About the Project

Mission Statement

Before thinking about any major EU treaty reforms that a truly ‘common’ foreign and security policy would require, it is worth reflecting on whether there are other incremental reforms that could be made to the existing system to enhance the capabilities of the EU and its member states to effectively respond to and manage external crises and conflicts.
 First steps in
the 1990s
Already in the early 1990s, there was a growing awareness that the complex and interlinked problems of human security, social and economic underdevelopment, and bad governance required entirely new policy approaches if there were to be any chance of achieving a successful peace policy.

A first step in this direction was taken in 1992 with the release of the UN report ‘An Agenda for Peace’. The Agenda, which acknowledged the nexus between development and security, prompted a reorganisation of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture. Its aim was to achieve greater policy coherence across the political, military, humanitarian and development realms by improving coordination and by pooling the responsibilities spread out among multiple departments and agencies, on the one hand, and the instruments that played a role in peacebuilding, on the other.
 Holistic approaches developed
Since then, there have been ongoing discussions about the need for a new approach to foreign, development and security policy. In addition to being subject to a broad concept of security, this approach is meant to align short-term responses focused on security and stability with the long-term development concerns set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015. Under various names – such as ‘3D’, for the interaction of diplomacy, development and defence, or ‘integrated approach’, as most recently in the EU Global Strategy of 2016 – this holistic policy approach has been further developed and refined.

The concept has repeatedly been given fresh impetus by organisational theory, which deals with complex, interdependent and rapidly changing problems in a wide range of policy areas. This theory has formed the theoretical basis for whole-of-government approaches (WGAs), which aim to foster vertical and horizontal coordination of various government departments and public institutions.
 Four WGA
A WGA has two basic elements: first, joint conflict analysis; and, second, jointly elaborated strategies that are coordinated and de-conflicted at a minimum and ideally integrated to enable responses that align interests, avoid duplications and reduce costs.

Four WGA enablers can be identified:

  1. Adaptations to institutional setups and structures are attributed with facilitating coordinated and coherent approaches

  2. The presence of WGA-specific human resources may enable successful WGA implementation

  3. Political and administrative leadership is identified as playing an important role in actively pushing for a WGA

  4. The establishment of specific instruments and tools can also contribute to successful whole-of-government action

By now, it is widely recognised that meaningful responses to the wide range of security challenges fuelling many of today’s crises and conflicts require new forms of inter-institutional coordination and cooperation. This certainly applies to the EU member states, as they have all subscribed to the EU’s Global Strategy and its integrated approach. Accordingly, efforts have been made to implement such a WGA not only among those ministries that have traditionally been in charge of security, but also among ministries and agencies that gradually came to be seen as indispensable partners in efforts to forge effective and coherent responses to crises and conflicts. These additional ministries and agencies come from a broad range of policy fields, including the economy and social affairs, justice and home affairs, trade, environment, agriculture, finance, transport and infrastructure, education, information and communication, and health.
 Has practice followed the rhetoric?
Nowadays, WGAs have become ubiquitous on paper and in political rhetoric. However, one should stay alert and ask whether the practice has followed accordingly – that is, whether deeds have followed words.

Thus, this research is dedicated to answering one overarching question: Have both the EU and its member states gotten serious about implementing WGAs? It aims to assess whether and, if so, how and with what degree of success the EU and its member states have opted to overhaul their respective governance and to adapt their individual policies, strategies, instruments and procedures related to responding to and managing external crises and conflicts so as to ensure greater policy coherence.

However, the reader should be aware of one significant caveat, namely that this volume only deals with WGAs at the headquarters level. This implies that the research does not assess whether any of the institutional, structural and procedural changes that have accompanied the implementation of WGAs might also have improved the related outcomes. In other words, it deliberately does not explore whether it can be shown that the EU and its member states have actually and verifiably become better actors when it comes to preventing crises and managing conflict on the ground.
 Our research
intended to
fill a gap
Much has already been written on the subject of policy coherence in conflict transformation and peacebuilding, especially as regards fragile and precarious statehood. However, such scholarship is limited to select international organisations, the EU or larger member states, or it focuses on individual fields of action. What has been missing so far is a comprehensive overview and analysis of the policy coherence policies of the EU and its (at the time of writing) 28 member states. This research aims to fill this gap in the literature for the first time.

Our hope is that the new material will help decision-makers in the EU to hone their respective WGA approaches after learning about the best practices of other countries. Likewise, we hope that scholars will use our rich data to further develop the theoretical basis of WGAs to external crisis and conflict management.
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