The week in foreign policy

This week in foreign policy and global affairs saw London host the UK-Africa summit. Around one third of Africa’s leaders attended the conference on 20th January. The Economist assesses Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to woo leaders, telling them ‘Africa is the future’. As the influence of the Department for International Development has grown, that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has shrunk, as detailed in BFPG report ‘Running out of Credit’, cited in the article. Africa has thus become isolated as a ‘development issue’, with Britain’s diplomatic footprint in Africa much smaller than what it was.

The announcement at the end of last year that the death toll in the war in Yemen now exceeds 100,000 went largely unnoticed in the UK amidst the aftermath of the election. Anna Stavianakis, writing for The Guardian, explores Britain’s role in the conflict, in supplying military and diplomatic support to the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the highest number of reported civilian fatalities. 

Libya’s calamitous descent into unending conflict has led successive British governments to wash their hands of the country. Con Coughlin, writing in the Telegraph, argues that Britain has a ‘deep moral obligation’ to try and end the fighting, and ‘bring some semblance of stability to Libya after all the turmoil of the past decade.’ However, the gulf left by countries ‘washing their hands’ of the conflict has left other powers, such as Russia, Turkey and Germany, to call the shots.

After Brexit, the United Kingdom will be looking beyond our traditional alliances for new friends in emerging markets. Anna Grugel Smith asks ‘what cards can the UK play in Latin America?’ in OpenDemocracy this week. Smith notes that despite a fairly strong relationship between the EU and Latin America, Britain’s independent relationship with the region has certainly been dwindling since the early 20th century. Not only is there very little trade between the UK and the region but other than the dispute over the Falkland Islands Britain plays a very limited role in regard to political and strategic policy within Latin America. 

More news from the UK-Africa Investment Summit, a major point in the last week in foreign policy, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain will put “people before passports” as he pledged a fairer migration system at an investment summit for African leaders in London Monday. Henry Ridgwell, writing in VOA, noted that Britain really turned on the charm offensive around the summit, with the Royal family a key prong. Host Prince William told his guests that “The African continent holds a very special place in my heart.” Ridgwell asks: “But do African nations embrace the vision of a “global Britain”? Sixteen African leaders attended the London summit, far fewer than the dozens of leaders who attended similar recent events in Japan, Russia and China.”


Matt Gillow

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.