Conflict pool: criticism

criticisms of the conflict pool

Unfortunately, the Conflict Pool is not perfect. It is commonly used as a source of funds to cover any overspend on military peacekeeping operations. In addition, there is a disturbing lack of transparency with some of the projects funded by the Pool; and changes coming into force in 2015 may lead to the greater militarisation of the pool. Read more about criticisms of the Conflict Pool below.

conscience is campaigning towards remedying these problems and, in time, increasing the amount of security spending that goes toward the Conflict Pool while decreasing the amount that goes towards the military.

Conflict resources settlement for 2011-2015 (£million)

2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Peace-keeping budget 374 374 374 374
Conflict Pool 256 270 290 309
Total Settlement 630 644 664 683
DFID, FCO, MoD Review of the Conflict Pool (2012). National Audit Office.

One of the main issues with the Conflict Pool is the budget. If peacekeeping goes over its budget (and it inevitably does every year), the overspend will be taken from the Conflict Pool pot. It is given to the MoD for what it calls ‘Operations and Peacekeeping’. This unfortunately makes the Conflict Pool budget extremely vulnerable to fluctuations and other projects that are being funded by the Conflict Pool have seen their funding removed due to these fluctuations. Peacekeeping costs in 2010-11 were £431 million, £57 million over budget according to the 2010 Spending Review. Spending on ‘Operations and Peacekeeping’ is a particular problem for the Conflict Pool as its budget intended for conflict prevention is being used for what are effectively military operations, with Afghanistan and other areas clearly involving considerable military participation. Peacekeeping is invariably a military operation and its funding from Conflict Pool resources is inherently problematic for a government mechanism which is primarily trying to prevent conflict.

It has been extremely difficult to find detailed information as to the projects funded by the Conflict Pool and the results of the projects. There has not been an annual report published since the period 2009-10 and the The National Audit Office Review of the Conflict Pool 2012 (NAO) report only looked at work in two countries in detail. There is very little information coming from the individual departments dealing with the Conflict Pool. It is important that conscience supporters and members try and press their MPs to ask questions about the Conflict Pool and its work. In a meeting with a Conservative MP in December 2013 he confirmed the governments commitment to non-military security, the non-military security nature of the Conflict Pool and its increasing importance in attempting to achieve this. However, he was not forthcoming on transparency (and was himself surprised that had been no annual report since 2009) he mentioned that there would be more information in an annual report in 2014 – conscience will be looking out for this report.

TheNAO’s 2012 report and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact 2012 (ICAI) have highlighted a number of concerns in regard to management and resource allocation, including:

    • The over commitment of Conflict Pool funds to meet additional peacekeeping costs has led to erratic funding which severely constrains the effective use of resources and has resulted in fewer Conflict Prevention Projects or sudden termination of funding for projects but this is being addressed as above
    • The impact this has is not fully understood as few Conflict Pool staff members have training or experience in conflict prevention
    • The lack of expertise in risk assessment, conflict sensitivity and conflict management has contributed to poor links between departmental objectives and the actual activities they support, while also provoking concern about the lack of attention paid to the risk of unintended harm

co The ICAI provided the Conflict Pool with an overall assessment of ‘Amber-Red’; stating that while the programme meets some of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money, it is not performing well and significant changes should be made. Deficiencies in coherent management, resource allocation, monitoring and evaluation, and conflict expertise appear to have undermined the efficacy of the Conflict Pool. This could potentially improve with the implementation of the 2011 Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which represents the first coherent cross-departmental strategy to co-ordinate the Conflict Pool. A conscience supporter has obtained a letter from the Prime Minister in which he accepts all of the recommendations made in the NAO and ICAI reports and promises to address these. Read more about recent developments concerning the Conflict Pool here.


Further Reading DFID, FCO, MoD Review of the Conflict Pool (2012). National Audit Office.  HM Treasury 2010 Spending Review (2010). DFID, FCO, MoD Review of the Conflict Pool (2012). National Audit Office. Emma Seery (2013). ‘If more money is needed for peacekeeping, Government should collect it by tackling tax avoidance’.

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