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The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has over 270 overseas missions operating in more than 160 countries and territories.

Take a look at some of the biggest foreign policy moments and issues we’ve been working on this year.

Chemical Weapons in Salisbury

In March, the reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury left four people fighting for their lives, and killed one innocent woman. In September, the Government concluded that the two suspects named by the police and CPS were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU, and that the operation was almost certainly approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.

In response to the incident, we expelled 23 Russian diplomats who had been identified as undeclared Russian intelligence officers – fundamentally degrading Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come. We also exposed Russia’s industrial scale of disinformation around the events in Salisbury, which was designed to distract and confuse the public.

In collective solidarity, 28 other countries as well as NATO joined us in expelling a total of over 150 Russian intelligence officers: the largest collective expulsion ever.

Chemical weapons in Syria

In April, a further chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria left up to 75 dead, and several hundred with symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure.

In June, the UK and international partners agreed to task the Chemical Weapons Watchdog (OPCW) with identifying perpetrators of the chemical attacks in Syria. A small number of states opposed funding for this attribution work, and forced a vote on the budget needed to carry out this type of investigation.

We lobbied international partners to vote in favour, and give the Chemical Weapons Watchdog the vital resources they need to investigate.

In November, the Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention approved the proposed budget by 99 votes to 27 votes. The UK was central to diplomatic efforts to secure these results and will continue to work tirelessly to protect everyone, everywhere from the horror of chemical weapons.

Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting

In April 2018, the UK hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Leaders from all the member countries gathered in London and Windsor to address shared global challenges.

At the summit, leaders drove forward action to tackle environmental challenges. Together with Vanuatu, the UK launched a new Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance – an agreement between member states to join forces in the fight against plastic pollution. Prime Minister Theresa May also announced £61.4 million to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.

We also announced an expansion of the UK’s overseas network with the opening of nine new diplomatic posts in Commonwealth countries.


President Trump visits the UK

June marked the first official visit to the UK by the President of the United States. President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May visited Chequers and discussed how the UK and the US can work more closely to respond to malign state activity, terrorism and serious crime.

During the visit, they agreed that as the UK leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious Free Trade Agreement that will further enhance our economic co-operation and seize the opportunity of new technology.

A new partnership with Africa

In August, Theresa May set out our ambition to work even more closely with Africa during a visit to Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa – the first British Prime Minister to visit Sub-Saharan Africa since 2013, and the first to go to Kenya in over 30 years.

The Prime Minister travelled with a delegation of 29 representatives from UK business, and spoke to young African people and business leaders about how the UK will work alongside Africa to help deliver important investment and jobs, as well as continue to work together to maintain stability and security.

UN General Assembly

In September, world leaders gathered in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world.

Globally, more than 130 million girls do not go to school. At the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Theresa May called on more countries to join the UK in giving girls in developing countries access to quality education. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also launched the new Platform for Girls’ Education – a body of influential global figures who will help secure 12 years of quality education for girls across the world.

At the UN, the Foreign Secretary also hosted a meeting with counterparts to demand justice for Rohingya refugees and an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Burma.

He also urged allies to advance the UN-led peace process for Yemen and provide greater assistance to the Yemeni people.

Ending Wildlife Crime

The illegal wildlife trade is a serious organised crime that endangers some of the world’s most iconic species. Each year, 20,000 African elephants are poached for their ivory.

In April, we announced our commitment to ban ivory in the UK, and the bill is currently going through parliament. The UK’s ivory ban will be one of the toughest in the world.

In October, we brought together global leaders to close down markets and counter the corruption that is fuelling the illegal wildlife trade. World leaders from over 80 countries came together with one message: We must End Wildlife Crime.

At our landmark conference, we officially launched our new Ivory Alliance, a network of political leaders & influencers who will help close down the ivory markets that are driving elephants to extinction.

Dutch State Visit

In October, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the UK on the first official Dutch State Visit in more than 30 years, celebrating the long history between our people and our royal families.

The UK and the Netherlands have been close business partners for over 400 years, and today, the Netherlands is the UK’s third largest trading partner.

Their visit was a valuable opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of the relationship between the UK and the Netherlands, including through trade, innovation and security.

Preventing sexual violence in conflict

Since launching the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) in 2012, the UK has continued to lead global efforts to end the horror of sexual violence in conflict.

In November we hosted a film festival to help fight the discrimination and social stigma faced by survivors of warzone rape. PSVI Co-Founder Angelina Jolie and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met filmmakers from conflict-affected countries who are using their skills to change attitudes in their own societies.

Next year we will host a global conference on this issue to call on the international community to do more to secure justice for survivors.