Asia House hosted a Welcome Reception for Stephen Lillie, the incoming Director, Asia Pacific at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on Wednesday night this week. More than 200 people, including ambassadors, high commissioners, diplomats, media, leading business figures, academics and members of the public attended the event.
Welcoming the guests, Asia House Chairman Sir John Boyd said that Stephen Lillie had taken on “the most important and most interesting job in the Foreign Office.” He added those interested in Asia “were very lucky to have Stephen Lillie in this job” as he had “great sense, great sensibility and great sophistication.”
Referring to the destruction in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, Sir John said that Lillie, who recently served as the British Ambassador to the Philippines, would “no doubt have the feeling of deep sympathy for the Filipino people, and a deep hope that our citizens will do their bit to support the rescue and the recovery effort.”
Lillie said that he saw his role as “helping Britain get the best from the Asian Century.” He explained this meant “benefiting from the economic opportunity in the Asia Pacific region, boosting the UK’s business engagement, education engagement and innovation engagement.”
Lillie observed that the excellent turnout said a great deal about the “esteem that Asia House is held in and the level of interest that there is in UK-Asia relations.” Nevertheless, he voiced his concerns that there was still much work to do in convincing the general British public about the importance of working with and understanding Asia. “It’s unfortunate that it takes a typhoon to put the Philippines on the front page of the newspapers”, he said.
Lillie said that organisations like Asia House had a critical role to play in generating a “more positive, more informed narrative about all the good things that are happening in the Asia Pacific.”
Born in 1966, Lillie joined the Diplomatic Service after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford University in 1988. He was the Head of the Far Eastern Group in the Asia Pacific Directorate at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London before becoming the Ambassador to the Philippines.