Early Warning System to be set up in Britain

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The British government has decided to step up its security measures, especially after the unrest in the Arab world. It has decided to set up an early warning system to identify and prevent unrest in high-risk areas where it has significant interests, as part of a strategy announced Tuesday.

Following the upheaval in the?Middle East,?and drawing on the experience of?Iraq?and?Afghanistan?greater funding is to be made available to the Department for International Development (DfID) to prevent conflicts breaking out. This move represents an attempt to pool the expertise and resources of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and DfID in preventing turmoil in unstable regions.

The strategy follows pressure from the military, which has complained for years to the Foreign Office and DfID about the lack of a coordinated approach that has burdened troops with humanitarian work as well as fighting, a point that emerged during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

Building Stability Overseas Strategy

“The?publication of the government’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) today could not be more timely,” said William Hague, the foreign secretary.

“The Arab spring has demonstrated just how uncertain the world can be and has highlighted the need for a strategic UK approach to early engagement in places at risk of instability. This strategy seeks to address the lessons we have learned from recent events and marks the first time that the government has put in place an integrated cross-government strategy to address conflict issues.”

The BSOS, which is supported by the Foreign Office and MoD, comes amid controversy over the increase inBritain?s overseas spending from ?8 billion to ?11 billion that was criticized in a leaked letter from Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary.

This has not deterred the government. As part of its crisis prevention strategy, the government is to create a ?20m annual early action facility (EAF) within what is called the conflict pool ? money that is spent on conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping activities. Funding for the conflict pool came to ?229m this financial year and is to be increased to ?309m by 2014-15.

Way forward

The report admitted that the current system ?lacks the flexibility needed to fund responses to early warning signals that arise in situations of instability and conflict.?

“We will pay more systematic attention to the tier of countries just below the threshold for regular NSC [national security attention] and strengthen our understanding of where the risks of conflict and instability are high,” said the document.

Part of the strategy will include the new Stabilization Response Teams (SRTs), the first of which deployed to?Libya?in May to assist the rebel government in Benghazi.

The SRTs will form a cornerstone for the new Early Warning System as they will be able to deploy swiftly into difficult environments and enable Britain to ?rapidly help shape the response to emerging crises?.

The government is careful to say that it will focus on identifying areas of risk, rather than trying to predict events.

The early warning system will take a view of countries in which political, economic and security shocks over the next 12 months could trigger violence. A steering group of officials from DfID, MoD and the Foreign Office will consider whether early warning signals demand a UK response, and the government will produce a new internal watch-list of “fragile” countries and officials will assess where the risks of conflict and insecurity are high and where the UK has significant interests.

Mixed reactions

The government’s new strategy seems to be generating mixed reactions.

“The BSOS will help the UK to work more effectively to tackle instability upstream, helping to prevent conflict and the suffering it causes,” said Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary. “This goes to the heart of the drive to achieve better targeted, more effective aid.”

Merlin, the NGO that specializes in health, welcomed the focus on fragile states.

“Merlin welcomes the increased investment in conflict-affected and fragile states, particularly in ensuring the provision of essential services, such as healthcare,” said Juliet Milgate, policy and research adviser. “Merlin works predominately in fragile states … and has first-hand experience of the impact that conflict and state fragility have on people’s lives: undermining critical investment in health systems and affecting people’s ability to access essential services ? leading to the needless loss of mothers’ lives.”

The anti-poverty charity, War on Want, however, dismissed the government’s new strategy.

“The British government needs a reality check. Britain has been one of the chief sources of conflict and instability in the 21st century, whether through its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, its heavy militarisation of fragile states, or its continuing promotion of arms sales in regions plagued by war,” said John Hilary, its executive director. “The government has no credibility when it comes to conflict prevention. Its stability strategy reads like so much Orwellian newspeak.”

The strategy is clear that investments must deliver results whilst providing value for the UK taxpayer and, to ensure this, a new transparent, cross-Government reporting framework, subject to independent scrutiny, will be implemented to measure and compare the UK?s impact across regions.

?Is Britain taking over policing the world from America? told a resident from Abu Dhabi to ArabianGazette.com

?Shouldn?t Britain look into its own backyard? Especially with the incident of pie throwing at yesterday?s parliamentary committee hearing at Westminster? Jason a student from Murdoch University told Arabian Gazette.com,? ?They couldn?t identify that there could be a hot spot. So how are they expected to help the rest of the world??

Some of us are able to sleep more peacefully at night knowing that the new world savior is none other than Britain!

Sources: Guardian, Telegraph, ukun.fco

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