CDE4Peace explored the potential of Concept Development and Experimentation (CDE) for enhancing the EU’s conflict prevention and peacebuilding policy. The project has now been finalized, reaching its research and innovation objectives to inform the current developments in EU conflict prevention, peacebuilding and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
CDE4Peace is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie project funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (GA no. 882055). The project was implemented in the period September 2020 – August 2022 by the Marie Curie Fellow, Dr. Nikolay Pavlov in close cooperation with the host organisation, the Vienna-based research and innovation company SYNYO GmbH.
The project’s principal research objective was to explore the potential of Concept Development and Experimentation (CD&E) for enhancing the EU’s conflict prevention and peacebuilding policy. The project had three specific research objectives. First, it aims at assessing the applicability and compatibility of Concept Development and Experimentation with strategic and operational concepts in the area of EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding. CD&E is seen as a promising tool for the transformation of complex security systems, especially in NATO context but its potential for EU policies has not been sufficiently explored. Secondly, the project seeks to introduce and adapt CD&E to EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding by defining the requirements for an innovative CD&E tool tailored for this specific policy area. Finally, the project aims at defining actionable policy recommendations for implementing the CD&E methodology and tools in the complex EU policy-making process. The project’s research and innovation objectives are closely related to the current developments in the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) which forms the political framework of EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding.
The project’s empirical findings demonstrate that so far CD&E has been adopted from NATO and applied by the EU in its defence planning and capability development process under the CSDP to a very limited extent. CD&E does not provide tangible input to the main steps in the EU defence planning process in terms of determining requirements or defining capability development priorities. The CD&E methodology has only been employed occasionally in EU civilian capability development in the area of disaster response.
Despite the modest adoption in the EU’s defence planning CDE4Peace research found that CD&E has the potential to be one of the tools to support the EU’s integrated civil-military capabilities in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. More specifically, Concept Development and Experimentation could serve as a tool for politically independent, unbiased and safe experimentation of novel concepts and approaches.
To achieve a more elaborate understanding of the EU concept development process a desk review of strategic and operational concepts has been carried out. The review of strategic concepts focussed on three of the most important EU peace-related concepts – resilience, conflict sensitivity and the ‘whole-of-society’ concept. The review of operational concepts examined the operational concepts of three EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions – EULEX Kosovo, EUTM Mali and EUBAM Libya. A critical-constructive approach has been applied in order to analyse the maturity level of the selected concepts. The review highlighted some of the strengths and weaknesses in terms of employing quantification methods to EU peace concepts.
CD&E methods in EU strategic and operational concept development
CD&E methods such as exercise-based experiments and concept testing can play a supporting role in the EU’s strategic concept development process. These CD&E methods could strengthen EU strategic concepts (such as the concept of strategic autonomy) and raise their maturity level. CD&E could support the intellectual process of further exploring conflict prevention and peacebuilding and finding innovative and viable solutions for the effective survival and transformation of this EU policy area. By exercises and concept testing CD&E can help keeping EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding relevant to the constantly changing geopolitical environment and the complex internal EU undercurrents. The CD&E methodology, however, cannot provide “scientifically proven” strategic concepts as this goes beyond its powers.
CD&E methods could also be used for testing and validating EU mission and operational concepts. Mission and operational concepts are centred around mandates which describe what actually the mission / operation has to achieve. Mandates of concrete EU missions and operations could be tested and validated through well-established CD&E methods, such as exercises, modelling & simulation (M&S), wargaming, alternative analysis and operational analysis. CD&E can be applied most properly in the lessons learned phase when the operation’s overall performance, impact, strengths and weaknesses are being evaluated. Lessons learned identified with the support of CD&E methods can be used in planning future EU missions and operations.
Contribution to the European Research Area
Project results have been widely disseminated via the project’s website and twitter account, the PeaceTraining.eu platform, peer-reviewed journals, Policy and Business Briefs, presentations at major international conferences and one exhibition, presentations to students, one press release and a TV interview. The project’s dissemination and communication activities have been targeted specifically at the academia, policy-makers, ICT companies and research organizations. The exploitation of research results could be achieved in follow-up research and innovation projects.
CDE4Peace is one of the very few EU-funded research projects focussed on the Concept Development and Experimentation methodology and its implementation in the strategically important, cross-sectoral EU policy area of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The project has clearly contributed to the European Research Area by linking the academic and policy analysis on EU peacebuilding with experimental research and CD&E in particular. It has defined actionable policy recommendations for improving EU policy-making in the area of conflict prevention and peacebuilding from a research-based CD&E methodological perspective. Project results suggest that the European Union must develop its own capabilities for Concept Development and Experimentation aimed at achieving the EU’s strategic autonomy. The European Union’s integrated civil-military CD&E should be institutionalized within the European Commission which has the resources needed for mainstreaming and prioritising CD&E as a policy process and methodology. The EU should operationalize CD&E as a policy tool in EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding with the help of an innovative CD&E platform. The CDE4Peace project has developed the concept for such a platform, as shown on Fig.1:
Figure 1: Concept development & experimentation platform for EU peacebuilding
The project has also analysed the political utilization of EU-funded research in support of EU conflict prevention and peacebuilding from the perspective of the ‘knowledge creep’ concept. The institutional analysis showed a highly complex and path-dependent EU institutional structure for research policy-making, marked by spill-over dynamics and supranational entrepreneurship. Thus, by offering insights into the inherently complex relationship between research and policy-making in this ‘high politics’ area the project has made impact both on the policy and the academic debate. Last but not least, as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie action the project has also enhanced the potential of the experienced researcher by a carefully-designed international and intersectoral mobility.
CDE4Peace project website
European Union, Concept development and experimentation, Conflict prevention, Peacebuilding, Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Marie Skłodowska-Curie action