British and Sierra Leonean medics work together at Connaught Hospital, Freetown
British and Sierra Leonean medics work together at Connaught Hospital, Freetown Simon Davis/DFID - Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

What kind of global Britain do we want?

Now that the UK has left the European Union, we have a unique opportunity to redefine the UK’s role in the world.

As the UK government shapes its vision of “Global Britain”, Bond is reflecting on what an exciting vision for our country could be.

Can we salvage the phrase global Britain from its colonial baggage, to be more of a unifying strategy for a nation with an international outlook that plays a significant role in making the world a fairer, healthier, more sustainable and prosperous place? A Britain whose people play their part in a strong, global system with humility and generosity, knowing that we all benefit from making sure that the world works for everyone.

So what would this mean in practice?

Put the Sustainable Development Goals at the heart of our domestic and foreign policy

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promised to set the world on a fairer and sustainable path, partly owing to the leadership and collaborative role of the UK. If properly implemented, they will benefit everyone everywhere and put the most marginalised people first. The UK has a critical role to play in ensuring we have a clear and focused national and global plan for delivering on that ambition.

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Policy coherence is critical if we are to get this right – the government can’t commit to tackling climate change whilst also investing in fossil fuels in developing countries. We need to engage our university and science and technology communities in the challenges of our time. For the SDGs to work, we need to integrate the goals across the whole of government policies, budgeting and monitoring and help other governments to do the same.

Ensure that the UK’s defence, diplomatic, and development policies work hand in hand, with an independent and accountable Department for International Development

Our nation’s international standing stems from the contribution that the UK’s defence, diplomacy and development have made to promote peace and prosperity globally. We have a proud legacy of supporting the world’s most vulnerable communities and close alignment is important to this.

But our strength and soft power stems from the fact that though the three “Ds” complement each other, DFID, FCO and MOD are also able to focus on what they do best. An outward facing Britain is one where we use DFID influence and an independent secretary of state to protect our legacy and credibility in order to respond to some of the greatest global challenges of our time: conflict, climate change and poverty.

Make global economic, financial and other rules work for the public interest in all countries

The UK has a real opportunity to make the global financial systems work for the world’s poorest and to ensure that prosperity focuses on well-being and environmental outcomes, as well as financial ones.

We have a chance to ensure that the UK’s approach to trade and investment is improved in collaboration with developing country trading partners and developed with full transparency and parliamentary scrutiny.

The UK’s approach to trade and investment must strengthen rather than undermine the delivery of the SDGs and other international commitments on development, climate change and human rights. We should prioritise the needs of developing countries in future trade policy, including through meaningful impact assessments, the provision of enhanced preferential market access and a review of existing bilateral agreements, including economic partnership agreements.

An internationally respected “global Britain” could help build a fair and just multilateral trading system that is fit for the development and climate challenges of the 21st century, and that works for everyone.

Multilateralism and the international rules-based system

Britain’s history is steeped in international collaboration and multilateralism. Out of the embers of conflict and war, we were able to help build the international rules-based system.

Now, as we begin to forge a new role for our nation, we must champion our collective spirit and reinforce those global institutions we helped to create, the institutions that have kept us safe.

Partnership as part of our DNA

We need to work together in strong partnership – with the EU and others around the world. We benefit from each other’s experience and skills and capacity when we tackle disease, malnutrition and poverty together. Through this we provide value for money to the British taxpayer and achieve greater impact in the lives of the very people we are trying to help.

Sustained coordination, joint funding, shared learning, innovation and capacity-building are all key to this and can only happen if we secure an agreement that allows this to continue and supports civil society in having a continued voice at the EU.

So how do we get there?

If we are serious about a truly outward facing agenda, we must adhere to the international rules-based system and work in collaboration with our international partners in support of those that need our help the most. That means continuing to champion the global rules on aid and development spending, such as the OECD DAC rules which represent an essential benchmark for measuring and assessing international aid, ensuring that the quality, poverty-focus and value for money of other countries’ aid investments match our own high standards.

Only by working in close cooperation with other nations will we be able to tackle the pressing international challenges that we will face in coming decades. An outward-facing Britain with an inspiring and unifying international agenda – underpinned by partnership, strong values and support for others – is a Britain we should aspire to.

We will be holding a session on the UK’s role in development post-Brexit at Bond Conference 2020. Get your tickets now.