On 10 June 2021, the House of Lords is due to consider the following oral question:

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Labour) to ask Her Majesty’s Government what financial support they will provide (1) to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, and (2) to other peacebuilding organisations, in 2021/22.

The UN Peacebuilding Fund

The UN Peacebuilding Fund was established in 2006 by the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, at the request of the UN General Assembly. It is the UN’s financial instrument of “first resort” to sustain peace in countries or situations either at risk or affected by violent conflict. Alongside governments, regional organisations, banks and civil society organisations, the fund supports integrated UN responses to respond quickly and with flexibility to peacebuilding opportunities. The Peacebuilding Fund is dependent on contributions from UN member states, organisations, and individuals.

The fund currently supports more than 200 projects in 27 countries. It allocates money through two funding facilities, the Immediate Response Facility and the Peacebuilding Recovery Facility. Both facilities fund initiatives that:

  • respond to imminent threats to the peace process and initiatives that support peace agreements and political dialogue;
  • build or strengthen national capacities to promote coexistence and peaceful resolution of conflict;
  • stimulate economic revitalization to general peace dividends; and
  • re-establish essential administrative services.

How much does the UK contribute to the fund?

To date, the United Kingdom has contributed approximately US$60million to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The chart below details the UK’s annual contributions to the fund from 2016 to 2019:

Chart 1: Annual contributions to the UN Peacebuilding Fund by the UK from 2016 to 2019, $US

Chart shows annual contributions to the UN Peacebuilding Fund by the UK from 2016 to 2019, $US

(Source: Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, ‘Contributor/partner factsheet: Government of the United Kingdom’, accessed 7 June 2021)

The UN has not published any information on the UK’s commitments to the fund for 2020. In May 2021, the Government announced that it would be providing £10 million to the fund for the upcoming financial year.

How much does the UK contribute to other peacebuilding funds?

The UK contributes to several UN peacebuilding funds. This includes the following:

The UN’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office—a UN facility tasked with administering funding to countries, programmes and organisations to address multifaceted issues such as humanitarian crises and peacebuilding—reports that the UK has committed over US$230 million to various UN peacebuilding funds since 2012. These commitments are illustrated below:

Chart 2: UK contributions to various peacebuilding funds since 2012, $US

Chart 2 shows UK contributions to various peacebuilding funds since 2012, $US

(Source: Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, ‘Contributor/partner factsheet: Government of the United Kingdom’, accessed 7 June 2021)

Reduction in Overseas Development Assistance: impact on peacekeeping?

Overseas Development Assistance, which is often referred to as overseas aid, is the internationally agreed criteria (set by the Organisation for Economic Coordination and Development’s Development Assistance Committee) for funds provided to developing countries or multilateral institutions to fight poverty and promote development. In 2013, the UK first delivered on its pledge (set in 2005) to spend 0.7 percent of its gross national income on overseas aid by 2015.

In the Spending Review on 25 November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said that spending 0.7 percent of the country’s national income on overseas aid was “difficult to justify” during a “domestic fiscal emergency”. Consequently, he announced that aid would be temporarily cut to 0.5 percent of gross national income in 2021 and would return to 0.7 percent “when the fiscal situation allows”.

The Government’s decision to reduce its overseas aid commitment has raised concerns from charities and organisations. In March 2021, a joint letter sent to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, from more than 100 charities and organisations criticised the decision, which would see Yemen receive £87 million in aid. The country had previously been allocated £200 million in 2019 and £160 million in 2020. In response, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said that the UK remained “steadfast” in its support to the Yemeni people “as one of the biggest donors of lifesaving aid and through our diplomatic efforts to bring peace”.

In addition, James Wani, the director of the charity Christian Aid in South Sudan, criticised the Government’s decision. In an article for the Independent, Mr Wani argued that the decision “couldn’t come at a worse time for a country in crisis”. He further stated that with peace talks at an “extremely delicate stage”, without funding for peacebuilding, “the talks risk failure”. However, in June 2021, the Government stated that it was supporting a number of peacebuilding initiatives in South Sudan and had contributed £57.9m and up to nine military staff officers towards such initiatives in 2020–21.

The decision has also raised concern amongst politicians from across the political spectrum. The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party have called on the Government to reinstate the 0.7 percent spending commitment on overseas aid. Some Conservative politicians have also criticised the Government’s decision. Ahead of the House of Commons committee stage for the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill, several Conservative MPs supported an amendment tabled by the former Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, which would oblige a new agency for innovation created by the bill to make up any shortfall in aid spending if the 0.7 percent target was not achieved. However, the House of Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, did not select the amendment as he stated that it was not within the scope of the bill. Instead, Mr Hoyle said that the Government should bring the subject separately to the House. The former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has also called on the Government to reverse its decision.

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Cover image by Matthew TenBruggencate on Unsplash.

The cover image shows ‘Non-Violence’, also known as ‘The Knotted Gun’, a bronze sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, at the United Nations Headquarters, 9 July 2019.