This rapid literature review explores the new institutional structures and approaches that have emerged to ensure that conflict analysis and action in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) is coherent and integrated across the many actors that now engage in this broadened field of work. This query focuses on the institutions and approaches of, and lessons from, six bilateral donors: the UK, Canada, Denmark, US, Netherlands, and France.
Types of new institutional structures and approaches
Since the 1990s, the remit of bilateral aid and development work has expanded in line with the expanding international development agenda, moving from a predominant focus on aid and poverty to also include peacebuilding and state-building, fragile states, conflict prevention, stabilisation and, more recently, radicalisation and extremism. Conflict analysis toolkits and processes institutions have been developed to reflect these broadened and integrated approaches.
These new approaches and institutions are often referred to as integrated or comprehensive approaches. The experiences of the donors in this rapid review varies significantly between those pursuing a highly integrated and standardised approach (the UK), to those pursuing informal and ad hoc structures designed specifically for each crisis (France). It also varies between those highly engaged in the military side of activities (the US) to those engaged in a much smaller way through less-military means (the Netherlands).
Lessons, structures and approaches used by donors
The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) (established 2015) is one of the UK Government’s main funding mechanisms for tackling conflict and instability. It implements National Security Council (NSC) strategies, and funds the Stabilisation Unit (a centre of expertise leading on conflict analysis). The CSSF aligns with partner country government agendas, where possible and appropriate, and participates in multilateral, multi-donor and international initiatives. Lessons:
- The Conflict Pool did not have an overarching strategy until 2011, thus the three participating government departments tended to divide the resources between them, rather than work together (ICAI, 2012). The CSSF has improved on the Conflict Pool’s record, and shows good cooperation across departments, significant progress on programme coherence, yet still has many disparate and poorly joined-up projects (ICAI, 2018).
- The CSSF’s programmes are well informed on conflict dynamics, are relatively sensitive to how their interventions affect conflict dynamics, and are able to adapt and stay relevant in volatile contexts (ICAI, 2018). Some limitations include: a loss of knowledge and expertise in 2015; drawing on academic literature in its conflict analysis, but not so much for its policy and programming choices; and some guidance materials are at an early stage of development (ICAI, 2018). Gender-sensitive conflict analysis and strategic objectives are high on the CSSF’s agenda.
- NSC strategies emerge from cross-departmental dialogue and in-country analysis (ICAI, 2018).
- Conflict analysis, which identified shared views of the drivers of conflict and how to address them, has, on occasions, prompted better alignment with the host country’s priorities (ICAI, 2018).
- Most of the CSSF programmes reviewed by ICAI (2018) showed design or implementation flaws, and the CSSF does not capture, use, share or disseminate its learning from its own experiences enough, especially not beyond individual projects and country portfolios (ICAI, 2018).
The Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs) is a centre of expertise, and the Government of Canada’s principal platform for conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacebuilding. PSOPs leads on: setting policies and providing guidance for programming; on supporting coordinated responses; and on designing and delivering stabilisation initiatives. Prior to PSOPS, and its predecessor START (Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force), policy and programming in FCAS were fragmented between different government departments. Lessons:
- An evaluation of the START programme found: a poor alignment between government priorities and the FCAS agenda, causing programming only tangentially related to START’s specific mandate; and a lack of detailed country-level conflict analyses and risk management frameworks (Government of Canada, 2016).
- The previously developed momentum and investments in FCAS were “either squandered or forgotten” as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) shifted emphasis from support to civil society to state building, critique Carment and Samy (2016).
- Canada’s approaches to state fragility tend to be ad hoc, unstructured, and unsystematic, e.g. as FCAS policies are usually not informed by regular analyses (Carment & Samy, 2016).
The Danish Peace and Stabilisation Fund (PSF) is a cross-government funding pool to support stabilisation and conflict prevention initiatives (Coffey, 2014). The Inter-ministerial Steering Committee is responsible for overall geographic and thematic priorities, monitoring risks of programmes, projects and engagements, and ensuring that lessons are adopted across the programming, among other areas. Lessons:
- Staff with stabilisation expertise are in general short supply in Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yet having stabilisation advisers in-country adds value, especially to analyse, monitor and report on conflict/stabilisation contexts (Coffey, 2014).
- The PSF would benefit from more strategic level guidance and oversight, and continuous analysis and M&E (Coffey, 2014).
- Theories of change are not explicitly stated within the documentation, and are not directly linked to supporting evidence (Coffey, 2014).
The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) (in the DoS), and the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) and regional bureaus (in USAID) carry out most of the US’ stabilisation work. The former focuses most on data-driven analysis and planning, the latter tends to implement stabilisation programmes. Both the DoS and USAID have extensive staff expertise in stabilisation, regions, and project design and oversight (Robinson, et al., 2018). The DoD was seen as most equipped to provide security, logistics, and intelligence to support its stabilisation work (Robinson, et al., 2018).
- Despite the value-add that the DoD can offer with its intelligence knowledge and analytical skills, this role has not yet been institutionalised. Collaboration between the civilian agencies and the DoD are still challenging, especially in the due to the lack of an effective coordinating mechanism (Robinson, et al., 2018).
- Mechanisms to achieve better civil-military coordination and to support civilian-lead agencies are needed. US coordination mechanisms have been insufficient, insufficiently implemented, discontinued, or severely cut back (Robinson, et al., 2018, p.20).
The Netherlands has two departments within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs working in conflict prevention and peacebuilding – The Department for Stabilisation and Humanitarian Aid (DSH), and the Security Policy Department (DVB). The Netherlands’ Stability Assessment Framework (SAF) provides the analytical framework for its information management and analysis. It uses National Action Plans (NAPs) to implement the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Lessons:
- The Government’s independent evaluation of its 3D work found the results to be “mixed”, with its level of ambition often “at odds with the harsh realities of operating in fragile states” (IOB, 2016). It suggests more attention be devoted to academic insights about state-building and fragile states (IOB, 2016).
- The Fragile States and Peacebuilding Unit (established in 2008) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, played “a key role in knowledge building on fragile states at the Ministry and at Dutch embassies, and became a pivotal entity in international consultations and policymaking” (IOB, 2016).
France has many departments engaged in its stabilisation work, mixing security operations and civil-military activities. Its general approach is informal and ad hoc, and when a more formal structure is established, it is on an ad hoc basis (Robinson, et al., 2018).
- Formal coordination between the Ministry of Defence and the French Development Agency (AFD) is in its infancy, it is typically ad hoc and limited. While a cross-departmental strategy and a cross-departmental task force have been developed, they have been “abandoned and replaced” by ad hoc coordination mechanisms (Robinson, et al., 2018).