Yesterday the UK House of Lords' Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence published an excellent report on its 2013-14 session. The report's title was " Persuasion and Power in the Modern World". It makes useful reading for any UK based organisation with global reach and aspirations. I've summarised below 10 points that struck me as particularly interesting from the report.
1) Changes in the world order are been accelerated by the following growing trends: access to state information; digital empowerment; global protest networks; complexity of trade chains and multinational corporate operations; urbanisation; fragmenting traditional state power; rising power of non-Western countries. Given these changes the distribution and nature of international power, influence and engagement are undergoing radical change.
2) Over history and many generations the UK has amassed a tremendous range of institutions and relationships in politics, economics, science and culture which give it a great deal of internationally recognised soft power. It may well have acquired many of these soft power assets ‘in a fit of absence of mind’ but the Government is now neglecting this soft power potential, particularly with regard to the UK links to the Commonwealth.
3) The UK has much to offer the world because its history has given it a global perspective and alliances with many of the world’s nations, both great and rising. Given these advantages the UK shouldn't act as a poodle of Washington nor a lapdog of Brussels. Instead it should aim to be the best-networked state in the world.
4) To do this the UK needs to build on its knowledge based strengths in the education ,business, science, training, services and cultural sectors
5) Government also needs to consider the effects of its visa and immigration policies on the UKs well-established reputation for academic and cultural cooperation.
6) UK Ambassadors now need to be polymaths, its diplomats need social media savvy public diplomacy skills and the UK needs more representatives on official UN, EU and other international bodies. It also needs to increase its work outside traditional multilateral structures like the Security Council.
7) The modern Commonwealth offers high-growth and savings markets, as well as a gateway to many of the great emerging powers of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Government should focus on benefiting from its links to this modern Commonwealth.
8) The UK must increase the number of citizens who are able to speak foreign languages to aid a more people-to-people, reciprocal form of international relations.
9) Those who shape the UK’s international role need a change in mindset to use soft power to adapt to all the changes described above. They must see the UK in the 21st century no longer solely a ‘Western’ power. Instead their mindset should be to see the UK as a nation uniquely equipped to understand, respect and work with the new mélange of Eastern, Western and Southern powers, cultures and values now rapidly taking shape.
10) The UK has to slip its twentieth-century moorings and look to Asia, Africa and other regions, countries and communities. The Government should be clear about what the UK wishes to achieve as an interdependent, networked power. It must work to restore the UK’s reputation so it can act as a serious force for good as the world continues to change.