ABSTRACTCapacity building has become a key focus area in EU peacebuilding and conflict prevention. Yet, despite considerable efforts, EU capacity building activities have struggled to deliver on their objectives. While such programmes have sometimes been able to strengthen pockets of capacity in specific organizations, they have had less success in building capacity in the round and in a sustainable manner. Drawing on empirical evidence from EU capacity building programmes in the Horn of Africa and the Western Balkans, this article shows that, to a great extent, this failure has been a consequence of the difficulties EU capacity builders have faced in engaging with local actors in complex political contexts. This, in turn, has led to a “legitimacy deficit” for EU programmes, which have had little involvement from local stakeholders and knowledge, and whose goals have often been at odds with local preferences and priorities.

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