Democracy. Russia. CIS.

British diplomacy: In need of a bit more “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, and a bit less Bordeaux?

Posted by democratist on July 1, 2010

1st July 2010

Democratist today avidly watched the speech given by new British Foreign Secretary William Hague, which sets out how the new coalition government is to conduct UK foreign policy.

We were especially pleased that Hague put renewed emphasis on the need for the UK to engage in a proactive foreign policy that places an “enlightened national interest” at it’s core: We fully support that notion that, as Hague stated, the UK needs a foreign policy that “…is ambitious in what it can achieve for others as well as ourselves, that is inspired by and seeks to inspire others with our values of political freedom…that is resolute in its support for those around the world who are striving to free themselves through their own efforts from poverty or political fetters.”

It was additionally notable that the new government underlined its commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013, and also that the importance of helping former Soviet states in the process of transition to democracy was mentioned directly.

With this in mind therefore, Democratist is keen that the FCO should immediately make clear that intends to fully back the UK’s commitment to OSCE ODIHR election observation over the next few years, and more specifically to ensuring (at the very least) that the UK sends the full complement of 10% of election observers to all future OSCE ODIHR election observation missions, a policy to which it had been largely committed prior to 2008 (but sadly somewhat neglected over the past two years).

Democratist conjectures that OSCE election observation is about the best value for money currently available to the UK in terms of its overseas aid/foreign policy in relation to the former Soviet Union. Election observation played a key role in the development of the Baltic States in the 1990’s, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova (considerably improving the relationships of each of these countries with the UK, and allowing for far higher levels of co-operation than had previously been possible). It retains huge potential to positively influence developments in countries as diverse as Belarus,  Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and even (over the longer-term) Russia itself. All this at a total average cost of just over £600,000 per annum (apparently less than the current value of the FCO’s wine cellar).

It should also be noted that, if the UK does not put people forward to work as observers, it means that certain, perhaps less well-intentioned countries gain proportionately more influence in the process of observation, and will be able to have greater influence on subsequent OSCE  statements and reports over the coming years. In a worst-case scenario, such an outcome could do significant damage to the OSCE’s reputation – and (as the Foreign Secretary so correctly noted in his speech) such damage is not easily repaired.

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