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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

11th July 2014

Countering ‘the globalisation of indifference’

A woman stands in front of a tent provided by UK aid in the Philippines. Photo: DFID
A woman stands in front of a tent provided by UK aid in the Philippines. Photo: DFID

Pope Francis rightly calls on the rich to do more to ensure equity for the poor. We must listen to the counsel of those on the periphery, he tells us. And we should be generous in our solidarity – a word, he told his audience on a recent trip to the Italian region of Molise, that seems to have fallen out of fashion.

 Despite the recent economic crisis, this is a message the United Kingdom is taking to heart. In a speech on 7 July in the City of London, the International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, made clear that the UK will maintain its high level of ambition in international development on behalf of the poorest people in the world, who “aren’t just going hungry – they want justice, they want a voice, they want jobs, they want to own their own land grow their own businesses”.  And she explained that our principal target as we work on the post-2015 international development agenda will be the 900 million people who will still be living in extreme poverty in 2015. “They will be some of the most marginalised, most vulnerable people on the planet – the most difficult to reach. Many of them will be girls and women”.

Over the last ten years, British taxpayers have voluntarily given between 9 and 11 billion pounds every year out of their own pockets to charitable causes. They have responded generously to appeals, and in many cases the government has sought to match that generosity. The UK is the only major industrialised nation to contribute at least 0.7% of our national income to development. We are also by some distance the principal European provider of food, medical care and relief items for the millions of people suffering the consequences of the Syrian crisis.

The numbers tell some of the story. Unquantifiable, however, is the sheer effort put in by British NGOs, government, business organisations and civil society in working to ensure that economic growth, good governance, the rule of law, tackling corruption, peace and stability, and putting women and girls first – our development priorities – are implemented at home and around the world. Of course we can do more, though it is a truism in politics that there are no votes in international development generosity. Pope Francis is right to urge greater effort. He should know that there is already a lot going on for him to recognise.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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