Portugal Report



The level of commitment to comprehensive approaches in responding to external conflicts and crises ranges very widely in Portugal. On the one hand, most strategic-level documents include what are mostly general and non-binding commitments, which in turn have to be translated into concrete policy documents and operational mechanisms. On the other hand, successful implementation frequently relies on multiple interlinked factors, such as political will, individual commitment to moving forward on certain issues (e.g. the knowledge, agenda and capabilities of a minister or high-level official), leadership both at the political and institutional level, a suitable institutional framework, ownership by most relevant actors, and the recruitment/ deployment of necessary human resources.
At the strategic level, the existing framework is very much focused on sectoral approaches rather than WGAs. Within the security/defence sectors, the legal framework is incomplete, outdated in some cases and fragmented. However, there is an awareness of the need to modernise and update these strategic frameworks in order to promote more comprehensive and integrated approaches, and some progress has been made towards these goals in the last few years. In addition, the channels of coordination with and participation in EU structures and policies are multiple, and there is a general perception within Portugal’s MFA that coordination within the EU has improved with the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Development is clearly the weakest link in the defence-diplomacy-development nexus, as it is neglected in Portugal’s efforts to promote its WGAs, which are mainly focused on the interactions of diplomacy/foreign policies and security/defence policies (which are, incidentally, much needed in the case of Portuguese participation in European/international missions and structures). Within the defence sector, references to coordination are mainly at the domestic/internal level, either among the military or between civil and military aspects, and there are shortcomings in training on aspects that go beyond military issues (e.g. diplomatic/negotiation skills and even knowledge of languages).
There are some strategic documents that reflect a wider WGA perspective at the strategic level, such as the National Strategy for Security and Development (Government of Portugal 2009) and the Operational Strategy for Humanitarian and Emergency Aid (Government of Portugal 2015). However, the success of their implementation has been mixed, as it depends on the existence of political will, leadership, leverage and other domestic factors.
Such political leadership is influenced by the mandate (i.e. term in office) of each government, as there is a change in the high-level officials every four years that includes but is not limited to ministers and secretaries of state. In addition, this reshuffling includes directors and political appointees who are also very relevant for leadership within public institutions and administrations. Indeed, in a context in which most of the general WGA commitments are non-binding and where most coordination and coherence mechanisms between sectors is of an ad hoc nature, political will and institutional leadership are key and can vary significantly depending on individual levels of commitment, knowledge, motivation and skills.
A dimension that is not sufficiently addressed is the participation of Portuguese officials in international functions, organisations and missions who have valuable experience and knowledge. For example, there are not enough mechanisms to enable effective knowledge-sharing and the analysis of lessons learned. Instead, in most cases, the knowledge remains with the individual, and the opportunity to use that experience to improve Portuguese policies and actions is not exploited.
Ownership is also an important issue, because even where there is political will, if most actors are not engaged in the process and there are no clear structures for implementation, strategies tend to be just words on paper. One obvious example is the National Strategy for Security and Development (Government of Portugal 2009). This strategy resulted from clear political guidance and coordination of the relevant ministries at a high level, but the appropriation of human resources from both sectors was not ensured, the coordination mechanisms for implementation were not in place, and it was not considered a priority by the new government from 2011 onwards (which also corresponds to a period of financial crisis). The combination of these factors led the strategy to be completely forgotten. Thus, one can say that a combination of several factors – and ones that go beyond the existence of strategies, structures and mechanisms – determine whether some governmental/political documents with WGA aspects and approaches will make some progress towards achieving their objectives, while others are simply not implemented and fail to achieve any or all of their intended goals.
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