United Kingdom Report



In an article on ‘joined-up government’ published in 2002 (Ling 2002), Tom Ling suggested that there were four critical success factors for what was then called ‘inter-agency cooperation’. These were: new ways of working across organisations evidenced by shared leadership, pooled budgets, merged structures and joint teams; new types of organisations with the concomitant requirement to establish new cultures and values, information and training systems; new accountabilities and incentives which would require the establishment of shared outcome targets, performance measures, regulations and systems of accountability; new ways of delivering services which will require joint consultation/involvement, shared client focus and shared customer interface. At various stages in the evolution of the UK’s WGA, each of these critical success factors has been in evidence.
When the policy of ‘joined-up government’ was first promoted, there were clear tensions between the FCO, the MOD and the DFID, with each ministry feeling that its autonomy was being undermined. In order to promote greater cross-departmental collaboration, the government decided in 2001 to pool the resources of the three ministries in order to “develop a more formal, collective approach to addressing conflict prevention” (Cleary 2011: 45). Two funding pools were established: the Global Conflict Prevention Pool (GCPP) and the African Conflict Prevention Pool (ACPP). The three ministries agreed that any proposed project submitted to the pools should contribute to one of the following three aims (Ministry of Defence 2003: 13): first, to strengthen international and regional systems’ capacity for conflict prevention, early warning, crisis management, conflict resolution/ peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding; second, to contribute to global and regional conflict-prevention initiatives, such as curbing the proliferation of small arms and the diversion of resources to finance conflict; and, third, to promote initiatives in selected countries, including indigenous capacity-building, to help avert conflict, reduce violence and build sustainable security and peace.
Over time, those two pools would merge into one. In 2015, the government announced the establishment of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) worth GBP 1.2 billion. That fund was described in the 2018 NSCR as enabling the government “to use the optimum combination of development, diplomacy, defence and security assistance rapidly and flexibly in countries at risk of conflict and instability” (HM Government 2018: 44). Its establishment is credited with enhancing the agility of response to crises, incentivising the joined-up use of capabilities, and funding assessed contributions to multilateral peacekeeping operations (ibid.).
It is the National Security Council that sets the strategic priorities of the CSSF, which are demonstrably linked to the national security objectives. Prior to 2015, the allocation of funds was achieved on the basis of agreement between the FCO, the MOD and the DFID. Research conducted by the author (Cleary 2011) has indicated that the FCO and the DFID were generally more successful at getting their projects funded because they tended to send more senior personnel capable of taking decisions to the deliberative committees.
The establishment of a series of operational delivery organisations, including the Security Sector Development Advisory Team, the Post- Conflict Reconstruction Unit and, later, the Stabilisation Unit, are all examples of the government’s seeking to establish joint teams for the delivery of effect. Each of these organisations has been staffed in a similar way, with personnel seconded from the FCO, the MOD, the DFID and the Home Office. Each has relied on its ability to draw additional resources from other government departments as well as from consultants. And each has struggled in the first instance with engendering a shared culture among its seconded staff.
The 2010 establishment of a National Security Council is evidence of an attempt to create a new institution, but assessments of its effectiveness have been mixed. Given the way the conceptualisation of national security has changed, the establishment of an NSC is viewed as a welcome alternative to the previously informal attempts at inter-ministerial coordination. Those most closely associated with the NSC, however, suggest that it is falling short of its stated objectives, and that it could do more to set national strategy. Specifically, it could seek to “present a unifying national aim, especially in times of international crisis, and to further enhance inter-departmental coordination” (Thomson and Blagden 2018: 581).
This last point is particularly important given the conclusions of the Chilcot Inquiry into Iraq (Committee of Privy Councillors 2016). Published in July 2016, the Chilcot Report details the decision-making process that led to the UK’s commitment of forces in Iraq in 2003. It made a number of criticisms of that process, stating that the assessment of risks and the capabilities required to address them was not as robust as it could and should have been, that there was insufficient coordination across government, and that ministries struggled to work across organisational boundaries.
Since the publication of the Chilcot Report, ministries have been at pains to demonstrate that they have taken on board the recommendations it made. This has led to efforts to improve oversight and accountability within ministries. For example, in 2017, the MOD published the Good Operation Handbook (Ministry of Defence 2017), which provides a checklist for the planning, delivery and review of an operation. It encourages personnel to bring critical thinking to bear and to resist groupthink. At a national level, the NSC is seeking to hold ministries to account by asking them to demonstrate how their individual and collective activities contribute to the attainment of the national security objectives. Their performance is also reviewed by a number of select committees within the House of Commons as well as by the National Audit Office.
Taken collectively, these efforts seek to inculcate a culture in which consultation and collaboration become the norm. Although there may be criticism of the formal structures that have been established, they have encouraged informal networking (see, e.g., Thomson and Blagden 2018). Civil servants in different ministries are discussing issues, generating scenarios and seeking to determine joint positions prior to ministerial meetings. This is a fairly significant cultural development and one that can lead to the generation of more effective doctrine for stabilisation operations (Ministry of Defence 2016). It is also of the utmost necessity to ensure a degree of policy continuity during periods of political crisis, such as that currently being experienced.
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