A promised £12 million over 4 years of funding to a group of organisations, led by Conciliation Resources, for innovative work to prevent and respond to violent conflict, has been completely cut at the start of its third year. This news leaves communities in Myanmar, the Central African Republic, and Boko Haram-affected northeast Nigeria, vulnerable at a time of rising conflict and persistent violence. 

Laura Aumeer, Conciliation Resources’ Europe-Asia Department Director, oversees this flagship programme, known as Smart Peace. She comments: 

“The impacts of this will be significant and wide-ranging. We have been collaborating to find smarter ways to address conflicts, particularly in fragile states. This funding is preventing violent conflict in several countries, and has helped organisations improve how they build peace. Time, efforts and investments into peacebuilding activities have been severed and commitments to some of the world’s most vulnerable cut short.” 

One of the focus countries, Myanmar, currently risks descending into civil war following a recent coup. Now is the time to strengthen, not remove, support for local groups desperately trying to keep their communities safe and build a better long-term future.

Likewise, work in the Central African Republic, which has seen success in resolving local conflicts, will be halted. The country has struggled to escape a cycle of political and sectarian violence over the past decade. There are now 738,000 internally displaced people, half of whom are children, and 2.3 million who are food insecure. The funding cuts will prevent Conciliation Resources and partners from continuing to prevent violence within communities in some of the most volatile areas of the country bordering Chad, Congo and Cameroon. 

Northeast Nigeria, is a region ravaged by Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa violence. The work of the Smart Peace organisations has so far focused on involving those most marginalised including women and young people, as well as reconciling communities affected by the violence. The cuts will severely impact the process of reintegrating people returning from Boko Haram, many of whom were abducted, back into their communities, while also hampering efforts to prevent young people from joining armed groups.

While the fall-out from the pandemic continues to bite across the world, countries experiencing violence and instability need support from the UK and others more than ever. Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director at Conciliation Resources says: 

“The move to make such cuts globally is short-sighted and contradicts the priorities set out in the recently published Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy to tackle conflict and instability. A small amount of funding in peacebuilding work, can have a significant impact and multiplier effect. Cutting such funding now, could lead to greater insecurity over the long-term, not only for countries affected by conflict but for us here in the UK too.”

The UK Government’s cuts in aid are in stark contrast with the announcement in November 2020 of a rise in defence spending to at least 2.2% of GDP. 

Smart Peace brings together the expertise and experience of a group of leading organisations including – The Asia Foundation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, International Crisis Group, The Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich, Chatham House and Conciliation Resources