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Conflict, Stability and Security Fund

The British Government created the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) on 1 April 2015, replacing the previous Conflict (Prevention) Pool. It is a pool of money, over 1 billion pounds per year, for tackling conflict and instability overseas. It is part of the government's official development assistance (ODA).

The CSSF is overseen by the National Security Council (NSC), whereas the previous Conflict Pool had been jointly controlled by the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The National Security Adviser is the Senior Responsible Officer for the CSSF.

The CSSF supports delivery of the UK's Building Stability Overseas Strategy and the National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review. The CSSF builds on the framework of the Conflict Pool by bringing together existing cross-departmental expertise and resources from across government. The CSSF funds a broader range of activities to help prevent conflict that affects vulnerable people in the world-s poorest countries, and tackle threats to British security and interests from instability overseas. This will include actions the UK delivers directly or through third parties to help prevent conflict and instability, and support post-conflict reconciliation.

Priorities for the Fund are set by the Government's National Security Council, to ensure a stronger cross-departmental approach that draws on the synergy of defence, diplomacy, developmental assistance, security and intelligence. It is designed to enable the British Government to tackle the root causes of conflict abroad with various national and regional programmes including, developing human rights training, strengthening local police and judiciaries, and facilitating political reconciliation and local peace processes.

In 2016 Sir Mark Lyall Grant, National Security Adviser, stated the three countries on which most was spent were Afghanistan (90 million), Syria (60 million) and Somalia (32 million), and that the fund had projects in more than 40 countries. A major spending area is related to the Syrian Civil War, including hiring private contractors to deliver "strategic communications and media operations support to the Syrian moderate armed opposition" – described as essentially running the "Free Syrian Army press office". The Stabilisation Unit interdepartmental agency is funded by the CSSF.

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy launched an inquiry examining the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund in May 2016. On 2 November 2016 Lord McConnell criticised the fact there was no up-to-date public strategy for the fund, as the 2011 Building Stability Overseas Strategy has never been updated. In November 2016 the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy inquiry asked Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser, to disclose details of the fund’s spending. This followed concern in the media that the fund was causing more of the UK aid budget to be spent on defence and foreign policy objectives.

The inquiry issued its report on 6 February 2017. The government had refused to disclose which countries were receiving money under the CSSF, and only a small number of individual projects were disclosed. The government stated that some projects must remain secret for security reasons. The committee reported that the fund had opaque objectives and achievements, and lacked accountability. The committee reported that "There is a risk that the CSSF is being used as a ‘slush fund’ for projects that may be worthy, but which do not collectively meet the needs of UK national security". There was particular criticism of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, both for its lack of procurement expertise and outdated understanding of the political causes of armed conflict. The committee concluded it could not "provide parliamentary accountability for taxpayers’ money spent via the CSSF." It recommended a single Cabinet Office minister should be responsible for the fund's spending.

In 2017 the Independent Commission for Aid Impact started a review of the CSSF, with the final report due in Spring 2018.