The UK’s peacebuilding efforts achieved meaningful results, but a more reliable and long-term funding approach would make them even better
The UK’s peacebuilding efforts come under the spotlight in a new review published today, Friday 9 December, by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI).
Conflict is increasing around the world, causing widespread death, destruction and suffering, reinforcing poverty and exacerbating inequalities. ICAI’s review assesses examples of UK peacebuilding activities – that is, aid and diplomatic efforts to address drivers of conflict and establish the conditions for lasting peace – from a selection that the UK government identified as likely to achieve positive results, in a field where the risk of failure is high.
ICAI’s review finds that the UK’s efforts made meaningful contributions to peacebuilding. The report highlights the UK’s work in Colombia as a “significant success”, as it helped move the implementation of the Colombia Peace Agreement forward through a combination of programme funding and diplomacy. ICAI praises the UK’s long-term commitment to peacebuilding in the country, and the way the UK adapted its efforts to the evolving Colombian political context.
The report finds that the UK’s results could have been better with more consistently reliable and long-term funding commitments. It also notes the potential harmful effects when funding is suddenly cut. ICAI highlights an example in Nigeria, where the recent UK aid budget reductions led to the “hasty termination” of a project aimed at improving women’s rights. The aid watchdog reports that this left the women who had risked exposure by participating unprotected.
ICAI awards a green-amber score overall – meaning an area where UK aid is making a positive contribution, but could do more – and makes six recommendations.
Commenting on the findings of the review, ICAI Commissioner, Tamsyn Barton, said:
“Billions of people around the world are enduring the devasting consequences of violent conflict. Breaking the cycle of conflict and bringing about the conditions for lasting peace is extremely challenging and the international community often fails.
“We saw several areas where the UK’s work has supported peace and made a significant difference to people’s lives, as well as areas where success was more modest. The UK’s long-term approach, staff expertise, strong relationships with other governments and reliable funding were key to the UK’s areas of success.”
According to the report, the UK used its strong and long-standing relationships with Colombia and Nigeria to help each government’s peacebuilding efforts, despite the reputational risk from their “patchy” human rights records. The aid watchdog reports that the UK’s role as a ‘trusted critical friend’ to both countries is valued and seen as a key part of the international peacebuilding effort.
ICAI reports that cross-government cooperation for the UK’s peacebuilding work could be improved. The report notes that the newly established Office for Conflict, Stabilisation and Mediation could guide the UK’s peacebuilding efforts, but that it currently does not have strong senior backing across relevant departments and that counterparts outside FCDO appear to have little incentive to cooperate.
FCDO staff were not always able to visit the programmes they were managing in conflict-affected countries and gather local knowledge directly, the report finds. In Nigeria, ICAI notes that FCDO’s travel rules were more risk-averse than that of most other donors, as ICAI has seen in its work in relation to other countries.
The report highlights the importance of engaging with marginalised groups to peacebuilding. The watchdog finds that the UK’s work was aligned with the UK’s Women, Peace and Security commitments, but that people living with a disability received less attention than the UK’s disability strategy requires. ICAI also finds that the UK does not ensure that conflict-affected communities are continually involved in decisions that directly affect their lives, and that some UK government officials did not show awareness of the importance of such ongoing accountability.
ICAI’s six recommendations to strengthen the UK’s peacebuilding efforts include: that the UK should strengthen its accountability to conflict-affected communities; maintain a focus on countries with which it has a strong relationship; build on initiatives that pursue both peacebuilding and environmental goals; and learn from other countries on balancing travel risks.
Read the report