My Lords, I am most grateful for the opportunity to introduce this debate on a subject of great importance to the role of the United Kingdom in a world increasingly characterised by conflicting values which end in violence. I am particularly grateful for the interest shown by so many here today and to those noble Lords who have put their names down to speak. I look forward very much to hearing them. It is perhaps appropriate to remember that it is a year to the day since the death of Nelson Mandela. There you have an illustration of soft power executed through virtue—something to which I would not lay claim—which demonstrates the potential impact of great figures in changing history.
There have been two particularly significant aspects to my preparation for today. The first has been to read the report of the Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence for Session 2013-14 entitled, Persuasion and Power in the Modern World, published at the end of March 2014. The second has been the experience since April 2013 of travelling, with my wife, to all 37 other provinces of the Anglican communion. One of the most difficult and dangerous visits was finished last week, when I was in Edinburgh. That will get me into trouble.
The Select Committee report was the result of significant evidence-taking and much reflection by a remarkably experienced and expert number of your Lordships’ House. Particular tribute should be paid to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, who chaired the committee. I was especially struck by three aspects. First, the report makes it clear that there is no avoiding the need for the exercise of soft power, and in fact the exercise of hard power, from sanctions to the use of violence, is effective only as an addition to the impact of soft power. It is soft power in its many ramifications that makes it possible for this country to exert a benevolent and beneficial influence in the world around. I saw an example of that two or three weeks ago when, at the degree awards ceremony at Coventry University—one of the best of our modern universities—60% of the students were from overseas. They are a powerful source of earnings and will return home with a brilliant education and an exceptional experience of the UK. In most cases, they will be our friends for life.
Secondly, the report points especially to the rapid increase in complexity and what it calls hypersensitivity in the modern world. There has been an introduction of information technology, with more than 5 billion mobile telephones around the world. We have the growth of access to the world wide web, which means that you can sit in Kaduna and look at what is happening in London and you can look at the shops in New York. You have access to cultural influences of the most extraordinary kind. The possibilities of that both for Governments and for non-state actors are ever more powerful with the advent of the sophistication of modern computers.
Thirdly, the report highlighted that power is in three levels, three-dimensional chess it is called: at the top, force; in the middle, economic actors; at the third level, civil society with NGOs, principally of course—I will return to this, as noble Lords might expect—churches, the world’s greatest and most beneficial multinationals. I might declare an interest there.
Since the report was published, there has been added to the mix the recognition of international and often religion-linked terrorism and the growth of ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and numerous others. There is a continuity between the Select Committee report and the needs of a world in which international terror and localised conflict seem ever more dangerous. The clear conclusion of the past few months of reflection on the advent of ICIS and of our renewed involvement in the use of armed force in Iraq has been that this is principally an ideological and even theological struggle that cannot be won by violence. It has to be won by the development of a fresh narrative which provides a peaceful, humane, viable, motivating and effective alternative to the terrible visions of ISIS and Boko Haram, to violence in India, Myanmar and many other areas of the world. Such a narrative will only be developed with soft power in collaboration with allies and partners around the world. It is the only way of avoiding the alternative: a long descent into the dark and fear filled ways of anarchic, networked conflicts—perhaps never critical but always a frightening and deeply draining demand.
The key institutions that are capable of exerting soft power for the common good of the countries with which we have contact, rather than merely to our own advantage, will be those that represent most adequately this generous hospitality that so characterises this country. In 1867, in an inscription on the door of the 16th century, temporary but still existing, Huguenot chapel in Canterbury Cathedral—it is still used every Sunday by the French Reformed Church—the author Samuel Smiles spoke of the history of the hospitality of church and nation to those in need. His words bear quoting. He said that,
“still that eloquent memorial of the religious history of the middle ages survives, bearing testimony alike to the rancour of the persecutions abroad … the large and liberal spirit of the English church, and the glorious asylum which England has in all times given to foreigners flying for refuge against oppression and tyranny”.
In our 21st century, such a sentiment must still apply. It is who we are.
Apart from the church, those generous and hospitable institutions are listed in the Select Committee report. They include the BBC, the Commonwealth, DfID, the brilliant and often profoundly courageous diplomats of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the armed services, the monarchy, the universities and so on. The common characteristic is clear British identity without being wrapped in the flag, a powerful ethos of service and a self-criticality. They are the institutions of the top level of power and of the bottom of the three-dimensional chessboard.
In the middle level, the economic, there is remarkable and frequently neglected potential of benefit both to us and to those with whom we deal. In the 37 Anglican communion provinces, we found that in those hit by war or suffering from fear or economic underdevelopment there is almost invariably a great desire for British presence in trade and investment as well as presence and engagement in other ways. We are much trusted, as the Select Committee report also shows, but little present and we seem in many places to have lost our nerve commercially and in engagement. Others come in with more self-interest and less ethics, and we seem far away, at a time when it is in our interest, in terms of manufacturing and employment, and in the interest of those overseas, to have ethical, committed and long-term economic partners. Especially for the grossly undersupported SME sector in this country, one that I grew to know well in Durham and in Liverpool, it comes down to simple measures recommended in the report such as one-stop shops for exports, good advice on agents and reliable export finance. Many others provide this; we seem to find it difficult. All this lies within the grip of Government, and has done so these past 20 years or more.
The institutions at all three levels that live out the narrative we need demonstrate how it is possible to operate internationally in a way that increases understanding, and hence reduces the likelihood of armed conflict, while maintaining a generosity of spirit that enables those with whom we co-operate to maintain their autonomy, their independence and their self-respect. We can do all that to mutual advantage. This benefit is especially evident at present through the commitment of the medical teams fighting Ebola, who come with support from DfID and have set an example of courage and sacrifice that is drawing attention across the whole of west Africa. We cannot be anything but overwhelmed by what they are doing.
Following the election next year, it seems likely that there will be a strategic defence and security review that should consider both soft and hard power—not merely hard power. I suggest that this is the moment for an exceptionally serious commitment to this review, not merely to use it as an adjunct as that of 2010 was, and that the seriousness should be especially in the interface between soft power and hard power. The review should set out clearly the ways in which foreign policy will support and develop the generous hospitality of soft power, in particular, first, to provide the convincing narrative of which I have spoken as an alternative to the malevolent and evil claims of violent religion, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere around the world, and, secondly, as a means of conflict mitigation and prevention. The new narrative must operate at all three levels of power. It requires the next strategic defence and security review to involve a national debate that draws in all three levels and enables us, as a country, to find afresh the vision of who we are. It cannot be simply an Armed Forces versus the Treasury rumble in the jungle of Whitehall, out of which emerges something unconnected to the vision of our role in the world.
An example of the nature of a good inclusive review brings in the questions of visas, the role of universities, the future of the BBC World Service and so forth. Visas were highlighted in the Select Committee report. I mention them simply because everywhere we go the first thing anyone says to me is “visas” and how difficult that system is. It was highlighted in the report that the apparently random and invariably extremely expensive way in which those coming here apply and are refused or accepted is deeply damaging to the exercise of soft power. You have only to look at the number of students coming from India, which has fallen precipitously. It appears that this policy is unconnected to our wider interests and, in my experience of more than 35 years of visiting Africa especially, has been so for much of that period.
At the third level there is, crucially, the use of intervention through reconciliation and mediation work, something that I have worked on for more than 10 years, including in its economic and investment aspects, as well as the use of stronger levels of force, at the early stages of development of conflict. It is both economically more effective than hard power by several orders of magnitude and, in humanitarian terms, transformative. This reality is acknowledged in the Government’s 2010 Building Stability Overseas strategy. Yet the application of this strategy in terms of developing the tools for intervention through reconciliation and mediation is still absent.
The exceptional skills and courage of the Diplomatic Service, which we have seen in our travels around the world, and the credibility of the BBC and the British Council, the Commonwealth and the extraordinary collaborative, autonomous but interdependent networks of the Anglican communion, provide unrivalled networks for conflict mitigation. Other countries look at them with envy and are unable to emulate them.
A clear policy for conflict mitigation is called for in any strategic defence and security review, and it will require investment. But when one considers the Institute for Economics and Peace research figure of violence containment costing up to $9.4 trillion a year, the contrast is a stark one. Conflict prevention seems quite a good investment. Coventry University is working with the Church of England on the faith-based conflict prevention scoping project, reflecting the reality that the church—the Anglican communion globally—is consistently at the forefront of conflict prevention, above all currently in the Great Lakes of Africa, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Standing by a mass grave that I had just consecrated for the bodies of clergy and lay leaders of Bor Cathedral last January, and then hearing the Archbishop of Sudan, whose home town it was, call for reconciliation, and knowing that he is working with us on that now, was one of the most powerful moments of my life.
I might, if your Lordships will permit another slight dig, comment that the Anglican communion, as far as my research and reading found, was unmentioned in the otherwise excellent Select Committee report. I could not find “bishop”, “archbishop”, “church”, or indeed “Church of England”. As we are in 165 or more countries, far more than the Commonwealth, that seems, if I may put it at its most polite, a little surprising. The Anglican communion enables better communication of information than anything that can be arranged through government agencies but it does it with an end of blessing rather than advantage.
Soft power is far cheaper to exercise than hard power. One day of deploying a battalion will cost more than years of conflict prevention work by NGOs. In the other place today they are debating a Bill to enshrine in law the 0.7% of GDP target for overseas aid. This Government have, with strong cross-party support, superbly reached and maintained that target. It is not only right; it is also extremely cost-effective, in the best sense, for deploying our values and showing our generosity. DfID, incidentally, is one of the world’s best agencies in the field.
To conclude, I hope that in this debate we will see how the different strands of soft and hard power can be better combined, and there can be a clearer sense of the narrative which sustains this wonderful country which has in the past given so much to the world when at its best, and has the potential to give even more if the advantages of our history, the skills of our institutions and the courage of our people are combined with a clear aim in view.
My Lords, I am particularly pleased that the most reverend Primate should have brought this issue before your Lordships’ House today. I am honoured to be following his words and flattered that he has referred to the report, which we published in March this year, of the inquiry that I had the honour of chairing with my many distinguished colleagues.
We were not the first to come to this concept; it is one to which your Lordships have given considerable attention over the years. There have been excellent debates in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and indeed this year. We are dealing with central issues in the completely changed international order in which we now have to operate and think our way.
It will be noticed that in the title of our report we avoided using the words “soft power”. We called it, as the most reverend Primate has already pointed out, Persuasion and Power in the Modern World. We did this because we believed that the term “soft power” was rather open to misunderstanding by certain commentators and was seen as a sort of easy, appeasing option to necessary harder and rougher methods, a way of trying to duck hard action in response to violence, cruelty and hideous persecution, especially the persecution of Christians in a uniquely violent and dangerous world today. I have in mind one particularly absurd and ill informed article about British foreign policy in the Daily Telegraph, which tried to depict soft power as some sort of weak alternative to the firm use of guns and killing power in the face of terror and the shadowy wars against brutal but elusive enemies. It seemed to be an argument for more of Iraq and Afghanistan, ignoring the lessons of those difficult campaigns.
Of course, soft power is no such thing. Hard and soft power, as the most reverend Primate has made crystal clear, are all parts of the same armoury—along the same spectrum of choices in our work to defeat violence and evil and protect the oppressed, promote tolerance and uphold both our values and interests and our nation’s position against brutal attack and terror. The big difference from the past is that we are now in a world not of armies and states at war with clearly established declarations of war, but of the mass involvement of peoples and networks in constant conflict. Thanks to the information revolution, we have almost total connectivity on the one hand combined with the terrifying absorption of civilian populations in violence and guerrilla wars to a greater degree than ever before. In these conditions, it is not the side with the biggest battalions, the most missiles and the most killing power that wins; it is the side with the best narrative and the best and cleverest communications techniques. We are in what the director of Chatham House, Robin Niblett, with great ability and clarity, has called a world of “hybrid wars”. This is a situation in which we require entirely new forms of diplomacy and a new power in conveying our message in order to ensure the results that we want, and that the direction in which we would like others to go is achieved in a way that old, pure hard power conflicts—more tanks, more rockets—clearly cannot achieve and no longer achieve.
That is the first point that I wanted to add to the most reverend Primate’s most excellent presentation of our report; indeed, I think that he did rather a better job than we did ourselves in putting forward its contents, and I thank him very much. My second point is that people say, “Well, it’s all very well talking about tolerance, values, the rule of law and good governance and so on, but you can’t eat those things; they don’t put food on the table”. That is what the sceptics say. They are wrong. In fact there is a kind of equation that exists in the modern world that I do not think has been fully understood by all Governments: values equal trust, trust equals confidence, confidence equals investment and investment equals prosperity, business, growth, jobs and food on the table. It is not necessarily the preaching but the conveyance of that message of values, and the urging of others to uphold them, that produces the prosperity and the development that everyone wants.
It is not just a matter for Governments. A committee of Parliament reports and its thoughts are directed at departments, Governments and so on. We have already had a useful reply from one department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to our report, but this is a world in which agencies and professions are as deeply involved as government. The most reverend Primate mentioned the British Council and the BBC World Service. They are more than ever the spearhead of promoting soft power stories and the case for our country and its place in the world. However, it goes far beyond on that. All the professions are now weaving together fantastic global networks. Business and markets are just as much our ambassadors as they are concerned with commerce. The media are central to the story. It goes far beyond that into journalism, electronics, engineering and the creative arts, which are central to the story of promoting our soft power. As we have seen in this morning’s newspapers, museums have a key role to play. While one expects a lead from the Government, this is an endeavour, a story, in which everyone is involved.
In our report, we came to the conclusion that a number of other countries were doing a great deal as well. In fact, many of them are spending far more resources on promoting the story of their country, their version of soft power, than we are doing in Britain. Nevertheless, that does not detract from the point that the soft power assets of this country are simply enormous. They cover the whole range, as the most reverend Primate mentioned, including respect for the monarchy, understanding our parliamentary system, our traditions, our experience, our legal system, and even our accounting system and our educational network, which includes huge global linkages between 530 universities through the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which is run from Tavistock Square and links the entire planet into the higher education system.
It will probably not surprise your Lordships that I mention the place of the Commonwealth in this story, and in the United Kingdom’s role and ability to prevent conflict and to carry forward the case for this country’s position in the new world in which we have to compete avidly and vigorously in entirely new markets and new conditions. Why do I bring the Commonwealth into it? Some people would say that it is not really the best example. We read in the media of endless quarrels between different Commonwealth countries and of doubts about whether all Commonwealth countries are keeping up to the standards they are signed up to and so on. We saw an example of that with the Heads of Government meeting in Colombo last year. That is just the visible tip of things that the media can see. The genius of the real Commonwealth network is that it is people-driven, civic society-driven, community-driven, common interest-driven, certainly education-driven and increasingly market and business-driven. Increasingly it weaves together non-governmental forces, including in the central role the message of the church, of course, in an age of weakened Governments and empowered groups, tribes, interests and, indeed, the street. That is why the age of hyperconnectivity has acted like a blood transfusion to a network covering almost a third of humankind, half of them under 25, half of them women struggling to have their full and rightful place, millions of them young entrepreneurs aspiring to break out of development dead ends, many of them from smaller states and small islands—there are 32 of them in the Commonwealth network, to which globalisation has given not much chance at all, and 16 of them are realms of the Queen’s subjects under Her Majesty the Queen.
I conclude by again congratulating the most reverend Primate on bringing forward this central theme. The reality is that the transformed international landscape is now filling up with a quilt of networks and new alliances, some involving the old West, where we belong, but some excluding it altogether. Not only economic power but political power has to a very large extent shifted eastwards. The Commonwealth is only one of these new or renewed systems, but it is a mighty one, and for a heavily interdependent Britain it is a huge potential asset in every respect, from both the trade and business point of view and the point of view of our contribution to peace, stability and development and to the effective containment, prevention and resolution of conflicts around the world. We on this island have an amazingly fortunate position. We have rather inherited the Commonwealth in ways that perhaps we do not always deserve. Over the past 40 years, it has not had the attention that it should have had, but the wheel has turned, and new growth, markets, savings and power now lie either in Commonwealth countries or in the countries to which they are a gateway, such as China and the great rising powers of Asia, which are also using soft power weaponry to full effect. We should grasp these opportunities brought to us by the new technology, the new age and the digital world and share them with our excellent European neighbours who are struggling at the moment. We have to work with them as well, as the good Lord has placed us in Europe and that is where we have to be, work, operate and co-operate. The two horses can be ridden, if I can put it that way, so long as we keep our balance and our confidence in what we can do and achieve. I repeat my gratitude to the most reverend Primate for enabling us to put forward these thoughts in this debate.
My Lords, I, too, warmly congratulate the most reverend Primate, and I adopt his challenge to future Governments in relation to adding a soft-power component to the coming SDSR. I note what he says about the role of the Anglican Church, and I only regret that in a spirit of ecumenicalism—I can say this as a Welsh Baptist—he did not also mention the role of the Roman Catholic Church, as I have had the remarkable experience of watching the work of Archbishop Hurley in South Africa and of being with the Catholic Church in Argentina, during the troubles in Central America and on refuse tips in the Philippines. Watching the reconciliation work of that church together with the Anglican Church, I think the churches have overall made a remarkable contribution.
The most reverend Primate is right to focus our attention on soft power and the possibility of non-military options. As he said, much of the same ground is covered in the Select Committee report that was published in March. The Select Committee, faithful to its remit, accepted Professor Joseph Nye’s definition:
“Soft power is the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion or payment”.
I understand that a debate on the report was scheduled for Monday week but then postponed—rather like the number 23 bus, they do not come and then they all come together. It was a most stimulating introduction, as was the report, and when we come to the debate on the report, I will say that I detect some of the fingerprints of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, notably—I speak as a former chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—in perhaps overplaying the potential of the Commonwealth and underplaying the potential of the European Union.
By contrast, the most reverend Primate seeks to cover a wider area, including non-military options. For example, that phrase would extend to the current sanctions regime against Russia over its conduct in Ukraine. The West will not risk war but has imposed sanctions, and are not sanctions war by another means? Have they been effective? Coupled with the fall in oil prices, the sanctions have imposed major damage on the Russian economy, with the fall of the rouble, the decline in investment and Russia’s cancellation of the South Stream pipeline. There have been other examples of sanctions leading to a loss of confidence and trust—I refer, of course, to Iran and to the fall of apartheid in South Africa. There was of course an insurgency, but instruments such as the sports boycott and the decision of Chase Manhattan Bank in 1986 not to roll over its loans to South Africa had a major influence. As with Russia, as the most reverend Prelate said, that shows the importance of having private sanctions alongside official ones.
We should also recognise that early military intervention can prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. After the Rwanda genocide in 1994, when, it is said, over 800,000 people were killed between March and June, the Carnegie Foundation commissioned a simulation exercise from West Point which concluded that, had a small number of troops intervened at the beginning, that might have prevented the looming catastrophe.
I offer a few reflections. First, soft power is a useful instrument for analysis, but there is no simple gradation towards sanctions and military intervention. In short, there is a power spectrum, and it is very difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of our major soft power tools. Obviously, those include DfID, the FCO, the British Council and the BBC World Service. So far as the British Council is concerned, I saw at first hand the quality of its work in intervening, particularly with the black population, during the apartheid years in South Africa. On the BBC World Service, I recall dining once with President Kaunda, who was far more up to date on UK internal affairs than I was, as I had been travelling and he listened to the BBC World Service. I was once in the middle of the Sahara when my host rushed out when his watch alarm went off. Why? “Because it is the one o’clock news on the BBC World Service”, he said, “and it’s the purest Arabic I’ve ever heard”.
To take a few simple examples, the 2012 Olympics told our British story to the world in the opening and closing ceremonies. How do we evaluate the effect of that? Manchester United claims to have 108 million followers in China—more than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party. So what? Will that lead to people buying British goods? Will it influence Chinese foreign policy? Finally, “Downton Abbey” has a worldwide audience. Will British values thus be carried abroad, or does the England of country houses rather than technological advances divert attention from our real interest—the real British story?
Thus, we should recognise that there is a spectrum—a public and a private contribution. Our development NGOs, often co-financed by government, reach parts of the world which government cannot—rather like Heineken. In the Middle East, the work of people such as my noble friend Lord Stone in building up networks between UK supermarkets and Palestinian exporters is an excellent contribution to the infrastructure of peace. Ultimately, however, if there is a settlement, military monitors will be needed. We have many strengths across the spectrum as regards our cultural and military weight. In that sense, we are rivalled only by France and China; the US has different strengths.
My second reflection is that some countries, such as Norway, Canada and Ireland, pride themselves on their expertise in soft power; our self-image is different. Perhaps I should leave the inventory of our assets to the debate on the Select Committee report, but I say in passing that I am puzzled by the omission from the report of the role that we play in the Council of Europe, which is the main forum for human rights in Europe and whose court—the European Court of Human Rights—has been heavily influenced by British lawyers. I shall not spell out the dangers of the Government separating us from the court and the effect on our influence in Europe and beyond. I can leave that to the former Attorney-General, Mr Dominic Grieve, and his withering criticism of government policy as regards the ECHR.
My third reflection is that it is right for churchmen to force us to ask us difficult questions—in effect, to be troublemakers, as Elijah was to Ahab. They should make us ask questions such as: is there a way other than war? Have we made the military option the last resort? I have seen the contributions of Christian men and women worldwide in combating poverty and the need to build a human infrastructure. However, perhaps the “professional deformation” of churchmen is to say to themselves that love conquers all and to ignore the necessity from time to time, ultimately, of the military option. Often, too, soft power works best when buttressed by hard power in the background. Obviously, the end of communism in Europe involved a subtle interplay of hard and soft power. Increasingly, development agencies are forced to recognise the linkage between development and security, as we have seen very much in Afghanistan. However, that is a debate for another day.
Fourthly, and finally, what are the implications for us? The starting point is perhaps the Delphic oracle’s “Know thyself”, or, as the most reverend Primate put it, “Who are we?”. At a time of austerity and military draw-down our power is no longer mainly exercised through military strength. We have, however, from history—from who we are—a unique range of assets to influence others. Perhaps the adjustment to a new role is more difficult for us, with the burden of a glorious past and the temptation to nostalgia. The new means of influence is surely through partnerships; unilateral action, such as over the Falklands, is no longer possible. We should avoid nationalist temptations —for example, the siren voices that influence the Government over the European Court of Human Rights. We should play to our strengths, which include the English language and the new diaspora in our midst. For example, have the Government seriously thought of encouraging people from the diaspora communities in our midst to go abroad to their countries of origin? For example, people from Turkish communities, who have learnt perfect English in our schools, could go for a year as assistants to Turkey; it would be good for them in improving their Turkish, and good for us in spreading the influence of our culture and values. The new diaspora in our midst is one of the many new assets we have.
We should seek creative ways of rebalancing soft, hard and smart power—using, as effectively as we can all our assets, mostly now in partnership with like-minded countries.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate. Such a turnout on a Friday morning is so impressive that it reflects the great respect that this House has for him and the work that he and the Church of England have done. I hope he will take much strength from that observation.
I have been interested in the way that we have talked increasingly about soft power. I remember when the concept was introduced—originally, I think, by Professor Nye of Harvard. He talked about soft power in a very influential book which was published about 20 years ago, in a country that, for a very long time, did not perceive soft power as anything other than an escape from the hardest choices that have to be made. Among the things that I hope various Members of this House—perhaps not least the noble Lord, Lord Admiral West—will be able to talk to us about is what the relationship should be between the military and soft power, because it is crucial that they work together and are not in conflict with one another.
We have huge assets which a number of noble Lords—not least, of course, the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Anderson—have mentioned. It is important to say that one of the things that we should make quite clear is that we have those remarkable assets which, frankly, we have consistently undervalued. The list is astonishing. Importantly, of course, it includes the BBC, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, and in particular the World Service, which is often the Cinderella of the whole BBC system. It should not be, because its influence and effect have been colossal—far beyond the expenditure on it. Secondly, we have the huge advantage of the English language, which we have been lucky enough to make our own but which is now the closest thing we have to an international language. It is of crucial importance.
Thirdly, and not least, as the most reverend Primate said, there is the astonishing and growing influence of British universities and British technical colleges up and down this country. I completely and totally endorse and strongly support the remarks that he made about visas. We are seeing a conflict between the attitudes of different government departments, which is doing none of us any good. I speak as someone who was an overseas student first at Columbia and later at Harvard. There is a lifelong effect from studying in another country and getting to know that other country—coming out with friends from that other country, as the most reverend Primate said. Incidentally, there is one point that should be made about that—and not only the point about visas, which I hope the Minister will convey with some extreme passion to the Home Office. We also, importantly, need to think carefully about the hospitality that universities organise for those students who know this country not at all and do not perhaps speak English very well but who need a certain amount of help and assistance in settling down in the new context of a university in another country. It can be crucially important that people establish friendships while at university. Very often, those friendships—if one wants to be very tough-minded indeed—lead to business deals, investment and relationships between businesses of a kind that is of economic value to this country, as well as of cultural and educational value. We consistently underestimate the extraordinary power of higher education in building bridges and links with other countries, not least within the Commonwealth.
That brings me on to the Commonwealth itself, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. It is an astonishing asset. We have largely failed to realise its full potential, which is absolutely immense. It is one of very few organisations in the world which, apart from being international, is also intercultural, interracial, and inter-educational and, not least, brings together different religions, cultures and so forth. I think that we could make much more of it. In that context, we have failed to recognise the astonishing contribution made by the Prince of Wales, who has established within the Commonwealth astonishing ways in which to recruit young men and women into entrepreneurial futures and innovation in science, and into new jobs. He is sometimes regarded by the media in this country as something of an eccentric figure, but it is important that we recognise the great contribution that he has made, with thousands of young men and women finding opportunities for the future and being able to contribute to the Commonwealth. That is something that we need to look at very closely. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, because he has played a very large part in this. Although I myself am a strong European, I agree completely that there is no necessary conflict; in fact, on the contrary, the United Kingdom should be crucial in building bridges between this newly developing great society and the old world of Europe. It could be immensely good for Europe as well as for the Commonwealth itself.
I shall say a word about the third form of soft power, which is very important but quite controversial. I refer of course to economic soft power, which comes very close to being hard power. I know Russia quite well—I am going to go there next week—and I think that sometimes we fail to remember its history, which is that of a huge country that is constantly challenged by invasion and, in some cases, occupation and, in many cases, misunderstanding. One sees in many policies of the Russian Government at present what could be described as a somewhat paranoiac reaction to the sense of being constantly on the defensive. What I am trying to say is that I recognise that sanctions have been effective—but targeted sanctions are much more sensible than generalised sanctions, which tend to be carried out with the suffering of the general public. Having targeted sanctions of the kind that we have specifically imposed on senior leading people in Russia is a much more sensible and imaginative policy. I also strongly believe that, if you are going to occupy yourself with a policy of sanctions, it is absolutely crucial that there is side by side with it a policy of negotiation and reconciliation. We have not done that sufficiently with Russia. We are moving tragically towards some kind of rather foolish resumption of the Cold War. What we need to do above all is to relate Russia to the other forms of relationship—cultural, artistic and educational —that are open to us, to show that great country that it is not simply put in the doghouse, to be blamed and pushed out of the international community.
I do not say those things while failing to recognise the colossal challenge to the world of law that is represented, particularly, by the annexation of Crimea without any legal process having been gone through or without acknowledging the deep and difficult concerns of the Russian relationship with Ukraine, a country that I know well. But it is so easy for us in Britain to forget the desperate history of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, going right back to the First World War and the Second World War. As a country that wishes both well, we have a considerable role to play in mediation and negotiation, and it is one that we should take up more ambitiously and with more conviction than we do at present.
I shall talk briefly about a couple of other things. I shall talk quite controversially for just a moment about the role of the City of London. It is a very powerful international organisation with links throughout the world. It has long been part of the things that people greatly respect about the United Kingdom, but it is currently putting itself into a very vulnerable position. I greatly appreciate the role that the most reverend Primate has taken in trying to suggest to the City that it needs to regain its moral compass. The last three rounds of scandal—the forex scandal, the LIBOR scandal and, earlier on, the banking crisis itself—suggest that the City needs to sit down and think very hard about what its relationships should be in a world of soft power. I shall give only one illustration but I could give many more. It is vital that the leading banks in the UK, which have long had great respect paid to them, often rightly, should look much more energetically than they currently do at the whole issue of money laundering and its relationship to drug money and the sale of arms. In Parliament, we deserve greater attention to be paid to these things by the City, and I hope very much that the Treasury Select Committee and others will start to take up these matters in a way that the most reverend Primate has taken them up, with great courage and almost in the legacy of Christ overturning the tables at the temple that were mastered by the money changers.
Finally—and I apologise to the House if I have talked for longer than I should—I shall say one other word about the issue of soft power, and the way in which we as a country have to get across two things to our citizens and ourselves. One is, essentially, that if we are going to be effective in soft power, we have to show a certain humility. You cannot impose the old attitudes of the past. That means that, essentially, what we have to do is to extend our own education and learn from other countries—not least in the Commonwealth. There are things that we can learn from others. That is very important for the attitude that we take towards the wider world.
I conclude by saying that I have always believed very deeply that one central theme of Christianity is the victory of the Cross over the massed armies of Rome. That is in a sense a victory of soft power over hard power, and we have perhaps no better example to bear in mind when we consider how we should proceed with the policies advocated by the most reverend Primate.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, whose knowledge of these issues is profound.
Given the stress in the debate’s title on non-military means of conflict prevention, I hope that the most reverend Primate, who opened it in a most interesting and thought-provoking way, will not take it amiss if one who has spent his whole professional life in the Armed Forces should presume to contribute. I fully share the vision that it is far better to deal with situations by non-military means and sensible applications of soft power, however defined. I shall allude to its application for deterrence or prevention of conflict rather than to Joseph Nye’s definition of an ability to attract and co-opt others.
When I was studying for my RAF promotion exams more than 60 years ago, I was taught to consider three aspects in dealing with potential adversaries. There were political, economic and military. Non-conflict concepts were alive all those years ago. Today they have been rebranded and brigaded in a contemporary media-savvy vision called soft power. I leave it to others to unwrap the conundrum that so many from overseas wish to live and stay in this country while many others are so militantly averse to all that we stand for and believe in.
I turn to my third heading and the point I wish to make. It may be summed up in that phrase first attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. He wrote in 1900 that you can go far if you:
“Speak softly and carry a big stick”.
Others have coined the phrase, “an iron fist in a velvet glove”. My concern about the values of non-coercive soft power and non-military intervention lies not in their intrinsic worth but in the context in which they are applied.
The debate focuses on conflict prevention, not just winning the hearts and minds of others, so the perceptions of the interlocutors in the exchanges are all-important. The view from their end of the telescope may well not match ours. They may need to be cajoled or won over with economic or political gestures—but will those suffice to ensure a satisfactory outcome? The other side will certainly be weighing up what more it might extract, or what pressures it might face.
I fear that in recent years—I know this from my own experience—we have had harsh lessons, paid for in blood and treasure, about an opposition’s presumptions about the temper of the iron in our national fist. For decades before 1982, we had expended much effort in political-diplomatic exchanges to dissuade the Argentinians over their claim to the Falkland Islands. During the mid-1970s, the Argentinians became more belligerent—so much so that a nuclear-powered submarine was dispatched at short notice to the southern Atlantic as a successful deterrent.
As a then Assistant Chief of Air Staff at the MoD, I looked at the possibility of flying ground reinforcement into the Falklands by Hercules. Regrettably, I had to advise that, while a Hercules transport aircraft could, indeed, just fly into Port Stanley’s short airstrip, insufficient fuel was stored there, let alone runway length, to recover even a single aircraft. The idea of building a new airfield of reasonable size to allow for rapid reinforcement and in-theatre operations was considered, following an in-depth report by Lord Shackleton. However, the cost was sizeable and no department felt that it could be afforded, so it was dismissed as unnecessary. Non-military negotiation should continue and would—it was presumed—prove as adequate as in the past.
In subsequent years, the Argentinians noted that our military commitment to the Falklands was further and further diminished, with the withdrawal of a guard ship and eventually HMS “Endeavour”. By the time the Argentinians invaded in 1982, there were just 40 marines in place and no prospect of rapid reinforcement by air. Only after recapture did we get round to building the airfield at Mount Pleasant and positioning aircraft and radar for deterrence and protection. Soft power on that occasion lacked the deterrent of robust and timely further action, and we paid a dreadful price in lives lost, young individuals scarred for life and tragedy for the families involved.
Moving forward to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf conflict, Saddam Hussein’s presumption was that the reduction in military capability, as the US and Britain sought to benefit from a peace dividend following the end of the Cold War, made it less likely that we would embark on hostile military action. Between August 1990 and February 1991, this perception of his must have been strengthened in spite of sizeable deployment of coalition forces into theatre, as the US, with our active support, sought to find a non-military solution. Nothing budged Hussein until his forces were attacked by air and, finally, by ground forces.
We lost six Tornado aircraft in that conflict, but there were adequate numbers to sustain our operational tempo. Today, there seems little dialogue with ISIL and we and our allies have embarked on a muted application of force. Is it not sobering to realise that our total offensive contribution to this ongoing operation, apart from some UAV sorties, is just six Tornados? Even with the life extension recently given to the Tornado force to remain at three full squadrons for a further year, there is no continuous capability for an air combat force to remain deployed globally, as a deterrent or for use, as far and as wide as it has been. Other tasks may become more pressing.
I have chosen the Tornado force to illustrate my point, but similar analogies may be made for naval and Army forces. All three services are shadows of their former selves of even a couple of decades ago. The Air Force that I was privileged to lead in the mid-1980s was 100,000 strong. Today, it is down to close on 30,000 and force numbers have declined in proportion. Does this ORBAT any longer have a hope of being the big stick or iron fist that history teaches us is an essential long-stop to soft power and other non-military engagement with recalcitrant opponents?
I repeat that of course I welcome all steps—any steps—that can resolve difficulties between nations without recourse to war and bloodshed. However, these have far greater hope of success if the stick and fist are first class and sizeable enough to carry weight in the minds of those we seek to win over. We deceive ourselves if we believe that today’s force levels are still adequate to foster and promote the success of soft power in conflict prevention. President Putin’s annexation of Crimea, so robustly decried by our Government and many in the West as unacceptable, is now a fait accompli. The strategic prize for Russia must surely outweigh any or all inconvenience caused to its economy, or even individuals, by sanctions, which are the most that NATO and the EU seem capable, or willing, to call upon. The labours of those who diligently seek to solve problems with soft power might be more productive if those who bear responsibility for defence consider the adequacy of the available strengths rather than assume that all is well because we input some now very small amount of GDP on defence capability.
I applaud the efforts and enthusiasm of the most reverend Primate and other noble Lords. I hope that more will be done for the Armed Forces to give him and others the deterrent muscle of “big stick” and well tempered “iron fist” to promote success—the success that a combination of hard and soft power, or “smart power”, may bring. Hard power, it has been said, begets soft power.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the most reverend Primate for tabling this debate and commend him and the Church of England worldwide for the strenuous efforts it makes to advance reconciliation between conflicting groups, both here in the UK and abroad. I declare my various interests as laid out in the Lords register.
When I first reflected on the notion of soft power after coming into this House, it led me to a curious starting place: trade. We often think of soft power in terms of non-profit, diplomatic and associational activity alongside the marketplace—many of which were expertly set out in the excellent report by the Select Committee chaired ably by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. However, I have been intrigued these last few years by the power of dreams—specifically, commercial dreams that have criss-crossed the world over the centuries as a means of enabling countries and cultures to communicate and connect across language and other barriers.
For example, the European or continental dream emanating from the courts of kings and nobles in France, Italy and beyond, find their expression still today in the luxury wares and fashions that fill high streets around the world. Our own British dream, developed quite consciously and wisely as a means to make our own Royal Family and leadership more accessible in dangerous times, finds resonance today in the goods and products so sought after around the world. The American dream followed, and many others are being built.
Each dream identifies iconic products or artefacts in areas that have universal appeal, allowing them to say something of their host culture that words alone cannot convey, and often specifically in four areas: food and drink, housing, clothing or fashion, and communications, which covers both transportation and now IT. So whether you are drinking a Coca-Cola or Earl Grey tea, driving a Mini or a Cadillac, wearing Armani or Savile Row, and so on, millions are able to partake in both high-end and everyday products and services that enable them to have a taste of another culture from somewhere around the world.
What, one might ask, has this got to do with conflict prevention? Actually, a great deal. American products after the world wars were provided to starving populations once fighting ceased, and created a warmth towards America that persists today in many parts of the world. The role of entertainment—specifically sport, which, I would argue, is a part of the British dream—exported around the world, created a valuable means ultimately of enabling friendly competition between nations, as a way of building relations and avoiding conflicts which might otherwise get out of hand.
Most importantly, each of the dreams in its purest and admittedly stereotypical form, certainly at the outset and at its best, encodes a set of values that belies the simple functionality of the products that make them up. So with the old European dream one can pick up consciously or subconsciously an understanding of quality and craftsmanship, of honour and tradition. With the British dream there is civility, good humour, fair play and, increasingly today, modernity, social responsibility and community. With the American dream there is freedom, prosperity and aspiration.
The Chinese dream is currently under development. I would love to see one emerging in the coming years that builds on the idea of a strong, increasingly prosperous nation rising again on the world stage—important as this concept is—to incorporate through its entrepreneurial and commercial products the values of care for, and harmony with, nature, of family and of respect for others, which I think expresses the best of historic Chinese civilisation’s values over the millennia.
In their best form these values—carried as they are within the dreams and the artefacts that represent them—can, when well executed, deliver more understanding and help prevent conflict more than a hundred conferences or acts of diplomacy, vital as these are. This is because, by facilitating everyday the subconscious admiration of another nation or group’s culture, we create a safe space for dialogue and for focusing on the positive, and step away from division.
Of course, the transmission of values, whether via commercial products or in a more general way through discourse, dialogue, and diplomacy, can be a powerful form of soft power in and of itself, which is why so much energy is poured into related think tanks, education, global broadcasting, national councils, cultural initiatives and so on. However, we have to evaluate whether value transmission is always in its rawest and least-nuanced fashion beneficial to the cause of preventing or reducing conflict, whether armed or not.
I will take democracy as one example. In most circles, and not least in this, the Mother of Parliaments, democracy is our most cherished export, a part of the British dream—and quite rightly so. At times, however, the value that democracy represents when universalised and imposed on other countries prematurely can sometimes do more harm than good, not least to the long-term peaceful cause and development of democracy in such countries themselves. We need to remember how long it took for our own democracy to develop, and remember that stable ones are not built overnight.
Indeed, there are values embedded in each of the dreams I have mentioned which work against peace and understanding and which can undermine the health and well-being of the consumers who partake of them—from the colonialist mindset that parts of the old British dream can convey, to the materialism and literal overconsumption that the American dream now often evokes, or the unequal decadence and faded grandeur of the European dream, and so on.
The key to whether values carried by such dreams or transmitted directly have a positive or negative impact ultimately comes down, of course, to people. And here is the rub: our soft power and that of other cultures derive not just from our products and cultural artefacts, and not even just from our values, but from the behaviour and mindset of the people who promote these values and artefacts to the world.
You may be a politician looking to secure votes here, who seeks to champion values overseas—whether those of democracy or freedom from bureaucracy—but in your heart you care more about how this might play with your own voters than with the countries that you are talking about and the people in them. Your words for a domestic audience can end up increasing conflict and have adverse consequences overseas, especially in an age of social media. Conversely, you might be a journalist or editor who rightly decides to not over-report the executions that are happening in the Middle East to help save lives by not escalating the cycle of violence in the region. In each case, it is the person who determines through their actions and words whether the values they champion end up causing conflict or preventing it.
It is all about people in the end, and their motivations. Here there is a particular poignancy because, noting that Christmas is just round the corner, there is a person, in Jesus Christ, whose soft power, if you like, has persisted to this day and shaped nations, not least our own; and whose example, if followed—perhaps with a bit of help from above—gives us a guide to how to prevent unnecessary conflict and how to be the kind of people who promote peace, not violence. While war is sometimes unfortunately necessary when the cause is just, the harder battles are always in winning and establishing peace and avoiding the conditions which will lead to wars in future.
As has been mentioned, Jesus took a successful system based on war and conquest, that of the Roman Empire—and specifically a form of governance the Romans used called ekklesia, from which we derive our word church or assembly—and encouraged his followers to represent him by helping to peacefully bring his values of love and blessing to the world, using the trade routes that were the Roman internet of the day to shape history to the then ends of the earth. He did this not by confining himself and his message of salvation to one country, city, or even building, but by positively influencing the very people who shape culture and values, and who oversee how these are transmitted locally and globally, and who through trade and commerce shape the narratives—the dreams to which people aspire.
Some might argue that faith, whether Christian or other faiths, is a historical source of conflict, and should be kept out of any debate about soft power. I would argue that again we need to understand the nuance. The kind of faith that underpinned Jesus’s notion of ekklesia, of his church throughout a city making peace and caring for the needs of its citizens—young, old, masters or employers—is the kind that brings peace, and which can help steer the right values and the right artefacts in the right direction. The kind of faith that seeks to make conflict itself a goal, and specifically violence, is attractive when people of peace, the ekklesia and others who share similar values to it, are absent or have been ignored, and represents a kind of last resort for the desperate as law and order breaks down, dreams are shattered and opportunists looking for short-term gain rise up and start to wage both a narrative and physical war.
Today we live in a world of conflict—not just the kind of conflict expressed through physical war but of many kinds, increasingly afflicting our world. Much of it is viral—spreading quickly, fuelled by perceived inequality and injustice. We need people who can follow Christ’s lead and take a stand for winning the peace, not just the war, whose values are positive and who can help prevent conflict, and whose everyday lives, products and narratives, instead of sowing division, promote understanding, restraint and tolerance.
My Lords, we owe the most reverend Primate a debt of gratitude for enabling us to engage in what has been a worthwhile and stimulating debate, just as Africa and the wider world owe his church and the ecumenical movement a debt of gratitude for the outstanding work they are doing on conflict resolution in southern Sudan as we speak, and in Nigeria. Those are two area of Africa with which I am well acquainted.
As I think we have all gathered in the course of this morning’s debate, the reality is that the term “soft power” does not do justice to the cause that it represents. The values that underpin the communication and promotion of that vision—conflict resolution, peace, justice and reconciliation, which form the basis of sustainable development—are not, in fact, soft options. They are anything but that. They are tough and require tough thinking. They require courage on the part of the participants. My experience, whether as Chief Secretary, as a high commissioner or indeed on the front line in Africa today, teaches me that, in addition to those things, they require resources—resources applied on the ground with vigour and determination.
I want to share one or two thoughts on resources with the House. I fear the reality is that the resources for the exercise of soft power are, all too often, simply not there. They are certainly there much less readily than for the application of hard power. When I think of the chaos and suffering caused in the southern Sahel region of Africa by the application of hard power in Libya—a direct result of which has been the destabilisation of large parts of Mali and the fanning of the flames of dissent in so many countries bordering the Sahel—I think of the readiness with which money was found for it, and of the struggle now being experienced in the regions most affected by the deployment of military activity in Libya to find resources to build peace and address the underlying causes of conflict in the southern Sahel. Yes, those causes undoubtedly lie in religious division, but above all they find their basis in a sense of despair and hopelessness, on the part of a youthful population, to find any form of gainful employment, even when they have an education. Boko Haram, in its attack on western education, is fuelled by the reality in Nigeria and so many other parts of Africa: even when people have that education, there are no jobs. We need to realise that, in the application of soft power, we have to will the resources and find the resources to make a difference on the ground.
It is ironic that, even as we speak, the other place is debating and reflecting on the importance of putting into law our cross-party commitment, for which this country and our two Houses are to be commended, of putting 0.7% of GDP into overseas development assistance. I am bound to say this: we are going to be required to spend an additional £1 billion of overseas development assistance if we are to meet that 0.7% target. I very much hope that we will spend that money and that we will put into law that commitment to 0.7%. However, it is ironic that, as we do that, the British Council, the World Service, NGOs, the churches and so many other instruments of soft power are scrabbling for resources. This is not because of the deficit, but because we do not seem to be able to find a way of translating that ODA, through instruments of soft power, into making a difference on the ground. That is a challenge.
The most reverend Primate spoke, in the context of the next strategic defence and security review, of hoping to avoid another “rumble in the jungle” between the Treasury and the MoD. The wolf may lie down with the lamb, but I must share my experience with your Lordships. I feel quite at home in the jungle. That has nothing whatever to do with the fact I am a Hackney boy—we know how to defend ourselves. It is because I spent three and a half years in the jungle of the Treasury and in Whitehall as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I see a number of colleagues looking at me with a certain degree of—how can I put it? Trepidation is the wrong word, but there you are. We had our battles. Battles are the nature of what takes place in Whitehall when we look at public spending. It is right that there should be a rigorous approach to public spending. I fear that my experience has been, all too often, that it is an issue not just of one department losing out over another, but of failure on the part of our systems to require departments to work together. That happens time and again: the silo mentality, the determination to protect departmental budgets at all costs.
In that particular rumble in the jungle, DfID is no innocent. It is a department that has, for very understandable reasons, been jealous of the definition of ODA. As a result, it is extremely reluctant to spend money through the agency of other departments. We will have to do that. If we have this extra £1 billion that needs spending—and we have—I suggest it is much better to spend it through the MoD, the FCO, the Department of Health, the British Council and the World Service than simply to say, “We’ve got this money. Let’s just send it off through some other multilateral organisation outside the UK”. That really is not the way forward. The money is there; this is not a deficit issue. This country and all sides of the House are to be commended for their generosity in that respect. The question is how we spend that money. I will make two or three points relating to that.
The first concerns the ring-fence. We must be prepared to ring-fence the budget of the British Council, as was previously the case. Since the ring-fence was removed, not surprisingly the budget of that organisation has been consistently reduced. I fear that the figures speak for themselves. In the last year for which the British Council has figures, grant in aid from the FCO was reduced to £171.5 million, which represented 22% of the council’s total income. Five years before that, FCO grant in aid was £189 million, which represented 34% of its total income. Therefore, one can see the way in which the British Council’s budget is being consistently squeezed. The corporate plan for 2014-16 sees that amount decrease to 16%. Therefore, only 16% of the British Council’s budget will come from the FCO; the rest will have to come from elsewhere. The reality is that that elsewhere has been commercial activity related to the teaching of the English language.
I am second to none in my belief in the promotion of the English language. One can see in the register of interests that I am deputy chair of the English Speaking Union. I believe the promotion of the English language to be a good and vital thing, but it is not simply the promotion of the English language through commercial teaching that the British Council was set up to achieve. It was, should be and is at its best when it promotes our values and our vision—values and vision which underpin successful and sustainable development, as well as conflict resolution, and which are all about the substance of genuine and sustainable peace. This is not airy-fairy stuff; this is practical work that the British Council is delivering now through the Active Citizens programme and through the work that it is doing in Syria and Nigeria. However, it is all work that is under threat and underfunded, and where, I fear, we do not see evidence of spending supported adequately or sufficiently by overseas development assistance as it might be.
I am afraid that the Conflict Pool is not working. You have only to look at the report of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee, which makes that point. It points to the good things that the Conflict Pool has done but says:
“It has proved effective at … supporting worthwhile conflict prevention initiatives and has delivered some useful … results”,
“it lacks a clear strategic framework and robust funding model”.
If we are serious about soft power and about the subject of this debate, we have to give the Conflict Pool a robust funding model. We have to make sure that the different government departments work together and are able to apply to that pool for the resources that they need to do the job. That includes the Foreign Office. We cannot talk about soft power while globally our reach is being diminished. The number of people we are able to deploy to advance our vision and our values is decreasing. They are hard-pressed but they do great work, as the most reverend Primate pointed out and as a number of your Lordships know from their own experience. The work that they do is absolutely essential to the deployment of our soft power.
The same applies to the MoD and our diplomatic reach in terms of our military attaches, who are engaged in the day-to-day business of promoting peace and conflict resolution on the continent of Africa. Our capacity now to deploy MoD personnel to that end has been seriously depleted, and our capacity to support the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre has all but disappeared. You have only to examine the core curriculum of that training centre. It includes a police mobile training team, a conflict prevention course, an election management course, peacekeeping logistics and a rule of law course. This is what soft power is about, and we have to find a way of getting through the thickets and the jungles to which our spending processes are all too often subject in order to make sure that that precious resource is deployed.
This is not an issue that divides this House or our country; it is an issue that I fear requires us now to grasp the day-to-day business of making sure that we have, as the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy recommends, a security and strategic review next year leading to a new security strategy. However, we need to make sure that that is linked to the comprehensive spending review, to resources and to a change in the model of funding of our activities in this area. We have a great opportunity. There is much to be done. We have to seize the moment.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate, and I greatly admired the way in which he opened our deliberations. I also thank the committee and its distinguished chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, for the report, which is extremely timely.
The interdependence of the world that we live in is becoming increasingly clear. This country is taking measures to deal with violence, and violence stimulated from abroad. We are spending money on that. The interconnection of world powers is becoming increasingly clear to every citizen, and I believe that the citizenry of this country would welcome a review, initiated by the Government, of soft power and the persuasion of others to avoid violence. We need positive plans. If in the next year we are considering defence and security, this is an extremely important part of it.
Recently, this House had the honour and advantage of hearing from the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Jan Eliasson, who has had very great experience in the United Nations. He talked to us about the fact that the UN should not now be solely occupied by the member nations but that it should recognise that there are cross-boundary concerns, beliefs and objections which should be taken into consideration in planning for world peace.
It is a good thing that 0.7% of our GDP is being made permanent. I hope that this country will grow in such a way that it could even exceed that, but it is a notable achievement and it is not one that the public object to.
I want to come back, eventually, to the points made by the Deputy Secretary-General, but others have spoken about the value of the Commonwealth, and that institution could do even more than it does at present. The two British institutions that are particularly directed towards extending to other countries our understanding of the values that we need to put in place to avoid violence and our rich culture are the British Council and the BBC World Service. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke well and forcefully of the pressures that are felt by the British Council and I will not go into them in great depth. But it is a marvellous organisation, which at one point was led by the deputy secretary of the department in which I served as a junior Minister. I learnt a great deal from him.
We really need to give serious attention to the BBC World Service. The budget rose in April of this year by £6.5 million to £245 million, but in 2010, the Foreign Office cut BBC World Service funding by 16%, leading to the departure of about one-fifth of its staff. The licence fee might prove a more stable source of funding than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but the licence fee itself will come under consideration by the Government. It has to be underpinned at a distinctly higher level. Again, I believe that the British citizenry would accept that and understand that part of the money is to underpin our society.
In 2005, the BBC provided services in 43 languages. Today that figure is down to 28. I recognise that English is becoming a world language, but we should be targeting people who do not necessarily speak English. Of the languages that are spoken, a television service operates for the Arabic and Persian languages, with a smaller service on IPTV—television via the internet—for the Russian language. A radio service exists for 18 other language services. In contrast, Chinese state journalists broadcast in more than 60 languages.
The audience for the World Service grew in 2013 thanks to its Arabic and Persian TV stations. It has adapted to growing competition by creating more programming for local partners to air, and its audience online, although small, is picking up. This is vitally important.
The global audience estimate measures the combined reach of the BBC’s international services—the BBC World Service, BBC World News, BBC.com/news and
BBC Media Action—across the world. Russia has recently shown the biggest growth for a single market, with the audience more than doubling to 6.9 million weekly, as people turn to the BBC for trustworthy and impartial news. The BBC’s Ukrainian service also reflects this trend, with its audience more than tripling to more than 600,000 over the past year. BBC World News TV shows an increase of 5 million viewers, taking its weekly audience to 76 million. The Indian audience has grown and shows signs of recovering from the past few years of decline. This comes thanks to investments in digital and TV for the Hindi service, including the launch of the “Global India” programme on TV, which brings in 6 million weekly viewers, and an increase in World News viewers.
Before I conclude, I want to say that Governments are not the only people who should be expressing and supporting soft power. We recently saw a very important visit by the Pope to Turkey where he issued a joint statement, along with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, which showed an awareness of the ecumenical nature of religion. They said:
“We express our common concern for the current situation in Iraq, Syria and the whole Middle East. We are united in the desire for peace and stability and in the will to promote the resolution of conflicts through dialogue and reconciliation … The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship”.
I am delighted to hear that, because the Abrahamic religions should be speaking out together against the appalling violence and calamities that we have seen in Iraq and Syria. There was a convention in Abu Dhabi on
“When he is empowered, he sets out to do violence in the land, destroying crops and livestock. But God does not love violence”.
Further on there is another quotation from the Prophet Muhammad:
“Beware (or Woe unto you)! Listen! Do not revert back to disbelief after I have gone”— that is by,
“some of you killing others”.
We need a coming together of religions to voice their common message in favour of peace and kindness to mankind.
My Lords, I begin by thanking and congratulating the most reverend Primate on securing this debate and introducing it with very considerable eloquence and wisdom. Today’s debate could not have been more timely and morally more engaging. Over the past few years we have become so used to violence that we resort to force every time we want something. This is true of private individuals and groups and, sadly, it is also true of nation states and Governments. When nation states and Governments intervene violently in the name of “humanitarian intervention”—paradoxically so called—sometimes they end up causing more direct and collateral damage than the harm they are seeking to prevent. We need, therefore, to explore non-military alternatives to the use of violence, which is precisely the theme of our debate today.
Before doing that, I want to question—or if not question then certainly interrogate—the concept of soft power. I have said on several occasions in your Lordships’ House that I feel slightly uneasy about the notion of soft power for two simple reasons. The first is that it traps us in the logic of power. We seem to think that soft power can or should achieve more or less the same things as hard power except that it does so by different means. In other words, soft power refers to a different modality, but it does not question the logic of power itself. The second difficulty is that I am not entirely sure what it includes. We talk about persuasion and getting people to think in a certain way, but what about, for example, economic sanctions? Do they constitute the exercise of soft power? What about threats of a non-military kind that one nation might make to another? The arm-twisting that goes on—does that constitute soft power? We need to be careful to ensure that soft power is not understood simply as a negative category—anything that is not hard power—but that it is understood as a positive concept capable of being defined on its own terms.
Once that is done, some difficulties arise. If we engage in certain charitable and philanthropic activities such as supporting NGOs, educational programmes in schools and so on, we somehow begin to think that we have acquired the right to exercise soft power. If the countries in which we invest in these ways do not oblige, we feel cheated. We then ask ourselves what it is that we have been doing, and why. The example of Nelson Mandela was cited a little earlier. Here was a man of whom I would hesitate to say that he was exercising, consciously or unconsciously, soft power. Why does he matter to us? Why does he have such influence? It is because he exemplified a certain way of life and certain ideals, and those ideals speak for themselves.
From a religious perspective—I am not a religious person but inevitably this debate has a religious character—ideals can speak in a quiet way often without being articulated and without being turned into instruments of power. We in Britain do have considerable influence—I will not use the term “soft power”—because we exercise a certain moral authority. However, the notion of moral authority is in danger of being subsumed into and misunderstood as soft power. Beyond the soft power which comes through the kinds of things we have been talking about, there is a certain kind of influence and authority that both individuals and nations can exercise. In our case, we have exercised and continue to exercise a certain kind of moral authority. When we speak, people listen. They may not necessarily agree with us, but they will listen because they know that it is a voice of maturity born out of great historical experience and a talented people who are given to critical debate and therefore to arriving at their views through critical reflection. Ultimately, it is what we stand for which matters, and thus it is how we organise our political life and culture that will give us our moral authority.
The danger, which I began to perceive while listening to the speeches of quite a few noble Lords, lies in the debate about how to connect soft power with the prevention of conflict. The debate is increasingly concentrated on how to accumulate and use soft power, while the prevention of conflict is quietly falling from view. If we are not careful, the language of soft power can be very seductive. It is also worth bearing in mind that soft power can so easily be lost. Britain stood for something very important and exemplified some great ideals. We made a disastrous mistake in the case of Iraq, with the result that lots of people all around the world began to ask what has happened to this great country. It is capable of great wisdom and maturity, so why did it have to follow the American lead? Everyone—Nelson Mandela, the Holy Father in Rome and many others—all said loud and clear that that was not the way to go. That voice included the Jewish community, as the Chief Rabbi said that it was not the way to go, and yet we went. The damage that did to us was great. It wiped out all the years spent building up our moral authority, or what some might like to call soft power.
The first thing to bear in mind when we talk about soft power is that it is, first, a slightly nebulous concept and, secondly, it can easily be undermined by the misuse of hard power. Ultimately, moral authority is achieved because people trust us. They must trust our intentions, that we mean well, and they must trust our judgment, our capacity to arrive at the right kind of view. Trust in our intentions and trust in our judgment take years to acquire, and once they have been acquired, we must ensure that we do not follow a foreign policy or act in a manner which is so partial that it wipes out whatever moral authority we happen to have.
I turn now to a question that has not been touched on, which is the question not just of preventing conflict but of moderating conflict. Human beings being what they are, tainted by original sin, will continue to fight, so what we can hope for is not the creation of a world free of conflict, but one in which they can be managed, moderated and, it is hoped, minimised. Religion has played a very important part in conflict—some data that I looked at recently suggested that, of the about 78 conflicts that obtain in the world today, around 50 or more can be traced to religion in one form or another. Religion either creates conflict or accentuates it, and precisely because it is the source of the problem, it has to be the source of the answer. Most of these conflicts occur in transitional societies in which people who are used to a particular way of life are embracing modernity and all the tensions that that can create. They hold on to their religious institutions, practices and values in order to give them an anchor and a sense of identity. Religion plays a particularly important role in transitional societies.
As I say, religion can become a source of conflict, but it can also be the source of resolving it. I want to explore two or three ideas of how we could lead a movement in that direction under the leadership of the most reverend Primate, who has a great deal to say on these matters and who brings with him his great historical experience. I think that we could take the lead in this direction, but how could that be done? Let us look at how religion has played a part in, for example, suicide bombings in the Middle East. Muslims have debated for years whether that is a right thing for a Muslim to do: is it permitted by the Koran? It was only after three or four years of serious jurisprudential debate that imams in Beirut and Cairo said, “Yes, it is consistent with Islam”, and people engaged with it. You could see how much even suicide bombing depended on religion to give it legitimacy.
Therefore, in order to ensure that religion plays a creative role, I want to suggest that we might do three or four things. First, religion should be encouraged to build bridges between and within communities. That is extremely important. It should also learn to challenge dubious interpretations of religion, as in the case of IS. It is very striking that in the case of IS some Muslim leaders in the Middle East have taken the lead, challenging those who try to hijack religion.
I am also persuaded by a slightly different argument that people have made. In the case of Nigeria and one or two other places—for example, Buddhist monks in Cambodia supporting Pol Pot’s regime, or Serbian churches blessing Serbian nationalists who then went about killing Muslims—religious leaders could have said, “Those who engage in certain kinds of activities will be excommunicated”, or, “They will not be entitled to funeral rites in the same way that suicides and convicted murderers are not”. Religious communities have powerful sanctions and people who have worked with terrorists report them saying, “If we had been told or if we had ever had any doubt that this activity would deny us a place in heaven or that it was against our religion, we would not have engaged in it”. They were looking for some heavenly place and the heavenly place would be denied to them. If church leaders were absolutely clear and said, “Those who engage in it will not be given a decent Christian”—or Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist—“burial or cremation”, I think it would have a profound effect and I am surprised that many churches and religious institutions have not taken a lead in this.
Finally, because religious leaders generally tend to be trusted and are seen as people of good will, well meaning, with good judgment, they should play a creative role in bringing various groups together, making their concerns mutually intelligible and ensuring that people are able to talk to each other in a common language. Here we have a wonderful example: South Africa would not have been—pre or post-apartheid—what it is without the role played by Bishop Tutu and many religious people. There is also the role played by the then Archbishop Monsengwo in Congo, by the Sant’Egidio community in Mozambique and Burundi and by Bishop Belo in East Timor. These are some examples of where religious leaders, guided by religion but politically savvy and politically sophisticated, have been able to bring various groups together.
I feel slightly uneasy advocating some of those things because there is a question about whether the close relationship between the state and religion in this way might not create conflicts for secularism, but I think that can be tackled at a different level in a different way. The time has come for us to recognise that religious institutions play a significant role in creating conflict and that they can, therefore, be persuaded to play equally significant roles in dissolving conflict. Therefore, rather than avoid them, states and Governments need to collaborate with them.
My Lords, the whole House is indebted to the most reverend Primate for the way in which he introduced this debate. In Liverpool we were well aware of the talented and inspiring man that we had as Dean of Liverpool Cathedral. I think now the whole nation is beginning to understand the unique combination of experience and gifts that the most reverend Primate brings to the role that he now plays.
During his opening remarks, the most reverend Primate talked about the cost of deploying a battalion and it brought to my mind the famous exchange involving Stalin, who asked, “How many divisions does the Pope have?”. The answer, I suppose, came in the form of the Polish Pope, Karol Wojtyla, and the events at the end of the Cold War—in the transformative effect that the churches in all their denominations played in bringing an end to the former Soviet Union and the tyrannies that existed during that time.
The most reverend Primate also talked about the role of the BBC World Service and the British Council in promoting values, both institutions being extraordinary exemplars of soft power. I will return to that subject, as others have done, in my remarks. Earlier this year, in February, I introduced a debate on their role and I argued that the Government needed to combine soft power with hard power in a foreign policy based on what might be described as smart power.
In the face of terrorism, war and dictatorship, there are of course times when hard power—military force—needs to be deployed. There are times when the use of financial power is needed, to cut off sources of funding for those who seek to do us or their own people harm. There are times to provide funding and resources to those struggling for freedom or survival. There are times when political and diplomatic pressure is essential, and the work of our intelligence services in ensuring that we are aware of dangers before they occur is always vital. But soft power—a concept first articulated by the American academic Joseph Nye, as we have heard—should never be underestimated. When combined with all the other tools that are available, it can contribute to an intelligent, creative, practical and principled foreign policy.
Several months ago, the British Academy published an excellent report, which concluded that:
“UK foreign policy is too often conducted in a compartmentalised manner”,
which was a point alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Boateng,
“with the would-be benefits of soft power either judged to be outweighed by security concerns”,
which was a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and by the excellent Select Committee report,
“or simply never taken into account”.
The report concludes that soft power is,
“likely to become more important in international relations over the coming years. UK governments can help themselves simply by recognising this, and by providing enough resources for the development and maintenance of its long-term assets”.
More than 80 years after its establishment by Lord Reith, today the BBC World Service has a global audience of 265 million people, as the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, reminded us. It transmits in English and 27 other languages. Often it is the only lifeline to honest reporting of news and current affairs. That was certainly true for the millions living behind the iron curtain in eastern Europe during the Cold War. It was true in Burma, throughout decades of brutal military dictatorship. When I visited Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in March last year, she told me of the vital role that the World Service played, not only as a source of information and hope for her during her long, lonely years under house arrest, but as a source of ideas for the people of Burma. During my visit I gave a lecture at the British Council library in Rangoon, which throughout the worst of those years was always a place of hope for the people of Burma. I know that last month the Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, David Burrowes, delivered another lecture there on parliamentary democracy, human rights and civil society.
In building Burma’s democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi particularly points to the role that the World Service has played in disseminating information, broadcasting truthful news bulletins and programmes that could be relied upon, and sustaining morale in the darkest of times. Yet, as we have heard, funding and the mandate of both the World Service and the British Council risk their effectiveness. In 2010-11 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant for the British Council was 27% of its income. In 2013-14 that grant is forecast to be less than 20% of total income. The proportion is projected to decrease further, reaching 16% of total income by 2015-16. Meanwhile, of course, the World Service has seen its mandate changed and its capacity reduced.
I will give your Lordships one example of the effect of depleted resources. I want to talk about the use of soft power in North Korea. I remind the House of my non-pecuniary interest as co-chairman of the All-Party Group on North Korea. Although I readily concede that there are significant differences between Burma and North Korea, there are also legitimate comparisons, and I regret that our now more resource-driven approach has led to very different outcomes.
Your Lordships will recall that in February, a United Nations commission of inquiry report found that the North Korean Government were guilty of crimes against humanity, including enforced starvation, torture, sexual violence, forced labour, political prison camps and public executions.
Bringing to light the most devastating and relentless catalogue of crimes against humanity in the post-1945 era, it is salient to note that these abuses were all committed while the UK pursued a soft power approach towards the country through a mix of cultural, educational, and exchange projects, some of which I have seen first hand on my four visits to that benighted country. On North Korea, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about what works and what does not.
The last time there was a war on the Korean peninsula, some 3 million people lost their lives, including 1,000 British servicemen—probably more, I suspect, than in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Falklands combined. As the transition from military dictatorship to thriving democracy and market economy in the Republic of Korea has demonstrated, a peaceful, united Korea need not be a pipe dream. It is worth mentioning in the context of today’s debate that not only were there all those civilian and military casualties, but the former Anglican Bishop of Korea, the late Monsignor Richard Rutt, in his booklet The Martyrs of Korea, estimated that around 8,000 martyrs had died for their Christian faith in Korea during that period. As evidence has demonstrated in both the report issued by the United Nations and in testimonies given only a week ago in this House—which will be included in a report to be published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Religious Freedom or Belief—those deprivations of religious freedom and offences against Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights continue to this day.
Change on the Korean peninsula will not come about simply by accident or as a result of simple, short-term interventions. When we think about soft power in that context we should ask ourselves two questions: who should we be looking to influence in North Korea and how can we engage North Korea in a responsible and effective manner?
In many ways, North Korea is an exception to so many rules—I readily concede that. Decades of international dialogue and pressure have had precious little effect on how the regime conducts itself in the international arena. The report by the United Nations that I referred to describes it as a “country without parallel” in its abuse of human rights. Measured against the universal declaration, if that were to be its benchmark, it is in breach of pretty well every one of its 30 articles. Years of sanctions have failed to curb its desire to develop nuclear weapons, and criticism of its human rights record has not, thus far, satiated its appetite to continue to commit the most egregious abuses in modern history.
Some 111 members of the General Assembly have just voted for the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for those crimes against humanity. This is a superb example of a non-military approach, using the tools of international diplomacy and insisting on the upholding of international law in safeguarding universally accepted human rights. Even if a member of the Security Council decided to exercise a veto, perhaps fearful of its own record on human rights, the world’s verdict has already been recorded through the General Assembly. It cannot be doubted that the prospect of a Nuremberg moment—whether at the ICC or a specifically constituted regional tribunal awaiting those who have been responsible for the deaths of 300,000 people in those camps, and for the 200,000 who are estimated to be in them today—has already concentrated minds. I commend to the House the energy and commitment that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has invested in securing that outcome. Perhaps the Minister will give us an appraisal of what is likely to happen next.
In the longer term, we should have some idea of how we are going to engage not necessarily the regime but North Korea generally. Other noble Lords have referred to the use of the diaspora. We have 800 to 900 North Koreans living in this country now; there are 25,000 North Koreans who have escaped and are living in South Korea. We must enable them to be agents for change and we should deploy resources, as the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, said, from within the ODA budget. They should be deployed across the piece, not in silos, to bring about those objectives. At a recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, it was suggested that we need off-the-tracks lines of engagement. Breaking the information blockade should be one of those objectives, which is why I deplore the decision of the BBC World Service thus far not to broadcast to the Korean peninsula, unlike what happened in Burma.
These are not random thoughts and ideas. In the debate that I initiated earlier this year I mentioned an important book by the former US ambassador to Hungary, Mark Palmer, and I want to highlight it once again as I conclude. Mark Palmer was a notable advocate of soft power. He set out a detailed plan for how dictatorships can be challenged and freedom advanced using non-military means and the exercise of soft power. His book, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025, is one which I commend to the Minister and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
During our recent debate on dealing with the rise of Islamic State in Syria, I said that simply relying on military responses is not enough, and I quoted Einstein’s definition of insanity. He said that insanity is when you do the same things over and over again. In thanking the most reverend Primate for giving us the opportunity for today’s debate, I suggest that, instead of condemning the world to insanity, we need painstakingly to develop approaches which combine intelligence with a fearless passion for promoting human dignity, human rights, respect for difference, the protection of minorities and the vulnerable, and the upholding of the rule of law.
My Lords, I understand that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester is unfortunately unable to be with us due to ill health, and I much regret that we are missing his intervention.
In thanking the most reverend Primate both for giving us this opportunity to debate a vital issue and for his own thoughtful contribution, I congratulate him on his good timing. He referred to the fact that today is the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death. When we celebrate the importance of Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness, we see a great example of soft power. Another remarkable individual who led by example was Mahatma Gandhi. Having only recently seen the film so brilliantly directed by the late Lord Attenborough, I feel that he, too, falls into that category of soft power exemplified by virtue to which the most reverend Primate referred. Another event today was the announcement that the British Museum has made a loan to the Hermitage Museum in Russia—two great institutions with international collections visited by millions from all over the world. I will return to that theme later on.
As a lawyer, I like to have clear definitions, but soft power is difficult to define, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, mentioned, and as the debate has shown. Rather, it comes from a multiplicity of actions and activities and is a slow process. Sometimes, too, it is difficult to recognise soft power in action, because of this multiplicity and because it does not often hit headlines—that, of course, is because it is often good news. Conversely, when conflict or war occurs, and a resolution is required to end it, it is evident what steps are being taken and it is headline news because it is bad news.
Measures which prevent terrible things from happening may be accepted, but they are not always recognised. That is particularly pertinent this year, when we are looking at the events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. We can see that had more soft power been at work behind the scenes some of the horror and tragedy of that war might have been avoided.
Two things in particular emerge from this debate and from thinking about it which are within the province of soft power. One is the need for respect. Anything that teaches us to respect another person or another country, its culture and traditions, must create a barrier to conflict. The second point to emerge is understanding. I believe that that extends beyond language to culture, religion and knowledge of each other’s history and evolution. We heard from the most reverend Primate about the role of the Church of England, which must be congratulated. As a Roman Catholic, I concur with what others—most recently, the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool—have said about the benefits and personal comfort that a shared religion can bring. Nevertheless, we must recognise that schisms and wars between the Christian churches have led to greater atrocities, so today’s message of tolerance, peace and dialogue should be welcomed and underlined.
The other great institutions that play vital roles in the area of soft power, which have been referred to by many of your Lordships today, must include the British Museum. I return to today’s announcement of the loan of a particularly controversial part of the British Museum’s collection to the Hermitage Museum. As the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, has just completed a very successful history of our relationship with Germany in his BBC series, seen through the objects in the British Museum, I very much hope that he may be able to do the same with Russia. As my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby pointed out forcefully, it is vital to avoid slipping back into a Cold War climate.
Another great institution that has been referred to and which can be a force for good is, of course, the BBC. Another is the British Council, and I should like to dwell on the council’s work both as vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on the British Council here in Parliament and because I have just returned from a fascinating visit to South Africa under the British Council’s auspices. I saw there from the inside how the British Council’s global diversity teams work together to pool their knowledge, exchange best practice and refine policies to create better understanding of this country and our values.
There can be no doubt that the British Council’s work in promoting the teaching of English is most valuable. The importance of that is not just in trade and economic advantage, although that in itself is important. Let us not forget that the common language of the United Nations peacekeeping forces is English. That has to be a force for good. The work of the British Council in educational exchange and training is not only first class but increasing, despite the budget limitations that have been referred to. In this context, I again agree with my noble friend Lady Williams that we need a better way to welcome international students to this country—a role that the British Council used to perform with its international houses in each university city. I hope that it can be urged and supported in some way to recreate a welcoming institution of that sort.
There is so much that it is tempting to say but which time does not permit, and I have not even touched on the importance of the Commonwealth—although others have and others no doubt will. I take this opportunity to thank both the British Council and the BBC—and our Library for the excellent, helpful briefing notes that it produced for this debate.
Before finishing, I must refer to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, referred, in establishing and encouraging good relations with other parliamentarians around the world. That is not only through direct bilateral exchanges, which are so valuable for those who participate in them—who, I hope, bring back to your Lordships’ House and the other place information about and understanding of those countries—but through the themed conferences which have taken place of late here in Parliament. Most recently, there was one on democracy and development, another on drug trafficking and another on the arms trade—all issues which require international effort and which could, because of the forces they generate, cause conflict. Those are all good examples of soft power at work which are not always known or appreciated but which this debate enables us to mention.
In conclusion, I return to the words of the most reverend Primate at the outset of this debate—I may not have his words exactly: future decisions to resolve disputes and prevent conflict should consider both soft and hard power, not just hard power.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for instigating this debate on the role of soft power and non-military options in conflict prevention. The debate is indeed timely and relevant. We are in an extremely chaotic and highly dangerous world that is likely to become increasingly unstable over the next decades, not least within the context of possibly irreversible climate change and ever-increasing competition for resources of all kinds among a very rapidly expanding world population. There are of course many other transnational issues, including changing demographic patterns, imbalance in wealth, disease, the aggressive international growth in terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, drugs and criminalised activity, which also have considerable potential to affect both the international system and our own national security and interests. With these issues comes the potential for big shocks, in an increasingly interconnected world, to overturn or radically modify existing assumptions about partners, vital interests and safeguards. The Arab spring is a manifestation of this unpredictability.
As we have seen over the past 15 years or so, even well established alliances and partnerships have looked decidedly discretionary when the pressure has come on from either internal or external sources. We cannot assume that the idea of a multilateral, rules-based world for diplomacy and economics will necessarily survive the population and resource pressures of the early decades of this century. Sadly, we are entering an age in which illiberal power is growing and liberal power is declining. I believe that it is a world made more dangerous by Europe’s refusal to invest in hard power.
It may well be that collaborative structures and co-operative processes will allow constructive international engagement on many, if not all, of the issues that I have mentioned. However, our human record, in circumstances of intense competition across all dimensions, has not been good and it might be imprudent to be lulled into a false sense of security. Indeed, our historic experience indicates that the transition from a US-dominated world to a more multilateral world could be distinctly uneven and contain some unpleasant surprises. So keeping our armour bright, particularly those elements which provide assurance of our ultimate survival, may prevent, contain or mitigate the consequences of a uniquely threatening combination of global and strategic risks—particularly in relation to such unquantifiable, unforeseen shocks as the imbalance of population and resources and the actions of opportunistic and possibly desperate regimes, some of which we have heard mentioned.
I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, that we have cut spending on hard power too far. But while hard power is vital so, too, is that of influence, fairness, integrity, ideas, aid, culture, behaviour, persuasion and law. Indeed, without them hard power is actually an evil. The things that I have mentioned gather under the banner of “soft power”, although I prefer “influence and persuasion”, as mentioned by the committee that looked at this. We in the UK are actually very good at this.
I believe in our values, as I am sure all in this House do. Indeed, I have fought for those values, which are exemplified by the BBC World Service, which a number of people have touched on. It is an exemplar of British values, yet editorially and operationally independent of the UK Government. This independence is understood and highly valued by audiences around the world. As was said, its global news services are the most trusted in the world, reaching over a quarter of a billion people every week—more than any other international broadcaster. It is hard to overestimate its worth in both conflict prevention and promoting our values. We as a nation should be very proud and must ensure that it is adequately funded and supported, which I am afraid that it is not. Another source of pride, already spoken of by a number of speakers, is the British Council, which creates international opportunities for the people of the United Kingdom and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide, which is so important.
“Influence and persuasion” includes many other things. We have heard talk of religion; the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church have of course done an immense amount within this area. It also includes diplomacy and aid; our legal system, which is admired worldwide; and education within this country, with our excellent universities and the need to educate foreign people within them. That is so important and has been touched on by others. The visa issue is so crucial but I will not go into that, as it has been covered.
The training of other nations’ military is very important, as we can imbue them with standards which we believe are important. That needs to be done. There is also the maximum leverage from the universality of the English language; again, that has been touched on by many people and it gives us a crucial thing that we can use globally. There is the Football League, which I think someone touched on. Amazingly, I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day who was in the badlands of northern Somalia, doing very good work to try to make the place better. He felt very worried at one stage but got into a talk with a local bad guy and this chap knew all about the Football League—more than he did. They got talking about that league, which touches parts we never thought it would. There is the whole issue of the arts, popular culture, fashion, music and films. These things must be doing good because they terrify autocratic regimes. Clearly, what they do is wonderful and we are good at these things.
There is also the use of bilateral and alliance relationships, not least the Commonwealth, which was so well and clearly mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. I agree entirely that we do not get the maximum leverage out of it that we really should. All these things are crucial and can make a real difference, furthering the interests of our nation, enhancing our wealth and, by fostering world stability, helping to ensure our security but also the safety and security of those poor people globally who are in nations wracked with conflict. However, this soft power is weakened, if not powerless, if there is no hard power—and the will to use it—to back it up.
Influence and persuasion invariably have one thing in common: they take time to have an effect. In many situations, though, time is sadly lacking. More often than not, the military are required to buy time for other forms of influence and reason to work. Without sufficient hard power in many shattered strife-ridden states, there is no opportunity for aid and dialogue to even start until stability has been enforced, and for that you normally need the military. So I agree with the most reverend Primate about the significance of the work being undertaken by the church, members of civil society, many individuals and all aspects of influence and persuasion working on issues of conflict prevention and conciliation. Without hard power to back them up, though, as he recognised in his opening remarks, I am not convinced that they can achieve much.
Times have changed since Nelson said that the best negotiators in Europe were a squadron of British battleships, but often a strong military presence—particularly maritime power, I have to say—can forestall conflict and prevent war. We must look at hard and soft power as complementary. I like the term “smart power”, coined by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. They need to be looked at as a spectrum. In next year’s national security strategy and strategic defence review we must do that. However, both need sufficient funding if we are to remain safe and secure, which is the prime aim of any Government, as has been said by this Prime Minister, the Prime Minister before him and the Prime Minister before that. To enjoy our education, health service and welfare systems, we have to ensure that they are sufficiently funded.
My Lords, I am grateful for this debate because it gives me a chance to mention proposals for conflict prevention in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, and to explain a new vision for the Mediterranean region. All three will, I trust, help to forestall conflict and acute suffering.
I know from my own family experience how deeply divided society in Northern Ireland still is. There are visible signs of this in most towns and cities. Power-sharing institutions struggle to work smoothly. For these reasons there is a proposal for a professionally assisted conflict analysis process to sit alongside political negotiations, or perhaps to follow them. It would examine causes rather than symptoms of division. The process could go on to look at the needs of the segments of society, including their identity needs and shared needs. This concept has been put to the Secretary of State and to the First Ministers, but so far without response.
In Bosnia, the proposal is to form a wide coalition to foster a national dialogue on the country’s future. This might be facilitated by an independent third party called the Soul of Europe. This English charity, in which I declare an interest as patron, has already helped Bosnia over the rebuilding of a world-famous Ottoman mosque and a war memorial in the former Omarska concentration camp. A very committed Bosnian has stated:
“We need help, but in a way that enables our citizens to be heard”.
He went on:
“The people of this country really want to move towards the European Union”.
This aim may be frustrated by the present dysfunctional constitution—no doubt, the only one that could be agreed at the Dayton conference in 1995. The layers of government and bureaucracy now hold up economic development and the common good. A national dialogue would, I hope, point the way ahead while respecting all minority voices. Civil society is demanding change. As the Bishop of Banja Luka has said, people want a new way of organising the state. The external costs of a national dialogue would be of the order of £30,000 for one year. That is a tiny sum compared with the cost of flood defences or the cost of a possible renewed conflict of a violent nature. I mentioned this proposal in your Lordships’ House on
I turn now to the Mediterranean. On the north side, there is high unemployment, from Portugal across to Greece, especially among young people. The same is true on the south side, from Morocco to Syria and Iraq. Refugees and migrant workers from the Sahel and the Horn of Africa make the situation even worse. We have seen how thousands lose their lives trying to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Surely we need a new deal for the region, one that would cope with the bulging young generations in north Africa and the Middle East. These are the people who lack jobs, careers and the prospect of being able to marry. In frustration, they may well become jihadis. I am told that 3,000 have already left Tunisia in order to fight.
The Barcelona Convention of 1995 tried to think constructively. It led to the Mediterranean action plan, which produced agreements on sea pollution, protecting the coast and exploring the continental shelf. This was all useful intergovernmental work, but I doubt that it fired the public imagination to any degree or created many jobs. I argue now that there is much more to be done by Governments to prevent human trafficking and loss of life. More still is needed by way of public/private partnership and investment, for example, in solar technology. Every city from Casablanca to Karachi should have its own Turquoise Mountain Foundation. That is a project initiated in Kabul by the honourable Member for Penrith and The Border. It has provided work skills for the young and helped to revive traditional crafts. I have seen projects in the Gulf emirates on information technology and social sustainability. These should be replicated much more widely. Oil and gas profits from the Gulf and Saudi Arabia could flow through their sovereign wealth funds into massive projects to widen the Suez Canal, for example, or to create a new regional hub in Gaza. The last could include an electricity generating ship, which has already been offered by Turkey, a Mulberry-type harbour and the desalination of water.
I call for moral imagination and political will. There should be fewer Shards of Glass and Cheesegraters in London and more investment north and south of the Mediterranean. Real human needs would thus be met, conflicts would be prevented and peace would have a better chance. People-to-people links should also be set up through sport, which has been mentioned, and exchanges of all kinds.
Will Her Majesty's Government be bold and take the initiative once more in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the whole Mediterranean region? Will they explain the benefits of such far-sighted moves to our EU partners? Arabia, India, China and the United States also have interests in the kind of stability on which I hope we can all agree.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, not least because he talked about Bosnia. I well remember in the early
1990s he and I were allies. I was almost the sole voice in the Conservative Benches in the other place, and we persisted. A very notable historian, Brendan Simms, wrote about what he called Britain’s “unfinest hour”. I sincerely hope that will never be repeated.
We are all enormously in the debt of the most reverend Primate not only for choosing this subject but for the manner in which he introduced this debate with a degree of compassion and precision combined with elegance of thought and language. Like the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and others, I am one of those who is slightly uncomfortable with the word “soft”. I think it is probably a generational thing because I grew up at a time when to be called soft was to have the most pejorative of adjectives attached to one, and to be a softie was the worst thing imaginable. What we are talking about is of course benign influence and enlightened authority, encapsulated in the words “soft power”; we all know what we mean by that.
A Member of your Lordships’ House wrote those famous words:
“Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword”.
The second of the lines of that couplet is frequently quoted, but the first is more important; in other words, it says that true enlightenment fosters peaceful development and benign rule.
A paradox runs through our history, does there not? All the great faiths are devoted to peace and harmony, yet every one of them has fallen short through the centuries by being divided and by having always within it—we see it today—a group of people who so passionately believe that theirs is the only interpretation that they will brutally suppress all others. Cromwell, who was himself not exactly a hero in the island of Ireland, wrote those famous words to the Scottish Covenanters:
“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken”.
We all need to direct that counsel at each other from time to time.
When I go home today I will go back to the shadow of Lincoln Cathedral. When I enter that glorious building, as I do so often, and will, God willing, tomorrow, I walk in—probably very appropriately for a politician—through the Judgment Porch and see two things. First, all around are marks on the pavement where once monumental brasses rested, and just beneath the great east window is the shrine of St Hugh, which was a centre of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. The brasses were ripped up and the shrine despoiled and defaced by those who believed that they were better Christians than those who had installed them. That says a lot.
When I was reflecting on this debate—what an interesting debate it has been—I recalled a sort of kaleidoscope of memories. I thought of a day in Bucharest shortly after the fall of those ghastly tyrants, the Ceau?escus, when I was privileged to be one of a small group that was asked to conduct some seminars in democracy. I well remember talking to a group of young people after one of those sessions, who talked to me in faultless English and with a burning desire to be part of a democratic structure. I said to them, “How did you keep the faith, and how do you speak this wonderful English when you’ve never left Romania?”. The answer came in two words, which have occurred often in this debate: “World Service”—the BBC World Service. They had listened to it at some peril, but it had been their line to civilisation and democracy and had inspired them. Perhaps things have not worked out in Romania as well as they might have done, but at least it is a democracy and part of international groupings to which we belong, and a country of rich history and real potential.
I also remember Epiphany of 1990, when I was a member of another small group that was staying in an hotel in Moscow—we had not been allowed to go previously—which had been reserved in the old, bad days for leaders of delegations from the Soviet bloc. The furniture was heavy and the décor was not inspiring; the food could have been better. However, there was something very miraculous—and I use that word deliberately in the presence of the most reverend Primate—because we were part of a group that was able to celebrate the mass and Epiphany. The celebrant was a somewhat unorthodox Roman Catholic priest, Father Ted Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University in the United States and chairman of President Kennedy’s Civil Rights Commission. He gathered around him all of us who were there who were Christians. There was Rosalynn Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter, Madame Giscard d’Estaing, a very notable German called Ernst van Aaken, and me and one or two others. I helped to serve and read the epistle and Rosalynn Carter read something. As we celebrated that service, the sun came through over the Kremlin and, at the end of the service, we gave a symbolic Bible to one of our number, a man called Andrei Grachev, who was President Gorbachev’s chef de cabinet. It was an enormously moving and very symbolic occasion.
It is for that reason that I was so moved this morning, and taken by the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. If we wish to exercise a benign influence and soft power, it is by lending from the British Museum and by treating the Russians as a nation whose stability is as important to us as it is to them. It is not by echoing the rhetoric of the Cold War and refusing to recognise that a great nation, often invaded, has legitimate interests on its own doorstep, even if it has exercised its power recently in a rather crass and unfortunate manner. We have to think of all these things.
One or two noble Lords have talked about students. I happen to have the privilege of being a senior member of St Antony’s, Oxford, a great postgraduate institution. All around the world there are St Antony’s graduates in positions of high authority and influence in their countries. If there were ever a demonstration of the effective exercise of soft power, it is that—that through our universities these young men and women have gone back to attain positions of high influence in their own countries. We must do everything that we can to encourage foreign students to come here and to take on the responsibility of public service when they go back to their native countries. There is no better ambassador for the values that we like to think that we embrace than somebody who has embraced them here, in one of our educational institutions.
In less than three weeks’ time, it will be Christmas Day, and many of us who have been moved by the sea of poppies in the moat of the Tower will be thinking and reading of the Christmas truce. There is a very good book that has recently been republished on the Christmas truce—an excellent stocking filler—but I am terribly sorry that I cannot remember the name of the author, or authors. The book refers to those moments in 1914 when, for a very short time, those who had been engaged in a great and terrible conflict were briefly united by their Christian faith and one of the great Christian festivals. My noble friend Lord Wei talked very movingly about the importance of the Christian faith in what we are seeking to achieve. I am slightly surprised that no one has yet quoted the supreme text on soft power—the Sermonon the Mount.
As we look back and read about the Christmas truce and reflect on a century of appalling conflict, I suggest that we do two things. First, those of us who are privileged to live in the affluent West and who recognise that the engine of economic progress is capitalism also have to recognise that, if capitalism is to survive, it must be responsible capitalism. Only last night I attended a ceremony in the Locarno Suite, where Mr William Hague, the First Secretary of State, distributed awards for responsible capitalism. I was much involved in that scheme, which was arranged under the auspices of the FIRST organisation. Our first chairman of judges was Lord Dahrendorf and the present chairman is the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf—our colleague and friend in this House. It is important that we do all we can to encourage, and recognise the crucial importance of, responsible capitalism.
I want to mention just one more thing very briefly that I mentioned last week. I hope that the most reverend Primate will forgive my doing so as he was not able to be present at our debate on religion and belief. I said that next year, when we commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, it would be marvellous if, under the leadership of the most reverend Primate, the Church of England—the established church of this realm—were to bring together leading representatives of all the faiths to define a new great charter for the 21st century, encapsulating what most would consider to be true values to which all faiths at their best subscribe. If that could be done, there could be no better conclusion or legacy for this debate, which was so splendidly and brilliantly introduced by the most reverend Primate just three hours ago.
My Lords, at the outset, I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate and for his thoughtful, comprehensive and, indeed, challenging analysis.
As troops return from Afghanistan after 13 years’ engagement, and advisers and the RAF have to return to Iraq, we recognise, with great regret, that there is little reason to feel that the wars of this century have been won. Syria, Gaza, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, and other areas afflicted by armed violence, all compel us to focus on the extent of the enormous challenge posed by conflict prevention and, indeed, on the need to develop effective and diverse approaches when there are so many fragile states, porous borders, sectarian rivalries, pervasive inequalities and such extreme poverty, organised international crime and, of course, easy access to weapons. The list is a long one and it presents huge challenges, as efforts need to be made to end the terrible suffering and misery which are occurring.
Given these conditions, I begin my contribution to the debate with two basic points. First, soft power is not a soft option, and deploying it is arduous, painstaking and sometimes heavy with risk. To be effective, it must have the qualities of sincerity, patience and, importantly, mutuality. If it is opportunistic, propagandising or patronising, all experience shows that, while it might temporarily benefit some individuals, it will be open to suspicion and rejection and become ineffectual.
Secondly, when the use of soft power is undertaken creatively by, as many other noble Lords have said, the British Council or the BBC World Service, persuasively by bilateral or multilateral diplomacy and influentially through development support, it is cheaper, more durable, more merciful and more protective than the force of arms. There needs to be more support for cultural exchanges and dialogue, especially to counter religious sectarianism, and more support for the need to ensure that every effort is made to allow access to balanced and objective information. I know how valued and important the BBC World Service is, as is the British Council, and the budgetary cuts inflicted on them in recent years are both short-sighted and counterproductive. Meanwhile, as many British and other military leaders have testified, achieving stability, reducing tension and proving that military intervention has had enduring positive results all require the sustained exercise of soft power. This is needed to reassure, enlighten, open opportunities, foster understanding and, above all, win trust in hearts and minds.
It is, of course, vital that those who seek to employ soft power in relations with other countries and systems must manifest consistency in their own country. The domestic record of the UK on civil and human rights is clearly a crucial component of our ability to effectively implement soft power in efforts to prevent conflict, support human rights, and promote good governance and civil stability. For instance, President Kenyatta of Kenya is currently arraigned at the ICC on suspicion of war crimes, and has quoted our Prime Minister’s intention to scrap our Human Rights Act as evidence of other countries’ resistance to regional accountability institutions in favour of what Kenyatta calls national sovereignty. With instances such as that in mind, can the Minister tell us whether the Government have made any risk analysis of the effects of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights on the UK’s ability to credibly champion these issues internationally?
Much the same considerations apply to our national commitment to reach the UN target of dedicating 0.7% of GNI to international development. It is justifiable in itself but it is also central to any sensible effort to earn—a vital principle; I stress, earn—the confidence and trust of people in developing countries. I therefore welcomed the 2010 Conservative manifesto commitment, repeated in the coalition agreement to enshrine the 0.7% in law. It has not happened, and all attempted explanations of delay have been, to say the least, unconvincing. Surely, there should be no real impediment to progress in this Session, and I must ask the Government, even at this late stage, to urgently redeem their pledge by ensuring that Michael Moore’s Bill is given the time necessary for it to be enacted before next year’s election.
For many years, the European Union—proof in its very existence of the success of soft power—has exercised what my noble friend Lady Ashton has called,
“soft power with a hard edge—more than the power to set a good example and promote our values. But less than the power to impose its will”.
It is important to note that the UN Security Council recently commended the work of the European Union and the strong co-operation on mediation, including, for instance, in the western Balkans and in efforts to find a negotiated solution on Iran’s nuclear programme. I echo the former Commissioner for External Affairs, the noble Lord, Lord Patten of Barnes, who defined EU soft power as,
“a weapon of mass attraction”.
That was certainly evident as the Union prepared for, and went on to achieve, enlargement to the east and south since 2004. That is continuing. Beyond Europe, the EU’s extensive trade agreements and its active policies on development and humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, foreign and security affairs, social and consumer standards, and human rights, provide the Union with substantial credibility as a soft power.
Policy divergence between member states is natural in a community of democracies and can at time impede full effectiveness at times, but when the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its soft power achievements in 2012, I believe that was a deserved accolade. As the respected NGOs Saferworld and International Alert have emphasised, the EU,
“recognises the linkages between underdevelopment and conflict and is one of the leading international bodies affirming the importance of and enhancing capacity for peace building and conflict prevention”.
Clearly, the ongoing realities of multiple international tensions and increasing global interdependence mean that it would be a great folly and an act of self-harm for the UK to withdraw from the European Union and thereby diminish the constructive influence that our country exerts on and, more widely, through the Union.
I conclude with some specific questions. Does the Minister agree with Nelson Mandela—he has been mentioned several times today—who said that investment in education, especially for girls, is the most transformative advance society can aim to achieve? Will the Minister argue for more support for human rights defenders? They are courageous women and men who try to make changes in their countries from within—Somali bloggers, Zimbabwean activists, Saudi and Afghan women.
The challenge is to determine how we use power wisely and proportionately. We must learn from the terrible lessons of Iraq, where no serious effort was made to construct a stable state and society by the comprehensive use of soft power in the wake of war. In Rwanda, the tragedy was that early warning was neglected and ignored. The international community failed to mobilise its response until it was too late. Soft power requires eternal vigilance. In both these examples, and in many other cases, such vigilance would have huge benefits in saving lives, restoring stability and safeguarding the future.
My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships’ House, I thank the most reverend Primate for securing the debate, but also for the manner of his speech and the leadership and encouragement he has given over quite a number of years to those of us who are interested in, and committed to, addressing conflict in non-violent ways. Many people from outside your Lordships’ House will read his speech and continue to be encouraged, as they have been in the past, by the approach that he has taken and by the active way he has engaged in these matters. I declare an interest as the director of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, based at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, and of a new centre we are developing in Belfast, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building.
At the start, I want to make clear that, as someone committed to this kind of work, I take the strong view that military and security roles are extremely important. As the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, said, it is quite true that military options on their own, without what we are calling soft power, can lead to wickedness and tragic results. However, it is also true that soft power as we describe it can often be wholly ineffectual and sometimes little more than a description of a wish list.
If one speaks to those involved in, for example, policing and military operations in most parts of the world, thoughtful people in our own services will say repeatedly that there is no security solution to this particular dilemma but there is a security role. I make an analogy with my medical background. Pharmacology rarely cures problems but, without that back-up, psychology rarely leads to the kind of cure that we want to see. We have to contain the problems but not leave it there; we have to find ways of working through them. Sometimes we can stop when we have contained them, only to regret the fact that it all goes to pieces again. We have many examples of that.
I make it clear that in everything that I say—and I am going to focus on the non-military side, which is the subject of our debate—the military and policing role is critical. If there is one great failing of the United Nations system, apart from our difficulty in reaching agreements with each other, it is that its lack of capacity to implement its decisions means that increasingly our people look at the UN not as a force for hope for the future but as a disappointment and a broken reed. There are issues there about the appropriate use of force that need to be properly considered.
Other noble Lords have given us a list and a description of some of the important institutions of soft power in this country, and they are extremely impressive. The Commonwealth was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, who is a stout defender of the importance of this quite extraordinary institution and network of relationships. Also mentioned was the
British Council, which, tragically, is probably known much more widely in other parts of the world than in the United Kingdom, where it ought to be valued much more. The Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the BBC and our English language have also been mentioned, but there are many others that have not.
It is interesting that your Lordships’ House has not been mentioned, yet it is a source of significant influence. A young colleague from Colombia was listening to a debate in your Lordships’ House earlier this week. He said, “You probably don’t think about it but there are other countries in the world that are probably going to implement the legislation that you have been discussing in five years’ time”—precisely because they look to this place because of the moral integrity that has, at least in better times, been a mark of this place. Gladstone was committed to democracy as,
“trust in the people qualified by prudence”.
I have always regarded the other place as “trust in the people” and your Lordships’ House as the qualification, “by prudence”—but the second is very important, too.
There are other elements that I would like to pick up. I do not want to focus on the institutions but, rather, on what is at the back of this. One is the notion of common law and the way we conduct ourselves. This is a remarkable contribution, but sometimes it is not well understood by liberals. Many liberal colleagues focus on the importance of creating law, institutions and regulations which hold people to important principles. The institutions themselves do not necessarily hold people to important principles, and in fact can mislead people into thinking that they are the key issue. Frequently, people come to me from other parts of the world asking for a description of the processes that we have and the institutions that we created in my part of the United Kingdom. I say, “I’m not going to tell you about that. You can read about that in a book—but simply adopting them won’t solve your problem”.
In the same kind of way, tragically, the European Union, of which I am strong supporter and defender, has in many ways lost its purpose. Why is that? It is because its purpose was to make sure that there was not another horrible war in Europe. All the things that we have put in place—the euro, economic co-operation and all the structures and bureaucracy, including the European Parliament—are for the purpose of making sure that we do not have another war. Yet, tragically, within Europe these institutions have themselves become the purpose for many people, and, sadly, many political colleagues see them as a way in which we can sit at the top table in political terms. That is not the purpose and it is one reason why the people of Europe are disenchanted—because that is not what it was about.
In the same kind of way, just because you pass a clinical room that says “Therapy Going On Inside” does not mean it is so just because there is a therapist and patient. They may simply be going through the motions. It is very important that we distinguish between the purpose of the enterprise and the mechanisms through which we can have things happen.
All of the things we have been describing are the mechanisms, so what is at the back of them? Common law helps us because it helps to facilitate relationships between groups of people. If one key thing came out of our experience at home, it was that finding peace was not about putting into place institutions; it was about dealing with historic disturbed relationships. We constructed a peace process that had three strands of three important sets of relationships and everything came after that. The key thing about common law, which distinguishes it from civil law in many ways, is that it looks to a degree of flexibility within structure that enables people to deal with relationships appropriately.
I will give an example from my own experience. We put into place certain rules and regulations for how the Assembly Chamber might operate in Northern Ireland, but it was clear that there were times when it was more important to give one group of politicians room and space than another. For example, if there was a big bomb in a nationalist area it was important to give more nationalists the chance to speak about it than unionists—and vice versa—rather than simply hold to a rule that says, “You have to have this number of minutes for this and this person”. If it was done in a context of concern and relationship, it was not only possible but an enrichment and people felt that something worthwhile was happening, whereas if we had simply stuck to the rules rigidly, everybody would have been frustrated. That approach, which is a characteristic of your Lordships’ House and of the culture of this country, is absolutely crucial.
If there is one thing that this country has lost over a number of years, it is a degree of confidence in its own culture and the things that are important about it. When we think about relationships between people we think about the personalities of those who are involved. In a way, the culture of our community is the personality of this whole country—the personality of the whole group. I do not mean the symbols of culture such as art, flags and all those kinds of things but the way of being in the world of our community and country—a way in this country that was characterised by a degree of stability, integrity, respect, ethical behaviour and rules that were there for the purpose of relationships, not in order to dominate relationships. It was characterised by an attitude and approach that was open, not nationalistic but international, and respectful of people with different faiths and different approaches.
However, that did not mean that the faith of the people in this country was something that they did not believe in because it was just one of many. On the contrary, it was that degree of certitude, commitment and faith that made it possible to be open to others who had a different approach. Maybe it was even the fact that this island was not invaded for most of a thousand years that gave us the possibility of having that kind of confidence and being outgoing to others. In a sense, some of this has been lost as people have begun to feel that it is all about everybody having the same values—and we do not. There are those cultures that promote female genital mutilation. I do not accept that such a culture should be allowed to survive and thrive. We should speak against it. We should not necessarily attack it militarily, but we should try to make a change and realise that our values have something very important to contribute.
I finish by speaking of two things. First, the most reverend Primate has shown great leadership. I will give an example of a place where I think religious leaders could do so. In Jerusalem, at the moment, there is a deep split between Jewish nationalism within the country and—largely but by no means exclusively—Islamic Palestinians. But Christians have a stake in Jerusalem. If His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the most reverend Primate were together to say to the Israeli Government and Palestinians, “This is not just a fight between the two of you. We have a stake in this as Christians throughout the world”, you would change the psychological dynamic from a fight between two to a relationship with a larger body of people who have a say—not because they want to govern or to rule, and not because they want to send in the legions of His Holiness, but rather because they want to change the dynamic into something fruitful.
I shall finish by saying this. I have mentioned your Lordships’ House as an example of our culture. I suspect that relatively few places in the world have a Parliament in which religious leaders sit as of right—but there is one at least, and it is Iran. It may be the case that your Lordships’ House in this country has a very particular role to play at this time, when hard power and military might are absolutely impotent in dealing with the challenge of the relationships between East and West, between Iran and the western world. With our experience we can show respect for others who have a different religious perspective but who value matters of ultimate faith and transcendence. We could show them, by building and developing relationship, we can make a difference. The most reverend Primate has given us the leadership; I trust we will follow.
My Lords, this has been an extraordinary debate and, like other colleagues, I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate for initiating it. Not only is soft power a concept of critical importance in addressing global conflict, it is an area where the United Kingdom excels, from our vast array of NGOs working in almost every conflict corner of the world, from Gaza to Afghanistan and South Sudan to Gaziantep, to great organisations like the British Council, the British Red Cross and the BBC World Service, once referred to by my former boss and Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, as “Britain’s greatest gift to the world” in the 20th century. I declare an interest as I am a trustee of the BBC and responsible for, among other things, the World Service.
Before I speak in greater detail about the BBC World Service, I want to pay tribute to the hundreds of UK-based NGOs working in conflict zones globally. In this, we have a long and proud record and very few equals. Our NGOs have met the needs and assisted the victims of war: the refugees, the wounded and the sick, the children and the elderly. In times of conflict, they have always responded. Save the Children was founded, remarkably, in the year after the end of the First World War, 1919. Its organisers and founders insisted that it would meet the needs of children not just in London, but also in Berlin. That was an extraordinary principle for the time. The Second World War saw the founding of another great NGO, Oxfam. It was established in Oxford in 1943 in response to the appalling famine in Bengal. Another great British NGO, Amnesty International, was founded in 1961 at the height of the Cold War to work for prisoners of conscience and against torture throughout the world. I am proud to have been head of the Asian department of Amnesty in the 1980s.
I also declare an interest as chairman of an NGO, the Mines Advisory Group, which now works on all continents clearing mines, bombs and unexploded ordnance. As someone who worked for the UN in Cambodia, the Balkans and the Middle East, I have too often seen the human tragedies that stem from the use of such weaponry. I mentioned my service in Cambodia. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, who is not in his place, referred to the role of Buddhist monks possibly in support of the Khmer Rouge. In that respect I have to set the record straight here, and as an academic I think the noble Lord would appreciate that. The murderous regime of the Khmer Rouge went out of its way to kill Buddhist monks and to suppress their religion. Very few monks survived other than those who managed to flee overseas.
I turn now to the World Service, which, from next Monday, will be directed for the first time in its 82-year history by a woman: Fran Unsworth, a journalist and editor of immense experience. I am sure your Lordships will all join me in wishing her well in leading an institution greatly respected throughout the world. But I would be less than honest if I said that the World Service did not face substantial issues and problems in trying to meet the many needs with fewer resources. Noble Lords will be aware that since the 2010 financial settlement the World Service is funded now from the licence fee and not, as during the previous 70 years, by a grant in aid from the Foreign Office. The support of this House and the other place will be critical in ensuring the independence, stability and work of the World Service in the years to come.
The World Service reacts to conflict in many ways; first and foremost, through its coverage of the wars, insurrections and riots that still blight our planet. Its coverage of the war in Syria, now in its fourth year, has been exemplary and I take this opportunity to praise the work of courageous and outstanding journalists such as Lyse Doucet, Jeremy Bowen, Paul Wood and Ian Pannell, who have brought the brutal realities of that war home to us, as well as the inability of the international community to come to a resolution of that war. Those British colleagues that I cited are joined by many other colleagues in the Arabic Service.
It is not only through coverage of man’s inhumanity to man that the BBC World Service responds. In Rwanda, after the genocide of 1996, the BBC established a service for the first time in the Kinyarwanda language. Colleagues will have heard, perhaps, of the vile propaganda of Radio Milles Collines, which stirred up racial hatred and contributed to one of the worst genocides of the 20th century. We in the BBC and the World Service felt that the BBC had to react positively in the wake of that appalling genocide by establishing a Kinyarwanda service, which still plays a critical role in that country and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In that spirit, the BBC has also set up a College of Journalism focusing on three key aspects: skills, language and values—and I emphasise values. In addition to English and French, the college now has websites in Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Hausa, Urdu and Turkish. Even in these straitened times, we still have the capacity to respond quickly to emerging situations. On
Another country I want to mention, which has already come up in the debate, is Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, where I recently chaired a conference on transition and reform for Chatham House. The BBC has broadcast in Burmese for 75 years—through the period of colonial rule, Japanese occupation, military dictatorship and now, I hope, a transition to representative government. Two years ago, censorship of newspapers was still in place and the BBC could not operate officially. Things have changed at such a pace that a few weeks ago the BBC’s Burmese Service launched its own-language version of a “Question Time”-style format. The BBC now has a permanent presence in Rangoon. In the rapidly changing media market of the country, its weekly audience stands at 6.8 million. The Burmese Service operates not just on short wave radio but also through FM rebroadcasts, social media and mobile telephones. In April this year, it launched a limited television bulletin which is broadcast via partner channel, Myanmar National Television.
At the end of October, British troops finally left Afghanistan, but the BBC remains broadcasting in English as well as in Dari and Pashto on radio, television and online. There is a celebrated drama in Pashto called “New Home, New Life” which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. It has chronicled the story and the tragedies of Afghanistan in the past two decades and delivered priceless information to its vast Afghan audience. One positive example from that is that the incidence of land mine accidents has gone down, which has often been related to the attention paid to the dangers posed by that weaponry through this drama. In Afghanistan alone, the World Service has an audience of 6.5 million. Its radio audience is an estimated 35% of the Afghan people.
I express again my thanks for the very many kind words about the BBC World Service. I was particularly moved by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referring to his experience in Bucharest months after the overthrow of the appalling Ceausescu regime. I am sure that many of your Lordships have over the years experienced similar feelings. I cannot underline enough that your continued support is vital for the World Service not only to retain its audiences but to project the best of British values.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my colleague the most reverend Primate—or perhaps I should say from these Benches my honourable friend—on his securing this debate.
I am attracted by the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about persuasion, but I think that there is something important about the very paradox of the phrase “soft power” that we need to take seriously. I start where Professor Nye starts, by saying that it works through “attraction rather than coercion”. He is clear that attraction works slowly. That is why it was very important to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wei, about dreams. Soft power needs to be attached to a narrative of hope.
The context for this discussion is a world characterised by the dissolving of boundaries and certainties. We are seeing the dissolving of boundaries politically, morally and militarily. Hard power, which has often maintained boundaries, has really been in decline since the retreat of Napoleon from Russia, when he was attacked on the way by what we now regard as terrorist forces. Conflict today rarely involves recognised nations, armies in uniforms and a contained conflict; it involves, as we know, terror groups that fade into society. They make an occasional strike. The conflict is not about victory or defeat; it is about fear, uncertainty and instability—the impossibility of having a dream or a hope.
That is the context: it is messy and it is complicated. This whole debate shows that we have to accept that the soft power that we are grasping after, as hard power is being exposed to have severe limitations in the world in which we live, will be messy and complex.
We need to look to soft power to push hard power out of its comfort zone. We too easily look to military might as a fallback position. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, the whole amazing story of Jesus Christ and the Roman Empire is a very powerful illustration of what soft power can do; or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, said, it is about hearts and minds and not simply crushing people in a world where you can rarely do that because they just move on and create chaos elsewhere.
I want to do two things: offer a couple of examples of soft power that might give us hope and something to think about, and reflect on how soft power needs to work in our world. My colleague the most reverent Primate is far too modest to say that he is on the forefront of the exercise of soft power at this very moment. On Tuesday, I was privileged to accompany him to Rome for an event about challenging slavery, which we in this House engage with this week and next week.
At this event, besides the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury were the Pope and the leaders of Orthodox Christians, of the Jewish faith, of Muslims—both Shia and Sunni—and of Hindu and Buddhist communities. In one sense, represented in making that statement against slavery were people whose values, visions and hopes connected with 90% of the world’s population. That is an amazing possibility for what we are talking about: soft power gathered to challenge the evils of slavery.
Let me give you another couple of smaller examples. I am privileged to be a trustee and director of Christian Aid. We work in partnership with colleagues in other countries from the bottom up. We are involved at the moment in Colombia, which is one of the most violent societies in the world. With partners, we have been able to set up what are called humanitarian zones—spaces that people recognise amidst the violence where there can be some security and stability. The state has recognised the value of these and has helped to set up a whole network of humanitarian zones within a violent society. That is a small-scale example of soft power creating a narrative of hope within the complexities of conflict.
Another area that we in Christian Aid work in is in Palestine/Israel, where we send people called ecumenical accompaniers. People go from this country to train for three or four months and to live on the West Bank or in Israel. By their presence they give protection and they support Palestinian and Israeli peace activists, and when they come back they are advocates for that kind of experience, that kind of narrative, that kind of working together. Soft power will often work through very small engagements, but ones that add up to a narrative that can be encouraging.
My last example comes from Rome on Tuesday, where I met one of the Shia leaders of Muslims in Iraq. He told me how the previous week he had been on a journey with fellow Shia Muslims to take food to Christian communities that were in great need. He has invited me to see this work and to bless it. That is just another little sign of how hearts can connect in a narrative of hope and a dream of goodness that give a different model and build from the bottom up in a situation where hard power is enormously frustrated in making a decisive difference.
I am going to risk finishing with a little reflection, which might seem rather unlikely, from my experience of being an Anglican. I want to tease out some things about the Anglican tradition and soft power. I need to make clear that neither the most reverend Primate nor I have any real levers that we can pull to make things happen. Everybody thinks that we can and they write to us, but in my diocese and in the Church of England across the communion we have few levers that we can pull in a hard way and something will happen. We have to work with what you might call soft power.
A few years ago I was invited to write a book about Anglicanism, and I had to think about what Anglicanism is; we might have a debate on that one day. I came up with the definition that Anglicanism is fundamentalisms in dialogue: that is, people who believe things absolutely passionately, think that the other lot are totally wrong and are not in an explicit dialogue but are somehow held together. The root of that is Jesus’s teaching that you should love your enemies, which is the great text of soft power. There is a presupposition that you will have enemies. Human beings fall out—we have heard about original sin—but you somehow have to love your enemies. It is hard to do that through hard power but it is what soft power is about. Fundamentalisms often contain a very important truth that just gets overembroidered. The art is to take seriously the fundamentalism in somebody but be willing to challenge the embroidery that stops others getting a look in.
From that experience, I can see four marks of soft power. The first mark in this attempt to love the enemy is to trust in a bigger overview. In our Anglican tradition, that is what episcopal oversight is: we stand for the overview of the whole church with the local and little fundamentalisms. In the world, I guess that the dream of a bigger overview is the dream of the United Nations and how we can have a bigger see within which to operate.
The second mark of soft power is to trust in the dignity of everybody, even the fundamentalists who you find it very hard to engage with. For Anglicans, the scriptures give us countless texts and teaching—a common text about the dignity of all human beings. I guess that, in the world, the equivalent would be things such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are common texts that challenge us to see the dignity of every human being, whatever their fundamentalism or approach.
The third mark of soft power is to trust in the hope for goodness that is in human hearts. I have been involved in Derby with the families of those who have gone to fight for ISIS. Of course, I do not agree with that but some of these young people see that their hope for goodness in their hearts can be best expressed like that. They are not going to kill people; they are going because they believe that that is the way to get a better society. How can we somehow connect with the hope for goodness in people’s hearts? As Anglicans, we do that through what is called common worship. If you go into Anglican churches there is an enormous variety and it does not look common at all. But there is a commonness about the hope for goodness that God can raise in human hearts. I guess that, for politicians, that is the art of setting a tone to raise what I would call public spirit—a spirit in the public who have hopes and dreams for goodness.
The fourth mark of soft power is a willingness to learn new things. For us as Anglicans, that is in struggling to use our reason to try to see what God is trying to teach us. We see through a glass darkly; we can always see new things. That is probably the biggest challenge to hard power and politics, as it is often caricatured through parties and ideologies: the courage to be shown something new and to learn and change, breaking out of the paradigm in which you have been set.
Those would seem to be some marks of how soft power might operate for people like me, as an Anglican, and people like us in a world with high aspirations through soft power. However, it is going to be messy, so I will finish with some questions for the Minister. How seriously can government take the importance of fundamentalisms and have a politics that is generous about seeking the core truth in even the most extreme views, by taking away the embroidery because we recognise the common dignity in human beings? How seriously can government operate soft power through partnership and not partisan power or, as we say in our Prayers here each day, not through “partial affections”? How seriously can the Government work with agents such as the church, faith groups, Christian Aid and the Anglican communion—people who are making small steps to operate soft power and probably need encouragement? The Government probably have the courage to invest in small steps and not big systems all the time.
My last point is that the criteria for government investment in soft power is dominated in our world, inevitably, by what people call smart objectives. As the noble Lord, Lord Wei, said, we need to have dreams and faith. We need to trust in messiness and taking a punt on small things that could have heart-to-heart consequences for our relationships through human beings with other nations. That is a bold thing for government but it is how soft power would need to operate. As hard power is exposed as having severe limitations in the modern world, we need to invest in this kind of approach seriously and heavily.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for this debate, the particular title of which has invaded my thoughts rather like the title of an essay that one has been set. Although implicit, it is not specific about our considering only the UK’s soft power and non-military options. The hyperconnectivity of the world affects nations as well as citizens. Who our allies are and what they are saying will affect our soft power on the international stage.
The title also points to soft power being used for a purpose beyond maintaining our own economic and political status in the world, to a purpose that benefits us all but primarily those in potential conflict zones. The masterful report of the Select Committee speaks of the UK playing,
“a responsible and progressive role in building global peace”,
and security, but most of the report is about our soft power mechanisms, its role with hard power and retaining our global position primarily for the benefit of our citizens, so any later debate on that report alone would be distinctive and valuable.
As I thought about this, I was also struck by the triumvirate nature of today’s debate, which differs from the procedure in the other place. Involved today we have the most reverend Primate from our established church, the Government and Opposition at their Dispatch Boxes and the most reverend Primate’s parliamentary colleagues. It was this that made me see a lacuna in the report and our thinking around soft power.
The report is comprehensive in outlining the breadth of mechanisms, from excellence in science and sport to the BBC and my own profession, the law. However, it is not only the Anglican communion and faith communities domestically and globally that are not considered in any depth in the report by the Select Committee, but the nature of the world that we are engaging and trading with. It is a deeply religious world. Some 84% of the world’s population have a religious faith and, for the majority of those people, it is beyond ticking a box on a census form. Go to the academy or the policy world at the moment and it is religion and foreign policy, and religion and its involvement in conflict, that you will find on the agenda. Visit the boards and senior management teams of many multinational companies and you will find religious literacy on the agenda. I know that Her Majesty’s Government have made a beginning in addressing this issue, but could the Minister please outline what assessment the Government have made of the religious understanding of civil servants in DCLG, the MoD and DfID, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Is there a strategic plan and programme across government to fill any gaps in that knowledge and understanding?
What of the soft power of the UK’s religious institutions, which has not yet been adequately explored in the report? Soft power is intensely relational and not easily measurable, but no one can doubt that we will benefit in the world from the world tour of the most reverend Primate visiting his fellow Primates in 32 countries. The enormous banners on the streets in Ghana declaring “Akwaaba”, meaning “Welcome” in Twi, are testament to this. Over the past decade or so, the established church has also illustrated how it can be the guardian of religious pluralism and tolerance here in Britain by facilitating interfaith dialogue. With the requisite diplomacy and creative thinking, surely there is a role for this beyond our shores in conflict prevention.
I was pleased to hear the most reverend Primate mention the little-thought-of country, the Central African Republic. Perhaps the measure of how little it is thought of in the context of this debate is that when the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, and I visited it last month, there were no advertisements for Coca-Cola or Nestlé, and I saw no presence of the FA Premier League. The only consistent reconciliation work to try to avoid full-scale civil war there over the past three years has been an interfaith platform of Protestant, Catholic and Muslim leaders. With little resource but great courage, they have toured the country and, at times of conflict, the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui has given sanctuary in his own home to the nation’s imam.
In addition to the idea of future aid by the UK being delivered via CAFOD, the Muslim Charities Forum and World Vision, all of which work in CAR, I join the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, in saying that these need to be supported by UK religious leaders. That could be strategic. As I mentioned, the most reverend Primate has probably clocked up more air miles than the Foreign Secretary recently, but the sheer presence of him, Cardinal Nichols, perhaps a leader from one of the black-led denominations and a British imam in this unknown country could be significant. I am not saying that our interfaith dialogue has been perfect—the history of the church overseas bears some of the same issues as our colonial past—but attempts to facilitate such invitations working with DfID must be worth trying.
I also think our interfaith work here would be strengthened by learning valuable lessons overseas to apply at home. I hope that, if the Select Committee is reconvened, there will be an exploration of religious soft power. Obviously many of the countries on the cusp of conflict correlate with those where freedom of religion or belief is barely visible for their populations. I declare an interest as chair of the all-party group. This week, accompanying the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, to the Holy See brought home to me, as the most reverend Primate had previously warned me, the enormous soft power of the Pope, whose global leadership is so inspiring and whose global institutional reach is on a scale that makes Anglicans pale into insignificance. As I understand it, he also has more central levers at his disposal than the most reverend Primate. Indeed, there is a network of a million people in Catholic religious communities around the world, many of them specialists in education and healthcare. Most of their work is unseen.
In preparation for that visit, as I am a member of the Anglican communion, I read Vatican II. It states clearly that religious institutions also have a responsibility to protect and promote religious freedom. It is not just a matter for Governments and the United Nations. Our experience here gives us humility but a clear voice in that arena. Most of the mistakes being made today in the world—connecting religion too closely to the state in breach of Article 18, such as in Vietnam and China; making the state mono-confessional, such as Georgian Orthodoxy or, in the extreme, in Iran; and religious intolerance leading to the killing of the other, such as with IS in Iraq—have been made at one time or other in our history.
The English church in its historic denominational diversity has particular constitutional expertise to offer in this area. As my noble friend Lord Cormack mentioned, next year we will celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta, in which the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, and his bishops played a key role. In fact, clause 1 of Magna Carta states that,
“the English church shall be free”.
In any future Select Committee report, I hope to see recommendations for the most reverend Primate and the established church in relation to their role in soft power. Perhaps the most reverend Primate is rueing the day when he brought our attention to its absence in the Select Committee’s report. I know that my noble friend Lord Cormack laid out quite a grand plan in relation to Magna Carta. To cut that down to size, perhaps, it would be useful to see a project that explored the correct principles regarding a connection between any religious institution and the state. There is a particular, unique role that our religious institutions can play in that regard, which would be important in conflict prevention when speaking to other Governments and religious institutions overseas and which could enhance religious freedom.
There has also been a surprising entrance of soft power in this context with the intervention of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, whose courageous speech a year ago gave so much encouragement to Christians suffering in the Middle East, as did his personal visit to the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage and the Syrian Orthodox communities here in the UK. After the events connected with IS in the summer, his continued support in a video message for the launch of the Religious Freedom in the World report of the Catholic agency Aid to the Church in Need was much appreciated. Sometimes I think that we forget that Britain’s wonderful diversity often means that the relatives of our citizens are being killed in these conflicts.
As Professor Anholt testified at paragraph 292 of the report,
“the aim is to prove the utility of the country to humanity and to the planet, rather than brag about its assets or achievements”.
Similarly, Peter Horrocks from the BBC World Service said that that station is the “world’s radio station” and therefore,
“can attract people to Britain precisely because we are not pursuing a British agenda”.
The global situation today means that the UK must pour out its power and influence for conflict prevention rather than trade, for the benefit of others, not ourselves. The by-product of using our influence this way is that we will see our global status enhanced rather than decline, which of course includes our trade balance and our security.
My Lords, like other noble Lords I am extremely grateful to be able to hear and participate in this debate. We should all be appreciative of the most reverend Primate for the way in which he has given us this opportunity. This has been a refreshing debate, because for once we have talked about strategy rather than about our constant preoccupation with tactics. Our species is lost if we cannot reassert the primacy of strategic considerations, towards which tactics are a means of travel.
This is about conflict prevention. I see a great paradox in human society at the moment. On the one hand, we are more and more conscious of our total interdependence with others across the world. On the other, there is a growing sense and yearning for personal identity and significance. Sometimes we talk, for example, in the context of our own society, about the issues of Scottish nationalism. However, we overlook—I declare an interest as a half-Scot; I am very close to my Scottish family—what people yearn for, which is the sense that they matter and belong, and have dignity and identity. That is of course central to any concern about conflict and its prevention.
However, if we are talking about peace, which by definition we must be, sometimes the language we use becomes too easily confused. We talk about peace enforcement, peacekeeping and peacemaking, but over my lifetime I have become interested in what I see as the greatest challenge, peacebuilding, which is quite different. That is about finding the bricks with which you build the security for the future, and it requires infinite patience. There will be many set-backs, but the danger is that we get into an impatient management mode in which we want to manage a solution and, in a sense, want to find a solution to other people’s problems, get them to buy it, and then enforce it. That is destined to lead to greater and greater trouble in the future. We need solutions that belong to the participants in the conflict. That means building relations of solidarity. Solidarity is a very important concept, because it is not about talking to or about other people but about talking with them, listening and learning from that experience.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan, referred to the immensely important part played by the NGOs—and again I declare an interest, because that has been very much part of my life. I think that he is right to emphasise why they matter so much, because, although they are not all perfect, at their best they are close to the people. The advocacy that they bring into deliberations is that based on experience and engagement, and their strength is that they really are in a meaningful relationship with the people about whom we are talking. Governments of all persuasions have failed to see the vital importance of this aspect of NGO activity—that they bring an unrivalled contribution to the quality, content and integrity of the debate.
The most reverend Primate referred to the issue of visas, and I am very glad that he did. One issue here, it always seems to me, is that we fail to realise that a relevant centre of higher education in the nature of the world in which we live must be an international community. It is not just about having overseas students here and the contributions that they make to the finances of a university. The quality of the education is related to its being an international community, in which people from completely different backgrounds are learning and studying together and informing each other from different perspectives. To do anything in administration that hinders the process of developing these flourishing institutions as centres of international co-operation and understanding is to be very detrimental to our future.
On a more local level, I happen to be a patron of a very interesting local organisation based in Marlborough, set up at the time of the Brandt report, which has kept going extremely well. The point about the Marlborough Brandt Group is that over 20 years it has brought people from the Gambia in West Africa to Marlborough to work there on Marlborough’s social problems and challenges. Behind the façade of the college and all the rest, there are a lot of challenges and social problems in Marlborough. Young people from Marlborough have been going to work in the Gambia. That programme has recently had to stop because they simply cannot cope with the difficulties of getting visas for the Gambians to come to this country. It is at moments like this that we have to ask ourselves what on earth we are doing, cutting off our noses to spite our faces. If anything is an illustration of practical co-operation, that is it.
If we are talking with the NGOs, they would be the first to make the point—and my noble friend Lord Boateng referred to this in a powerful and effective speech—that it is all about a matrix. It is a matrix of climate change and social issues, as well as refugee, migration and economic issues, along with issues of land and water resources and health and security. There is a need for security sector reform, because everyone needs to have a stable society. Of course, the security sector will be necessary—but it must be one that is trusted and in which there is real accountability. So security sector reform is a vital part of our approach.
Underlying all this is the issue of human rights. You can put it very simply—in the absence of any serious human rights issues, there is a chance to have a stable, secure society. If there are human rights issues of any significant nature in society, you are on the road to instability, extremism and tension. Therefore, we must stop seeing human rights as a possible option; we must see them as an absolutely indispensable cornerstone of stable society. That is why the international approach to human rights is so important and any talk of repatriation of human rights is nonsense, because what matters is that these are rights of mankind across the world. They are not just British rights or French rights or German rights but the rights of people wherever they are. If we start to dismantle that principle, which Eleanor Roosevelt, Churchill and others regarded as being so important in the aftermath of the Second World War, what on earth are we doing to the cause of peace and understanding in the world?
The Government are coming to terms with interdepartmental co-operation and are to be commended for that. I am very interested in the concept of the new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which is to be introduced in April next year. However, we need to make sure that this is not just—how shall I put it?—a formal response to an issue that has been identified but is an effective muscular response. As my noble friend Lord Boateng said so well, this means that departments have to stop thinking as departments and start to think about being part of a common cause, and of how one carries that common cause forward.
An issue that I do not think has had much attention today is that of arms control and the Arms Trade Treaty. We have to stop thinking that arms are part of our export business and that we can get on with making money for Britain and providing employment in Britain unless there is an overriding reason not to do so. Surely everything we are experiencing in the world demonstrates that arms in the wrong hands are immensely dangerous. Arms are dangerous things to make and you should export them only where a cast-iron guarantee can be given—if that is possible—that they will be used to maintain peace with close allies who can be trusted and that people will be accountable for what happens with them. The whole balance of the assumption behind the operation of the arms industry has to change in that context.
I always thought that one of the finest assets of the BBC was Bush House, as the quality of what was broadcast across the world was due to the quality of the work that was done there. The quality of the community in Bush House reflects what I said about universities in that great experience and learning came together to back up the quality of the journalism. I hope that we will manage to maintain that tradition under the new arrangements. I am not always sure that that is the case. I get worried when I receive letters from the BBC saying, “You will be cheered to know that our audience has increased by this amount”. Of course, I am cheered; I am glad to hear that. However, sometimes the value of the BBC is demonstrated in areas where there may not be a very high listening audience but where the listening audience that does exist is crucial. The BBC, with its objective reporting and wide understanding of the world, is a lifeline for sane, decent people.
As regards the contribution of the British Council to education and cultural exchange, cultural exchange enables us to understand others’ backgrounds so much better. The way in which people across the world have loved Shakespeare as the result of the British Council’s efforts is not to be underestimated.
I conclude by referring to the observation that I was so glad the most reverend Primate the Archbishop included in his interesting opening speech. In all this we have to look at ourselves and what is happening in Britain. Whenever there is a miscarriage of justice, or an unjustifiable action or manhandling in the forces, police or border authority, it is storing up insecurity for the future. It is essential, given the personal experience of people’s treatment by one of these authorities, that standards of decency, care, concern and compassion are there all the time. They are important for the people concerned but if they are not there, we may have bright people going home, alienated and aggravated, and becoming potential recruits to extremism and the rest.
Perhaps I may make one important—for me, anyway; I am sure it is for others— point about all this. We must be very careful about slipping, under pressures and provocation that I do not underestimate, into the concept that somehow the Home Office, which is the equivalent to the ministry of the interior in many countries of the world, is moving into positions of responsibility in our universities. This matters not only in terms of academic freedom, which we have treasured in our society, and the autonomy of universities in that context, but what is the example we are setting to the world? To the world, it is quite normal for interior ministries and the Home Office to do that. Of course the issues are huge, but let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves what we are really doing.
My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for his introduction, and for mentioning nightmare scenarios and the power of diplomacy, because I want to talk about the essential use of that power to prevent the ultimate nightmare scenario.
I am talking of an issue on which the UK has a particular moral responsibility to engage because we are a nuclear weapons state. As such, we need to engage all our energies in diplomacy to resolve extremely pressing issues. It was back in 2009 that the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament said in its report:
“So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, miscalculation or design. And any such use would be catastrophic”.
We had another illustration last week, for those in your Lordships’ House who went, of the likelihood of just accidents, not even by design, when Heather Williams from Chatham House came to present its report, Too Close for Comfort: Cases of Near Nuclear Use and Options for Policy. Eric Schlosser, who undertook a study in the United States on similar issues, shared a platform with her.
Just how close we are to the brink of that catastrophe is something that the 15 people who wrote the international commission’s report were very aware of. They were absolute realists and included senior figures of wide experience such as William Perry, former US Secretary of State for Defense; General Karamat, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Pakistan; General Naumann, former chairman of the NATO Military Committee; and, from this House, my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby. The year in which they published their report, 2009, was a year of optimism, because President Obama made his speech in Prague. The Inter-Parliamentary Union, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, mentioned, unanimously passed its resolution on nuclear non-proliferation. I must declare an interest as a co-president of the international grouping of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. However, during this time of optimism there were some moments of pessimism. In 2010, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference did not succeed nearly as well as it should have. Most unfortunately for the UK, it fell exactly at election time, so the political lead was lost. One of the unseen fallouts—if I may use that ghastly pun in this context—is that the UK will not be able to take a strong lead in the 2015 conference either, because it will fall at election time. All focus will be on elections and the subsequent forming of a Government. As we are a nuclear weapon power, that is particularly unfortunate.
I appreciate that for this Government, and no doubt the next, disarmament and non-proliferation remain, theoretically and rhetorically, high priorities. However, having had many conversations with my fellow parliamentarians on PNND, I do not think that that is how the rest of the world sees us. I suspect that they do appreciate all those aspects of soft power that I, too, appreciate, which noble Lords have spoken about, such as the World Service, the British Council, and economic and trade issues. However, that is a paradox. We are talking about this while still holding a very big stick behind our backs.
The rest of the world, fed up with the fact that the UN conference on disarmament is widely recognised as moribund because the P5 will not engage and solve that paradox, commenced two initiatives post-2010. First was a UN open-ended working group to try to get a work programme agreed for the conference on disarmament. Sadly, the UK refused to take part. The second initiative was a new fact-finding series of conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The first was held in Norway in 2013, which, again, the UK, along with the USA and France, did not attend. I had hoped that the UK might attend the second one in Mexico. However, my hopes were dashed when, in reply in reply to my Question in this House in November last year, my noble friend, who is replying today, said:
“We continue to have concerns that the initiative would divert attention from the 2010 action plan agreed by states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.—[Hansard, 6/11/13; col. 218.]
Next week, starting on Monday, we have the third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, held in Vienna. I especially welcome the US’s very recent decision to attend the third conference. I hope that my noble friend will have better news for me today and that the UK has decided to finally attend these conferences.
There are many things we could do at a diplomatic level to move the agenda on and move to a safer place. On the second of this month, at the UN General Assembly, there was a draft on achieving a nuclear weapon-free world and accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments, which the assembly had called for. A recorded vote was held. Unfortunately, although 169 countries voted in favour, the seven usual suspects voted against. They were: North Korea; Israel, which still refuses to acknowledge that it has nuclear weapons; India, which has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; France; Russia; the US; and, of course, the UK.
If we continue not to put our diplomatic force behind efforts to make the world a safer place at least in terms of de-alerting, we will have a lot to answer for. Unfortunately, the article that talked about de-alerting was one on which we abstained. It is difficult to understand why we should want to abstain on something like reducing the hair-trigger quality of our nuclear weapons, allowing them to be launched at any moment, when the threats against us—
I am sure that the noble Baroness is aware that our missiles are no longer on that hair trigger. We have set an example, which has not been followed by anybody else. We have gone down to one system only and have reduced the number of warheads dramatically. We have been honest about how many warheads there are. If the rest of the world had followed suit, things would be a lot better, but we certainly do not have missiles either targeted or on a hair trigger.
I thank the noble Lord very much for that, but it is particularly curious that we could not then vote in favour of the paragraph in the General Assembly’s resolution. I hope that he will join me in encouraging the Government to change that vote the next time it comes round.
In conclusion, however good our soft power is, we will come back to the fact that the rest of the countries in the world will see the P5 as those who, as I said, hold a big stick behind their backs but talk in very different terms when face to face.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords who have thanked the most reverend Primate for this very important debate. I also congratulate him on his very thoughtful and masterly introductory speech.
I declare an interest as a very chastened member of the soft power Select Committee, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. As the son of a bishop, I have been taken to task, quite rightly, twice today—by my wife and by the most reverend Primate—for the fact that the church is not included.
One memory that I have of that committee is the evidence given to us by the high commissioner for Mozambique, who explained why Mozambique applied to join the Commonwealth and laid out very clearly the values which many noble Lords have expressed as being particularly British. However, I do not intend to say more about soft power at the moment; I intend to concentrate on a sentence in a letter that the most reverend Primate sent to me on
At the time, I was reflecting on the re-emergence on the world scene of one of the giants of the ending of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, and what he said in public on the occasion of the anniversary of the falling of the Berlin Wall. I very much agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, when she said that it is essential that we increase our understanding of Russia. Gorbachev said that the world was on the brink of a new cold war and that trust should be restored through dialogue with Russia. He said that America was still intoxicated by its Cold War “triumph”—whatever that meant—pushing everyone to take an anti-Russian position and that triumphalism was the reason why the global powers were unable to cope with the conflicts in Yugoslavia, the Middle East and, now, Ukraine. However, he ended by saying that it was too late to ratchet down the confrontation and that we must go back to the starting line from which we began building a new world both in Europe and elsewhere.
That caused me to go back in my own memories. During the Cold War, I was a soldier. In 1985 I was commanding an armoured division in Germany based on the side of the Möhnesee, which many people will have heard of. It was an extraordinary year. It was 40 years after the end of the war and the Germans have an extraordinary belief that two generations absolves you from any connection with what went on two generations before. The very remarkable mayor of Dortmund, which was a large town very near us, asked whether I would take part in a ceremony where all the political parties would mark 40 years of peace. I did so and said that we had made our contribution. I then asked him whether there was anything that he particularly felt the British should be thanked for. He said that it was interesting that immediately after the war we, the British, as opposed to the Americans, made the Germans responsible for the administration of Dortmund. By giving them something to do, it gave them back their pride, and pride is important in the development of a nation.
I never forgot that. In 1990 I happened to be in Hungary watching a Russian division being taken back to Russia by train. In the first part of the train were coaches of soldiers and then came all the equipment. The back part of the train consisted of trucks on which there were drainpipes, bits of wood, windows and doors. They knew that when they got back to Russia there would be nothing for them. It was quite clear that the pride had gone out of them. In 1993, I was asked by the head of the Russian army to go to Russia and advise on setting up a contract as opposed to a conscript army. I was taken to a place called Tver, which is halfway between St Petersburg and Moscow. I was taken to see a division which had been kicked out of Poland at 24 hours’ notice. The soldiers had been removed to this place and all their equipment had gone missing. They were living alongside families in rooms separated by blankets—there were four families living to a room. They asked what I would do if I were in a division living in Russia. I told them how we would live and how we would assimilate with the community. It was the most extraordinary day because we then went to see the mayor and asked whether he could arrange that. At the end, the general threw his arms around me and said, “Thank you so much helping the Russian army”, and I reflected that I was teaching it how to live in its own country. The tragic thing was that pride had gone. It is very important that we do not do anything to triumphalise over what the Russians are going through. We should remember that they see these sanctions as war.
I was also involved at that time with the United Nations, which picks up on what the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, was saying. I was co-opted by Kofi Annan into a committee trying to revive the old military committee to give some co-ordination to the peacekeeping operations that were developing all over the world. What was interesting was that we discovered that although peacekeeping operations were going on and contingence was being made, there was no co-ordination of the post-conflict reconstruction or humanitarian effort at all. One of our recommendations was that when a special representative was appointed he should have two deputies—a force commander and a humanitarian commander—and they must be equals. The military was trying to develop wider conflict prevention somewhere else by stopping someone in a country or assisting in the post-conflict reconstruction, because there could be no reconstruction and redevelopment until whatever opposed them had been removed.
I also declare an interest as a member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. I was very pleased to hear the most reverend Primate say that soft power must be included in hard power when we are looking at what the national security strategy is. I could not agree with him more. I hope that it does not just develop into a scrap between the MoD and the Treasury, as the MoD is merely one of the players in this. It is desperately important that all the other players should have their say.
I have been thinking about the youth of this country. I took from my bookshelf a very remarkable book written by a godmother of mine, Amy Buller. It is called Darkness Over Germany and it was written during the war. It explains the almost religious grip that Nazism had over the youth of Germany. In it she said:
“If every Nazi were slain tomorrow, we should be left with the deeper and more terrible phenomenon of a German youth in desperate need of a faith … That need must be met primarily by Germans themselves, for it is obvious that, in such a situation, healing must come from within ... That these Germans will need and indeed seek the co-operation of other nations is clear, but the United Nations must show signs that they, in their several countries, know how to meet the needs of their own youth”.
She went on to describe a conversation with one of her students, who asked her:
“‘Didn’t you say that, however well the Nazis had organised, they would never have called forth that dynamic energy and passionate devotion of youth, unless they had somehow given answers, however false, to the more fundamental spiritual needs of youth?’”.
To which Amy replied by saying:
“‘Recognising that these things would not call forth the fanatical allegiance of the youth of this country, we may fail to realise the significance of the spiritual bankruptcy and real destitution underlying it all, for that is something which is evident to the whole of Western civilisation, though in more insidious forms and subtle dress. The real tragedy of the Nazi betrayal, not only of Germany but of Europe, is that it claimed to have given a radical answer to some of the most fundamental problems of our age. It is of the utmost importance that we should understand the problems that they were trying to solve, and then analyse, closely, the fallacious and heretical character of their answers. To a generation without faith, the Nazis gave a brutal philosophy, and millions of lives have been sacrificed to free the world of this false answer to real need, but let us not fail to understand that it was caused by real need. We are now faced with the greater task of bringing healing to the nations including our own. I am convinced this cannot be done without a faith in God adequate to the tremendous task of reconstruction’”.
Of course, we are dealing with different fundamental spiritual needs, but if we are to play our part in trying to provide the answers that our youth require to today’s problems, it is vital that we understand and repair our national strengths and weaknesses with regard to the protection and projection of the values that we as a country maintain. That includes our political masters, who I hope will read, mark and learn from what so many noble Lords have contributed to today’s debate, for which they and the whole House must thank the most reverend Primate.
My Lords, when I saw the subject for today’s debate and noted that it was being promoted by the most reverend Primate, I did not hesitate to put my name down to speak. I intend to adhere to the subject of the debate, but would observe that soft power also has utility in ordinary treaty and commercial negotiations, and not just in conflict situations.
The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, talked about the funding of soft power. I thought that we could perhaps divide it into direct and indirect soft power. The good news is that indirect soft power arises automatically from our JROL, culture, values and vision, as referred to by many noble Lords. So, of course, there is no marginal cost for indirect soft power. As we were reminded by the most reverend Primate, direct soft power is orders of magnitude less costly than hard power.
The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, asked: what is soft power, and is moral authority soft power? He made me consider whether there was a spectrum between indirect soft power and direct soft power, ending with sanctions, before getting into hard power. I very much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord West. I agreed with everything he said and I look forward to a full debate on defence—that is, hard power—for precisely the reasons that he laid out.
The most reverend Primate and others touched on visas, but we must not forget that one of the effects of our soft power is that the UK is one of the best places to be in the world. For that reason, we have to be far more cautious than most other countries before granting a visa. Nevertheless, if I had picked the short straw of having to be an Immigration Minister in the Home Office, I would pay very careful attention to this problem.
Many noble Lords referred to the importance of students in our soft power stance. I entirely agree. When I was in the Government and at the Home Office, I could not detect anything to the contrary. But what we cannot escape from is the fact that our student entry route was being abused to a gross extent. I have no doubt that we had to tighten up on that abuse.
The most reverend Primate talked about the SDSR and the hard and soft power interface—or perhaps balance. I do not believe that one needs to be pursued at the expense of the other. In the SDSR, they should be considered together. The beauty of soft power is that it is not expensive. The issue is how to exercise it effectively. With hard power, the issue is: how much do we need, are our capabilities in balance, and can we afford what we think we need?
Many noble and gallant Lords have attended the Royal College of Defence Studies. I was honoured to attend in 2008 as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. In the previous SDSR, the RCDS was retained because of its very significant role in conflict prevention. Each year half of the intake of about 30 members are from overseas, and the whole emphasis of the course is to think at the strategic level to understand the causes of conflict, how to cool things down and how to de-escalate, and, picking up on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to understand the position of your opponent.
The RCDS attracts the very best lecturers and presenters. Only the very best are invited back. I understand that my noble friend the Minister had addressed the RCDS many times before I heard him present there. I know that he cannot make any undertakings regarding the next SDSR and the RCDS but I hope that he can acknowledge its most important role in worldwide conflict prevention and reduction.
This week I received a very interesting document from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. It told me how much I had earned and how much income tax and National Insurance I had paid in the previous financial year. My overall earnings were just under £100,000, but I should point out that that included a sizeable accommodation allowance. My actual salary was about £63,000—about the same as a head teacher, I believe. The document also showed how the Government had spent my contribution. The biggest expenditure by a long way, at about £8,000, was welfare, followed by health at just over £6,000, education at £4,300 and pensions at £4,000, while national debt interest was £2,300. Defence—in other words, hard power—was £1,700. There followed a number of relatively modest spending areas.
There was also a pie chart, which was even more illuminating. It showed the 25% slice for welfare, 13% for education and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is not in his place, but the very smallest, wafer-thin slice was for the UK contribution to the EU budget. The next, very slightly bigger slice was overseas aid—that is not surprising, as my contribution to it was only £379 compared to, as I have said, £8,000 for welfare.
One could either double or entirely eliminate the overseas aid budget and it would not make the pie chart look any different, because, as we know, we spend only 0.7% of GDP on it. For that reason, I think that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was right to ring-fence the overseas aid budget. It is nothing to do with the deficit; we can afford it.
The other place appears to have been voting all afternoon and I understand that it is considering a Bill to enshrine the 0.7% rate in legislation, but your Lordships know perfectly well that it would be an unobjectionable but pointless provision since a subsequent Finance Bill could change it. If I am wrong on that, a Bill with that purpose certainly could, as this Parliament cannot bind the next. However, I am personally committed to 0.7% of GDP being spent on overseas aid.
If your Lordships will spare me a moment, I would like to add a footnote to the debate which I think has not been mentioned before, certainly not in the 20 speeches that I have listened to.
It is based entirely on a subjective, personal observation but one in which I have considerable confidence. It is that wherever there is a conflict resolution effort going on in the world there seems to be a Norwegian, and very often they have started it. At this point, I declare a shadow of an interest: my mother was Norwegian. I saw the Norwegians at work when I was part of the successful international effort to secure a treaty banning cluster munitions. I am raising this point because I discovered that the Norwegians have conflict resolution as an academic subject both in their schools and in their universities, so they have a fund of people qualified to do the work that we have been talking about. I wonder whether the most reverend Primate or the Minister on the Front Bench would give thought to our doing the same in this country.
My Lords, I thank all the people who have participated today in this most illuminating debate. I thank in particular the most reverend Primate for introducing this most important subject. I am sure that at some point we will have the opportunity to discuss in more detail the specific points raised in the report written by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and his Select Committee. I shall therefore try in this debate to restrict my comments to three or four key issues, but I again thank the most reverend Primate for an introduction that was carefully constructed and intelligently thought through.
When I was 16, I won a scholarship to study at Atlantic College, an international sixth-form college based in south Wales. I had no idea at the time that this college was a part of global approach to the development of soft power. It was established as a response to the Second World War and the idea was to promote international understanding and world peace among the 350 or so students there representing some 80 different nationalities. Before that, I do not think that I had come across many people from different parts of the world. We were a very different kind of place then, and it is enlightening to think of the way that our society has changed. Despite the fact that we now live in a multicultural, much smaller world, there is still a need for us to understand each other’s cultures, ways of life and motivations. If we start with this, we are already a long way down the path of avoiding conflict.
What is soft power? I have heard a lot of noble Lords say that they are uncomfortable with the term. It is about co-option rather than coercion. It is a means of achieving desired outcomes without recourse to threats or military power. The British Council, the organisation that has done such magnificent work in the area of soft power, defines it as,
“the things that make people love a country rather than fear it, things that are often the products of people, institutions and brands rather than governments”.
Soft power is being prioritised as a foreign policy tool by other countries. China, for example, has opened 300 Confucius Institutes since 2004 and aims to have a thousand institutes in operation by 2020. We in Britain have an in-built advantage over other nations as two of our most notable soft power tools, the BBC World Service and the British Council, had decades to establish global reputations for excellence. We must not throw this advantage away but we must be aware that others are catching up very quickly. Just look at the growth of Russia Today TV. According to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, around 2.5 million Britons tuned their televisions to Russia Today during the second half of last year. It boasts the most popular news channel in Britain after the BBC and Sky, so we have to understand that we cannot let this advantage run away from us. It is particularly important for us to consider because the funding cuts to the World Service have already meant closing 22 bureaus, including cutting the radio service to Ukraine. I will need to elaborate a bit more on these two institutions when we discuss the other report.
Soft power is about the representation of ideas, of a way of life, of attitudes and values, some of those in Britain being tolerance, openness and respect for law, and as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, suggested, what we stand for is what matters. Its real impact can only be long term, but it is absolutely worth the investment. As my noble friend Lady Kinnock said, soft power cannot be seen as the soft option.
One of the other key tools in the area of soft power needs to be protected at all costs. Nobody can doubt that one of the main keys to the future influence of this country globally is its international development funding. Any reduction in the commitment to spend 0.7% of our GDP on development aid would wound not only our international partners but the UK. As long ago as 1969, the Labour Party was committed to that 0.7% target, and since 1970 it has appeared in every one of our manifestos. I am delighted to report that it has now been passed in the other place, so we hope that the Minister will give us an assurance today that time will be made for this in this House in the new year.
To give credit where it is due, the coalition Government have been committed to ring-fencing the development aid budget, despite real pressures from less enlightened Members in the Tory party. So we urge the Government now and in the future to hold their nerve on this important issue. I also ask the Minister to indicate whether the Government will conform to the £1 billion extra funding estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility today as the amount needed to reach that 0.7% target.
The then Secretary of State for International Development said just two short years ago:
“For under 1% of gross national income this is a tremendous investment, not only in the future stability and prosperity of some of the poorest and most dysfunctional parts of the world, it’s an investment for Britain in Britain's future prosperity and stability and security”.
Those two years have seen increased problems faced by some of our international partners. Their interests have become our interests, their prosperity our prosperity, their stability and security our stability and security, and we have become more inextricably bound than ever before.
Sadly, some shrill voices are determined to see the foreigner, both in their own country and here, as a drain on our resources when the truth is that they are assets and allies for present and future prosperity. Those voices even fail to recognise that the consequence of investing in international aid is not just mutual growth but a reduction in migration, as people able to flourish in their home countries. The less that we give, the greater will be the number of people from around the world needing food and shelter in our country. Yes, there is an issue with immigration in the UK but we need to place this immigration into a global context. There are 42 million forcibly displaced people around the world today but four out of five refugees are housed in the developing world. Pakistan alone takes in 1.7 million of them, more than the 1.6 million taken by the whole of Europe. The Lebanon has taken in 1 million refugees from Syria, which had a population of 3 million. The least that we can do is therefore to pay our fair share to help those countries carrying the biggest burden.
Where are we failing and how can we do better in relation to our soft power influence in the world? The Government in the UK are in real danger of sending out mixed messages on our values. When it comes to developing the UK’s strategic narratives on soft power, it seems to be necessary to stress again and again that they must reflect reality and should not be undermined by concrete political action or even debates. The committee of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, stressed that the UK would find it difficult to portray itself as an open, tolerant country and promote these ideas in conflict-prone areas at the same time as engaging in an increasingly vitriolic debate on immigration.
One of the other points to note is the shift in power networks going on through the world. The rise of non-western countries is altering the international balance of power and influence. The UK has a huge advantage: the country’s history and experience of global reach now present it with an enviable opportunity to work with others in shaping the world. The Government must communicate openly and actively with both old allies in the Commonwealth and new partners around the globe. However, we must also understand how crucial the EU is in promoting the kinds of values that we espouse. My noble friend Lord Anderson underlined the point that the support for the European Convention on Human Rights is absolutely critical to that value system.
We cannot fail to have noticed that upheavals in the Middle East and parts of Africa are increasingly being determined by more extreme forms of religious beliefs. The most reverend Primate was correct to point out that this is an ideological, even a theological, struggle which cannot simply be won by violence. It is therefore essential that we have within the Foreign Office a ream of top-flight advisers in important areas such as ethnic and religious issues, as suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. Awareness of the sensitivities and an understanding of cultural, ethnic and theological diversity is vital to the proper exercise of soft power, and an understanding of how and why religions help to create—or attempt to eliminate—tensions and conflicts should be a prerequisite of the locally based diplomat. A failure to grasp the complex internal divisions within religions, as well as between faiths, and how these are often connected to ethnic groups, civil strife and international conflicts is critical to solutions, whether it be in Ulster or Nigeria. The most reverend Primate was also correct to draw attention to the fact that religion was not mentioned in the Select Committee’s report.
In conclusion, it is worth emphasising the link between soft power and hard power. The suggestion by the most reverend Primate to explore this during the strategic defence and security review merits serious consideration. To this end, I want to pay our respects to the members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces for the outstanding service that they provide as they travel the world to deliver the more practical and life-saving aspects of soft power on our behalf, when as a nation we respond to natural disasters and human folly. Their role in the world, helping countries to restore normality, replace infrastructure and rebuild communities, often in the most challenging and dangerous environments, gives us all a deep sense of pride.
I heard this week a story recounted by a young airman who has served several tours in Afghanistan. He told how it was so important that they walked around among local people wearing what he called “soft” clothing—he meant his beret rather than a helmet, and an absence of heavy body armour bristling with weapons. The corporal said:
“It’s about hearts and minds, that’s where we British do well. That’s where the real battle has to be won—hearts and minds”.
Ultimately, we will not defeat terrorism with arms. It has to be with hearts and minds.
My Lords, the most reverend Primate has given us the basis for a fascinating debate, starting with his own very helpful speech. The Government of course strongly support its underlying premise that soft power and non-military actions have a critical role in preventing conflicts and in building stronger societies, state structures and economic development. We are indeed deploying smart power as well as we can, which brings together all the tools at our disposal. That must be the cornerstone of our approach.
This year, sadly, we have seen an unpleasant increase in the number and intensity of high-profile armed conflicts around the world: some new, as in Ukraine, some revived and continuing, as in Libya, and some with a new and dangerous slant, as with the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, while prospects for lasting peace in the Israel/Palestine conflict appear dimmer now than at the start of the year. The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve these and other conflicts by peaceful means. Such is the complexity of modern conflicts, most often involving rather more non-state actors than state actors, as in the Sahel and across the Middle East, that we and like-minded members of the international community need to use the full range of tools available to us to try to restrict, contain and end these conflicts.
Conflict prevention is much more difficult than post-conflict reconstruction. The unexpected outbreak of the Arab spring in Tunisia, which no one, even in Tunisia, had suspected, is a perfect example of how difficult it is to anticipate just where conflicts might break out next and do one’s best to anticipate it. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, pointed out the unanticipated spillover of the NATO and Gulf states intervention in Libya. We have to remember that that intervention was in large part intended as a humanitarian one to prevent the large-scale killing that was threatened within Libya at that time. The subsequent collapse of state and society into conflicting militias and the dispersal of weapons across the Sahel from abandoned military bases across the country was not foreseen. Sadly, as he rightly says, we are now faced with a huge problem of ungoverned areas within what we think of as states, albeit very weak ones, with which we now have to deal. Peacekeeping, post-conflict resolution and the containment of conflict have therefore to be our major preoccupations.
The Building Stability Overseas strategy, which has been mentioned, is the Government’s strategy to help to shape a stable world and tackle threats at their source. It has three areas where the Government wish to focus efforts: first, early warning, improving our ability to anticipate instability and potential triggers for conflict, so far as we can; secondly, rapid crisis prevention and response, taking fast, appropriate and effective action to prevent a crisis or to stop it from developing further; and, thirdly, investing in upstream prevention by trying to build strong, legitimate and robust societies in the many fragile countries and weak states around the world.
We fund this partly through the interdepartmental Conflict Pool. Again I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, that there is a great deal of cross-departmental co-operation in this, and it is improving. The National Security Council has now agreed to reform decision-making on the UK effort within fragile states. A new Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will therefore replace the current Conflict Pool in April 2015. That will have £1 billion, of which £100 million is new additional money. It will operate across several different departments and include work focused on reconciliation, intercommunity dialogue and weapons reduction and support focused on strengthening other countries’ institutions.
I welcome the general support for the size of our current development budget. It focuses on long-term development but deals with short-term and immediate humanitarian assistance. With the Norwegians and some others, we are now a leader in world development, and we are very proud of that. DfID has been scaling up its work in fragile and conflict-affected states and in the previous SDSR committed itself to investing 30% of total UK ODA in fragile and conflict-affected states. A great deal of effort goes into those many fragile countries across the world.
In addition to that, some of the ODA is being spent in other departments. I was in Istanbul at the weekend where the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, the UK trade envoy to Turkey, had just launched the UK’s Newton Fund, which is a DfID-funded but BIS-administered fund for promoting scientific and technological collaboration between British scholars and scholars in the developing world. I can assure the noble Lord that there is increasing co-operation across Whitehall to promote our broader developmental objectives.
On defence engagement, which a number of noble Lords asked about, the defence attaché network remains a key part of integrated UK support. I am told that in South Sudan we have worked extremely hard developing a Conflict Pool programme to try to support the evolution of what had been a guerrilla force into professional armed services. Sadly, there is a long way to go. In Ethiopia, we are bringing together defence engagement activity—the Conflict Pool and DfID’s development programme—to pull together the different dimensions of security and justice, as we all recognise that domestic policing is as important as armed forces. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred to military training, the Royal College of Defence Studies and many others. We are similarly engaged in training on the ground in fragile states and also back here.
Others talked about the immense value of all sorts of education that the British are engaged in. As an academic, partly at St Anthony’s, which has been mentioned, and at the London School of Economics, I am very conscious of the extent to which, as I travel as a Minister, I meet my former students, who include one Prime Minister at the present, the retiring president of the Commission, one Commissioner and various other people. It helps—and it also helps add to my credibility with the FCO from time to time.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, asked about the 0.7% commitment. I am glad that the Bill has now passed the other House. It is a little too early for me to say how we will respond, but I take her point and we will see what we can do in January and then on. The British Government are among the leaders in development aid. We are entitled to ask for more from others. The Deputy Prime Minister, when in Berlin last week, made that specific point to our German partners: we are doing well, but we expect others to come up more to the mark.
The most reverend Primate also mentioned the strategic defence and security review. I am struck that many noble Lords responded on that. Since I have already had to answer Questions in the House on what is happening on the SDSR, I welcome the surge of interest in that debate. The review is led by the Cabinet Office with a range of different departments, not just the Ministry of Defence, concerned with it.
I remind the noble Lord, Lord Admiral West, and other noble Lords that the 2010 strategic threat assessment had more non-military than military threats on its list of the most serious threats facing Britain. Those threats included: climate change; international criminal networks; terrorism driven by radical or violent ideologies; global epidemics; cyberattacks, including threats to critical national infrastructure; to which I would add global population growth, weak states, the spillover of civil conflict into state collapse and the surges of refugees as migrants towards safe countries such as the UK. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, that part of the argument for development assistance is that it enables people to stay within their own countries rather than flee across the Mediterranean to safer countries like our own. Then there is hybrid war, and the information war, which again, as the noble Baroness said, the Russians are currently waging, as well as their attempts to subvert political parties and other institutions within our safer Europe.
We should certainly consider some of these very large questions. How do we best respond to such a much wider range of threats? What mixture of assets should we best invest in—how much military and how much non-military? How much do we invest in overseas issues of this sort in meeting those threats, in comparison with our investment in domestic education, health, welfare and other public services? There are no soft choices here; this is a matter of very hard financial—
Before my noble friend completes his very helpful display of what the Government propose to do, I will ask him about a question that was raised by my noble friend Lady Miller and the noble Lord, Lord West. Given that it will cost nothing and that, as he knows, there is a meeting on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in the spring of 2015, will he tell the House whether he would consider the United Kingdom Government throwing more of their weight behind the idea of ending very early warning? One of the real fears that many of us have is that as the Russian Government begin to lose their capacity to maintain the highest quality of inspection and maintenance, there is a great danger that, with such tiny periods of alarm, an extremely serious accident could occur.
My Lords, the Government have already invested in considerable preparations for the next NPT review. I take the opportunity to answer the question asked earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. The Government have decided to accept Austria’s invitation to attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which will get under way this weekend. The UK will be represented by Mrs Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, the UK’s ambassador to Austria and permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. I hope that is welcome news to all concerned.
In his opening, the most reverend Prelate talked about the importance of narrative. It is very important, with soft power, to talk about the importance of ideas. We all know that ideas shape the world in the long run, be they Christianity, Islam, the Enlightenment, communism, nationalism, fascism, or whatever; and radical Islam is now replacing the attractions of secular ideologies across the Middle East. We certainly need to think about our counternarrative. The traditional western and Anglo-Saxon narrative has been about open society, limited government, civil society, tolerance and human rights. The Reformation and beyond and the importance of non-conformity were not entirely appreciated by the Church of England in the 17th century, but it accepted them in the 19th century. I declare an interest as a member of the Liberal Party, which grew out of the alliance between the Whigs and the non-conformists.
We need to have a debate on what our national narrative now is. The other week I was in a seminar, off the record, with a fairly senior Conservative MP who said, “We can’t discuss the SDSR until we’ve decided who we are and where we think we are in the world—and we don’t know”. That is a real problem, and we all recognise that that is part of our problem. We need to get back to the question of what Britain is about. We have several contradictory narratives at the present moment. The excellent report on soft power produced by the British Academy earlier this year called itself something like the power of attraction—and that is fine, but, actually, the power of attraction means that we have enormous numbers of people of all backgrounds and levels of attainment wanting to come and live in Britain, which is something that we know many of our public no longer want to have. They want Britain to be a rather more closed society.
Part of our open society is that we accept that foreigners can buy whatever they want in Britain and part of the popular reaction against globalisation in Britain is a sense that somehow we are losing our own country. So there is popular disillusionment with rapid change and continuing immigration. That suggests that politicians, churchmen and public intellectuals need to open a much more active debate about national identity. Gordon Brown as Prime Minister made one or two speeches on this, but we need to think about where we go from here. I am a member of the advisory board on the commemoration of World War I, and part of what we are trying to do through the programme of commemoration is to remind people where we came from. We did not stand alone; the Commonwealth, particularly the Indian Army, the West Indies Regiment and others, were all part of where we evolved from, into the multiracial society we are today.
Of course, it is also a matter of a national narrative and a sense of national identity that is changing and developing. Yesterday, I had an argument with a young woman, an official from the Foreign Office, who was being a little rude about the attitude to women in developing countries, and I reminded her that 75 years ago attitudes to women in this country were also pretty backward-looking from our current perspective. The transformation of the role and status of women over the past two to three generations in Britain and the other western states has been one of the most wonderful things that we have developed. Now we are trying to transfer those new British values to the rest of the world, and we recognise that the role of women is one of the keys to economic and social development—and also, incidentally, to population limitation. I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary and the International Development Secretary for the work that they have done, including the work on the prevention of sexual violence against women—and also to the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, whom we have just welcomed into the House.
There is a lot more to do in this area. I am very happy to say that BIS now has a UK student outward mobility strategy, which was launched last year because British people do not go abroad enough. Lots of people come here, but we do not pay enough attention to making sure that our younger generation understand the rest of the world.
Multilateral work is how we have to approach much of soft power. There is little we can do on our own. We work closely with others. In South Sudan, for example, Britain and Norway are the joint chairs of one of the ways in which we try to negotiate, with the Norwegian Government working closely with the African Union and the Arab League, doing our best to draw on Chinese participation wherever we can. International NGOs and NGOs based in Britain play a very valuable part in our endeavour. They are part of the soft power projection for Britain. Of course, we are very worried about the shrinking of space for NGOs to operate with Russia and in many other countries, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Commonwealth has also been mentioned—the language, culture and history—but, fundamentally, the rule of law, which we need to make as much as we can of, with India and South Africa in some ways as our key partners. The successful development of the rule of law in that regard is flawed but, nevertheless, is making real progress.
I have many more notes but I shall be as rapid as I can. We welcome the role of the churches in promoting tolerance and understanding among faiths as well as within each faith community, and in talking about different paths to God, particularly among the three faiths of the Book—Judaism, Islam and Christianity. I note that Ibrahim—Abraham—is now becoming one of the more popular boys’ names in Britain. That should remind people that these are not entirely incompatible traditions. The Government can assist in this regard. There are now university centres for Islamic theology and one needs to take that further. I take the opportunity to praise the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for the work she did, and the speeches she made, on tolerance to Muslim audiences in Istanbul, Oman and Kuala Lumpur as well as for the speeches she made in Washington and Rome on interfaith understanding. That work, and the work on human rights, is being continued by my noble friend Lady Anelay.
A number of noble Lords talked about student visas and the whole problem with visas. We recognise that we have a problem. That is partly because so many people want to come to Britain. However, applications for university student visas continue to rise, as does the student overseas population in Britain.
There was an 18% increase in visas granted for skilled workers and a 14% increase in visitor visas last year, so we are not going backwards on that. However, we are struggling to meet the pressure resulting from the number of people wishing to enter Britain.
Some noble Lords mentioned the BBC World Service. It may be better if I write to them on that very large subject. On the economic side, the Prime Minister has made it entirely clear that we are concerned about finding the golden thread that links conflict-free development with prosperity—namely, the absence of war, getting rid of corruption, the establishment of the rule of law, decent government and having markets that work. That involves us in a great deal of co-operation with others in fighting international corruption and criminal regimes.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, asked a number of questions, including whether the Government had undertaken a risk analysis of the implications of withdrawal from the ECHR. My clear answer is that, of course, we have not because the Government have no intention of leaving the ECHR, so no such analysis is necessary.
I was involved in the Brighton initiative. We are concerned to reform and improve the quality of the court. I am happy to say that the last report I saw suggested that the backlog of applications under the ECHR has declined rapidly over the last two years, so British efforts to reform the Council of Europe have made real progress.
I agree that the European Union is the ultimate soft power element but we also have to recognise that popular disillusion with the EU is a common phenomenon in most member states. That is why the coalition Government, with others, are committed to a programme of EU reform.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about a conference on Bosnia chaired by the Soul of Europe. I hope he will be reassured to hear that the FCO has written to the director of the Soul of Europe, informing him how he can access funding.
If I have not responded to other points made in the debate, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I write to them on those points. This has been an extremely valuable debate. I thank the most reverend Primate for introducing it and look forward to the next debate introduced by him, perhaps next year.
My Lords, when I first came into the House, I was warned that, whatever you said, there was bound to be a world expert sitting within a few feet of you. Sitting through the 27 or so contributions to the debate has felt rather like handing in your homework at school and finding all your teachers simultaneously examining you. I am extremely grateful to those who have contributed some extraordinary and very powerful lessons and understanding. If noble Lords will excuse me, I am not going to try to reply to everyone because we have been going now for five hours and 20 minutes, and need to come to a halt. However, I want to sum up with four or five points that seem to be central from what has come out.
Underlying them is the question that the Minister raised—who are we and what do we think we are for in the world? That seems to be the common theme running through the debate. Given the need for those questions to be answered clearly from this debate, it has been answered clearly, at least in this House, that we think we should still be playing an active part in the debate. There was no contribution that one might call isolationist. If that is the case, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said eloquently, we need a strategy and, as many noble Lords said—including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead—we need resources to cover the whole spectrum from hard power through to soft power. That is so that not only can we resource soft power but build peace by carrying, from time to time, a “big stick”, to use the phrase that was quoted.
The second point that was powerfully made was the need for soft power to be people-centred and relationship-centred. I was particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wei, for his eloquent statement of that, and his imaginative picking up of the way in which early Christianity spread and, through the example of Jesus, of the power of love and sacrifice over the most powerful military power of its time—albeit it took 300 years. I pick up the point made by the Minister, who obviously thinks in centuries when he refers me back to the 17th century and to the actions of the Church of England towards the nonconformists at that point—for which I can only apologise. I seem to do this a lot. I might mention, in looking for an apology from the other side, that in the 19th century the Liberals got at the Church of England good and proper. The people-centredness and relationship-centredness of soft power is immensely important. Out of that, and the sense that soft power and all execution of power in the present day have to be centred around people and relationships, came expressions of caution about the use of power from the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and others. It is people who change conflicts for good or ill, and it is therefore engagement with people that enables us to have an impact on conflict prevention, conflict mitigation, and reconciliation.
However, in many ways, the theme that ran most clearly through the contributions was “smart power”—the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, referred to this also, linking soft and hard power with his immense experience of Northern Ireland and the huge contribution he made there. Communication comes up in so many ways. Good communication in many forms includes, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, the influence of the British Council and the BBC, and the implicit communication that comes through our visa policy, which the Minister has addressed. It would be interesting to know at some point whether the Government will consider the recommendation of the Select Committee report that students should not be counted in the issuance of visas in the same way as just another bunch of applications.
The broad application of smart power brings in such a wide range of actors—universities, trades, religion. I was glad that the global contribution of the Roman Catholic Church was mentioned. Where churches are engaged in conflict management or conflict prevention around the world, it is almost invariably with the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics together. It is one of the great privileges we have.
The question of human rights was raised eloquently. The point was made that, where there is instability through the oppression of human rights, you will eventually find the need for the exercise of hard power. Therefore, our campaigns on human rights—we can think of numerous campaigns in recent years, particularly by the Government, most admirably around modern slavery at the moment, which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby referred to and has been leading on for the church—have been a major contribution. There are more than 30 million slaves globally. The rectification of that unspeakable abuse of human rights is something on which this country is taking a lead.
Out of that is the need for soft power to be inclusive, a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, and others. Sport was mentioned. How could I have missed that after four years in Liverpool? When I arrived the first question I was asked was whether I was a red or a blue. I commented that, after eight years of conflict management, I was not going to answer that question. Sport can be found almost everywhere. We used it when I was a canon at Coventry. We had a football competition in central Nigeria between Muslim and Christian youth, which ended peacefully. I will not say who won.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, also spoke about human rights and about how its absence increases instability. Finally on smart power, is the matrix approach, which the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, put so eloquently and powerfully: the mixture of soft and hard power, of health, of NGOs, of sport, and of the need for cross-departmental action, which has improved over the past few years. Those of us involved in the field have seen that happen. If I may say so to the Minister, there is quite a long way to go. There needs to be a lot more work on that. It is not only that there are resources for hard power and for soft power but how they are spent. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke on that at some length. The quasi-policing by hard power may create space for the exercise of soft power and to avoid draining areas of their historic populations—the great danger to Christians in the Middle East at the moment. Simply giving them asylum may end their presence in an area where they have lived for 2,000 years.
I was particularly struck by the eloquence of the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, who essentially spoke about mutuality. She mentioned the European Union and the Commonwealth. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby spoke of the messy and complex nature of the exercise of soft power. Bringing that in requires international co-operation. It is never going to be tidy and simple. That brings me to the final point.
There seemed to be a theme running through the debate of the importance of flexibility. Regarding Libya, the point was made very powerfully that we went in there for humanitarian reasons and have ended up creating the best arms supplier for west Africa. Boko Haram is largely equipped from Libya. It is financed by other people but that is where it gets the guns. The Building Stability Overseas strategy and the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, when it comes in next April, need to have a quickness of response and an ability to be immensely flexible in dealing with the unpredictability of conflict. That, again, is a crucial underlying theme. We often cannot prevent it because we do not see it coming. It springs out of the blue suddenly, and it would be foolish if we were to pretend otherwise. Not everything can be done but, as we are seeing in the enormous pain and struggle in South Sudan, there is always something that can be done.
This has been an incredibly educational debate. I apologise to those whom I have not been able to mention.