Big changes sought in joint UK conflict prevention fund

UK International Development Minister Stephen O'Brien talking to Sudanese displaced by conflict. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is calling for “significant improvements” on how the Conflict Pool is structured and managed. Photo by: Robert Stansfield / Department for International Development / CC BY-SA

A multidepartment fund in the United Kingdom has so far failed to demonstrate strategic impact despite its relative success in helping local partners in developing countries prevent conflict situations.

This is according to the United Kingdom’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which recently released a review calling for “significant improvements” on how the so-called Conflict Pool is structured and managed. The pool is a funding mechanism managed by the Foreign Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defense.

ICAI said that despite some high points in the past decade of operations — such as successes in identifying and supporting small local conflict-prevention initiatives — the fund’s performance lags in terms of supporting broad strategic goals and promoting interdepartmental coherence.

For instance, each of the three departments involved in the pool often brings its own interests and mandates to the table, the report says. This, according to ICAI, creates a challenging scenario that prompts a move away from addressing broader strategic issues.

Another problem is the Conflict Pool’s lack of overall strategy or programming approach. The mechanism’s staff members are often confused on where the fund should concentrate its resources, the report says. Further, it criticized the volatility of the fund’s budget and its lack of adequate reporting requirements.

ICAI has outlined the following recommendations on how the Conflict Pool can be improved:

  • Develop a clear strategic framework that clarifies how it can work alongside DfID and how it can better integrate development, diplomacy and defense in its approach. This process should be led by the Building Stability Overseas Board.

  • Simplify the fund’s management structure for implementing its activities while retaining a multidepartment approach to objective and strategy setting.

  • Reduce volatility of the fund’s budget.

  • Adopt a more balanced funding model that provides equal support to large-scale activities, promising local activities and initiatives designed to leverage other resources.

  • Adopt conflict sensitivity and risk management guidelines.

  • Develop a monitoring and evaluation system.

Plans to address some of these reforms have been outlined as part of a new overseas stability strategy launched by the United Kingdom in 2011.

Meanwhile, in a separate review, ICAI lauded the United Kingdom’s “positive influence” on the Asian Development Bank — especially in terms of strategy, internal reform and policy. DfID, the commission said, has promoted a continued focus on inclusive growth, operational effectiveness, climate change and gender within the multilateral bank.

DfID, however, has yet to influence the bank’s project management practices and real-time monitoring, ICAI said.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.