Peter Jones

Chief Operating Officer

Guest blogger for FCO Editorial

Part of Digital Diplomacy

11th July 2019 London, UK

Diplomacy has never been more relevant. Here’s why

Last year was the deadliest year on record for journalists. UNESCO records suggest that at least 99 journalists were killed, 348 imprisoned and 60 held hostage. That is why, this week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has jointly hosted with the Canadian government a major international conference in London, putting media freedom at the forefront of the global political agenda. Journalists must be able to report the truth without fear of retaliation, arrest or imprisonment. This is the lifeblood of democracy and helps ensure that society is free, fair and open.

Across our network of Embassies and High Commissions, our Diplomatic Service works every day to protect the safety of all UK citizens, to promote the prosperity of the United Kingdom, resist the erosion of the rules-based international system, and protect freedom and human rights. Our latest Annual Report, published today, provides a snapshot of the impact of our diplomatic efforts.

Our consular services assisted 22,000 Brits in difficulty around the world last year and our consular staff responded to 14 major incidents, including the Lombok earthquake which killed over 500 people.

In preparation for EU exit, we have delivered an extensive set of agreements for Gibraltar, negotiated continued trade access with a number of third countries and prepared to implement an autonomous sanctions policy. We have striven to protect UK nationals residing in the EU, and have secured assurances from all EU member states that our nationals will retain the same rights they now have.

We ensured that the UK remains a global leader in promoting international peace and security. In Yemen, we persuaded the parties to attend peace talks for the first time in two years in December 2018. The imminent humanitarian crisis was averted and a ceasefire in Hodeidah held. The situation remains fragile and, through the UN, we continue to support the political process towards peace and stabilisation of the region.

We have exercised global leadership of free trade and economic diplomacy, supported UK export promotion, including the Government of Australia’s announcement that BAE Systems will design and build nine frigates for the Royal Australian Navy, and promoted economic development and security through the Prosperity Fund.

We are at a pivotal moment for the UK. The new challenges we face in an ever-more interconnected world mean effective foreign policy is critical to ensuring the security and prosperity of British citizens. We are working to ensure that partnerships with our European partners will remain strong after we leave the EU, and we are forging new friendships elsewhere.

We will continue to lead on the world stage, projecting our influence to tackle complex global challenges and diverse threats, from hostile state actors to terrorists, while demonstrating leadership on important issues like emerging technology and climate change. The challenges and opportunities of an increasingly complex and competitive world make it crystal clear that continued investment in British diplomacy is vital.

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