The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is seeking proposals from not-for-profit organisations to deliver an FCDO-funded research programme on “Wars fought better: Building the evidence on promoting restraint by armed actors”.
The FCDO will invest up to £5m in a period up to four years (subject to funding beyond March 2026) to improve the understanding of operational and policy options for promoting restraint from violence by armed actors – both states and Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) and including militias, private security actors, and others.
This knowledge should contribute to making FCDO, HMG, humanitarian actors, and others, more effective in preventing and reducing the civilian harm caused by conflict. Results will be achieved through:
- the publication, dissemination and uptake of high-quality, original research.
- a real-time advisory function for FCDO.
The impact of conflict on civilians continues to escalate. The protection of civilians from the effects of armed conflict is a priority in the UK International Development Strategy and FCDO’s recently published Humanitarian Framework. However, while research on what promotes restraint by combatants has been growing in recent years, it is still limited – there is more research and understanding on why combatants commit violence than there is on why they choose restraint or to comply with International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The finding from research to date is that sometimes, in some contexts, armed actors do choose restraint and do sometimes publicly commit to comply with aspects of IHL. Improving the evidence base, and so our understanding of why this happens, should lead to more effective engagement with armed actors by FCDO and others to reduce civilian harm. However, there are particular challenges with translating research on this topic into actionable advice and strategies by practitioner organisations. Additionally, the causal chains between violence, violations of IHL, and resulting humanitarian need, while sometimes direct, are often long, indirect and complex.
A concerted effort is thus needed to a) synthesise and then expand the evidence base and b) translate evidence into better policies and strategies for intervention to prevent and reduce humanitarian suffering and need.
- Improve the understanding of what is most effective in promoting restraint by armed actors – states, non- state armed groups (NSAGs) and others.
- Ensure this understanding contributes to making the FCDO and others more effective in supporting efforts to prevent and reduce civilian harm caused by conflict, through change to operations and policy.
Components of the Research
- Review and then build the evidence-base and theoretical framework(s) on the factors that explain IHL compliance and restraint in conflict by both states and NSAGs. This component will develop the understanding of what humanitarian and conflict actors, affected communities, donor governments (including HMG), regional actors, and others can do to promote IHL compliance and restraint.
- Develop and analyse the complex causal pathways through which the actions of states and NSAGs committing violations of IHL feed through into creating civilian harm/humanitarian need and excess mortality, identifying in which contexts which violations have most humanitarian impact, and so most important to prevent. This is likely to have a particular focus on famine and acute food insecurity, and on gender-based violence, but may also examine, for example, unlawful forced displacement, the impact on livelihoods and public health. It will examine both lethal and non-lethal impacts.
- Develop a historical data base of contexts where violations of IHL have been determined/credibly alleged and link this with data on humanitarian need (e.g., through UN/humanitarian agency appeals). Where possible, both quantify and distinguish violations committed by states and NSAGs.
- Provide real-time, on demand, advice to FCDO/HMG on policy options for encouraging IHL compliance and promoting restraint at the country level before and during on-going conflicts. The advice will be based on the research and theory developed in component 1 and draw on what the research learns from components 2 and 3 as well as wider relevant research. It will be based on deep country expertise and will be provided alongside, and be complementary to, that provided by FCDO’s Research Analysts and country desks.
- Actively disseminate and support uptake of all aspects of the research. This will require regular formal and informal engagements with practitioners and policy makers at different levels from the start of the project and, if possible, during the firming up of the design. It will be important to involve key stakeholders so they ‘buy-in’ to the research and its outputs and thus will be more inclined to promote its dissemination and uptake.
- The budget will be up to £5m, inclusive of VAT (if applicable in the UK) as well as local government tax. The expectation is that the primary costs will be for generating new evidence.
- At all times, the continuation of funding will depend on the successful organisation/consortia’s satisfactory performance, ongoing FCDO business need, and central budget allocation by HM Treasury and FCDO. Therefore, the successful bid will need to be designed to be able to rapidly scale up, down or close to adapt to changing FCDO and/or HMG economic and/or political priorities.
- Peer-reviewed original published research and associated products with respect to Components 1 and 2.
- Open-source database created as per Component 3.
- Establish and maintain an FCDO advisory service, as per Component 4.
- Active research dissemination and uptake promotion as per Component 5.
- The FCDO will accept proposals from academic and other not-for profit institutions that can demonstrate the required expertise and capacity to deliver. Proposals can be submitted by single entities or by partnerships/consortia.
For more information, visit Gov.UK.