WELCOME TO THE JULY/AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF DIPLOMAT
With the Bank of England’s admission that the country nearly went bust as the financial markets plunged into turmoil back in March of this year, addressing the latest developments in the global economy has never been timelier.
By the time you read this we will have launched our new video conference series: The World Economic Series: Rebooting the World Economy. Working alongside our partners at Public Policy Projects, we have created a new global virtual forum for Heads of Mission to open a dialogue between countries about these new priorities, sharing thought leadership and innovation from around the world.
At our launch event in late June, we kicked off with keynote speakers The Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman William Russell and Her Majesty’s Representative the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps Alistair Harrison. So, if you haven’t already signed up, I do hope that you can join us on the various dates we have lined up for events with the Ambassadors of Japan, the EU and Thailand in the month ahead. Do contact me for further details.
A common theme has been the renewed importance of international collaboration in this post-COVID world. Chair of our new webinar series and former UK Health Minister Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell says “now is the time to celebrate collaboration, dialogue and diplomacy.”
In his regular Westminster Reflections column, Sir Bernard Jenkin believes the current situation is “a huge opportunity for renewal” for Boris Johnson’s government. But “the most difficult tasks have not yet started,” he says. “Controlling the pandemic is one thing, but the economic and social policies required to navigate economies out of the crisis without reigniting the pandemic is far more complicated.”
In our cover story, the Prime Minister’s decision to merge the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development was long-expected but the timing has taken many by surprise. The BBC’s James Landale discusses Britain’s diplomacy, development and the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. He reminds us that the UK’s aid budget provides it with “huge soft power.” But on the other hand, the PM has said that for too long, Britain’s aid budget had been seen as a “cash-point in the sky,” detached from British diplomatic and commercial priorities. APCO Executive Director Simon McGee offers a personal account of his experience as press secretary and head of news in both ministries, but predicts a difficult gestation for the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. He suggests that right now perhaps the FCO should be focused on ensuring that the end of the post-Brexit transition period brings as little disruption as possible.
The FCOD and health crisis aside, it is important to acknowledge recent events in the US and the powerful images of police violence, racism and the ensuing protests that have engaged people around the globe. Our charity partner Football for Peace believes sports diplomacy can help. They focus on football – a pursuit that means so much to four billion people worldwide – to connect and bridge people, laying a foundation for saving lives. Take the example of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who protested “systematic oppression” and police brutality against Americans of African ancestry by taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016. Two years later, Nike made Kaepernick the face of the social justice campaign, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” Powerful stuff.
In this vein of tolerance and understanding, contributor Harry Cluff says that regardless of your religious and political persuasion, we all have something to learn from reading the Qur’an. He says that this “literary masterpiece … urgently needs to be understood by non-Muslims.” Especially given that there are over 1.8 billion Muslims alive today, making up almost a quarter of the people on the planet.
Diplomat also continues to review the credentials of new heads of mission to the Court of St James’s, this month meeting the Ambassadors of Algeria and Hungary, along with the High Commissioner for Zambia. Again, social distancing measures meant that these interviews were conducted online, so I look forward to a time when I can meet these Heads of Mission face-to-face, along with all others that have arrived in the past couple of months.
And finally, you will notice this is our second digital edition of Diplomat magazine. While so many diplomats continue to work from home – whether that’s in London or back home in their capital – they are unable to pick up their copy of the magazine from the embassy, so it seems to be the wise choice for now.
Please do stay in touch and send me article suggestions, new appointments and mission news that you would like covered. Follow and contact us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – we are happy to share your news on social media too.
Please stay safe in the meantime.
VENETIA DE BLOCQ VAN KUFFELER