Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
According to the FCDO website, the department's key responsibilities (as of 2020) are as follows:
- Safeguarding the UK's national security by countering terrorism and weapons proliferation, and working to reduce conflict.
- Building the UK's prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth.
- Supporting British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.
In addition to the above responsibilities, the FCDO is responsible for the British Overseas Territories
This arrangement has been subject to criticism in the UK and in the overseas territories. For example, the Chief Minister of Anguilla
, Victor Banks
, said: "We are not foreign; neither are we members of the Commonwealth, so we should have a different interface with the UK that is based on mutual respect".
There have been numerous suggestions on ways to improve the relationship between the overseas territories and the UK. Suggestions have included setting up a dedicated department to handle relations with the overseas territories, and the absorption of the OTD in the Cabinet Office
, thus affording the overseas territories with better connections to the centre of government.
The FCDO Ministers are as follows:
The Foreign Office was formed in March 1782 by combining the Southern
Departments of the Secretary of State, each of which covered both foreign and domestic affairs in their parts of the Kingdom. The two departments' foreign affairs responsibilities became the Foreign Office, whilst their domestic affairs responsibilities were assigned to the Home Office
. The Home Office is technically the senior.
The western end of the FCDO Main Building in 1866, facing St James's Park
. It was then occupied by the Foreign and India Offices, while the Home and Colonial Offices occupied the Whitehall
During the 19th century, it was not infrequent for the Foreign Office to approach The Times
newspaper and ask for continental intelligence, which was often superior to that conveyed by official sources.
Examples of journalists who specialized in foreign affairs and were well connected to politicians included: Henry Southern
, Valentine Chirol
, Harold Nicolson, and Robert Bruce Lockhart
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1968–2020)
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office held responsibility for international development
issues between 1970 and 1974, and again between 1979 and 1997.
The National Archives
website contains a Government timeline to show the departments responsible for Foreign Affairs from 1945.
Under New Labour (1997–2010)
When David Miliband
took over as Foreign Secretary in June 2007, he set in hand a review of the FCO's strategic priorities. One of the key messages of these discussions was the conclusion that the existing framework of ten international strategic priorities, dating from 2003, was no longer appropriate. Although the framework had been useful in helping the FCO plan its work and allocate its resources, there was agreement that it needed a new framework to drive its work forward.
The new strategic framework consists of three core elements:
- A flexible global network of staff and offices, serving the whole of the UK Government.
- Three essential services that support the British economy, British nationals abroad and managed migration for Britain. These services are delivered through UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), consular teams in Britain and overseas, and UK Visas and Immigration.
- Four policy goals:
- countering terrorism and weapons proliferation and their causes
- preventing and resolving conflict
- promoting a low-carbon, high-growth, global economy
- developing effective international institutions, in particular the United Nations and the European Union.
In August 2005, a report by management consultant group Collinson Grant was made public by Andrew Mackinlay
. The report severely criticised the FCO's management structure, noting:
- The Foreign Office could be "slow to act".
- Delegation is lacking within the management structure.
- Accountability was poor.
- The FCO could feasibly cut 1200 jobs.
- At least £48 million could be saved annually.
The Foreign Office commissioned the report to highlight areas which would help it achieve its pledge to reduce spending by £87 million over three years. In response to the report being made public, the Foreign Office stated it had already implemented the report's recommendations.
In 2009, Gordon Brown created the position of Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) to the FCO. The first science adviser was David C. Clary.
Coalition and Conservatives (2010–2020)
New UK Diplomatic Posts – April 2013
In 2012, the Foreign Office was criticised by Gerald Steinberg
of the Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor
, saying that the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development provided more than £500,000 in funding to Palestinian NGOs which he said "promote political attacks on Israel". In response, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said "we are very careful about who and what we fund. The objective of our funding is to support efforts to achieve a two-state solution. Funding a particular project for a limited period of time does not mean that we endorse every single action or public comment made by an NGO or by its employees."
In September 2012, the FCO and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs signed a Memorandum of Understanding on diplomatic cooperation, which promotes the co-location of embassies, the joint provision of consular services, and common crisis response. The project has been criticised for further diminishing the UK's influence in Europe.
In 2011, the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, announced the government's intention to a number of new diplomatic posts in order to enhance the UK's overseas network.
As such, eight new embassies and six new consulates were opened around the world.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (2020–present)
On 16 June 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson
announced the merger of the FCO with the Department for International Development
This was following the decision in the February 2020 cabinet reshuffle
to give cross-departmental briefs to all junior ministers in the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office.
The merger, which created the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, took place in September 2020
with a stated aim of ensuring that aid
is spent "in line with the UK's priorities overseas".
The merger was criticised by three former prime ministers – Gordon Brown
, Tony Blair
and David Cameron
– with Cameron saying that it would mean "less respect for the UK overseas".
The Chief Executive of Save the Children
, Kevin Watkins, called it "reckless, irresponsible and a dereliction of UK leadership" that "threatens to reverse hard-won gains in child survival, nutrition and poverty".
A map of the UK, British Overseas Territories & Crown Dependencies
Following a prior announcement by the then Foreign Secretary William Hague
, the FCO opened the Diplomatic Academy
in February 2015.
The new centre, opened by the Duke of Cambridge
, was established in order to create a cross-government centre of excellence for all civil servants working on international issues.
The Diplomatic Academy serves to broaden the FCO's network and engaged in more collaborative work with academic and diplomatic partners.
The FCDO, through its core departmental budget, funds projects which are in line with its policy priorities outlined in its Single Departmental Plan.
This funding includes both Official Development Assistance
(ODA), and non-ODA funds. The funds are used for a wide range of projects and serve to support traditional diplomatic activities.
The FCDO plays a key role in delivering two, major UK government funds which work to support the government's National Security Strategy
and Aid Strategy.
- The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) – Used to support cross-governmental efforts at reducing conflict-related risks in countries which the UK has important interests.
- The Prosperity Fund – Supports economic development and reform in the UK's partner countries.
The FCDO also supports a number of academic funds:
2021 aid budget cuts
In 2021, the UK government announced its intention to cut its overseas aid budget from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5% of GNI
despite UK legislation against such a move.
These cuts, amounting to GBP 4 billion,
reduced funding for humanitarian intervention by 44%
in places like Yemen
It also cut funding for the fight against polio
Funding for girls education worldwide was also reduced by 25%.
In April 2006, a new executive agency
was established, FCO Services (now FCDO Services), to provide corporate service functions.
It moved to Trading Fund
status in April 2008, so that it had the ability to provide services similar to those it already offers to the FCDO
to other government departments and even to outside businesses.
It is accountable to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, and provides secure support services to the FCDO, other government departments and foreign governments and bodies with which the UK has close links.
Since 2011, FCDO Services has been developing the Government Secure Application Environment (GSAE) on a secure cloud computing
platform to support UK government organisations.
It also manages the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping (UK NACE) which helps protect UK assets from physical, electronic and cyber attack
For over 10 years, FCDO Services has been working globally, to keep customer assets and information safe. FCDO Services is a public sector organisation, it is not funded by the public and has to rely on the income it produces to meet its costs, by providing services on a commercial basis to customers both in the UK and throughout the world. Its Accounting Officer and Chief Executive is accountable to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and to Parliament, for the organisation's performance and conduct.
As well as embassies abroad, the FCDO has premises within the UK:
The FCO formerly also used the following building:
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office occupies a building which originally provided premises for four separate government departments: the Foreign Office
, the India Office
, the Colonial Office
, and the Home Office
. Construction on the building began in 1861 and finished in 1868, on the plot of land bounded by Whitehall, King Charles Street, Horse Guards Road
and Downing Street
. The building was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott
Its architecture is in the Italianate
style; Scott had initially envisaged a Gothic
design, but Lord Palmerston
, then Prime Minister, insisted on a classical style.
The English sculptors Henry Hugh Armstead
and John Birnie Philip
produced a number of allegorical figures ("Art", "Law", "Commerce", etc.) for the exterior.
In 1925 the Foreign Office played host to the signing of the Locarno Treaties
, aimed at reducing tension in Europe. The ceremony took place in a suite of rooms that had been designed for banqueting, which subsequently became known as the Locarno Suite.
During the Second World War, the Locarno Suite's fine furnishings were removed or covered up, and it became home to a Foreign Office code-breaking department.
Due to increasing numbers of staff, the offices became increasingly cramped and much of the fine Victorian
interior was covered over—especially after the Second World War
. In the 1960s, demolition was proposed, as part of major redevelopment plan for the area drawn up by the architect Sir Leslie Martin
A subsequent public outcry prevented these proposals from ever being implemented. Instead, the Foreign Office became a Grade I listed building
In 1978, the Home Office moved to a new building, easing overcrowding.
With a new sense of the building's historical value, it underwent a 17-year, £100 million restoration process, completed in 1997.
The Locarno Suite, used as offices and storage since the Second World War, was fully restored for use in international conferences. The building is now open to the public each year over Open House Weekend
In 2014 refurbishment to accommodate all Foreign and Commonwealth Office employees into one building was started by Mace
The Grand Staircase
The Grand Locarno Room
The Durbar Court at the former India Office
, now part of the FCDO
The Muse Staircase
are handled centrally from Whitehall
on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom
and its dependencies. However, the devolved administrations also maintain an overseas presence in the European Union
, the U.S. and China alongside British diplomatic missions. These offices aim to promote their own economies and ensure that devolved interests are taken into account in British foreign policy
. Ministers from devolved administrations can attend international negotiations when agreed with the British Government e.g. EU fisheries negotiations.
Similarly, ministers from the devolved administrations meet at approximately quarterly intervals through the Joint Ministerial Committee (Europe), chaired by the Foreign Secretary to "discuss matters bearing on devolved responsibilities that are under discussion within the European Union."
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Last edited on 1 June 2021, at 00:40
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