post-conflict phase’.54 The European Commission classifies the EU’s conflict prevention and peace-building efforts into two categories: direct and indirect initiatives. Direct initiatives range from military interventions to earlywarning and action mechanisms to support for conflict-resolution initiatives and institutional reforms and will be the subject...

  5. (pp. 41-50)

    The description of the EU’s instruments for peace-building and conflict prevention cannot fully conceal the inconsistencies and issues that are naturally linked to a holistic, ambitious and multifaceted (linking developmental, political and security-related elements) approach. Interviews with Council and Commission staff show that most are aware of these inconsistencies and that efforts are regularly made to address and overcome them. Common work in the joint Commission and Council Africa group, in particular, is said to have considerably enhanced dialogue and cooperation between both institutions. The 2005 revision of the Cotonou Agreement also showed that the Council was both ready and...

  6. (pp. 51-54)

    Conflict prevention is a rather unrewarding task. Its results are most often invisible and uncertain. It is difficult to prove that a conflict was prevented or for how long, while in contrast playing the firemen after the eruption of violence attracts media attention and public support. Conflict-prevention efforts are nonetheless costly: the current holistic approach entails the omnipresence of the international community which must intervene virtually simultaneously in all fields related to security and political stability. The EU, at times, seems to have committed itself to conflict prevention without taking the full measure of what this commitment exactly involved and...