Cover Image
close this bookEliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century - White paper on international development (DFID - The Stationery Office, 1997, 86 p.)
close this folderSECTION 3 - Consistency of Policies
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe Importance of Consistency
View the documentThe Environment
View the documentTrade, Agriculture and Investment
View the documentPromoting Political Stability, Social Cohesion and Responding Effectively to Conflict
View the documentPromoting Economic and Financial Stability

Promoting Political Stability, Social Cohesion and Responding Effectively to Conflict

3.48 The promotion of a peaceful and stable world is a key element of British international policy. Political stability both within and between states is a necessary pre-condition for the elimination of poverty. Half of the world’s low income countries are suffering, or have just emerged from, serious conflicts. Today there are some 28 major and more than 100 minor armed conflicts affecting some 70 countries. The nature of warfare has changed with a greater preponderance of intra-state conflict; civilians are now 10 times more likely than soldiers to be the victims of such conflicts.

3.49 Violent conflict generates social division, reverses economic progress, impedes sustainable development and frequently results in human rights violations. Large population movements triggered by conflict threaten the security and livelihood of whole regions. There are currently over 30 million refugees and persons displaced by violence who count amongst the poorest people in the world. The 10 poorest countries in the world are all hosting, or have generated, refugees. Some measures to address migration issues, which relate not only to refugees but also voluntary migrants, are set out at Panel 23.

3.50 Conflict prevention is therefore crucial to combat poverty and reduce suffering. Although tensions and disputes are inevitable in the process of development, problems arise when society cannot represent and manage its different interests in a constructive manner.



Migration is a long-standing phenomenon. It can be driven by, for example, disasters, conflict and the persecution of minorities, and economic factors. The pressures of a growing population combined with the fragile environments of many poor countries has increased migration as people leave their homelands - no longer able to gain a secure livelihood because of drought, soil erosion, desertification and other environmental problems. In 1990, 120 million people -or around two per cent of the world’s population - were living outside their country of origin.

Developmental impact. Migration can have both positive and negative effects on development. Migrants may meet critical labour needs in the receiving country. Many send home remittances which are a very important source of foreign exchange for a number of countries. However, a brain drain may slow development in the sending country and the social fabric is weakened by family break-up. In the short term sudden disorderly large-scale migration flows - frequently the case for refugee movements - can make social and economic integration difficult, and can impact adversely on receiving countries.

UK policy. Our objective is to help developing countries manage migration flows as beneficially as possible:

· We will work through the UN and other international organisations and within the EU to pursue our objective

· We will be active in the field of conflict prevention as well as providing humanitarian assistance

· We will support broad-based economic growth, which will help to reduce migratory pressures

· We will fund research into the impact of migration on development and the environment in order to refine our policy

· We will not, however, target scarce resources directly at reducing voluntary migration, not least because there is no evidence to suggest that this is effective

· We will seek to build on the skills and talents of migrants and other members of ethnic minorities within the UK to promote the development of their countries of origin

Understanding the causes of conflict, and helping build the will and capacity of state and civil society to resolve disputes non-violently will be central to our international policy. To achieve this, we shall deploy our diplomatic, development assistance and military instruments in a coherent and consistent manner to:

· spread the values of civil liberties and democracy, rule of law and good governance, and foster the growth of a vibrant and secure civil society

· strengthen social cohesion, promote mediation efforts and encourage the regeneration of societies recovering from conflict

· protect and promote the full enjoyment of all human rights

· help solve political and other problems before they cause conflict

· advocate measures to control the means of waging war

· provide humanitarian assistance for victims of conflict and persecution

· contribute to international peacekeeping

3.51 To develop the capacity of the international community to tackle the root causes of violent conflict requires a coherent system-wide response. We welcome the UN Secretary-General’s reform efforts and will use our permanent seat on the Security Council to strengthen the UN’s role in conflict prevention and peace building. We support the creation of a more proactive and coordinated conflict prevention capacity within the UN Secretariat. We also recognise the need to counter the culture of impunity that pervades today’s conflicts; we support the creation of a permanent International Criminal Court and will continue to back and seek to strengthen the Tribunals in Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia.

3.52 Preventive diplomacy will continue to be pursued bilaterally, and through membership of other international bodies. Within the European Union, we shall seek better linkage of foreign, security and development co-operation policies, and implement existing Council Conclusions on conflict prevention. In addition, we intend to develop stronger peacebuilding and conflict management roles for the Commonwealth, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other regional organisations, and will support practical measures to build up such capabilities in other regions, particularly Africa. In peace time we can deploy the extensive experience of our own armed forces to promote mutual understanding and confidence, and to help other countries to develop democratically accountable armed forces. In times of crisis, early deployment of military forces can promote stability and thus stem or prevent conflict. We will continue to provide forces for operations in support of international order and humanitarian principles.

3.53 Our development co-operation effort in divided societies will be informed by the OECD Guidelines on Conflict, Peace and Development. We shall encourage the European Commission, UNDP and others to take a proactive approach to peace-building. In our bilateral programme, we shall seek to find alternative channels for mediation; we shall promote social cohesion and support bridges for peace which reach out to marginalised groups through access to political decision-making, social networks, economic resources and information. We shall seek to strengthen local capacities for peace-building in particular with women who are traditionally excluded from such efforts. Social exclusion, for whatever reason, creates an unstable environment in which the well-being of all may ultimately be threatened.

3.54 We shall continue generous provision for humanitarian assistance through UN and Red Cross agencies, NGOs and partner governments. Recognising the problems of diversion and manipulation of external assistance in conflict situations, such help will be based on carefully assessed needs. We shall seek agreement on a code of ethical conduct for organisations working in conflict areas. The protection and promotion of human rights and the observance of international humanitarian law will be integral to all of our programmes of humanitarian assistance. We shall actively work with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other agencies to find better means of safeguarding humanitarian workers. We shall work to ensure that humanitarian issues are properly taken into account when considering international political and peacekeeping interventions. Seeking durable solutions to long-standing crises, including for refugee and displaced populations, will be a priority.

3.55 In seeking to limit the means for waging wars, we shall continue to be active in arms control negotiations. We support the proposed EU programme on curbing illicit trafficking in conventional arms. We shall complement our own moratorium on the use and bans on the import, export, transfer and manufacture of anti-personnel landmines with vigorous efforts to secure the widest possible, permanent global ban, and continued support for mine clearance programmes. We shall seek to discourage excessive military expenditure in developing countries by helping further to develop the OECD Agenda for Action, and encouraging the international financial institutions to focus on this issue in their policy dialogue with developing countries.