Report scrutinises 'weak' Government anti-sexual violence scheme

27 February 2020 3 min. read
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While the motives behind the creation of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative are commendable, a new report into the scheme has found flaws in results reporting and learning activities mean its tangible benefits remain “weak.” To change this, the paper from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact suggests that the Government should build a systematic learning process into its programming.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) works to improve the quality of UK development assistance through robust, independent scrutiny. Independent of government, ICAI reports to Parliament through the House of Commons International Development Committee, and provides assurance to the UK taxpayer by conducting independent reviews of the effectiveness and value for money of UK aid.

Sexual violence

Conflict-related sexual violence is a common feature of modern conflict, and its prevention is therefore a priority to reduce its impacts on survivors, their communities and prospects for building lasting peace in the world. As a result, PSVI was originally championed by then-Cabinet Minister William Hague and UN ambassador Angelina Jolie.

As such, the cross-department initiative benefited initially from strong political leadership, particularly due to Hague’s involvement as Foreign Secretary. However, following Hague’s departure from his role in mid-2014, leadership moved from the level of foreign secretary to special representative.

Individual question scores

Ministerial interest waned and the PSVI’s staffing and funding levels dropped precipitously during this time. Six years later, research from the ICAI has found that the Initiative now has “no overarching strategy or theory of change,” while its programming has been “fragmented across countries and between the three main contributing departments, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.”

While the researchers still praised the work of the civil society organisation, they found that PSVI fell short of its admirable ambitions, due to “a lack of strategy, a weak funding model and a lack of survivor-focused programming.” At the same time, the paper stated that the initiative “lacks a system for monitoring, analysing, sharing or storing results information,” adding that learning remains “ad hoc rather than part of a systematic learning approach.” While results reporting and learning activities are both essential to an initiative tackling an issue suffering from a lack of information, both aspects were described as “weak.”

Overall, the initiative was rated as ‘Amber/Red’, suggesting that while it does valid work there is substantial room for improvement. In regards to how responsible departments have generated and applied evidence on “what works on sexual violence in conflict”, PSVI scored ‘Red’, however, suggesting that on the issues of reporting and learning should be the first areas the initiative looks to bolster.

In order to improve, the paper made a number of recommendations, including that the Government should ensure that preventing sexual violence in conflict “is given an institutional home” enabling it to maximise the possible contributions of each participating department. Leading on from this, PSVI’s programming activities need to be “embedded within a structure which supports effective design, monitoring and evaluation,” strengthening its long-term impact.

Concluding, the researchers stated, “The PSVI is an important initiative on a neglected topic. However, its levels of ambition, funding and activity have been reduced rather than increased since the 2014 Global Summit, and cross-departmental collaboration has been poor. To continue and to strengthen its work on conflict-related sexual violence, the initiative must develop a clear oversight structure and strategy, and robust monitoring, reporting and learning mechanisms.”