Looking forward to a network of liberty

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Laure Beaufils - The Philippine Star

This year again, COVID-19 has shaped so much of our lives. It has affected many of our families and loved ones. Many people, and in particular the most vulnerable, are still suffering from the social and economic impact of the pandemic. But 2021 has also provided renewed hope with accelerated COVID-19 global vaccine deployment, and in the Philippines this Christmas, many families will be able to come together again. The UK has proudly supported the country’s vaccination program by giving nearly 6 million vaccines directly or through the COVAX Facility.

At home in the UK, the Foreign Office is also taking stock of the past year – and looking ahead to the years to come. 2021 has been a roller coaster of a year, but we are proud that, despite all the challenges, we were able to play a leadership role on the world stage, including by hosting the COP26 Climate Change Conference and through our presidency of the G7.

A network of liberty

This global engagement is a sign of the UK’s determination to continue to work with our friends to address global challenges and shape the world we live in. In a key speech at Chatham House a few weeks ago, the UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss set out a call to action to our global friends and allies to join us in advancing the frontiers of freedom. She outlined her vision to build a network of liberty through three clear priorities: new economic and development partnerships across the globe, technological leadership to shape the technologies of the future and strengthened security ties with our partners and allies.

Economic partnerships, operating under agreed principles including free markets and protection of property rights, are at the heart of the network of liberty. On Nov. 25, the British Foreign Secretary launched British International Investment – our development finance institute that will prioritize investments in green infrastructure to enable sustainable growth. This launch is part of a package of tools that will enable us to leverage the firepower of the City of London and mobilize up to £8 billion a year in UK-backed financing by 2025, up from £1.5 billion last year. For the first time, we will be supporting projects in Southeast Asia.

The transformational potential of tech is now well understood – and this is why tech is the second priority in the Foreign Secretary’s vision. As the UK, we know that collaboration is required for this tech to deliver benefits for all and so we are determined to invest in the technologies of the future and the partnerships that support them. We will shape the next generation of tech like quantum computing, AI and biotechnology and working with our partners to set the principles and standards in tech so that they are developed by and in support of the free world.

And last but not least, the UK’s vision for a better future for all is underpinned by strong security partnerships. This year, the UK, USA and Australia signed up to the AUKUS to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. We will continue to invest in our security partnerships to help build a safer and more secure environment for us all.

G7/ ASEAN meeting

Many of these themes were discussed last week when, for the first time, the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Summit, hosted by the UK, included a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers. Foreign ministers, including Foreign Secretary Locsin, discussed many shared interests, including in open markets, sustainable and quality infrastructure, regional stability and sustainable development across the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. They reaffirmed their support for an open and inclusive, rules-based regional architecture, and the importance of ensuring peace, stability, prosperity and adherence to international law in Southeast Asia. And they reaffirmed their support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which envisages ASEAN Centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, new cyber security threats mounting and the catastrophic effects of climate change increasing, our cooperation is all the more important. Over the next few years, we will continue to build lasting bridges and invest in partnerships in the region – and in the Philippines in particular. After all, we are two island nations. Where seas pose barriers to others, our two countries bravely see them as an invitation to forge ahead with open sails, confident of our values and our shared vision of building back better.

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Laure Beaufils is British Ambassador to the Philippines. Follow her on Twitter @LaureBeaufils

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