Duncan Slater

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Duncan Slater CMG: Diplomat who worked on the creation of the United Arab Emirates and who saw service in the Middle East, India and Africa. The culmination of his career came in 1992 when he was appointed British High Commissioner to Malaysia. Two years later the sensitivity of the Anglo-Malaysian relationship was demonstrated when the Malaysian Government, annoyed by an article in The Sunday Times about the Prime Minister, Dr Mahatir, announced a ban on the award of Government contracts to British firms. Slater was active in trying to limit the damage and to bring the ban to an early end.[1]

He joined the Diplomatic Service in 1958 and was sent to the Arabic School in Lebanon. His first overseas posting was to Abu Dhabi as assistant to the political agent. In 1966 he was sent on a temporary assignment as First Secretary and Head of the Political Section to the British High Commission in Pakistan and a few months later transferred to the British High Commission in Delhi as First Secretary.

"After several postings in the Middle East and desk jobs in London he was invited in 1971 to be the special assistant to Sir William Luce. Together they spent much time shuttling between the Shah of Iran, perpetually incensed at the latest outrageous article about him in the British newspapers, the King of Saudi Arabia, with his own tenaciously held but inscrutably expressed agenda, and the Gulf rulers, many of whom feared assassination if they signed the wrong deal. Eventually they persuaded all the parties to broker, barter and merge their interests in the creation of the United Arab Emirates and thus bring about a stable political system on the Arab side of the Gulf, which still holds today."[2]

In 1972 he was promoted to assistant head of the South Asian Department of the Foreign Office, dealing with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As the oil crisis began in 1973, Slater became First Secretary in the UK Permanent Representation to the EEC, responsible for energy policy and the environment. He became the British Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in 1975, as well as Permanent Representative to the UN Industrial Development Organisation. In 1978 he was appointed Counsellor and Head of Chancery to the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria.

"Towards the end of 1979 Slater was sent on a special assignment to join the staff of Lord Soames, the Governor of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, during the period leading up to Zimbabwe's independence. He was particularly responsible for maintaining contact with Robert Mugabe, their shared interest in Marxist economics providing a useful point of contact."[3]

In December 1981 he was appointed Ambassador to Oman. He was appointed CMG in 1982, and returned to the Foreign Office in London as Assistant Under-Secretary of State in 1986. His portfolio included the United Nations, terrorism, drugs and the environment.

"His responsibilities included the follow-up to the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie and the release of the hostages in Lebanon."

In retirement Slater was invited by GEC to become part-time chairman of one of its subsidiaries, GEC-Marconi (Projects) Ltd. He was also chairman of the Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism, and for several years taught a course in diplomatic studies at the University of London.


  1. Obituary (2002)The Times, July 29.
  2. Obituary (2002)The Times, July 29.
  3. Obituary (2002)The Times, July 29.