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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

From Academic Kids

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is the United Kingdom government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom abroad. The FCO is headed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

The FCO was formed in 1968 out of the merger of the short-lived Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Office having been formed only in 1966 by the merger of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. The Commonwealth Relations Office had been formed by the merger of the Dominions Office and the India Office in 1947, with the Dominions Office having been split from the Colonial Office in 1925.

The Foreign Office was formed in March 1782 by combining the Southern and Northern Departments, each of which covered both foreign and domestic affairs in their respective geographical parts of the Kingdom. The two departments' foreign affairs responsibilites became the Foreign Office, whilst their domestic affairs responsibilities were assigned to the Home Office.

Construction of the present FCO headquarters began in 1861 as headquarters for the Foreign Office and finished in 1868. They were part of a complex of government buildings including also the India Office, and later also the Home Office and the Colonial Office. The Foreign Office was designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott in classical style — although he had wished it to be Gothic — and Lord Palmerston, the then Foreign Secretary. Over the years these offices became increasingly cramped due to increasing staff numbers and much of the fine Victorian interiors was covered over, especially after World War II. In the 1960s demolition was proposed, but due to a public outcry asserting their heritage value the buildings were retained and extensively refurbished.

On December 2, 2003, the FCO announced (http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029391629&aid=1068721705067) eight strategic priorities for the next five to ten years, in its first strategy document (http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/PreviewPage&AssetType=Page&ResolvePageId=FCO_OBJ_StrategyMain):

  1. A world safer from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction
  2. Protection of the UK from illegal immigration, drug trafficking and other international crime.
  3. An international system based on the rule of law, which is better able to resolve disputes and prevent conflicts.
  4. An effective EU in a secure neighbourhood.
  5. Promotion of UK economic interests in an open and expanding global economy.
  6. Sustainable development, underpinned by democracy, good governance and human rights.
  7. Security of UK and global energy supplies.
  8. Security and good governance of the British Overseas Territories.

Ministers as of 9th September 2004

See also

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