Photo: Jessica Lea, DFID | Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

What the Conflict Stability and Security Fund annual report doesn’t tell us

10 August 2017
Author: Tamsyn Barton

The Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) spends the most official development assistance (ODA) in government outside DFID. It is the 21st largest ODA fund in the world. But our understanding of what it does has been a bit limited. So when the first ever CSSF annual report came out recently I was keen to find out more. What did I learn? Or more importantly, as I soon found out, what didn’t I learn?

The fund spent about £1104m, split between £518m ODA and £586m non–ODA. In the report, it was surprising to see no clarification as to which projects were funded by ODA and which weren’t. Given the Government’s manifesto claims that they are constrained by ODA definitions and therefore looking to re-write the aid rules, real life projects would have been useful illustrative material for the debate.

The projects used as examples would have wide public appeal. They mention dismantling child trafficking rings in West Africa, supporting the White Helmets to carry out search and rescue and fire fighting in Syria, as well as supporting the peace process between the Colombian Government and the FARC. All ODA, I assume. But is this how all ODA is being spent by the CSSF?

While spending is broken down by objectives (e.g. Objective 1: Protect our people), these are not specific or detailed enough to gain a clear sense of where the bulk of funding is going. It is possible to work out that at least £391m goes on peacekeeping. Beyond this, it is difficult to see more of where the CSSF’s priorities lie except that the breakdown of spend between Departments where we see 63% to FCO, 19% to the MOD and 11% to DFID (the rest is other Departments). We don’t get a breakdown of the delivery channels either, except that something around £115m is spent through private contractors. How much is spent through NGOs?

There are a variety of examples in the body of the report, with projects mentioned including returning vulnerable migrants to their home countries, reform of the housing system for the Armed Forces in Ukraine, and security and transport costs (including helicopters) for NATO and UK advisers in Afghanistan. Again, it would be helpful to know whether any of these were considered ODA. 

A rare example where it is specified that it is not ODA is the Deployed Military Assistance Pool (DMAP) which “exists to provide initial funding for emergent military activity in support of the UK’s security, diplomatic and aid priorities as endorsed by the NSC”. In 2016/17, ring-fenced funding in the CSSF was £50m, all non-ODA. There isn’t much in the report about the results, or even expected results, of this £50m. We are told that “activity funded from the DMAP includes the UK contribution to counter illegal human trafficking in the Aegean, military planning assistance to allies and International Organisations, support to allies’ operations in Africa, initiating the UK contribution to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic States, and counter-Daesh activity.” All very important, but all very vague. We are also unhelpfully told to go to the MOD’s annual report and accounts to get more information.

On the positive side, it is good to see that there is a focus on results for the majority of objectives, rather than just how much money has been invested, with results reported in quite a number of cases.

Gender sensitivity is also now being mainstreamed across all the programmes and impressively, the National Security Adviser requested that all NSC Strategies highlight gender-relevant strategic objectives and for questions about gender sensitivity in the CSSF to be included in the annual review template. The value of this can been seen in the examples given in the report, such as the training of peacekeepers to address sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers. But we would need more information to get a sense of how embedded this gender approach is.

The CSSF annual report is a step forward in terms of providing more information than we had before. We have also been informed there will be summaries of projects and summaries of annual reviews in future on the new website. But on the whole, CSSF’s annual report seems to have fallen short in terms of addressing ICAI’s call for transparency around how funds are allocated to allow for scrutiny and ensure accountability. There seems a long way to go before the reporting meets the standards set by the International Aid Transparency Initiative the way DFID does, but this is a start.

About the author

Tamsyn Barton

Tamsyn Barton was Bond's chief executive. Previously, Tamsyn represented the European Investment Bank on the Resident Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and spent 13 years working for ODA/DFID.