Skip to content

Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values

Edited by

The Foreign Policy Centre’s new Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Protecting the UK’s ability to defend its values publication examines how to build on and reform the UK’s existing capabilities and strengths both inside and outside government to protect its values.

This essay collection has been edited by Foreign Policy Centre Director Adam Hug. It includes contributions from: Harpinder Collacott (Executive Director of Development Initiatives); Sir Ciarán Devane (Chief Executive of the British Council); Prof. John Heathershaw, Dr Saipira Furstenberg (University of Exeter), and Dr Tena Prelec (University of Oxford); Joe Powell (Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Open Government Partnership); Benjamin Ward (UK Director, Human Rights Watch); and Mark White (Director, First Call Partners).

The publication argues that the new FCDO must bring 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’.

It writes that 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. The FCDO 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 new 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.

Cover image by MOD under (CC).

Read More
Articles in this publication
Share on social media :

 Join our mailing list 

Keep informed about events, articles & latest publications from Foreign Policy Centre