Tuesday 21. September 2021
#204 - May 2017

Fostering resilience for sustainable peace

The EU has declared “resilience” as one of the strategic priorities for its foreign policy external action. The question however still remains: what does “resilience” mean and how can it be put into practice?

The EU Global Strategy is the Union’s new vade mecum “handbook” for its foreign and security policy.  In a fragile context marked by instability, conflicts, rising socio-economic inequalities, as well as environmental degradation, the Global Strategy introduces resilience as the new guiding principle for the EU’s relationship with its wider neighbourhood.  According to the text of the Global Strategy document, this new guiding priority will help “states and societies to reform, thus withstanding and recovering from internal and external crises”.


The concept of “resilience” is already used in relation to a number of sectors, including food crisis, climate and energy policy, as well as hybrid threats.  Nevertheless, there is a lack of clarity about what the new emphasis on resilience will mean for EU’s engagement with third countries and their citizens.    


Stabilisation of the neighbourhood and nothing more?

Some observers have interpreted the priority given to the concept of resilience as a way of sidestepping difficult questions concerning whether EU foreign policy should encourage stabilisation, or whether it should actively promote democratic transformation among EU’s very diverse neighbourhood. Such observers sound a warning: if the aim of a resilience agenda is to merely ensure security and stability of surrounding regions, such a policy could lead to tolerating, and even fostering corrupt, undemocratic and authoritarian practices of state institutions.


Concerns have also been raised about a possible shift of responsibility from the EU to third countries. The concept of resilience could thus be used as a pretext for lowering the level of the EU’s political and financial commitment towards supporting third countries and their citizens. 


A common narrative and a more precise guidance for the EU’s resilience-fostering efforts should be defined in the forthcoming EU Communication on resilience, which is due to be published in May 2017.  


A way to foster integral human development and peace

COMECE together with its partners, Justice & Peace Europe and Pax Christi International, published a contribution to the forthcoming EU Communication. Entitled, “Fostering resilience for sustainable peace”, this contribution outlines a vision of resilience from the perspective of the Church and faith-based organisations, and provides some examples of implementing this concept on the basis of their experience from the field.  The following points are emphasised.

  • The goal of resilience policies should be to contribute to integral human development and sustainable peace. Consequently, it would be important to include and prioritise in the definition of resilience the human being, the family and local community, with particular attention to the most vulnerable members.
  • The concept of resilience implies a stronger emphasis on local actors. Accordingly, the EU’s role in fostering resilience should not be as an external “interventionist” but rather as a partner and facilitator. In this sense, resilience-fostering efforts should be based on an empowerment approach deeply rooted in the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, allowing for adequate participation of all stakeholders at and across different levels.
  • In order to reflect the specificities of different actors and contexts, it is important to have a proper degree of differentiation in the resilience policies. This requires developing tailor-made initiatives in dialogue with all stakeholders and taking into account their particular vulnerabilities, needs, skills and capacities.
  • Despite the need for a differentiated approach, there should be a common denominator within all resilience-fostering measures. A people-centred approach implies that the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles must be an indispensable part of this process.
  • In practice, the concept of resilience should reinforce active non-violent approaches in conflict prevention by addressing the root causes and stimulate more action in post-crisis situations, such as reconstruction, reconciliation and transitional justice. Moreover, the resilience policies should also entail long-term transformative measures aiming at fostering abilities of local actors for constant adaptation and coping with an on-going crisis or with repeated adverse events.

It is to be hoped that the upcoming EU Communication on resilience will only be the beginning of a process. It should be based on a clear vision and mainstream resilience into different internal and external policy areas – from conflict prevention and countering violent extremism to addressing socio-economic injustices and fighting climate change. Thus, it can become an effective way to contribute to sustainable development and peace in EU’s neighbourhood as well as globally.


Marek Mišák


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Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.