Shoulder to Shoulder » UK-US defence, development & foreign policy blog

Proud to be a British (female) Diplomat

When I first told my dad that I wanted to be a British diplomat, he told me not to be daft; as a woman who hadn’t studied at either Oxford or Cambridge University, I didn’t stand a chance, he said. I like to think he was protecting me from disappointment. Or perhaps he was employing reverse psychology. Either way, I set out to prove him wrong. Now, nearly 20 years … Read more »Proud to be a British (female) Diplomat

Battles historic and partnerships enduring

The P-51 Mustang was an iconic fighter aircraft in US combat service during the 1940s and 1950s during the Second World War, and the Korean War. A global phenomenon, it was also pressed into service by allies including Australia, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, France and the Netherlands. It was first flown operationally by the UK’s Royal Air Force as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber. The Mustang was the … Read more »Battles historic and partnerships enduring

Testing new technologies for the battlefield

The following is a guest post from Captain Graham Henderson, Plans Staff Officer within the Headquarters of the UK’s 1st Mechanized Brigade who participated in the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE). Heavy wind gusts and unforgiving terrain set ideal conditions for testing new equipment in a joint exercise known as the NIE. The Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) is the US Army’s flagship capability development event that is at the very forefront … Read more »Testing new technologies for the battlefield

Impressions from Pyongyang

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“What do British people hate?” A straightforward question – but context is everything. When posed by an earnest thirteen-year-old North Korean schoolboy, in a Q&A discussion with British diplomatic visitors, it took me by surprise. But then much of what my colleagues and I experienced during a week-long familiarisation visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of (i.e. North) Korea – the world’s most secretive regime and arguably its worst human-rights … Read more »Impressions from Pyongyang

The next step forward

When Google unveiled its latest prototype of a self-driving car in May, it marked a new stage in the relationship between humans and autonomous vehicles in a very public way. But it is just one visible piece of the technical progress in areas such as autonomous systems, advanced manufacturing, and in the thinking on how humans will interact with these new technologies in the future as they become universal. Then … Read more »The next step forward

From Washington to Beijing

One of the hardest things I have to do is explain my job. I work on Asia at the British Embassy in Washington DC, and “why?” is the most common question. And, particularly from Americans, “But the UK isn’t a Pacific nation, you haven’t got any skin in the game.” But the simple answer is that Asia, and the ways in which it is changing, matters a lot to everyone. … Read more »From Washington to Beijing

Incentivizing Innovation in #Development

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I’ve been getting into Twitter in the last couple of weeks. I know I’m only five years later than everyone else, but I’m loving the new insights and the quirkiness of it all. Two things were “trending” on my Twitter timeline recently that, seemingly unrelated, made me reflect on the incentives shaping donor effectiveness. The Global Development Lab First, USAID launched its Global Development Lab (#GlobalDevLab). This happened with much … Read more »Incentivizing Innovation in #Development

Inherited Identities, New Futures

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Diaspora – from Greek, “scattering, dispersion” Identity can be a complicated thing. What does it mean to be part of a diaspora? Do people always carry the old country with them or do they gradually leave it behind? You could read Zadie Smith or Jhumpa Lahiri for some answers. This isn’t a fictional question for me. Over a hundred years ago, facing poverty in Yemen, my great-grandfather Saeed moved his family to … Read more »Inherited Identities, New Futures

We Stand #withSyria in DC

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Saturday will mark the third anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria. For me, Syria has been a big part of my working and personal life this week and for the last few years. In my day job we’ve been working with the US and others on ways to secure better access into Syria for humanitarian assistance. More than 3.5 million people are living in areas of Syria that are … Read more »We Stand #withSyria in DC

Africa 2014: pessimism, optimism, or both?

Africa has had a “bad start” to 2014. Or so I keep hearing. But I wonder, how does a whole continent have a bad start? Do a billion people collectively have a bad day? What people usually mean is that Africa has experienced a lot of violence this year. No denying that. Horrific atrocities in the Central African Republic or grotesque attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria or Al-Shabaab in … Read more »Africa 2014: pessimism, optimism, or both?