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Inside the Profession Series: A Visit to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), with British Diplomat Chris Holtby OBE 

7 December 2023

4 mins

By Andrew Amaechi and Naomi Osuoza 

In an exciting segment of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Governance’s “Inside the Profession” series, students from the Institute recently visited the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) following an invitation from British diplomat Christopher Holtby OBE. The experience provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of diplomacy in the context of diplomacy in the digital age and shed light on career prospects in this dynamic field.

      FCDO Logo at the entrance to the FCDO Building

The visit commenced with an in-depth lecture on the FCDO’s eight Strategic Pillars which encompass trade and investment, CPTPP accession, climate change, supply chain, defence and security, cybersecurity, democratic resilience, and international development. The session offered a comprehensive overview of the UK’s foreign policy priorities and the strategies employed to achieve them. The discussion on “cybersecurity” as a significant challenge in digital diplomacy was particularly intriguing, as it explored the challenges and opportunities in this field emphasising the UK’s strategic position to leverage technology for global interest. The talk underscored the importance of understanding the FCDO’s strategic priorities in shaping the country’s diplomatic initiatives.

The focal point of the visit centred on understanding the FCDO’s Integrated Review (IRR) outlining core objectives such as strategic stability, Europe, and deepening relationships with Gulf states. The IRR also emphasised the importance of promoting development and supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific relationship.  This comprehensive approach to foreign policy showcased the multifaceted approach to diplomacy in the modern world.

A major highlight was the tour of the historic FCDO building, where visiting dignitaries and leaders have in the past resolved tensions and exchanged ideas on core interests. The tour included visiting the India Office Council Chamber, witness to crucial UK -Indian officials’ meetings, and diplomatic reception rooms that have hosted official events and receptions. This historical context provided a deeper appreciation for diplomatic traditions and practices that continue to shape contemporary international relations.

Engaging with a senior FCDO official offered unique insight into the intricacies of diplomacy. Learning about the personal journey of a seasoned diplomat who joined the FCDO a decade ago highlighted the importance of adaptability and continuous learning in diplomatic careers. These stories highlight the diverse paths that individuals can take to build a career in diplomacy and the dedication required to excel in this field.

Ibranhim Giadem, Chris Holtby OBE, Andrew Amaechi

The visit also shed light on career advancement prospects as seasoned diplomats shared their professional journeys, underlining the need for adaptability and ongoing education to address contemporary challenges. Diplomacy’s dynamic nature necessitates acquiring technical knowledge and skills to effectively address contemporary challenges. A key skill is communication and the ability to listen and respond appropriately.

A notable aspect of the visit was the discussion on social media engagement metrics, revealing the crucial role in gauging the effectiveness of diplomatic posts across diverse political contexts. Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for diplomacy and “soft power” projection in the 21st century shaping public opinion and policy decisions.

IDIG Students at the Indian UK policy relations Hall at the FCDO

Photos taken during the visit symbolised the warmth and inclusiveness of the FCDO, reflecting a shared vision of changing the world through robust diplomatic engagements and regional collaboration. These images served as a reminder of the essential role diplomacy plays in the 21st century, fostering relationships between nations and resolving conflicts peacefully.

In conclusion, the visit to the FCDO profoundly impacted the academic and career aspirations of the students, providing a deeper understanding of digital diplomacy in contemporary foreign policy and highlighting the significance of social media in shaping diplomatic strategies. Armed with newfound knowledge and inspiration, the students are well-prepared to embrace the digital landscape and contribute meaningfully to the future of diplomacy in the digital age.

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