Conflict prevention and early warning build upon the basic premise that violent conflicts can be prevented before they break out. The European Union itself was created out of conflict and with the core objective to prevent violence.
Responding after the eruption of large-scale violent conflict is second best to prevention—in human, moral, strategic, and financial terms. Failing in conflict prevention undermines the credibility of international diplomacy, reverses years of development, and increases the need for costly reactions. Informed, timely and effective conflict prevention reduces the risk of human suffering, and saves both human lives and financial resources The EU is ready to act preventively at all stages of a conflict, as it works to prevent the eruption, escalation and re-occurrence of violent conflict. Conflict prevention also requires dedicated efforts to ensure that EU engagement in fragile or conflict-affected countries remains conflict sensitive.
The EU external action service has several instruments at its disposal to put conflict prevention into practice.
For the early identification of risk of violent conflict, and closing the gap to early action: Early Warning helps to prioritize countries at risk of violence. The EU Conflict Early Warning System (EWS) is a robust risk management tool that identifies, assesses and helps to prioritise situations at risk of violent conflict for non-EU countries. The EWS draws upon evidence-based risk factors, like an economic shock or shrinking political space, adopting a time horizon of four years. The system also identifies conflict prevention and peace building opportunities. Prioritizing a country allows for a deeper dive into the conflict dynamics, through conflict analysis. The EWS is designed to close the gap between early warning and early action by engaging EU staff across headquarters and in-country in a joint assessment to prepare specific recommendations and follow-up actions.
Effective conflict prevention relies upon a sound understanding of conflict situations (root causes, actors and scenarios). EU conflict analysis offers insight into the drivers of conflict using a structured approach. The EU promotes the systematic use of conflict analysis, notably in fragile and conflict-affected countries. A team of experts advises EU Delegations on conflict sensitivity in fragile contexts, on policy, programming, training, technical support and operational issues. The EU’s conflict analysis methodology is robust yet flexible to accommodate different timelines and environments. Conflict analysis can usefully inform decision-making at different levels, as it facilitates a common understanding of the crises between all EU actors and enhances identification of the range of options for EU action. This way, conflict analysis can make EU diplomacy, missions and development cooperation more relevant, more effective and potentially more influential.