Sunday, October 28, 2007

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband Has Launched FCO Blogs

Britain’s FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) has launched official blogs this September. There are six FCO bloggers with diversified backgrounds in degree subjects, Foreign Service experiences, current jobs, and personalities. FCO blogs will be of much help to understand endeavors of British diplomats.

Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband tells why he is keen on blogging and conversations with people across the world and throughout Britain.

Politics should be about dialogue and debate, and new technology makes this more possible than ever. But the gap between politicians and the public seems to be growing.

This is why in my last ministerial job I began writing a blog. I found it a great way to engage with people: to explain my work and my thinking in a more personal and less formal way than the usual Ministerial speeches; and to hear directly what people thought of what I was doing.

His enthusiasm for cyberspace democracy reminds me of Albert Gore. Prior to assuming current position, Miliband was the Secretary of Environment in the Blair cabinet. Is it a coincidence, or not?

Among numerous issues in British foreign policy, I would like to focus on relations with the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

As I mentioned in a previous post, entitled “David and Gordon: New British Prime Minister and Atlantic Alliance”, David Miliband was critical to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. In addition, Britain had withdrawn half of its troops from Southern Iraq, which is in sharp contrast with American surge in the Sunni area. How has the Anglo-American relationship changed under the Brown administration? Recent posts by Secretary Miliband suggest Britain is still a key partner in US policy in the Middle East.

In the posts, entitled “Deeds Not Just Words in Northern Iraq” on 23 October and “The Search for Peace in the Middle East” on 25 October, Miliband comments briefly about the meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. On Northern Iraq, both Miliband and Rice sent a message to the Iraqi and the Turkish government that Britain and America were determined to work with them against PKK terrorism in the Kurdistan area. With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Miliband explores to create the Palestine state coexisting peacefully with Israel, in order to endorse political process to resolve hardship of Palestinian people. While he emphasizes importance of US leadership, he is actively engaged in coordinating the transatlantic partnership, through talks with European leaders. From these posts, we understand that post-Blair Britain continues to be a key partner to the United States, despite some ideological differences. For detail, you can also see US-UK joint press conferences on Northern Iraq and Palestine in FCO News Release.

Actually, David Miliband is keen on close contacts with America. He had the “longest meeting” with Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. Also, Foreign Secretary Miliband visited Howard University in Washington DC to discuss grassroots democracy and minority education with American citizens.

Europe is another key issue. Let me introduce two blogs by Jim Murphy and Lindsay Appleby focusing on Europe. Jim Murphy is the Minister for Europe and a Member of Parliament. In his current posts, he comments about the Lisbon European Council and the Luxemburg Foreign Ministers meeting, for further integration of Europe. External relation of the EU is also important. At the EU-Russia Summit in Mafra, Portugal, both sides discussed climate change, energy, and security. Murphy shows lots of useful links to understand internal and external policies of the European Union.

Focuses of Lindsay Appleby’s blog is more or less the same as those of Jim Murphy. But unlike Murphy, she is a career diplomat, not a politician. Therefore, her blog talks more about EU bureaucratic organizations, rather than policy issues.

From the Middle East, Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles publishes a blog to report allies endeavor with local citizens for democracy and nation building. Ambassador Cowper-Coles has a long career in the Middle East. Besides political progress in Afghanistan, he narrates personalities of national and local leaders, which is beyond media attention.

Unfortunately, no FCO staff publishes an official blog from Iraq. I hope some diplomat will start blogging to wipe out negative impression among some leftists, regarding coalition efforts in Iraq.

Finally, I would like to mention two bloggers. Maria Pia Gazella is a Trade Officer at Santiago in Chile. As a local staff at the embassy, she would present something insightful from non-British viewpoints. Sarah Russell has just joined the Diplomatic Service this October, immediately after graduating from King’s College, the University of London with First Class degree in war studies. You may be impressed with her lovely smile. She is also brilliant, and will assume important role in British diplomacy in the future.

Through FCO blogs, you can learn a lot about UK foreign policy perspectives and the life of British diplomats. You can talk with policymakers without interference of gigantic media. Wonderful, isn’t it?