Tag Archives: foreign office

Time for a Distinctive Liberal Democrat Policy on Ending Conflict

The Foreign Office has an unspoken strategy: whenever possible, it frames conflict as a humanitarian disaster, not a political problem requiring a political solution. Supporting UN aid efforts is laudable, but it is also easier than devoting diplomatic time and capital confronting deep-seated issues like systemic corruption, the persecution of minorities or the marginalisation of ethnic groups. No wonder so many civil wars defy our efforts to secure a genuine sustainable peace.  

The current violence in Sudan is an example of how officials respond to conflict as if it were an earthquake rather than a man-made disaster. Twenty years ago, officials treated the ethnic cleansing in Darfur like a disease rather than a racist expression of the Sudanese regime’s policy to eliminate its Black African civilians. The ideology behind the slaughter in Darfur was never acknowledged, just as Milosevic’s plans for Greater Serbia and the Interahamwe’s genocidal ambitions to erase Rwanda’s Tutsi minority were ignored by diplomats at the time. 

Another Foreign Office strategy is to cling to the old, discredited elites when searching for a negotiated settlement. In Sudan, the architects of the violence were seen as the international community’s partners in the search for peace. Over the last two decades, the voices of civilians were largely ignored, while the elite – and the men with guns – made promises they were never asked to keep. No benchmarks were set, and there was no mechanism to deliver consequences for failure to fulfil commitments made to negotiators. It was Bosnia all over again.

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Philip Hammond on Coalition with the Lib Dems: horses for courses?

philip hammond house magazineThere’s an interesting interview with Tory defence secretary Philip Hammond in this week’s House magazine. Two snippets in particular will be of interest to Lib Dem readers.

Let’s start with the defence department and horses. In the lead-up to the spending review when tensions were spilling over between the treasury and the spending departments, Danny Alexander remarked in an interview: “Of course, in a department that has more horses than it has tanks, there are room for efficiency savings without affecting our overall military output.”

Danny’s jibe stung …

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Jeremy Browne MP writes: Supporting those who have lost loved ones overseas

Losing a loved one is a difficult and sad burden to bear. But when that death is under suspicious circumstances abroad, the situation can be even more bewildering and traumatic.

During my time as a Minister in the Foreign Office, I have met a number of families who have had a relative murdered in a foreign country. Speaking to these families, MPs and NGO’s highlighted to me the need for the Foreign Office to do more to support these families in difficult times. I made a commitment to Parliament last year to review the support we offer for British nationals …

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