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A ‘Force for Good’? – Executive Summary

Article by Tim Molesworth and Adam Hug

December 6, 2021

A ‘Force for Good’? – Executive Summary

The nature of conflict in the world is shifting, along with the challenges they present for the UK. The number of violent conflicts today is as high as at any point since the end of World War II and they are lasting longer due to complex transnational dynamics and increasing internationalisation. Fragile and conflict affected countries (FCACs) pose threats to international peace and security, undermining the stability of neighbouring countries, provide opportunities for transnational terrorist networks and criminal groups to operate, drive displacement of populations and provide opportunities for the UK’s geopolitical competitors to exploit for strategic advantage.


The UK has significant experience and expertise engaging in FCACs. However, the UK’s approach to the world and its capacities to do so are changing. The 2020 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy outlines a strategic framework for how the UK engages with the world. It calls for a more joined up and strategic approach between the foreign policy tools which the UK has available. Recent institutional changes, including the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), provide an opportunity to more explicitly develop that joined up approach – particularly when dealing with complex, multidimensional problems such as those driving conflict in FCACs.


This essay collection looks at how various aspects of the UK’s foreign policy engagement in FCACs is adapting to these changes and the impact these may have on peace and conflict in FCACs. It makes several key recommendations to inform how the UK undertakes future engagement in FCACs. The UK should:

  • Embed consideration of conflict sensitivity across all government actions in FCACs;
  • Ensure that its approach to engaging in FCACs puts peacebuilding and peacemaking in a central role, not in competition with other UK policy priorities;
  • Use a wide range of tools to achieve its peace goals in FCACs including: diplomacy, sanctions, aid, trade, military engagement, peacebuilding, mediation and private sector regulation;
  • Find the right balance between efforts aimed at promoting stability, for example through elite bargains and political deals, and addressing the structural drivers of violent conflict;
  • Strengthen its peacebuilding capacity by bringing in more specialist expertise from the peacebuilding sector; improving coordination and information sharing across government and with external experts; enhancing embassy and FCDO operational capacity to support local peace actors; enabling local programming to become more responsive to evolving local situations; providing more settled guidance to the CSSF; and enabling longer project timelines for peacebuilding work;
  • Leverage its convening power to shape international aid efforts towards peace;
  • Address the gender gaps in its policies and plans, ensuring that it mainstreams gender, women, peace and security priorities in all government commitments;
  • Push for greater community accountability for peacekeeping missions and prevent resource diversion into counter-terror operations and other forms of warfighting;
  • Strengthen private sector conflict sensitivity with an enhanced modern slavery act, new legal responsibilities for companies fuelling conflict and improving public procurement;
  • Strengthen due diligence checks on both the direct use of arms sold and on the indirect consequences of the arms trade with clearer red lines on conflict actors;
  • Prioritise partnership, both locally and internationally, in its engagement on FCACs;
  • Understand the link between climate change and peace, ensuring that its work on climate change is conflict sensitive so that climate transformation does not embed the structural drivers of conflict; and
  • Address its role, and that of its Overseas Territories, as facilitators of international corruption.
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