COMMONS

Global Britain: FCO Skills inquiry launched

14 June 2018

The Foreign Affairs Committee is to consider how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office develops and maintains the skills needed for the effective delivery of UK priorities.

The inquiry will also consider how specialist skills are affected by the nature of career paths in the FCO, and whether the Diplomatic Academy is adequately sized and resourced.

To do diplomacy well, the FCO needs to draw on a broad range of skills. In addition to knowledge of regional politics, economics and culture, and proficiency in languages, these skills include: knowledge of multilateral bodies and international organisations; general diplomatic skills such as negotiating, political reporting, communicating and networking; experience of working in challenging local environments; specialist knowledge in policy areas such as economics, trade, sanctions and security; and digital and data proficiency.

The FCO also has a range of non-diplomatic responsibilities, which can require a different balance of skills, such as a stronger emphasis on programme management. In addition, the broader environment in which the FCO operates continues to change rapidly.

This involves shifts in the international system, such as the evolving roles of China and Russia, as well as the impacts of new technology on the practice of diplomacy. It also includes the implications of the UK’s exit from the European Union and the requirement to deliver on the Global Britain agenda. These developments could mean that the mixture of skills the FCO relies on in the future will need to change.

Terms of reference

The Committee welcomes written submissions on the following issues:

  • How well the FCO is prepared, in terms of skills development and retention, for key UK priorities, including managing relations with China and Russia, preserving the rules-based international system, and the UK’s exit from the EU.
  • The impact of FCO career paths on skills, including:
    o the length and frequency of diplomatic tours;
    o how skills are considered in promotion and performance measurement; and
    o how specialists are perceived in FCO corporate culture.
  • Whether the FCO as a whole strikes an appropriate balance between diplomatic and other skills, taking into account the breadth of its responsibilities, as well as FCO and broader Government priorities.
  • The performance of the Diplomatic Academy, including how it compares to similar efforts in other countries, and in particular, whether its Trade Policy and Negotiations Faculty is adequately sized and resourced to support the Government after the UK leaves the EU.
  • FCO engagement with external sources of skilled personnel, including inward and outward secondment, local staff, external recruitment, and recruitment from elsewhere in Government.
  • Whether compensation at the FCO is adequate to attract and retain highly skilled staff.

The deadline for written submissions is Monday, 2 July 2018. You can submit evidence through the Global Britain: FCO Skills inquiry page.

Further information

Image: FCO

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