As part of the British Documentary Film Festival held in May and June, the British Embassy sponsored an essay contest open to University of Costa Rica students who attended the film showings. The grand prize was a round-trip ticket to London. The winner of the contest is Sofía Gómez (right), 22, a third-year Spanish philology student from Moravia, northeast of San José. Her winning essay appears here.
“The Role of the United Kingdom in Today’s World”
By Sofía Gómez
It is a very particular island where British English rules; its flag is the Union Jack, and monarchy still exists… These could be what people know about the United Kingdom, or maybe that knowledge is non-existent. What the UK is and, more importantly, the role it plays in the world goes beyond mere facts and figures. Apart from its cultural heritage, high-quality education and its business center prestige, the UK is in pursuit of a better tomorrow for everyone, where peace, progress and human rights are respected, and where conflict and poverty disappear.
Everyone wants to live in a more peaceful world. However, we are constantly beamed by images of war, terrorism and conflict. The UK pursues a world safer from global terrorism by promoting international cooperation, political will and government competence.
Since 9/11, it has been working on an international campaign against terrorism with many countries, including many from the Islamic world, where the work of the UK’s intelligence and security agencies has become more extensive. In addition, new relationships to combat terrorism have been established with foreign intelligence, which have helped to frustrate many attacks in Europe, North Africa and Southeast Asia.
The UK has also been well placed in multilateral organizations like the UN, EU and G8 to encourage coordinated action against terrorism. Particularly, the UK has helped the EU to become more competitive worldwide. In the six months of its presidency, it promoted better relationships within European countries, a commitment of enlargement and its capability to participate actively with the international community to combat terrorism and crime.
Resolving conflict requires the cooperation of the international system. The UK, therefore, works internationally to prevent conflict by encouraging democracies’ participation in international peace. Moreover, UK armed forces are involved in peace support operations around the world.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has increased, and the UK aims to confront it by using effective non-proliferation and counter-proliferation tools, as it is a state party to the disarmament conventions. The Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) leads the UK’s government work on counter-proliferation and coordination of its international activities regarding these purposes. It pursues a global understanding of the impact of terrorism and WMD, and promotes an effective response against them. In addition, the UK is also working with other countries and organizations, such as the Control Arms campaign and the Arias Foundation (for Peace and Human Progress), against the unregulated arms trade and toward the development of an international treaty on the arms trade.
International crime is a big threat; it increases rapidly and weakens stability worldwide due to the malicious use of technology and communications. Britain strives against international crime, such as drug trafficking, money laundering and people smuggling, by devoting resources to overseas anti-drug and international crime work. Moreover, the Drugs and International Crime Department, which is part of the FCO, participates in projects in priority countries and contributes to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime programs. Also, the FCO’s Drugs and Crime Fund has supported activity in Afghanistan and a range of drugs and crime projects elsewhere. Furthermore, this fund has supported activities in the prevention of immigration crime, money laundering and online child abuse.
The UK works to tackle illegal immigration with the UN, the G8 and the EU by helping governments strengthen their laws, and manages a strong entry clearance operation within Britain through UK Visas. It has set up a task force on immigration crime called Reflex, which has established a network of immigration liaison officers; this network has created joint intelligence structures to dismantle criminal gangs. Another important organization, the Internet Watch Foundation, was set up and became the UK’s hotline for preventing the growth of sex offenses against children.
Money is moved electronically from one country to another as it is accepted by financial centers. The UK has worked with foreign partners to develop a framework for international cooperation on money laundering, and has encouraged international acceptance of the Financial Action Task Force recommendations to tackle terrorist financing.
Although globalization should represent opportunities for all countries, not all have benefited equally. What the UK pursues is to ensure a more equitable process. Through sustainable development, people would satisfy their needs and enjoy a good lifestyle, without compromising the stability of future generations. The FCO works with its embassies and high commissions overseas to support these objectives. In addition, the FCO’s Global Opportunities Fund has funded programs worldwide, such as the Climate Change and Energy Program, which encourages adjustments in the countries’ use of energy resources; the Economic Governance Program to promote a better governance and environment for freer trade; and the Sustainable Development Program, which aims for good governance and respect for human rights. Moreover, the UK worked for the eradication of poverty, particularly in Africa, and to tackle climate change under its G8 presidency in 2005. Of course, it still works to ensure its efforts will be met through the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs environmental protection projects; and the Department for International Development, which contributes to managing UK’s help to poor countries and to get rid of extreme poverty.
The British government is aware of the increase in overseas activities of British nationals. In order to guarantee safety and avoid danger, the FCO has launched the “Know Before You Go” campaign, which encourages citizens to prepare better before going abroad. The UK is also committed to the development of its overseas territories, both economically and politically, to establish a partnership for progress and prosperity, and for a better understanding of human rights.
The efforts and good intentions the UK has are to be applauded. It makes me aware of the challenging global role it plays; even though it is always hard work, it makes it all worthwhile. Its leading contributions offer better opportunities for all and will help us prosper in a peaceful community and spread cultural bonds worldwide.