Tuesday 18 April 2006, by Foreign and Commonwealth Office
In a world of global communications and markets, our security and prosperity depend more than ever on what happens in other parts of the world. We have to be active internationally to shape global developments for the benefit of our citizens and because we are committed to a safer, more just and prosperous world.
We live in a period of rapid change - we have moved from the relative certainties of the Cold War to a more complex and uncertain world. More issues are cutting across national boundaries and new global actors are emerging. Our open economy, diverse society and international responsibilities offer opportunities in the next decade, working with others, to shape the future for our citizens and the world.
Active diplomacy for a changing world - the UK’s International Priorities updates the Strategy published by the FCO in 2003. It identifies the trends we expect to shape the world in the next 10 years. It sets out the UK’s role in the international system and our main partnerships. Based on this analysis it identifies the strategic international priorities for the Government as a whole. And it describes the FCO’s role in pursuing them.
The world in the next ten years
We cannot know the future, but we can prepare for it and so help to influence it. Based on extensive consultation with partners around Government and beyond, some of the broad trends and their implications for the UK outlined in the White Paper are:
The gathering pace of globalisation: the flow of people, goods, money and knowledge and the rapid growth of Asia are driving globalisation. This presents new opportunities and risks. How countries react to these will have important implications for us. We must adapt our economy, work with others to support global economic openness and integrate new powers fully into the international system. We must also help build effective states able to provide security, opportunity and justice for their citizens.
Pressures on natural resources: rising economic demand, population growth and climate change are putting the world’s natural resources under new pressure. We will need to manage increasing competition for energy in particular, through more effective markets, cleaner technologies and dialogue between major consumers and producers.
An uncertain security environment: terrorism will remain the primary security threat to the UK. New proliferation pressures make the next 10 years critical in the fight to control the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. There will be new risks to fragile states and uncertainty about developments in key parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Building stronger relationships with the Muslim world and countering the message of extremists will be a top priority.
Our key conclusions are:
we must be engaged around the globe to shape developments at a time of rapid change
we must strengthen our partnerships and international institutions to build a future based on common values and interests
closer co-operation across Government and with others will be essential as the impact at home of events overseas continues to grow.
Working with others
No country can tackle this agenda alone. So we have to work with others in the UN, the EU, the G8, NATO, the Commonwealth and other groups. We must work to reform international institutions in the face of new challenges. Our most important partnerships will remain within the EU, and with the United States. We will also need to build on our strategic relationships with China, India, Japan, Russia and others. Relations between these major and developing actors will influence the international system for the next decade and beyond and set the context in which we will promote our interests and values.
As the links between domestic and international issues grow, co-operation between Departments of Government and with the private sector, NGOs and the public must deepen.
International priorities for the UK
Based on our analysis, we have identified the following nine strategic international priorities for the UK over the next five to ten years. They underline how closely domestic and international policies are now linked.
making the world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
reducing the harm to the UK from international crime, including drug trafficking, people smuggling and money laundering
preventing and resolving conflict through a strong international system
building an effective and globally competitive EU in a secure neighbourhood
supporting the UK economy and business through an open and expanding global economy, science and innovation and secure energy supplies
promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction underpinned by human rights, democracy, good governance and protection of the environment
managing migration and combating illegal immigration
delivering high-quality support for British nationals abroad, in normal times and in crises
ensuring the security and good governance of the UK’s Overseas Territories
Role of the FCO
The FCO is a network of people working in the UK and in over 250 diplomatic posts abroad. We have a total staff of around 16,000, of whom 6,000 are recruited in the UK and 10,000 recruited overseas. Our purpose is to work for UK interests in a safe, just and prosperous world. To do that we:
develop and deliver the Government’s international policies
identify and influence developments overseas which affect the UK
provide consular, visa and commercial services to British nationals, business and others
maintain a global network of Posts and work closely with our partners in the rest of Government to pursue our priorities.
Our role is not to report on events or pursue good relations for their own sake. It is to exercise judgement and influence in order to shape the future for the benefit of our citizens and others. To do so, we must be engaged on the ground with the knowledge, experience and skills to effect change.
Our network of Posts must continue to adapt to new opportunities and risks - moving resources to priorities in Asia and the Middle East; tackling issues such as conflict, energy security or economic and political reform in key regions; developing rapid deployment teams for crisis response; using information and communication technology to deliver better services and manage the network more flexibly.
Worldwide services to British nationals
International travel by British nationals for business and leisure continues to rise. Providing high quality services to the public and businesses around the world is a core function of the FCO and as important as anything else we do. For most people, these services are the part of the FCO’s work that they experience most directly.
Around 2,000 staff are engaged in our visa operations, and around 1,000 on consular services. In total, over a quarter of our staff worldwide work directly in service delivery. High quality support to British nationals abroad is now a strategic priority in its own right, reflecting the importance the UK public and we attach to it.
More open, flexible and diverse
The FCO needs to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. Delivering services, influencing others and shaping change needs a flexible and targeted diplomatic network. The strategic priorities provide the framework for deploying our efforts as resources remain tight and demand for our services grows.
We will build on our core strengths - regional expertise, negotiating, communicating, language and influencing skills and a strong tradition of service. We will develop further the specialist, management and finance skills needed to run a complex and diverse organisation and provide the quality services our citizens expect. And we will draw on the talent of people of different backgrounds, better reflecting the country we represent
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