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The Fund

The Integrated Activity Fund was created in 2015, taking over some projects that had previously been funded through the Conflict, Security and Stability Fund. The then Middle East Minister Alistair Burt described the fund in answer to a 2018 Parliamentary Question:

The Gulf Integrated Activity Fund (IAF) was introduced in the 2015 Spending Round and spending commenced in Financial Year 16/17 to enable activity when funding from core departmental, or other sources, cannot be made available to service the British Government’s Gulf Strategy. It is intended to support the delivery of flexible, cross-cutting and sustained investment in the region.

The IAF provides funding in support of a range of programmes across the Gulf Region. These include, but are not limited to, activities focusing on aquaculture, sport and culture, healthcare and institutional capacity building. We are not able to disclose information related to IAF programmes in greater detail as we have a duty to maintain the confidence and confidentiality of our partners. All of our work is in line with international standards and aims to share the UK’s expertise and experience.

The CSSF itself was the subject of criticism by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) in 2018. The Integrated Activity Fund has also raised questions about transparency and effectiveness.

Human rights groups and others have made several Freedom of Information Act requests about the fund, especially after allegations that money had been used to work with Bahraini justice institutions that proceeded to impose death sentences on opposition activists.

The Government has refused FoI requests about the Integrated Activity Fund on the grounds that the information involves the security services, something described in the press as invoking “the spy clause”.

Expenditure transparency

The Government publishes very little data on the spending of the Integrated Activity Fund. Although its funding allocation is reported in the FCO’s departmental Estimates and its Annual Report and Accounts, it is always included only as part of the funding for other programmes. Spending on the Fund has been moved between various parts of the Estimate in different years and is never listed by itself, even after being renamed as the Gulf Strategy Fund, so no breakdowns of spending are produced. We therefore have to rely on PQs for more detailed information.

Funding allocations and spending

The Integrated Activity Fund has had the following funding allocations and actual spending:

Funding and spending of the Integrated Activity Fund

Source: PQ 103608

This shows that although its funding allocation has until recently been a steady £20 million per year, it has generally significantly underspent this allocation (no spending data is yet available for the current year). None of this spending counted as official aid (‘Official Development Assistance’).

Who spends the money and where

Several Government departments spend money from the Fund. According to a PQ in May 2020, the list for 2019-20 was as follows:

  • Crown Prosecution Service
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
  • Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs/Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
  • Department for International Trade
  • Department of Health/Public Health England
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • HM Revenue and Customs
  • the National Economic Crime Centre in the National Crime Agency

We do not have a breakdown of the amount spent by each department.

All of the Fund’s spending takes place in the Gulf, specifically in the Gulf Cooperation Council states: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. We do not have a breakdown of the amount spent in each country – a PQ from January 2020 explains that this is because many projects cover the whole region.

There is also no full list of the projects that the Fund supports, despite a PQ asking for such a list. We do know from that PQ’s answer that the types of projects funded include those covering “aquaculture, sport and culture, healthcare and institutional capacity building”.

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