The UK's ability to promote stability and prevent conflict, in desperate need of reform

The UK's capability to promote stability and prevent conflict in fragile states requires significant, cross-government reform according to a new report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Preparing for Peace: Britain's Contribution and Capabilities, written by security and development experts Richard Teuten and Daniel Korski, identifies a continuing lack of departmental cohesion and a failure to fully understand regions that pose considerable security threats to Britain - such as Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa - as problems that significantly undermine the effectiveness of the UK's engagement with fragile states.

In this latest RUSI Whitehall Paper, drafted in advance of the government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, Teuten and Korski have written the most comprehensive assessment to date of government capabilities for stabilisation and conflict prevention, and provide nearly fifty recommendations for further reform, outlining important shifts towards a less ambitious, better coordinated and more targeted approach.

The report suggests developing the function of the National Security Council (NSC) to take on a stronger coordinating role, with British ambassadors taking the responsibility as the 'whole-of-government' representative in-country. They propose the systematic development of a more robust supply of civilians and military officers ready to work together in hostile environments, including closer integration of civilian-military personnel and assets, with structured career incentives to encourage collaborative, cross departmental work.

The authors also point to inbuilt imbalances in the way resources are allocated to favour today's crises, rather than investing to prevent those of the future. They therefore set out ways to improve the reliability of funding for longer term conflict prevention.

Former head of the Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team Daniel Korski notes:

"The government machinery - the civil service, and the armed forces - have come a long way in the last 15 years. But it is clear that barrier-breaking change is still needed to ensure the right systems, people and resources to safeguard Britain. The Strategic Defence and Security Review needs to be bold as well as brutal."

Ex-Stabilisation Unit head Richard Teuten points out:

"Without institutional knowledge and incentives for better cross-government cooperation, the risk of a mismatch between the aspirations of ministers and what realistically can be achieved will continue to undermine the UK's impact."

Welcoming the new RUSI Whitehall Paper, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, Chair of the influential House of Commons Defence Select Committee said:

"This timely paper should inspire British policy makers to reflect on the past mismatch between ambitions and resources. We need to tackle and forestall conflict in fragile states and take the steps necessary for the UK to achieve its full potential where it matters most."


  • 1. For all enquiries please contact Daniel Sherman
  • 2. Richard Teuten is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) analysing Britain's role in conflict prevention and a promoting stability in countries affected by violent conflict. Before joining RUSI, he was head of the UK Government's Stabilisation Unit (formerly the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit) from April 2006 to January 2010.
  • 3. Daniel Korski is a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). He is currently on leave from the ECFR, working in the Department for International Development, inter alia, on the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
  • 4. RUSI Whitehall Papers provide in-depth studies of specific developments, issues or themes in the field of national and international defence and security. Published occasionally throughout the year, Whitehall Papers reflect the highest standards of original research and analysis, and are invaluable background material for policy makers and specialists alike.
  • 5. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters.

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