Challenges of Modern Foreign Policy Making

On 17 May 2012 a variety of delegates ranging from embassy representatives to civil servants gathered to examine and discuss the first two years of the British coalition government’s engagement with the world.
One of the key issues brought up at the conference was the need for the United Kingdom to maintain and continue to establish a global economic presence. Alex Ellis, Director of Strategy at the Foreign Office, pointed out that the government had opened 11 new embassies, 8 new consulates and a number of language centres across the world to aid diplomatic and trade links. In regards to the European Union, John Peet of The Economist, Adam Hug from the Foreign Policy Centre and Tomi Huhtnanen of the Centre of European Studies stressed the need for stability in the Eurozone, particularly pertaining to Greece. 

In regards to the UK, differences between the coalition partners on the European issue were examined, as were the consequences of David Cameron’s December veto and his move away from the European People’s Party. On reaching out to the BRIC countries, the panel included representatives from Brazil and Russia and a variety of issues were discussed, including the effect of the Falklands on trading with Latin America and Ryzhkov Maxim’s argument for the Europeanization of the Russian polity. The consistent theme of these panels was the need for the UK to reach out to current and new trading partners, in order to open up the road for business to develop and invest in other countries - a key objective for politicians and diplomats alike.

The other dominant focus of the day was the approach the UK should take to assure international security and peace building. The Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring gained general consensus that Britain should be ready to work with Islamic political parties and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Interventions from the floor were useful, with one delegate pointing to the dangers for women in the region. Potential reform of the United Nations Security Council was posited, as were solutions to the crisis in Syria. The central importance of the Israeli-Palestine conflict was consistently stressed, and Jeffrey Donaldson MP pointed to the lessons learnt from the Northern Ireland peace process in addressing this rift. In the final panel, Bernard Jenkin MP and Quintin Oliver, CEO of Stratagem International offered critiques of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, and the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, Nafees Zakaria offered a staunch defence of Pakistan’s role in the fight against the Taliban. All in all, there was a desire for peace to be acquired through diplomacy with a realist analysis of the routes towards this objective.

Grassroot Diplomat found that many of the issues brought up at the event are linked to the merits of grassroot diplomacy. By connecting companies to governments, Grassroot Diplomat can make it easier for businesses to reach goals of international investment. Moreover, by fostering a healthy relationship between charities and governments across the world, those organisations that attempt to spread peace and prosperity in poverty-stricken countries will be stronger. What may seem like an out-of-reach and governmental decision actually relies on the efforts of those on the ground and the concept of grassroot diplomacy strives to achieve this vital participation.

As Younes El Ghazi, CEO of the Global Diplomatic Forum made clear in his opening speech, the conference was a good platform for debate and representation from many different countries and sectors. 

The overwhelming view was that power has been decentralised and dispersed, and that the world has become more uncertain and less stable. Nevertheless, government and civil society alike has a role in overcoming these problems, whether economically or security orientated, and the Global Diplomatic Forum’s event was a fine way to explore such solutions.