what is the conflict pool?
Our research into peacebuilding has uncovered a little known government fund financed by our taxes which is already, in a small way, acting as a Peace Tax Fund. The aim of the Conflict Pool is to reduce the impact of conflict and instability around the world. It is a flexible fund for small scale conflict prevention activities and is managed jointly by the Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It supports initiatives preventing, managing and resolving conflict, as well as creating conditions amenable to effective state building and economic development.
The issue: the Conflict Pool is so small (current budget £323 million 2013/14) that even some MP’s are not aware of its existence. One current member of the Defence Select Committee had not heard about it until one of conscience‘s supporters wrote to tell him of its existence.
why is the Conflict Pool important?
In principle; the Conflict Pool is a unique mechanism in international peacebuilding. The Conflict Pool appears to have been the first such dedicated instrument for conflict prevention to be created both within and outside of the UK. It was followed by the UN Peacebuilding Fund (2006), the European Union Instrument for Stability (2007) and a number of similar initiatives by other bilateral donors. Some observers credit the Conflict Pool as having been an influential model for these later developments.
It offers small-scale funding that is flexible and suitable for initial funding because of the expertise of smaller NGOs on the ground, and their legitimacy in conflict affected areas. The Early Action Facility also gives this small-scale funding the necessary rapid response mechanism to swiftly adapt and respond to changing conflict dynamics.
However, in practice, the potential of the Conflict Pool has yet to be utilised. This is predominantly due to:
- Lack of transparency
- Inconsistent or non-existent evaluation and monitoring
- An undependable budget
- Too much focus on reacting to conflict rather than preventing it as exemplified in Mali 2012-13
- Lack of clarity as to its purpose and scope as exemplified in Pakistan
- Lack of expertise in risk assessment, conflict sensitivity and conflict management
Though the beginnings of positive work can be found within the Conflict Pool, we believe that with improved management, a reliable budget and a focus on non-military solutions the Conflict Pool could truly begin to fulfil its purpose.
Steps have been taken to reform the Conflict Pool through adoption and implementation of BSOS (Building Stability Overseas Strategy), the UK’s first overarching strategy on conflict issues. However NGO Saferworld criticised the Conflict Pool for recently centralising grants to implement partners on an annual basis. They argued that conflict prevention efforts should be tailored to each country’s specific conflict context and therefore a centralised system of allocating resources is unsuited to the Conflict Pool. As a result of the BSOS, the fund started distributing funds to country and regional programmes on a multi-annual basis, giving such programmes much more scope for manoeuvre and strategic planning, which is step in the right direction.
The problems of its management and its budget have been addressed in the recent Spending Round Report. The report proposes that the Conflict Pool become the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). This new structure will hopefully streamline the Conflict Pool’s decision making process from 2015 bringing it under the National Security Council, and uniting all government prevention activities. It is believed that this will give the fund more weight in protecting its budget, which will increase to one billion pounds from 2015.
Created in its current form in 2009, the origins of the Conflict Pool can be traced back to the end of the Cold War. At the beginning of the 1990s, a wider interest in peacekeeping operations and conflict prevention developed. After the UK mission in Sierra Leone in 1999, funded by Treasury reserves, the lack of funding for emergency conflict prevention became apparent. A review set up in 2000 proposed the establishment of a Sub-Saharan Conflict Pool which would be spread between the DfID, MoD and FCO. The fund was to have two central tasks, peacekeeping and programme spending. In addition, the review recommended the creation of a Global Conflict Prevention Pool. Both were established in 2001, but merged in 2009 to create the Conflict Pool.
Our current campaign is to firstly make MPs’ aware of this fund and encourage them to make the Conflict Pool more transparent, and to secondly put the case to government that this vital resource is under-funded and must continue to be used only for non-violent peacebuilding Help us by writing to your MP (find your MP)
Review of the Conflict Pool National Audit Office (May 2012) (pdf)