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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

1st September 2015

Preferential option for the poor: Government and Church together

Picture Paul McSherry.
BaronessVerma's visit to SCIAF office, £3.4 million raised from the WEE BOX campaign, Baroness Verma with Philippa Bonella and Percy Patrick. Picture Paul McSherry.
Picture Paul McSherry©
Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, marks SCIAF’s record breaking Wee Box campaign. Image: Paul McSherry©

There is plenty of bad news about. But let’s also celebrate the success stories.
One such has been the partnership between the UK’s principal Catholic charities from the Caritas Internationalis family and the British government in their joint efforts to maximise funds raised by British donors to support projects benefiting some of the world’s poorest people.

In 2011, the British government launched the UK Aid Match scheme, through which the government promised to double money donated by the public to appeals for charity projects in developing countries. It had a double purpose. It would reward British people for their generosity, giving the British public a greater say in how part of the aid budget is spent by supporting their own choices. And, by doing so, it would contribute to poverty reduction in developing countries.

It has been a great success. And recently, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) and CAFOD, the Catholic Church’s aid agency in England and Wales, announced that thanks to UK Aid Match their Lent appeals had not only reached their targets but broken previous records. SCIAF’s Wee Box Appeal, including for projects supporting women farmers in Malawi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, raised £1.7m, doubled to £3.4m with UK Aid Match. CAFOD’s Lent appeal raised £5m, doubled to £10m.

This is not small change. These are substantial funds, reflecting the generosity of amongst others, the British Catholic community, and the wisdom of a government scheme designed to work alongside the charity sector on shared goals. It is great that Britain’s Catholic Church charities are benefiting. And, more importantly, that the beneficiaries of their work, amongst the world’s poorest, will too.

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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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