At the British Foreign Office, savings at all levels

In ten years, the British have halved the cost of their diplomacy. “Between 2010 and 2015, its budget was cut by 50% from £2.5 billion” (2.9 billion euros) for a target of £1.28 billion (1.5 billion euros), How ? Primarily by saving on operating expenses (remuneration and maintenance/building rent) and not on programs (consular work, lobbying, security, etc.). In a lengthy report for the Foundation for Research on Administrations and Public Policies (IFRAP), explains Manon Meistermann, who is responsible for making proposals to modernize French diplomacy.

strict and regional diplomacy

The liberal think tank advised the Quai d’Orsay to draw some inspiration from the reforms undertaken in the United Kingdom. The rationalization of the Foreign Office network actually began in the mid-1990s. Stricter and more regional, it turned to economic diplomacy and relied more on local resources. From 1997 to 2011, the British Foreign Office closed 40 diplomatic posts, including 10 embassies. In the same period, 21 diplomatic posts would have been opened in countries deemed strategic (in Asia, Africa and the Middle East). Ultimately, 19 diplomatic posts will be abolished, including 10 in Europe and the United States.

Another objective is to reduce the Foreign Office’s payroll by widening the ranges of positions open to local agents. Since the 1990s, diplomatic networks have shifted from a national rationale to a local preference: at the end of 2013, 64% of British network employees are local agents. In 2013, out of a workforce of 14,336 people, 9,500 were agents. The math is simple: a local agent costs a third less than a British agent, even though they provide similar functions. 15% of local employees were already doing diplomatic work in 2014 (surveillance, lobbying, consular work, etc.).

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laptop ambassador

Manon Meisterman. noted the increasingly frequent use of laptop ambassador(portable ambassadors), agents based in London who, in addition to their functions in the central administration, provide remote surveillance of the country or countries for which they are responsible, with occasional visits.

Should we end with cut-rate diplomacy? A British diplomat posted abroad, who requested anonymity, made a less optimistic observation than Ifrap: “The Foreign Office has made the kind of reform that France wanted to do twenty years ago. The result was, she says, To demotivate diplomats to such an extent that some talk of drawing inspiration from the “French model”, that is, … they are trying to go back, but it is very difficult. ,

→ read. An opportunistic British foreign policy

The Foreign Office and its then-minister, Dominic Raab, were not spared from sharp criticism during the disastrous British withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, blamed for multiple dysfunctions within the ministry and a lack of cohesion of British foreign policy.

a feminization of the profession

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office is widely open to women, including in senior positions, while they could not even be diplomats until 1946. Until 1973, he was asked to resign if he married. Married female ambassadors were not sent to the post until 1987. Finally, if they had any children, they would have to leave their posts and return to the country, a rule that was late.

The entry into the government of Boris Johnson, who was himself Foreign Minister of Theresa May, has accelerated the feminization of the profession. Today, all British embassies in the G7 countries (the club of the richest countries on the planet) are headed by women. In Paris, it is Menna Rollings, a career diplomat who heads the Chancellor of Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, the first woman since 43 men. And for the second time in UK history, a woman, Liz Truss, heads the Foreign Office.

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About the Author: Forrest Morton

Organizer. Zombie aficionado. Wannabe reader. Passionate writer. Twitter lover. Music scholar. Web expert.

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