Assessing the Effectiveness of European Union Civilian CSDP Missions Involved in Security Sector Reform: the Cases of Afghanistan, Mali and Niger

This report is the result of an impact evaluation of the civilian CSDP missions in Afghanistan (2007-2016), Niger (2012-2024), and Mali (2014-). Tying together their findings, the researchers outline six primary factors undermining the effectiveness of all three missions and recommend practical solutions for current and future missions to enhance effectiveness. It provides crucial insights for both mandate development and implementation.

The report analyses each mission in context with one case study per chapter before taking all the findings together to synthesise crosscutting explanations of what went wrong in the EU’s overall strategy. 

The missions faced some difficulties out of their control, such as coups d’etat instituting hostile governments and the political limits placed on them by the governments of host countries that did not wish for deep reform, particularly in the area of public accountability. Nevertheless, there were other problems internal to the missions and within their sphere of influence. In their public relations, none of the missions adopted a people-centred approach, meaning staff often lacked cultural awareness and neglected to build strong relationships with civil society and the public, who were meant to benefit from their security sector reform efforts. This led to a lack of credibility for the missions among the local populations, where few knew about their presence and many that did viewed them sceptically. 

Internally, all suffered from mandate creep, overstretching their resources to attempt broad reforms beyond their capabilities. In terms of organisation, they suffered from poor knowledge management systems in maintaining institutional memory and managing staff turnover, especially since many deployments were too short. Flawed internal organisation impeded coordination with the many other governmental and nongovernmental organisations having varied, overlapping, or competing priorities. The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in particular was given lower priority for mission activities, and where it was prioritised it was measured primarily by increasing absolute numbers of women in security institutions without any further attempts at properly mainstreaming gender in these institutions.

Learning from these issues, the report recommends a set of policy prescriptions for current and future missions. The missions should be part of a broader EU carrot-and-stick approach to working with host countries. This strategy will ensure that parts of the system needing reform are not ignored while also allowing missions to be limited in mandate to their original purview. This will require conditioning support for governments on the actual effectiveness of security sector reforms to ensure accountability and good governance. A strategic communication strategy is greatly needed, as otherwise missions lack the public and civil society credibility that is absolutely crucial for mission success. Civil society should also be included in a more thorough enactment of the WPS agenda since local women often play important roles in community decision-making. Finally, as the report itself demonstrates, the EU must not fail to deliver on the Compact’s commitment to conduct independent impact evaluations for missions so that problems can be readily addressed before they grow and nullify mission effectiveness.

Reference: Van der Lijn, J., et al. (2024). Assessing the effectiveness of European Union civilian CSDP missions involved in security sector reform. SIPRI. DOI: 


PDF | 68 pages

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