The Curmudgeon


Friday, July 13, 2012

Soft Power

Now, the ignorant and backsliding among you are doubtless of the belief that the British government's efforts at global peacekeeping are confined to selling weapons to friendly butchers and making belligerent noises at Argentina. Nothing could be further from the truth. A fund was set up, as early as the beginning of the War on the Abstract Noun, to "support conflict prevention", and by 2011-12 had a budget only slightly smaller than the amount paid to G4S for helping the Home Office with its military arrangements. The money for conflict prevention was shared between the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence; nevertheless, some people are still trying to work out why the awesome nobility of our intentions has largely failed to translate into satisfactory results.

A report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact says that, despite a couple of sticking-plasters applied to various gaping, spurting wounds in Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fund lacks a clear strategic framework (in Standard English, nobody knew what they were doing); lacks a robust funding model (nobody knew when the plug might be pulled) and has little capacity for measuring results (nobody knew how the money was spent, much less cared). Additionally, the three ministries involved were supposed to take a "joined-up" approach; a particularly difficult demand in the case of Adam Werritty's Ministry of War, which can barely manage joined-up writing. Instead, by the time Labour lost the election, the Foreign Office was absorbing more than half the money, presumably thanks to the dedication of Jack Straw and the Lower (then Upper) Miliband in avoiding conflict with torturers.


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