The UK is committed to stabilising ‘fragile and conflict-affected states’ by using our power and influence. Conflict prevention is a central feature of the UK’s National Security Strategy, which explains how the government protects the UK and its overseas interests. It is also central to the UK government’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS), which sets out how we can support conflict prevention through a whole range of tools, and ensuring coordination across government departments. DFID, the FCO and the MoD all play a key role in implementing this strategy.

When conflict breaks out, the costs to the countries involved and the international community can be enormous. Lives are lost, people displaced, women and girls experience increased levels of violence, trade links are cut, and organised crime groups or terrorists can spread. It is far more cost-effective to invest in ‘upstream prevention’ - tackling the causes of conflict to stop them spreading and escalating - than to pay the costs of responding to violent conflict.


Conflict prevention is a central feature of the UK’s National Security Strategy which explains how the government protects the UK and its overseas interests.

In 2011, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Development (DFID) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) developed a Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS).

The strategy explains how we will decide what actions to take, and the types of actions we will consider.

Since the strategy was published in July 2011, the FCO, DFID and MOD have been working together and with non-governmental organisations and international partners to:

  • improve our ability to anticipate instability and potential triggers for conflict, for example by establishing an early action fund of £60 million over 3 years, to help us react more swiftly to crises and early warning signs
  • improve our ability to take fast, appropriate and effective action to prevent a crisis or stop it spreading or escalating
  • invest in upstream prevention by helping to build strong, legitimate institutions and stable societies in fragile countries so that they are capable of managing tensions
  • scale up programme, research and innovation work and international policy engagement to tackle violence against women and girls.

The government contributes military and financial resources to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU. We do this to endorse multilateral security efforts (those involving countries acting together) and to help maintain the UK’s alliances.

We have committed extra money to activities aimed at preventing conflict, including:

  • deviting 30% of UK Official Development Assistance to conflict and fragile affected states by 2014.
  • increasing the Conflict Pool programme resources to a total of £1.125 billion in the period to 2015
  • expanding the Arab Partnership initiative to £110 million between 2011 and 2015, to provide support for political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa

The FCO, DFID and the MOD also work together to manage the Peacekeeping Budget, which pays for the government’s legal commitments to UN, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and EU peacekeeping missions.

Preventing Sexual Violence

On 29 May 2012 the Foreign Secretary launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative to tackle the culture of impunity for sexual violence crimes. Sexual violence in conflict affects women, men, girls and boys and engrains conflict and instability.

Addressing this scourge is central to the UK government’s work on conflict prevention and peace-building worldwide. Over the last year the UK has brought renewed attention to the international debate on this issue, advocating for a change in policy and practical action on the ground at the highest levels.

In April we achieved a historic milestone when the G8 Foreign Ministers agreed the Declaration on Sexual Violence in Conflict which contained a combination of political and practical commitments.

We are now committed to turning the Declaration into action through a high level political campaign supported by a range of practical measures. We plan to use a number of international fora to continue the momentum on this issue and address the lack of justice for survivors.

We also currently developing an International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of sexual violence in conflict. This will be a set of standards and guidelines to help improve consistency and standards of care for survivors as well as improving the evidence base for future prosecutions.

Other areas of practical work include carrying out extensive country engagement, including targeted deployments of the UK Team of Experts to help build capacity of the state and civil society organisations to respond effectively to sexual violence in conflict and providing financial support to the UN and other organisations.

We will use the UK’s Presidency of the G8 in 2013 to seek new commitments from G8 partners to strengthen international efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict. We hope to broaden extend support for these commitments beyond the G8 over time.

On 25 November 2012, the Secretary of State for International Development announced a new Violence against Women and Girls Research and Innovation Fund that will invest up to £25m over 5 years (2013 – 2018) in innovative programmes, research, and impact evaluations to deliver rigorous evidence of ‘what works’ in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls in stable, conflict and humanitarian contexts. This complements DFID’s existing programming on violence against women and girls in 21 countries.

Revenue generated by the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains a major financial source for armed groups and is a significant contributing factor to conflict. DFID and the FCO are working closely with the Government of the DRC and international partners (including the World Bank, EU and UN) to improve governance and management of the DRC minerals sector.


The Strategic Defence Review (SDR), published in 2010, takes a joint approach across government and internationally to identify risks to our national security and treat the causes, rather than having to deal with the consequences.

The National Security Strategy, published in 2010, brings together the SDR’s approach. This approach recognises that when we fail to prevent conflict and are obliged to intervene militarily, it costs far more.

The UK National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, published in 2010 and then revised in 2012, aims to make ‘Women, Peace and Security’ an integral part of the government’s conflict policy, including through providing specialised training to civilian and military staff; placing women at the front and centre of development policy; and the deployment of female military personnel in support of UK battle groups to improve military engagement with female civilians.

Multinational co-operation has been at the centre of Britain’s conventional defence since the North Atlantic Alliance was founded in 1949, and it will continue to be in the 21st Century. The Multinational Defence Cooperation policy paper, published in 2001, explains why we extended that co-operation and examines its benefits and risks.

Military diplomacy became part of the UK’s foreign and security policy goals. The Defence Diplomacy paper set out how military diplomacy meets the varied activities undertaken by the MOD to dispel hostility, to build and maintain trust, and to assist in the development of democratically accountable armed forces, making a significant contribution to conflict prevention and resolution.

This has been superseded by the International Defence Engagement Strategy, a cross-government, MOD-led strategy that brings together all the instruments of national power in a coordinated and coherent manner. This strategy ensures that our combined efforts safeguard our security, extend our influence and build our prosperity.

The government’s European defence policy is about improving Europe’s ability to react in times of crisis.The European Defence policy paper explained that although the main aim of the government - along with the United States and our other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and European partners - is the fight against terrorism, there are many other potential causes of crises.

The World Development Report (WDR) 2011 identifies security, economic and political stresses that increase the likelihood of conflict. These include low income levels, youth unemployment, severe corruption, human rights abuses and real or perceived discrimination.

DFID’s Building Peaceful States and Societies practice paper sets out how we can support peacebuilding and statebuilding in countries affected by armed conflicts or fragility issues. In particular, it explains that our work is at its most effective when we support four interlinked objectives: addressing the root causes of conflict and fragility, supporting inclusing political settlements, supporting core state functions and responding to public expectations.

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