(Last updated on: 02/04/2020)
The FCO are the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. But what does that mean, and what do they do? Here’s a guide to the FCO and how they can help you travel wiser.
Who are the FCO?
The FCO is the government department leading the UK’s foreign policy. They represent our government overseas as well as promoting the United Kingdom’s interests abroad. They also support UK citizens and businesses around the world.
Formed in October 1968, the FCO is a merger of the Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office. The FCO has offices in the UK as well as many embassies abroad.
In charge of the FCO is the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. This title is most commonly known as the Foreign Secretary. It’s a fairly prominent job, and is often regarded as one of the four most prestigious positions in the Cabinet. The other three are Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary.
On a day to day level, the FCO is managed by a civil servant. The title of this position is the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
What are the main policy objectives of the FCO?
Updated in 2017 and still valid today, the FCO has three main policy objectives. These are as follows:
Protect our people
The FCO aim to do this by safeguarding national security. They counter terrorism, extremism, weapons proliferation and other types of threat. They also support British nationals around the world through consular services and crisis response.
Read also: What does the World Tourism Organisation do?
Protect our global influence
The FCO aim to promote and protect our values and influence as well as strengthen our partnership and the rules-based international order. They support good governance, democracy and rule of law/human rights. The FCO also aid in preventing and resolving conflict, and building stability overseas.
Promote our prosperity
The FCO promotes the prosperity of the UK in a number of ways. They open markets, supporting free trade and sustainable global growth. As well as this, the FCO champions British business overseas, driving economic reform too.
How can the FCO help me?
Now you know a little bit about the what the FCO does, you might be wondering what they can do for you. The FCO can help you travel wiser – and here’s how.
The FCO provides travel advice to British nationals. This information is regularly updated, and services to assist in making informed decisions about foreign travel. British people make approximately 50 million trips abroad every year (!) so this advice is important.
The FCO cites the safety of British nationals as their main concern, so any advice given is there regardless of any negative impact it may have on the tourism, trade and political consideration of a country. The information comes from various sources: local knowledge from embassies each country, and occasionally from the intelligence services in cases of security threats, for example.
Holiday and travel companies use the FCO’s advice too. If a decision has been made to cancel your flight, package holiday, excursion or tour, this is often down to the advice provided by the FCO. This is always done with your safety in mind!
What sort of travel advice does the FCO offer?
The FCO offers a wealth of travel advice. They offer advice regarding 225 countries and territories, which you can find here.
For each country or territory, the FCO gives a brief summary as well as linking to any relevant information. The advice page also covers the following topics:
- Safety and security
- Local laws and customs
- Entry requirements
- Natural disasters
- Travel advice help and support (general)
The pages offer up to date advice about strikes, crime, vaccinations, employment, drugs and alcohol, LGBT+ travellers, safety threats and more. In times of crisis, the FCO travel advice pages are often updated multiple times per day. The information is there to aid travellers and tourists in making travel-related decisions.
You can always be confident that the information given on the FCO website is up to date and accurate, so I will always visit the site if I am looking for information when planning a trip such as required vaccines or risks of terrorism.
Read also: What is ABTA and how does it work?
What is the Travel Aware campaign?
The FCO along with the travel industry as a whole run a campaign called Travel Aware. The campaign is aimed at a younger generation, and the website has a wealth of easily digestible information. It’s full of quick tips and links to comprehensive gov.uk articles.
You can check out the Travel Aware campaign here!
So, that’s a bit of background about the FCO. Who they are, what they do and how they can help you have a safer and more enjoyable holiday.