Today the Foreign Secretary announced that the UK is opening a new embassy in Madagascar. This is the latest in a series of announcements of new diplomatic posts, of which the announcement that the UK would reopen an embassy in El Salvador was one of the first.
To date, the UK has opened new embassies in Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan and Kyrgyzstan, new consulates general in Calgary, Canada and Recife, Brazil, and a new deputy high commission in Hyderabad in India. In the process of being established are embassies in Liberia, Somalia, Madagascar, Laos, Haiti and Paraguay, and a new deputy high commission in Chandigarh, India. Including El Salvador, that makes 14 new posts in total.
This marks a strategic shift in British diplomacy. A greater spread of British representation across the world is being established, and the focus is on emerging powers and regions of significant importance where the UK has become under-represented. Diplomats are being ‘shifted’, quite literally, to the new posts being opened in these regions, to make the most of opportunities that can be generated from closer diplomatic, cultural and commercial relationships with the UK.
Almost a year and a half on from the initial announcement that the UK would reopen its embassy in El Salvador, we have successfully pioneered the FCO’s network shift, and piloted many smart new ways of working. Being at the crest of the wave of new posts has been exciting and challenging.
Knowing more about the context of the reopening of the embassy in El Salvador puts our priorities and work in the country into perspective. El Salvador is in a region where the UK had, over the years, become under-represented. Commercial opportunities have been missed by British business, and the UK has become culturally distant.
Our experience in establishing and now working from the new post has however highlighted the warmth between the UK and El Salvador, and the relationships that we have built and opportunities for collaboration that we have discovered so far have certainly vindicated the decision to reopen the embassy.
There is still a lot of work to be done within the FCO’s programme of network shift, but some great results are starting to prove it very worthwhile. We wish the team who will set up the new embassy in Madagascar good luck!