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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

1st July 2015

Global networks

Saints Peter and Paul Mass, St Peter’s Basilica 29 June 2015

This is a networked world. And yet there are few genuinely global networks out there. By that I mean networks that have a capacity to operate globally, co-ordinated centrally but operating in capillary fashion, horizontally in a radial pattern as well as vertically in a hub and spoke model.

One of the reasons why we have an embassy to the Holy See is because the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), and the Holy See, run two such networks. We are able to communicate not solely through our “hub” representatives – in this case the British ambassador to the Holy See, and the Apostolic Nuncio in London – but also across our networks. This takes many forms: from meetings between our respective diplomatic delegations at the United Nations, to discussions between British aid officials and Catholic NGOs working in the Middle East; from a briefing for Catholic journalists on British foreign policy at a Pontifical University, to a British Minister meeting a senior member of one of the Oriental Churches in communion with Rome.

The FCO network has 268 posts in 168 countries and territories and 9 multilateral organisations.  We aim to serve the whole of government, providing a global platform for more than 26 other government departments and 4,200 of their staff. Next week, I and other ambassadors from around the world will gather for our regular Leadership Conference in London, allowing us to interact with other parts of our network, meet Ministers, and in my case talk to a range of people inside and outside government directly interested in the work of this embassy. It’s a chance to refresh, and take stock.

The Holy See does something similar. Pope Francis recently spoke to trainee Holy See diplomats at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, reminding them of their global vocation. And just this week, on the Feast Day of SS Peter and Paul, he received 46 archbishops from around the world – from Cologne to Kuala Lumpur, Chicago to Cochabamba – to reinforce the link between the hub and “the periphery”.

Globalisation means that global reach is required to have impact even on local issues. We cannot be everywhere. But through alliances and interaction with other global networks, we can give it a good try. The Holy See has, arguably, the world’s most extensive global network, and as long as we aspire to a global foreign policy, it is right that we look for every opportunity to engage it.

2 comments on “Global networks

  1. The World needs whatever contacts and influence it can bring to establish peace. So sad the terrible events of last week bringing tragedy to so many Families from the UK Ireland and beyond.
    Thoughts and prayers are with the families.

    1. Dear Denis, thank you for your kind words, which are much appreciated. The attacks will only redouble our determination to fight terrorism and extremism. You and other readers may wish to know that on Friday 3 July at 1200 London time, a minute’s silence will be observed in London and British embassies around the world in memory of the victims of this crime.

Comments are closed.

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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