The British Government published this week a new strategy outlining how the UK will promote stability and prosperity in countries and regions where its interests are at stake particularly though improved early warning and crisis prevention.
The Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) has been developed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Development (DFID) and Ministry of Defence (MOD). It sets out how the UK can enhance its own security and prosperity by identifying, preventing and ending instability and conflict overseas, using our diplomatic, development, military and security tools, and drawing on Britain’s unique experience, relationships, reputation and values.
It builds on the National Security Strategy, which identified shaping a stable world as a core Government objective, and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which made a commitment to tackle threats to our national security at source.
“The publication of the Government’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy could not be more timely. The Arab Spring has demonstrated just how uncertain the world can be and has highlighted the need for a strategic UK approach to early engagement in places at risk of instability” said Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“This strategy seeks to address the lessons we have learnt from recent events and marks the first time that the Government has put in place an integrated cross-government strategy to address conflict issues”, he added.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said that the ‘Building Stability Overseas Strategy’ will help the UK to work more effectively to tackle instability upstream, helping to prevent conflict and the suffering it causes.
“This goes to the heart of the drive to achieve better targeted, more effective aid. Not only is this cost-effective and beneficial for the security of the UK, it will also help to improve the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet”.
According to Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said that war torn countries represent some of the toughest challenges we face overseas. ““The MOD has an important role to play in helping to build stability overseas as our strong reputation and global reach allows us to achieve preferred outcomes through influence and persuasion to protect national security interests”.
“Defence engagement is designed to improve our understanding and influence across the world. We will coordinate the MOD capabilities with cross-Government activity to prevent threats from emerging. Our engagement in many areas helps build democratically accountable security services that may also contribute to International Peacekeeping missions” pointed out Dr. Fox.
Whilst the UK will continue to work closely with traditional international partners such as the United States and France, the Government will also look to work better with international organisations including the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The strategy also recognises the need to strengthen ties with the Gulf countries, China, Brazil and South Africa, intensify the relationship with India and reinvigorate relations with Commonwealth partners. These countries play an important role in their region and globally and we will invest greater diplomatic efforts in our partnerships with them.
The strategy is founded on three mutually supporting pillars: Early Warning; Rapid Crisis Prevention and Response and Investing in Upstream Prevention.
An Early Warning System will be established to strengthen understanding of where the risks of conflict and instability are high. The system will make use of existing all-source analysis and involve external experts to take a global view of countries at risk of political, economic and security shocks which might trigger violence.
Rapid Prevention and Response will ensure that the UK’s comparative advantage of speed and flexibility is enhanced by the right funding mechanisms and capabilities to support an agile response. A £20million Early Action Facility will be created within the Government’s Conflict Pool to enable swifter responses to warnings and opportunities. And the creation of Stabilisation Response Teams – the first of which has just returned from Libya – will further our ability to develop responses to emergencies based on real-time information.
Upstream Prevention is about tackling the underlying drivers of instability before a crisis occurs – avoiding the enormous human and financial costs of conflict. This means identifying how and when to intervene with the greatest chance of success, and the UK is integrating diplomatic efforts with development activity and defence engagement to better inform those judgements. A new cross-Government approach to strategic conflict assessments will bring together political, economic, social and security analyses to provide a truly joint approach and these assessments will inform the development of integrated strategies for key countries and regions.
The strategy is clear that investments must deliver results whilst providing value for the UK taxpayer and, to ensure this, a new transparent, cross-Government reporting framework, subject to independent scrutiny, will be implemented to measure and compare the UK’s impact across regions.