A Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s External Action

The EU and its Member States have established a robust policy framework to guide the Union’s external action, anchored in Article 21 of the Treaty and the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy (“EU global strategy”), and linked to commitments they have taken at global and regional level.

The challenge now is how to sustain progress in the transformational agenda the EU has set itself, against a backdrop of a more connected, contested and complex global environment. The EU global strategy identifies strengthening state and societal resilience as part of the response to this challenge. A quote from the report:

“A strategic approach to resilience in the EU’s external action
An ambitious policy framework. There has been an intense effort by the EU over the past few years to re-shape its external policy framework in response to the changing global environment. This new framework comprises multilateral goals such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Commitments to Action taken at the World

Humanitarian Summit, as well as the EU’s own major reviews of the European Neighbourhood Policy, of its relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the European Consensus on Development, and the establishment of a new level of ambition for the EU’s security and defence policy. The Rome Declaration has reconfirmed the EU’s commitment to a stronger role on the global scene.

A more fluid landscape of global challenges and risks. The EU will be taking forward this agenda in the context of a world where the pace of change is increasingly rapid and the pressures on states, societies, communities and individuals are increasingly disruptive. Pressures, marked by the unprecedented pace of globalisation, range from demographic, climate change, environmental or migratory challenges beyond the power of individual states to confront, to economic shocks, the erosion of societal cohesion due to weak institutions and poor governance, conflict, violent extremism, and acts of external powers to destabilise perceived adversaries. There is constant pressure on the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms. And there is vast unmet humanitarian and development need.

Chronic vulnerability and fragility in Europe’s wider neighbourhood is exacerbating the impact of these pressures. It is hampering the development of entire regions with potential spill-over beyond their borders.

Fostering resilience to sustain progress. The 2012 Commission Communication on the EU approach to resilience defines resilience as “the ability of an individual, a household, a community, a country or a region to withstand, adapt and quickly recover from stresses and shocks”. The EU global strategy takes the concept further. It speaks of resilience as “a broad concept encompassing all individuals and the whole of society” that features “democracy, trust in institutions and sustainable development, and the capacity to reform”. Support to resilience at all levels is also an integral part of the new European Consensus on Development.

The EU’s strategic approach to resilience aims at achieving and sustaining the ambitious set of objectives for the EU’s external action described above, by strengthening:

  • the adaptability of states, societies, communities and individuals to political, economic, environmental, demographic or societal pressures, in order to sustain progress towards national development goals;
  • the capacity of a state – in the face of significant pressures to build, maintain or restore its core functions, and basic social and political cohesion, in a manner that ensures respect for democracy, rule of law, human and fundamental rights and fosters inclusive long-term security and progress;
  • the capacity of societies, communities and individuals to manage opportunities and risks in a peaceful and stable manner, and to build, maintain or restore livelihoods in the face of major pressures.”

Download report