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The next UK government should make conflict resolution the centrepiece of its MENA policy


The UK needs to narrow its policy goals to concentrate its resources on stabilizing the region’s unresolved conflicts.

When then foreign secretary James Cleverly took to the airwaves in April 2023 to discuss the outbreak of conflict in Sudan, the discussion focused almost solely on the evacuation of British citizens.

The interviewer did not ask questions regarding the wider context in Sudan. Neither did Cleverly offer pro-active statements of British policy towards the conflict.

That interview was emblematic. While all politics might be said to be local, the relative absence of British articulations of foreign policy solutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a feature of the post-2016 period.

In recent months, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has more clearly and openly set out British positions amid the escalating Israeli war on Gaza.

Cameron’s approach appears to present a return to the orthodoxy of pre-Brexit UK foreign policy. But the extent to which his pronouncements are connected with meaningful policy programmes – practical initiatives supported and sometimes implemented by the FCDO – is open to question.

With Britons heading to the polls in July, the incoming UK government will inherit a highly complex and volatile landscape across the Middle East and North Africa. There is no question that it will need to deepen its engagement and make the most of its influence.

To do this effectively, the UK will need to prioritize its role in multilateral efforts and narrow its strategic focus so that it can back words with actions. A strategic focus on conflict resolution and support for accountable governance offers the opportunity to do just that.

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