EU’s exceptionalist militaristic peacebuilding turn: the trading of good-governed for military-capable states

How is militarism changing EU peacebuilding? In my recent article in Politics, I show that the EU is downplaying the goal of state reform, based on good governance and human rights, and is now concentrating on providing military capacity in order to uphold sovereignty, even if that means the suppression of rights.

This is not an unusual move in the current state of peacebuilding affairs (see here, here, here and here). Nor does it seem unusual, considering that the EU has been grappling with how to be more effective in achieving peacebuilding goals. Several authors (for example, see here, here, here and here) have already pointed out the EU’s new pragmatic and resilience-orientated approach and its governmentality consequences. But since the perceived value of the military and the institutionalisation of war and war-preparation are central to pragmatic, resilience, and capacity-building shifts in EU peacebuilding, how has militarism shaped recent transformations and what are its consequences, require further scrutiny.

Following Mabee and Vucetic, my article’s main argument is that EU peacebuilding has gone from a nation-statist militarism (based on building state security and defence alongside social and economic development) to an exceptionalist militarism (boosting sovereignty and military capacity to exercise control and coercion) while maintaining a liberal militarist framework in which military investment and humanitarian and development actors are central.

Militarism has always been constitutive of EU’s peacebuilding. Yet between 2003 and the late 2000s, war, based on an expansive technologically and industrial defence investment, added to a broad reform agenda, were seen as a solution to the problems of conflict and so-called state failure. From the late 2000s until now, sovereignty does not need to be intervened, but actually defended, even if that entails the suppression of rights.

The evidence of this new EU peacebuilding practice is based on the most important and current peacebuilding tools – Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), including the Capacity Building for Security and Development (CBSD). It also explores briefly the case of the Sahel (Non-interview data can be accessed here).

The study of CSDP missions show a rise of military and training missions make up 42% and 71% of the total respectively, and a fall of rule of law missions. The wording of mandates has dropped a focus on good governance whereas military-capacity building has become prominent. For example, rule of law is mentioned an average of 6.21 times in pre-2010 missions, but only 1.38 times in post-2010. Conversely, Capacity Building with regards to military-capacity has gone from an average of 0.08 times to 1.3 times. This illustrates a ‘fetishization’ of states’ coercive power as a way to suppress any challenges to state sovereignty.

The study of IcSP and CBSD illustrates a turn from a concern with institutions of government and the security sector to a concern with military support, even if non-lethal. IcSP programmes have been increasingly pushed to support CSDP missions and appease social challenges to state authority and military deployment, showing that humanitarian and development actors, and not only military actors and political elites, have been the engines of a new militarism.

However, these changes have been problematic. The case of the Sahel shows that EU-boosted security forces have increasingly engaged in human rights abuses. While other development programmes are deployed in this region, they are the necessary extension of a central policy that places sovereignty and means of coercion as a requirement for development.

This new approach does not denote a transition from a non-militaristic to a militaristic peacebuilding practice. Rather it indicates a transition to a different variety of militarism, with important but also problematic new developments in EU’s security and peace policies, which are likely to define EU peacebuilding in the following years.

Marta Iñiguez de Heredia

Marta Iñiguez de Heredia

Marta Iñiguez de Heredia is a lecturer at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain. Her research interests intersect peace, conflict and African studies. She has written on the practice of ‘post-conflict’ statebuilding and everyday forms of resistance, patterns of colonial statebuilding and stabilisation missions, the ethics of research about Africa and is now concentrated on analysing changes in peacebuilding linked to global militarism. This research was conducted under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 660933 – PARADOXGREATLAKES.

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