£1bn fund behind suspended British aid to Syria should be shut down – campaigners
- Syria case may be ‘tip of the iceberg’ for fund backing some of world's worst security forces
- Secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund uses £500m of aid money
- Government accused of using loophole to fund discredited consultancy
The controversial cross-government fund behind the British aid project in Syria which has today been suspended amid claims that money was reaching jihadist groups should be shut down, according to campaign group Global Justice Now, which has released a new report on the fund.
The report lifts the lid on one of the British government’s most secretive funds, which is behind military and security projects in around 70 countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and Nigeria. The billion-pound pot, known as the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, spends over £500 million of British aid and is overseen by the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister. Neither the public nor MPs are able to properly scrutinise the fund due to a serious lack of transparency, the report finds.
The projects funded by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), include:
- £2.5 million of aid money to support the deployment of the Nigerian police force in northeast Nigeria “to enable the military to pursue frontline operations in the fight to degrade Boko Haram.” The Nigerian security forces have an appalling record in this part of the country.
- £3.5 million to teach police in Bahrain how to “command and control” demonstrators, including use of water cannons and dogs, as well as “evidence gathering and tactical advice.” The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, has said: “The UK is managing repression in an authoritarian regime, paid by the taxpayer.”
- Funding to bolster the Ethiopian security forces including sending senior officers on postgraduate degree programmes in ‘security sector management.’ Since 2016, the Ethiopian security forces have killed hundreds of protesters and detained tens of thousands.
- £400,000 to strengthen the capacity of the Sudanese armed forces “to improve governance and accountability… human rights and the rule of law.” Sudan’s head of state, Omar al- Bashir is the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court on five counts of crimes against humanity.
The report follows a BBC Panorama documentary, due to be broadcast tonight, which claims that money from an access to justice and community security project in Syria run by private contractors Adam Smith International (ASI) ended up reaching jihadist groups. The Foreign Office has suspended the project while it investigates.
ASI’s contract for the project was extended by the Foreign Office in late March, a month after the Department for International Development announced a freeze on aid contracts to Adam Smith International after the company misled a parliamentary inquiry.
On the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, Aisha Dodwell of Global Justice Now said:
“It is shocking that the British government is funding security forces across the world, including in some of the most tyrannical regimes. When you add in that some of these funds come from the aid budget, it just gets more scandalous.”
“It is impossible to know which projects have had aid money spent on them because of the extensive secrecy surrounding this fund – with the public and even MPs in the dark about large parts of this programme. The fear must be that this Syria scandal is the tip of the iceberg.”
“Already in its short life the CSSF has been involved in a number of scandals. We believe it is not fit for purpose and should be closed down. Aid money must be spent on poverty alleviation and the UK should be standing against human rights abuses, not enabling them.”
On Adam Smith International, Dodwell said:
“It is completely unacceptable that Adam Smith International have had aid-funded contracts extended by the Foreign Office after DFID promised to freeze future contracts to the company. By channelling aid money through different departments, the government appears to have undermined its own promise in order to keep money flowing to this company, which has repeatedly charged ludicrous amounts to western consultants in the name of ‘fighting poverty’.
“Any spending in Syria needs to be very carefully considered and evaluated – with full transparency – because there is such a huge danger that money can fall into the wrong hands and end up fuelling worse conflict and human rights abuses. Syria’s people desperately need help, and so aid is certainly important here. But the complexities and dangers of this conflict mean any form of assistance needs to be carefully justified, monitored and evaluated to ensure it works towards alleviating suffering and poverty. Handing over huge areas of spending to a private company with a terrible track record has just led to an open goal for the anti-aid lobby.”
Photo: Royal Marine unloads aid. Credit: Cpl Darren Legg RLC / MoD Crown