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Matt Field

British Diplomat

11th November 2021

The world and us

On the 60th anniversary of the University of Sarajevo Faculty of Political Science, I addressed the conference “The World and Us”, held on 8 November.

“My warm thanks for the invitation today. This is a prestigious list of speakers and panellists, many of whom I have been following for some time. 

And this is an important event, on a subject close to my heart – the relationship between the local and the global. Bosnia and Herzegovina today is evidence of that interplay, that relationship. I will admit I am glad to see that this being driven by domestic BiH academia and institutions, with BiH voices. So let me share a few short reflections and get out of the way. 

What I want to talk briefly about is how the UK sees the world, and how that fits with our approach to BiH. 

The UK view of the world is expressed in our recent Integrated Review. This was the first comprehensive look across UK interests in defence, diplomacy and development. 

The world as we see it is becoming more connected. Change is happening at ever faster rates. Unforeseen risks will emerge, requiring global collaboration. And this world is more contested, by those opposed to our or challenging our prosperity, our security, and our values. 

We derive four UK objectives from this:

  • Sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology, including cyber security 
  • Shaping the open international order of the future, working with partners to reinvigorate the international institutions, laws and norms that enable open societies and economies to flourish. 
  • Strengthening security and defence at home and overseas, working with allies and partners to protect our people, in the physical world and online.
  • Building resilience at home and overseas, improving our ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare for and respond to risks ranging from extreme weather to cyber-attacks, tackling risks such as climate change.    

In simpler terms, our government wants the UK, its diplomacy, development and defence power, to be a force for good in the world. 

When I began the privilege of representing my own country here in BiH, I felt the depth of the history and relationship between us, the responsibility to the British people, including the 59 soldiers who gave their lives protecting this country. And then I met Lord Ashdown, Paddy, and I was left 100% clear about my responsibility to the people of BiH also. 

I am personally accountable for all UK diplomacy, defence and development in BiH. I lead a team that is three-quarters BiH citizens, representing 6 government departments. The embassy has a long and complicated business plan, full of milestones and measures. But at heart our aim is simple: a safer, prosperous and stable BiH, a country which no-one needs to leave in order to succeed. 

So what do the UK’s view of the world, and the priorities we have set ourselves, mean in BiH? The themes of contest, connection and collaboration? 

We can see here in BiH evidence of the growing contest around the world. Many do not share the UK’s belief in democratic accountability, in independent media, in economic opportunity, in the rule of law, in the rights of all including those who live, look or love differently to each of us. Too many of those who oppose these values see this country as a ground for malign activity, precisewly because of its different cultures, different people living side by side. If the UK wants to be a force for good in the world, we simply have to be here, and to be actively standing up for what we believe in.

BiH is evidence of the growing connection between us all. In this world of incredible, growing linkages, neither opportunity nor threat stops at one border. We are all faced by the challenges like organised crime, migration, cyber security, violent ideologies, and future pandemics. We cannot pretend that by ignoring them, because they are in a different country, that they will not reach us all at home.  

This is also a country that underlines the need for collaboration, to face the present and future challenges facing BiH. The climate change evident in extreme weather like last week’s floods, and the regular phenomenon of air pollution, the defence reforms needed to work with and join NATO, rooting out corruption – all of these require collaboration with friends of this country, like the UK, and those within it who are genuinely committed to change.  

Thank you once again for the chance to join you today. I look forward to the discussion.”