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United Kingdom

As an influential actor on the world stage, the UK has a key role to play in efforts to prevent violent conflict and build peace overseas.

Saferworld works with government officials, parliamentarians, civil society and the media to encourage effective UK policy on conflict and security issues abroad. We aim to use the evidence and experience from our in-country programmes to inform UK decision makers and promote policies and approaches that are responsive to the needs of ordinary people affected by conflict and insecurity, leading to real changes on the ground.

UK conflict prevention policy

Saferworld is an active participant in the policy debate surrounding the UK’s engagement in conflict-affected and fragile states. In the context of an intensified UK focus on countering violent extremism and an emphasis on UK national security in its aid strategy, we are focused on ensuring that the UK promotes a people-focused vision for stability in its engagement overseas.

Security and justice

We constructively engage to promote UK policy and practice that supports the provision of accountable, responsive and effective security and justice services and which meet the security needs of women, men, boys and girls, including as part of aid provision, in conflict-affected areas.

Gender, peace and security

Saferworld advocates for the UK to take a gender-sensitive approach to its engagement in conflict-affected states, such as through policies like the UK’s National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security. Through a gender-sensitive approach to security and justice reform, Saferworld hopes to contribute to the UK government’s aim of preventing sexual and gender-based violence in part by ending the culture of impunity which surrounds it.

Aid and conflict

Saferworld works to promote an approach to trade, aid and diplomacy that is conflict sensitive. We try to ensure that the UK’s engagement in fragile contexts does not inadvertently fuel conflict and instability, but also that it has positive peacebuilding impacts. We engage with UK-based non-governmental organisations to promote conflict-sensitive ways of running development programmes in conflict-affected and fragile states.

Arms control

We engage with UK decision makers to support the development and implementation of responsible arms export controls at UK and EU levels. We worked for 20 years to encourage the UK to play a leading role in agreeing a strong global Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted on 2 April 2013 by a huge majority in the UN General Assembly and came into force on 24 December 2014.

In light of this achievement, and the UK's ratification of the Treaty, Saferworld is focused on promoting strong positive interpretation of the text’s provisions and UK leadership on supporting its implementation in other states.

While the UK Government has one of the most sophisticated arms transfer control systems in the world, its implementation has, at times, been called into question, for example with regard to the approval of arms transfers that are at risk of being used illegally by combatants in the conflict in Yemen. As such, Saferworld continues to engage with decision makers in the UK to ensure that practice on arms transfers is consistent with the UK’s legal and policy obligations.

Along with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a strong voice in the EU, the UK is a significant financial contributor to UN and EU peacekeeping missions. As a major donor of international development assistance (reaching the target to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid), the UK has played a leading role in creating more effective development policy for conflict-affected and fragile countries in recent years. This has been through, for example, the Departmental for International Development’s peacebuilding and statebuilding approach, the 2011 Building Stability Overseas Strategy, important contributions to the World Development Report 2011, and the development of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.

In addition, the UK has been active in creating international support for the inclusion of peace within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and is in a strong position to support implementation now that the final agenda is agreed. As a major exporter of defence and security equipment and influential diplomatic power, the UK also has an important part to play in global arms control, and was a key player in the process of agreeing an international Arms Trade Treaty in April 2013. However, there is still much to be done to ensure that UK arms transfers do not fuel conflict or human rights abuses abroad.

more features


Brexit through a conflict prevention lens

As the public in the UK votes by a narrow margin to leave the EU, Saferworld asks: what are the implications of Brexit for peace and stability in the UK, EU and the wider world?


The 2015 UK Strategic Defence and Security Review

The UK has repositioned its aid budget towards fulfilling the national interest, which, depending on how this is pursued in practice, may be at odds with attempts at promoting sustainable peace.


Legal opinion: UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Leading lawyers find that the UK Government is breaking the law by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia in the context of its military intervention in Yemen.