Our relations and aims region by region.
Overall British Foreign Policy.
This introduces a review of our links with 19 regions of the world. First some general principles.
We need to get out in the world and influence it for the better. Since the end of Empire and since the Second World War we have drawn in on ourselves. We seem to have lost our vision and our confidence that there’s a job for us to do in the world and that we are needed. Some individuals and some charities are interested in the world but our concern for the welfare of the world needs to be our national passion and our motivation in life. We need to engage with world issues and to regain our confidence that we can make a difference.
Tony Blair took us into the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan alongside the Americans. Our forces went but the society that sent them was lukewarm about the commitments. Indeed the decisions may have been fudged but we sent our service personnel. They laboured in the heat and did their job courageously and generally with good humour and returned to a society that wasn’t interested except to criticise our own leaders. That may be a bit harsh but I do think there was a mismatch between the spirit of our troops and to apathetic spirit of the nation that sent them.
To do any real good in the world our interest has to shared not just by our Armed Forces or by charities or isolated individuals. It needs to be the sober, constant mainstream commitment of the nation as a whole with as few passengers and opponents as we can manage. We can only win such consensus by openly and honestly presenting our case – and that is what I am seeking to do. The world needs us and a wholesome world role should be something we embrace as a whole society.
Foreign Office funding has been cut (which is bad because politics matters) while the overseas aid budget has grown hugely (which is probably good – but it depends what we do with it and what else we do, because some other things we do can undermine the benefits of what we can do with aid).
So let’s keep a good Foreign Office because politics matters in the world. Minister’s travelling abroad these days always go with a trade agenda. That’s fine but it shouldn’t lull us into thinking that our key priority is to make money out of our links with other countries. We should have a really good export economy but not at the cost of saying and doing the right things in the political sphere. Sometimes the two may conflict as when we are morally obliged to confront tyrants at cost of losing contracts with them.
The British Council and the BBC World Service should present our ideals and our way of life in the world … and of course that way of life has to be got right right so that we can present a good example to the world.
Our domestic media including the more mass media and popular press should get more interested in real world issues affecting real people. The world should be just a place you go for holidays burning lots of fuel on the way. Nor should it be merely a place to try to off-load goods that don’t really fit the other country’s needs.
What right have we to seek to persuade the rest of the world to do anything differently from the way they do? Mainly because we care about ordinary people and in some cases governments have signed international codes of behaviour like the UN codes on Human Rights and Civil and Political Liberties. Even if they haven’t tyrants don’t like to be exposed and get embarrassed and sometimes reform under the shame of exposure of their misdeeds.
The key to making the world a better place is to be interested in really understanding it in depth and being friends and protectors of brave citizens in repressive countries who are trying to change things from within.
Such people are vulnerable to tyrants and need us to be reliable and diligent friends who will come to their aid if they are persecuted for standing up for what is right.
Prompt casework in support of human rights or democracy or other virtues can make a decisive difference.
Often a promptly sent letter to the offending government or government agent or embassy will make a crucial difference. Even better may be turning up on the embassy doorstep in London belonging to the offending government on the morning after they have done something wrong. There one can often politely make ones point and the message may well get back to the offending government’s capital and change things while they can be changed.
Set an example: If, say, we have an NHS or a railway system or a way of doing democracy and running our lives that is obviously a really good way to do it, news will get around. Our reputation will go before us and the citizens of other countries will take encouragement and start to work to copy our ways in their own land.
Conversely, if we are making a mess of things here, no amount of aid or loud messages will win over people who can see on modern media that we are sending a contradictory message.
So let’s be a good country and we will win out battles to make the world better by winning the hearts of people all over the world to our way of doing things and of living happily together. We’ve got a way to go to achieve that.
If people in lands troubled by Islamism see that our basically Christian society here is a better way to do things then we will eventually win their hearts and violent people set against us won’t prevail.
If people in poor lands, on the other hand, see a greedy heartless society in Britain, aid from Britain will be received with suspicion and won’t win hearts.
So lets’ be lovely society and win nations throughout the world to the way we do things.