18 October 2023

It is vital for our security that the politicians of tomorrow understand the complex international issues of today


Each generation of Parliamentarians will have crises they need to confront. The current Parliament has arguably faced one of the most challenging international environments in recent memory with Covid, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and now the Israel-Palestine conflict. But when MPs enter Parliament, with the exception of a few, none will have ever considered geopolitics and conflict. Why then do we expect them to be able to provide insight, lead departments and committees and appear as experts when many have come from local government or business backgrounds? 

At the Coalition for Global Prosperity, we saw the latest instalment of Parliamentarians enter politics in 2019 and realised that more should be done to help candidates and MPs understand and navigate the increasingly complex international realm. This month, we have just completed our first intake of the Future Leaders Programme – a course of two policy retreats at Windsor Castle and Ditchley Park, an overseas visit to see UK soft power first hand in Jordan and the opportunity to contribute to a collection of essays on the UK’s role in the world which we are publishing today

But as we work to help this generation of candidates from both main parties, it is important to examine what challenges they will be facing. Plenty of time and attention is rightly placed on domestic issues, but let’s look at what’s happening beyond our borders. 

The recent attacks on Israel by Hamas will be an incredibly consequential crisis. Before the attacks, there were significant efforts to normalise relations between Israel and partners in the Middle East but these have been pushed back indefinitely while this crisis continues. With significant losses of life in both Israel and Palestine, it is crucial for Parliamentarians to understand not only the Western perspective and history of the region, but also to understand the views of the Arab world who continue to be increasingly influential players on the world stage. 

This terror attack and subsequent invasion from Israel will push more civilians away from Palestine into surrounding states. So we will also have to confront a humanitarian crisis as well as ensuring ongoing support for Israel in protecting itself and its population. We have already seen from other conflicts that neighbouring countries such as Jordan already have a large number of their population made up of Palestinian refugees. If we want to ensure that people are able to remain near their country of origin, then the UK and partners must ensure that appropriate support is sent to allies such as Jordan as quickly as possible to support their efforts.

The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely continue for months, if not longer, due to the flow of European and American arms continuing to compete against Russia’s vast manpower. Although British support for Ukraine is unfaltering and cross-party, we are seeing other allies wavering due to domestic issues. In the US for example, President Biden is fully supportive of Ukraine and sending US financial and military assistance. However the House of Representatives is appearing divided with future Ukraine funding being withdrawn from government spending packages. The Senate is still united on this but the situation will only become more challenging as we get closer to the November election cycle. 

Moving away from the military sphere, another significant long term challenge facing the next Parliament will be dealing with the impacts of climate change – primarily on coastal or island states which face being wiped out entirely. If this were to happen, it will create one of the largest movements of people to date – so Western states such as the UK must look into adapting support to ensure that people are not driven into Europe where migration is already causing considerable tension and policy challenges. 

Fundamentally, a strong grasp of foreign policy enhances the UK’s reputation on the global stage. Well-informed political candidates projecting a clear vision of the nation’s role in the world can inspire confidence among international allies and partners. This, in turn, will facilitate collaboration and allows the UK to exert influence and help shape international norms and policies that align with its interests and values. As the world continues to evolve, it is incumbent upon aspiring future leaders to equip themselves with the tools to effectively engage with global challenges and contribute to a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous world. 

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Ryan Baldry is Senior Communications Manager at the Coalition for Global Prosperity

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.