h1

FCO Strategic Objectives

October 10, 2010

I’m working on several posts on the British Council but by way of introduction it’s useful to say something about the planning framework that UK diplomatic activity takes place in.  Although strategic planning and budgeting are not the most exciting aspects of public diplomacy it’s important to understand the different ways in which these processes happen in different countries.

One signature of the Labour party in power from 1997 was it’s effort to ‘modernize’ British government, to consciously set targets and establish priorities and to get different parts of government to work together, ‘joined up government’ as it was inevitably referred to.  Although a lot of this made much more sense for domestic departments (ministries) the FCO was not exempt from this.

In UK government budget priorities are set for a three year period through a process known as a ‘spending review’ or ‘comprehensive spending review’.  During this process spending departments have to make their case for money to Her Majesty’s Treasury.  Of course under Tony Blair The Treasury was Gordon Brown’s power base and he used the spending review process to maximize his influence over the priorities of the government.  Essentially departments had to agree to specific objectives in return for their money.  These objectives took two forms ‘Public Service Agreements’  (PSA) and ‘Departmental Strategic Objectives’ (DSO).  A PSA was a cross governmental objective where one department would be designated as lead but would often have to work in partnership with other agencies.  A DSO related specifically to the work of the department.

Progress against PSA and DSO targets are assessed in department annual reports and by Parliamentary select  committees.

At the time of the last CSR in 2007 the FCO was designated as the lead department for PSA 30 Global Conflict: Reduce the impact of conflict through enhanced UK and international efforts, this involved working in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Department for International Development (DFID) and the Cabinet Office.

At the time of the last CSR in 2007 the FCO was designated as the lead department for PSA 30 Global Conflict: Reduce the impact of conflict through enhanced UK and international efforts, this involved working in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Department for International Development (DFID) and the Cabinet Office.

Progress was evaluated using four measures 1. a downward trend in number of conflicts globally, 2. Reduced impact of conflict in nine specified regions and countries 3. More effective international institutions 4. More effective UK capability to prevent, manage and resolve conflict and build peace.

In addition it had eight DSOs

  1. A flexible global network serving the whole of UK government.
  2. Supporting the British economy
  3. Supporting British national s abroad
  4. Supporting managed migration for Britain
  5. Countering terrorism and weapons proliferation and their causes
  6. Preventing and resolving conflict
  7. Promoting a low carbon, high growth, global economy
  8. Developing effective international institutions, above all the UN and the EU

As with the PSA each of the DSOs had a number of indicators that were used to measure progress and each of these indicators had specified data sources (some of them from external sources)  that fed into the indicators

 

I’m not going to go through progress against all of these –  the FCO annual reports contain the details and I’m not going to comment on the appropriateness of the targets or how they are measured.

 

DSOs 1-4 are about service delivery and as a result it’s easier to make progress on them.  The others are about policy objectives and depend on foreigners deciding to do or not do things and predictably it’s harder to make good progress.  The Foreign Affairs Select Committee routinely questions whether this kind of target regime makes sense in foreign policy.

This is the framework that the FCO is working within.  There are no specific public diplomacy targets/objectives although achieving these objectives will require PD activity.   The FCO funds the BBC World Service and partially funds the British Council so the agreements between the FCO and ‘the public diplomacy partners’ reflects these strategic priorities.

The results of the latest CSR will be published on 20 October and will include severe cuts in public expenditure so it will be interesting to see what the new priorities are.  William Hague is an important figure in the Conservative Party and the FCO spends a small fraction of total government expenditure so it might get off relatively lightly but we’ll see.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: