Wednesday

27th Jul 2016

Opinion

Why the EU should invest in the Central African Republic

  • Refugees at Bangui airport in CAR: 2.5 million people need humanitarian help (Photo: US Army Africa)

At today's (2 April) mini-summit on the Central African Republic (CAR) in the margins of the EU-Africa summit, the EU must seize the opportunity to develop a strong, comprehensive approach to address a crisis at grave risk of exponential deterioration.

Since violence broke out in Bangui in December, the country has witnessed suffering on a scale it has not seen before.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

According to the UN, 312,000 people have fled across the border to neighbouring countries and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Seven in 10 children are out of school and at risk of violence and recruitment; and there are fears about a major food crisis.

Today CAR teeters on a precipice.

On one side, fresh violence in the past weeks threatens to destabilise the country, reversing the trend of people beginning to return home. The insecurity is complicating efforts by aid organisations to scale up operations in advance of the looming rainy season, which is likely to bring disease and further misery. The result may be a downward spiral increasingly difficult to reverse.

But on the other side, French and African Union (AU) forces have brought some calm when and where they are present. The interim government, though fragile, is receptive to outside support. While state structures have never been strong, there remains potential to rebuild them now – particularly in regions far from Bangui - before they are eroded completely by the effects of conflict.

So while the EU has many other preoccupations on the world stage, there are strong reasons for seizing these opportunities to act decisively in CAR.

Little goes a long way

First, because a little goes a long way in CAR. The 81 million euros that the European Commission has pledged in new development funds this month can achieve substantial impact, if it is allocated swiftly and used in part to consolidate stability in those areas of the country currently least affected by the fighting.

Second, because CAR is in a fragile region, with many neighbours who are themselves recovering from conflict. With a series of political and governance failures dangerously recast as a conflict between Muslims and Christians, the risk that the fighting becomes entrenched and spills over into neighbouring countries increases the longer it takes for security and reconciliation to be established.

Also, because the broad, strategically connected programme of support needed in CAR is exactly what the EU does best. On 17 March the Council of Foreign Ministers announced a “comprehensive approach” to CAR. The crisis is a textbook example of what the EU’s comprehensive approach is meant to address.

The country is in urgent need of the humanitarian assistance already underway, and equally in need of security to allow other actors to operate.

Thus the EU agreement in January to launch a military mission, Eufor RCA, in support of AU and French peacekeepers was timely. Its deployment - delayed from its target of early March - is now urgent.

The mere presence of an EU operation will have a calming effect, amplifying the direct action they will take to protect the most vulnerable civilians.

In parallel to this crisis response, the CAR government needs immediate support to its legal structures to address impunity and ensure, for example, that suspects taken into custody by peacekeepers can be properly processed.

Meanwhile, capacity building is needed for ministries so that they can assume responsibilities, like providing essential services, currently sustained by humanitarians. These elements cannot wait for stability to be re-established, as they themselves are required for stability.

Successful recovery in CAR will require all these elements together, at the same time.

In its rhetoric and pledges the EU is on the right track; it must now turn these into reality by moving swiftly, on all fronts, to prevent an already serious crisis from becoming a catastrophe, and CAR from becoming another failed state turned to chaos.

Ester Asin is EU office director of Save the Children International, a global charity with a secretariat in London. Natalia Alonso is the EU office head of Oxfam International, a worldwide charity based in Oxford, in the UK

Column / Brexit Briefing

Brexit plans missing in action

The Brexit referendum has created an almighty political and economic mess, with little sign of a British or EU plan to clean things up.

Opinion

Brexit seed was planted in 2004

The clause allowing a member state to leave the EU was introduced at a time of prosperity. EU leaders should not repeat the mistake and use the crisis to reinforce eurozone membership.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels