Finding Britain’s role in a changing world


This latest report from UK think tank the Foreign Policy Centre looks at projecting the UK’s values abroad.

This new Finding Britain’s role in a changing world: Projecting the UK’s values abroad publication sets out a wide range of ideas for how the UK can do things differently in the future to support and promote its values in its foreign policy. This essay collection has been edited by Foreign Policy Centre Director Adam Hug. It includes contributions from: Cat Tully (Founder of School of International Futures [SOIF]) and Sophie Middlemiss (Policy and Strategic Comms Advisor at SOIF); Jonas Parello-Plesner (Executive Director of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation); Ben Judah (Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council) and Georgina Wright (Senior Researcher at the Institute for Government); Alex Cobham (Chief Executive of the Tax Justice Network), Andres Knobel (Senior Researcher at the Tax Justice Network) and Robert Palmer (Executive Director of Tax Justice UK); Luke Murphy (Head of the Environmental Justice Commission); Ruth Bergan (Senior Adviser at the Trade Justice Movement) and David Lawrence (Senior Political Adviser at the Trade Justice Movement); Dr Joe Devanny (Lecturer at King’s College London); and Dr Victoria Honeyman (Associate Professor at the University of Leeds).

2021 is going to be an important year for the UK’s global ambitions. Exiting both the post-Brexit transition period and, vaccines permitting, the toughest COVID restrictions the UK will have an opportunity to set out its vision for the future through the publication of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy and to put that new strategy into practice through its dual leadership of the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP). The UK should carve out a new niche that builds on its soft power strengths and history as a global hub to position itself as a, or even the, ‘library of democracy’ by providing the necessary tools to support those defending human rights and democracy around the world. This requires support for the UK’s world class universities, NGOs and media outlets and getting the Home Office to better provide sanctuary to activists in need and access for those wanting to visit the UK. The UK should build on the success so far of the new Magnitsky sanctions and use aid to better support open societies and human rights objectives. Given the tendency of kleptocratic autocrats and their hangers on to funnel their money to or through UK jurisdictions, the fights against corruption and to support democracy are mutually supportive. Delivering overdue legal reforms and enhancing the capacity of enforcement bodies will be crucial, as will be increasing the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders.

The UK must also learn the lessons of its own COVID procurement issues to boost credibility on transparency and accountability. The UK’s new trade function needs to be made more accountable to Parliament and the public, with deals containing stronger human rights and environmental protections, as well as a focus on supporting developing country economies to flourish. It should seek to make trade one plank of broader and more comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreements that combine it with more detailed plans for security, scientific, academic, cultural, aid and environmental collaboration.

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