|View the Leadership Conference film: Prime Minister and Government Ministers discuss the impact of globalisation and how the FCO network helps them to deliver the international strategic priorities.|
Foreword by the former Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett
"Tackling the upheavals of today, building security and prosperity for tomorrow"
That is certainly the case for the direct services the FCO provides. People are travelling more than ever before. Last year our consular services helped 27,772 people in serious distress overseas. We sent our largest ever rapid deployment team to support the evacuation from Lebanon, we set up a network of mobile consular offices for the World Cup in Germany, and we rolled out a new biometric passport IT system on time and on budget. The global economy is bringing new challenges for British business too. Last year we implemented a new strategy for UK Trade & Investment and the first ever FCO strategy on corporate social responsibility. Increasingly our partnership with business is as much about sustainable development as about developing new markets. And, of course, it's not just money that is flowing around the world, people are too. Here we face the twin challenges of keeping our borders secure while attracting the skills we need for our economy. Last year UKvisas dealt with 2.5 million people who wanted to come to Britain.
Those same global forces are changing the way we do political work. We cannot define our national interest in the old language of ’balance-of-power diplomacy’. Today our job is to persuade people around the world that our common interests – and common values – mean we have to work together to tackle shared challenges; and then turn that consensus into real action on the ground.
Part of that, of course, is about tackling the most caustic points of conflict and tension in the world. In the past year, FCO staff have been in the front line working for peace in Iraq, Darfur, Lebanon and Afghanistan. We have worked multilaterally in the United Nations (UN) and through the European Union (EU), or bilaterally with our strategic partners, to make a positive difference to all these problems and others such as our concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Our staff do a great job, often in difficult and dangerous conditions.
At the same time, we have to address the underlying insecurities that feed and exacerbate these tensions. One of the most worrying is the threat of an unstable climate. One of my first moves as Foreign Secretary was to make climate security a Strategic International Priority in June 2006, and I appointed a Special Representative to lead the FCO’s work in this area. We are helping to shift the international debate from a purely environmental one to one that understands the threat that an unstable climate poses to our basic security. At the same time, we are continuing to work to address many of the other stresses that run through our global community, from underdevelopment and poor governance, to the abuse of human rights and inequalities in the global trading system. In that respect, one of the most notable achievements of the last year was the agreement at the United Nations to begin negotiations on an International Arms Trade Treaty.
The aim of our foreign policy, then, is not just to tackle the upheavals of today but to build long-term security and prosperity. This Departmental Report sets out how the FCO has contributed to that over the last year working closely with other government departments and our partners outside government. I hope you find it of interest.