The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is highly important to the UK. Since 2011, the region has experienced major changes, driven by the political and economic demands of citizens of the region for more inclusive, democratic societies with a fair prospect of employment. MENA is also home to some of the most long-running and high-profile foreign policy issues in the world, including the current Syria crisis. MENA matters for our prosperity, too. Trade between the UK and MENA exceeded £30 billion in 2011, and millions of British tourists visit the region each year.
Response to the Arab Spring: the Arab Partnership
Through the Arab Partnership (AP), a joint Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (DFID) initiative, the government is supporting political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa region, to build a more inclusive, accountable MENA region. The AP includes diplomatic support for political reform, a £110 million bilateral fund to finance locally-led reform projects, and influencing work through multilateral organisations, including the European Union, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to build support for the region. The AP is led by demands from the region and its approach varies significantly from country to country in line with individual country contexts.
Ongoing support in Libya
The UK supported the Libyan people as they sought greater freedom after 42 years of repression under the Qadhafi regime. At the beginning of the revolution in March 2011, the UK was at the forefront of pushing for two UN Security Council Resolutions to provide the international community with the legal mandate to take all necessary measures to protect civilians from the threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone.
Together with international partners, we are now providing a range of assistance to the new Libyan government. It faces significant challenges as it seeks to build a prosperous, open and democratic country which supports the rule of law and human rights. But the amount that has been achieved since the end of the conflict - most notably the successful national democratic elections held for the first time in nearly half a century - shows the determination of the Libyan people to rebuild their country after decades of misrule.
Finding an end to the crisis in Syria
The government is working with international partners to bring about an end to violence and achieve a managed political transition. We have already committed over £700 million to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis and help the Syrian people prepare economically and politically for a new government. More on the crisis in Syria.
Working to destroy the threat of ISIL
The government is working with international partners to dismantle and ultimately destroy the terrorist organisation ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant also known as Islamic State, Da’esh or ISIS). We are undertaking a wide range of political, humanitarian and military activity to stop ISIL and support Iraq and Syria. The UK is playing an active role with airstrikes and intelligence gathering as part of the wider international strategy against ISIL involving Arab, US, and European nations. Find out more about the UK government’s actions to counter ISIL.
The Middle East Peace Process
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of our top foreign policy priorities. This conflict matters to British national security, and to the security of the entire region, and we will take every opportunity to help promote a peaceful 2-state solution.
The UK is providing Yemen with £196 million from 2012 to 2015. Most of this money will go to alleviate humanitarian suffering and to the Social Fund for Development to improve rural infrastructure and expand social protection. DFID is supporting Yemen’s long-term development, stability and security. More on Yemen.
Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA)
The G8’s Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative is an annual dialogue, run since 2004, between the governments and civil society representatives of the G8 and the BMENA countries and territories. In 2013 the UK, as the G8 Presidency, is co-chairing the BMENA initiative with the Egyptian government.
The Arab Spring has shown that demands for political and economic freedom will spread widely by themselves, not because Western nations advocate these values, but because all people everywhere aspire to these freedoms.
In his speech to the National Assembly in Kuwait on 22 February 2011, the Prime Minister set out the UK’s approach to the Arab Spring, upholding universal values, rights and freedoms, with respect for the different cultures, histories and traditions of the countries in the region.