International Alert calls on new DFID Secretary to act on commitments to peace

International Alert congratulates Penny Mordaunt MP on her appointment as Secretary of State for International Development. She takes on this role at a critical moment as conflict continues to spiral out of control. Since 2010 the number of major violent conflicts have tripled, with civilian deaths doubling in the last six years.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has been a thought-leader amongst the international community on responses to conflict. In practice, the Department has been slower to operationalise its own commitments. Under the 2015 Aid strategy, the government indicated that 50% of aid (around £4 billion) would be spent in fragile states with the objective of ‘strengthening global peace, security and governance’.

“The reality is though, there has not been a sustained focus on how the funds are spent so that they contribute to peace” said International Alert’s CEO, Harriet Lamb.

“Whether, health or education, governance or infrastructure, DFID programs operating in fragile contexts need to be deliberately designed in a way that meets both their core mandate of poverty reduction and contributes to peace”, Lamb added drawing on International Alert’s latest ‘Redressing the balance’ report.

Despite robust DFID guidance, this is still only happening, at best, in a piecemeal way. Lamb suggested that “there will need to be a whole-sale, cultural and institutional mind-shift when it comes to DFID’s work in fragile states. There will also be a need for an increase in expert staff capable of delivering the government’s agenda when it comes to peace”.

“This integrated approach needs to be accompanied by a scale-up in efforts to directly target the root causes of violence as the Government’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review suggests. Failure to address drivers of conflict undermines the sustainability of DFID programming in fragile environments”, said Lamb.

“We are unlikely to achieve SDG 1 on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 with a business as usual approach from DFID, let alone SDG 16 on reducing violence, in a world where the majority of the world’s poor are living in conflict affected contexts”, she added.

To this end, Alert welcomes the UK’s membership of the Pathfinders group of UN member states, focused on how to connect and integrate SDG16 across the other goals.

“We must translate very positive words around conflict prevention and peace into reality. This is the most pressing challenge for the new Minister”.

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Photo: Crown Copyright (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0)