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Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values: Executive Summary

Article by Adam Hug

September 29, 2020

Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values: Executive Summary

The ‘Protecting the UK’s ability to protect its values’ publication brings together a range of different expert perspectives that recognise the need to build on the UK’s existing international capacities and activities, while reforming, refining and where appropriate refocusing them. This means bringing together the right blend of the best parts of both the FCO and DFID to create an institutional culture combining expertise, flexibility and transparency; ensuring there is policy and operational coherence both within the department and with its international obligations; effective policy coordination across Government; and ensuring it can lead cooperation with external partners both in the UK and overseas, what in her essay Harpinder Collacott called the four ‘Cs’.


The FCDO should find new ways to bring in the stakeholders, the public and Parliament into the development of new country, regional and cross-departmental strategies, including a Government-wide human rights strategy. It needs to ensure that capacity is expanded rather than lost to enable diplomats to deal with the department’s growing workload. To help improve effective government and its global leadership efforts, it must protect existing transparency mechanisms such as ICAI and ensure its procurement policies are robust, accountable and in keeping with the UK’s values.


If the Integrated Review is going to set out the UK’s new international strategy, the publication argues it must build from a clear assessment of its existing assets. While sometimes difficult to quantify, it is clear that soft-power remains one of the UK’s enduring strengths, something to nurture and build on to help Britain continue to get a hearing around the world. At this time of pandemic and pressure on the public purse it is imperative for the UK’s long-term strategic reach that institutions like Universities, the BBC and the British Council, its globally relevant civil society, cultural and sporting sectors are able to survive and thrive, avoiding short-term asset stripping. The UK’s role as a cultural, civil society, media and higher education hub is of huge importance to help it maintain its international relevance in the years to come. It should also seek to protect institutions such as Universities and Parliament from the influence of authoritarian powers. While it responds to new challenges and priorities, the UK must also not forget areas where it has shown past leadership. Whether it is on Women’s and LGBTQ rights, PSVI, abolition of the death penalty, support for the rule of law and the rules based international system, protecting and building on its existing strengths will help the UK to prepare for the future and ensure its foreign policy remains firmly rooted in its values. So protecting and reforming the UK’s institutions, soft power assets and its capacity to govern should be at the heart of the Integrated Review and the future of UK foreign policy.


This publication makes a number of recommendations for Government. It should consider:

  • Ensuring the FCDO builds on the best traditions of its predecessor departments by:
    • Improving diplomatic capacity, including direct support for Ambassadors and through the use of Special Representatives;
    • Protecting and nurturing expertise;
    • Promoting the four ‘Cs’- a Culture of transparency, policy Coherence, Cooperation with stakeholders at home and abroad and Collaboration across Whitehall;
    • Developing new publically accessible country, regional and human rights strategies, through enhanced public, stakeholder and parliamentary engagement;
    • Sustaining longstanding UK leadership on PSVI, Death Penalty, Rule of law and the importance of multilateral institutions; and
    • Retaining full aid scrutiny through ICAI and a new parliamentary Select Committee.
  • Enhancing transparency, accountability and the importance of values in the operations of Government, particularly in areas such as procurement.
  • Protecting the soft power strength of the BBC, British Council, the UK universities, civil society, cultural industries and sporting sectors.


Image by MOD under (CC).

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