Alison Blake became British High Commissioner to Dhaka, Bangladesh in January 2016 and in October 2016 was invited to join the FCO’s Management Board to represent the FCO Overseas network. A career diplomat, Alison has worked on three continents, including in times of crisis and transition, since 1989 helping shape British foreign and defence policy. A pol-mil and security expert, she has worked on crises and conflicts in the Balkans, Iraq and the Middle East and Afghanistan and South Asia. Having been among the first women admitted to Merton College Oxford in 1980 (she graduated in Ancient and Modern History), she is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings: Alison is the first woman to be British High Commissioner in Bangladesh and was previously the first woman to serve as British Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad, Pakistan from 2011 to 2014.
Alison first joined the British Civil Service in 1989, as a policy officer in the Ministry of Defence, serving in 1993-4 as Private Secretary to the Defence Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Her MOD career enabled her to work on international defence procurement, defence relations with Latin America and Asia, and resource and estate planning. In January 1996 she was posted to the Foreign Office, serving for four years in the UK Delegation to NATO, where she advised on strategic and policy aspects of NATO’s operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, on the development of NATO’s crisis response and cooperation with the UN, OSCE and other multilateral organisations. She was a part of the UK’s team at the Rambouillet Kosovo peace negotiations in 1999.
Her FCO career has included postings as Deputy Head of the FCO’s Eastern Adriatic Department, and from August 2001 as policy officer in the British Embassy in Washington DC, US, where she worked on the Balkans, Russia and the CIS and OSCE area, and for over four years Alison worked closely with counterparts across the Administration, on The Hill and across the “Beltway” policy community.
Alison’s next London posting was to the Cabinet Office where from January 2006 she was Head of Foreign and Development Policy, a job at the heart of the coordination of the UK’s cross-Whitehall policy and crisis response, working for two years on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on engagement with Iran and the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
From late 2007 Alison headed the FCO’s Conflict Group, where she delivered the FCO’s first Policy Goal on Conflict and led the FCO contribution to the creation of the first cross-Whitehall Public Service Agreement on conflict and the creation of tri-departmental machinery for coordinating the Government’s response to crises and conflict and the creation of the Conflict Pool. For four years she championed a better approach to post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction, working with UN, EU, OSCE, G8 partners and NGOs to strengthen civilian capacity to respond and she spearheaded FCO’s ground-breaking work to protect civilians in armed conflicts and launch the UK’s first ever UK Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security.
Alison is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, using her role to promote the empowerment of minority and underrepresented groups and the disempowered. Her other interests include languages, music and the arts, walking and tennis.
British High Commissioner to Bangladesh
The High Commissioner is the UK government’s representative in a Commonwealth nation. They are responsible for the direction and work of the High Commission and its Deputy High Commissions and/or Consulates, including political work, trade and investment, press and cultural relations, and visa and consular services.
Management Board Overseas Network Representative
The Management Board Overseas Network representative gives corporate leadership to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office by ensuring that the department meets the foreign policy priorities, Public Service Agreements targets and service delivery targets set by ministers.
Previous roles in government
British High Commissioner Designate to Bangladesh
- 2016 to 2016