Violent conflicts have increased dramatically since 2010, and are currently at an all-time high. As well as deaths and injury from violence, conflicts drive instability, famine, epidemics, and mass displacement.
Essentially, the key to ending extreme poverty is ending conflict.
Now, the UK's Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, has announced vital new UK aid funding to tackle the issues sparked by conflict at the source.
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“I have seen first-hand the physical and mental scars this brutal, bloody violence has left on children, women, and men around the world,” wrote Burt, in an op-ed for HuffPost. “I have met those who have suffered unspeakable horrors inflicted by Asad’s regime in Syria and Daesh.”
“If the suffering and loss from violent conflicts is not terrible enough, it also poses one of the greatest obstacles to ending extreme poverty — a goal which the UK is firmly committed to,” he added.
“If we want to ensure that the 2 billion people who live in countries affected by fragility are not left behind, then we must address conflict and instability head on and change the way we deliver aid.”
According to Burt, the “UK’s role is clear.”
“We will continue to stand by those desperately in need of life-saving aid, but we are also committed to promoting global stability which will in turn reduce those needing emergency assistance.”
Burt said that “with a permanent seat on the [UN] Security Council and as its third largest donor, the UK also works extensively to tackle conflict through the UN.”
One way that it does this is through the Peacebuilding Fund, a dedicated fund that supports “high-risk, rapid action to prevent or resolve conflict.”
Burt announced on Monday that the UK will double its contribution to the fund from £16 million to £32 million between now and 2020.
“Why?” he asked. “Because we know all too well that prevention is better than the cure.”
“Endlessly responding to violent crises with emergency aid is not a long-term sustainable response,” he continued. “As it stands, by 2030 the cost of humanitarian assistance is likely to more than double to $50 billion.”
Burt referred to countries that were once devastated by conflict — Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Tajikistan — where children are now able to attend school; where nurses are returning to work; where the job market is growing; and where infrastructure is boosting trade and driving prosperity.
Right now we are witnessing a man-made humanitarian catastrophe in #Yemen. 75% of the population require humanitarian assistance and 8.4m are at risk of starvation - we desperately need a breakthrough— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) November 12, 2018
“The heart-wrenching images of suffering and pain that emerge from conflicts around the world can easily leave us feeling hopeless,” he said. “But we can and have made progress by working to empower those on the side of peace.”
He said: “By stepping up our contribution to this fund today, we are clearly showing our commitment to this absolutely essential work.”
And the essential work can’t come soon enough. Right now, the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis” is ongoing in Yemen, where a nearly four-year conflict has cost tens of thousands of lives, and forced millions more people from their homes.
The UK is making “strenuous efforts” through the UN Security Council to bring the conflict to an end, continued Burt, through achieving a ceasefire agreement with Saudi Arabia.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is currently on a visit to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, urging the Saudis to agree a ceasefire in Yemen and pave the way for peace in the country.
I am in Saudi Arabia and the UAE today because there is a short window to make a difference. All sides need to get behind both the UN peace process led by Martin Griffiths @OSE_Yemen and current UK efforts in the Security Council— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) November 12, 2018
According to Hunt, there is only a “short window to make a difference” — adding that, “right now we are witnessing a man-made humanitarian catastrophe.”
The UK, as penholder for Yemen on the UN Security Council, is in a unique global position to lead on achieving an end to the conflict.
And Hunt has reportedly said that he believes there is a “real willingness” from Saudi Arabia to begin peace talks.
Meanwhile, international pressure to reach a ceasefire in Yemen is mounting.
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said: “The fighting must stop, a political debate must begin, and we must prepare a massive humanitarian response to avoid the worst next year.”
And in France, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, said it was time “the international community said enough is enough. There will be victor in this war.”