New inquiry: Tech and the future of UK foreign policy
8 March 2021
The Foreign Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into Tech and the future of foreign policy.
New and emerging technologies are fundamentally altering the nature of international relations and the conduct of diplomacy. The growing influence of private technology companies and the backing they receive from some nation states increases the number of actors who must be engaged with, challenging traditional levers of influence and channels of diplomatic engagement.
This inquiry will focus on the UK response to the opportunities and challenges presented by these technologies, and how the FCDO should be leading that strategy.
The Committee will explore how the FCDO can help build alliances with those who share our understanding of the need for standards shaping technological frontiers and how it can support the development of - and adherence to – rules and norms for the responsible use of new technologies.
The inquiry will also examine how the FCDO should work through international organisations to shape the new order and how it can advise other departments on potential threats to it.
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:
“The emergence of new technologies and the power wielded by tech firms changes the role of the UK as a global rule-setter and the work of our diplomatic networks. This inquiry will explore how the FCDO can innovate in its approach to diplomacy on a world stage that is being rapidly reshaped.
“New technologies will set new standards and shape all our lives. The UK needs to identify shared goals and build alliances to project its influence and promote a globally coherent approach to their development and use.
“We’ve seen how political views from the West Coast of the US are shaping the communications of political leaders around the world. We need to think about the impact that has on the UK and our influence at home and abroad.
“Technologies are also changing the ability of government to determine the norms of trade, with cryptocurrencies decentralising the ability of the state to create and enforce contracts, or sanctions.
“The old rules of trade and diplomatic engagement were written on the basis of British norms, putting the UK at the heart of the international system. These developments present significant challenges to the UK’s security, prosperity, diplomatic relations and global influence and the FCDO must adapt quickly and accordingly.”
The Committee welcomes written evidence on the following points
- What technologies are shifting power? What is the FCDO’s understanding of new technologies and their effect on the UK’s influence?
- How can the FCDO engage with private technology companies to influence and promote the responsible development and use of data and new technologies?
- How can the FCDO engage with private companies to encourage internationally accepted norms for the use of social media as well as to maximise the benefits for diplomacy presented by social media?
- How can the FCDO use its alliances to shape the development of, and promote compliance with, international rules and regulations relating to new and emerging technologies? Is the UK taking sufficient advantage of the G7 Presidency to achieve this?
- Should the Government’s approach to meeting the challenges of technology nationalism and digital fragmentation be based on self-sufficiency, joining with allies or like-minded nations or supporting a coherent global framework?
- What opportunities and challenges do cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain present for the way the FCDO does diplomacy (for example, enforcing sanctions), and how can the FCDO harness these technologies as new tools of influence or to promote compliance and transparency in international agreements?
- How can the FCDO help build resilience in civil society, in Government, business and foreign relations against the threats posed by abuses of new technologies by state and non-state actors? Can the FCDO support trust-building networks?
- What would the implications be of the dollar losing its dominant position for international transactions? Will digital currencies force a change in the balance of power?
Your submission should:
- be concise - if over 3,000 words, include a short summary as well
- include an introduction to you or your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence
- not already be published
Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos. Guidance on submitting written evidence and data protection information is available here: Guidance on submitting written evidence.
Deadline for submissions
Written evidence should be submitted through the Committee’s website by midnight on 1 June 2021. It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.
We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.
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