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“A false economy with a terrible price” - JCNSS chair comment on Government response to Conflict, Security and Stability Fund report

6 December 2023

The Committee is today publishing the Government response to its September report on the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). That report, published just weeks before the outbreak of renewed and extreme conflict in Israel and Gaza, concluded that ‘cuts to ODA-funded programmes within the CSSF are likely to impair the ability of the UK Government to anticipate conflict, prevent escalation, and respond effectively to areas of known instability across the world.” 

In its response the Government insists that the “Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories programme was largely protected from previous reductions in overall allocations, given the fragility of the situation and the importance of this region to the UK’s security”, and the Government’s recent White Paper on International Development says “Early action should be prioritised to prevent conflict and mass atrocities” as well as “Action on conflict needs to start with prevention rather than response”.

However, the CSSF budget allocation for Israel and the OPTs in 2020-21 was £13 million, and, following cuts, only totaled £9.3m in 2022-23. ’Prevention’ would require restoration of funding but that is inevitably much less costly - in every sense – than responding to conflict.

The Government did not respond at all to the same concerns expressed regarding Sudan, where the CSSF programme was not just cut but closed entirely at the end of 2020-21. Violent new conflict broke out in April this year and has escalated, with the displacement of millions of people within Sudan and across its borders into neighbouring countries.

Chair comment

Dame Margaret Beckett, Chair of JCNSS, said:

“In September the Committee warned that cuts to UK ODA had impacted parts of the CSSF at an extremely bad time, with deep cuts to programmes in the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa appearing particularly short-sighted and damaging. The Government itself has been quite good at foretelling the consequences of an insufficient approach to conflict prevention but not so good at heeding or acting on its own warnings; at putting its money where its mouth is. This is a false economy and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories we are now seeing the terrible, unacceptable price that is exacted when conflict erupts in a region already struggling with failing governance and infrastructure.

“Most of the world’s poorest people are concentrated in countries afflicted by conflict: conflict reduction must be at the heart of tackling extreme poverty. But while development and security used to sit evenly in the Fund, the security element is now dominant. The Government is silent on its previous commitment to report progress against the Sustainable Development Goals in the ODA funded portions of the Fund and it has outright rejected our call for quarterly updates. This is also a mistake. Those reporting arrangements are key to tracking and enhancing the impact of reduced spending. The SDGs provide a clear index and measure of progress and demonstrate whether funding is at least at the level necessary to achieve stated aims or to actually provide value for UK taxpayers’ money. We will hold the Government to its commitment to inform the Committee of ‘major developments’ in the expectation that this should translate into regular, proactive updates.”

Further information

Image credit: flickr