Corporate report Human Rights and Democracy Report 2013

June 24, 2014
Executive Summary

This report provides an overview of activity in 2013 by the FCO and its diplomatic network to defend human rights and promote democracy around the world. It also sets out the analysis on country situations and thematic issues which directs that work.

An important new focus in 2013 was the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), which will reach another milestone on 10-13 June 2014, when the Foreign Secretary and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, will co-chair a global summit on ending sexual violence in conflict. Other initiatives prioritised in 2013 were:

the defence of freedom of religion or belief worldwide;
agreement on the world’s first treaty to control the arms trade;
the UK’s election and return to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC); and
the launch of the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
Our work to underpin democracy, defend freedom of expression, and promote wider political participation has included contributions through election observer missions and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In conjunction with many NGOs and civil society organisations, we have supported human rights defenders - courageous people who often face repression and harassment.

The UK has championed the rule of law overseas, working with national and international NGOs and through the UN on torture prevention initiatives. We have campaigned for states to ratify the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol. Abolition of the death penalty remains a top priority, and we continue to lobby against its use in any circumstances, anywhere. Support for international criminal justice continues to be a fundamental element of our foreign policy. We support the International Criminal Court and other tribunals.

Freedom of religion or belief remains under threat. We have taken action, through project work in several countries, at the multilateral level (UN resolutions, EU advocacy), and by bringing together faith and political leaders to extol the benefits of pluralism.

At the Commission on the Status of Women, we took its 2013 theme, "the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”, and worked for agreed standards against which civil society can hold governments to account.

We promoted children’s rights through the UN, by co-sponsoring the omnibus resolution and, in this and other fora, strove to ban child labour. Bilaterally, we pressed countries to end forced and early marriage, and sexual exploitation.

We advocated a UNHRC resolution to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights internationally and, alarmed by reactionary legislation in several countries, including in the Commonwealth, combined lobbying with funding and working on practical projects to help protect communities at risk. In the EU we have supported the development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) guidelines, which will be used by EU Delegations globally to promote LGBT rights.

The UK’s counter-terrorism work focuses on capacity building with the police and the judiciary, in ways which protect human rights and respect for the rule of law, thanks to our Overseas Justice and Security Assistance Guidance.

The adoption of a legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty was the culmination of seven years of work within the UN. On 3 June, the UK was amongst the first to sign. Underpinning our counter-proliferation efforts is our stringent export licensing regime.

We remain concerned by the number of conflicts worldwide. The UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security will help us reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and include them in conflict resolution. We continue to work through the UN on the protection of civilians and children in armed conflict.

Widespread implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is an important and achievable goal. In 2013, the UK became the first country to publish its own Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. We also work through other organisations, such as the EU, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the UN, to promote responsible business practices and combat corruption.

Protecting the human rights of the British community overseas is a priority for us. UK officials work with British nationals on a wide range of issues with human rights implications, from imprisonment to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and child abduction.

The UK takes seriously its responsibility for the security and good governance of the UK Overseas Territories. In 2013, the UK and territory governments pursued their programme to extend core UN human rights conventions to territories where this had not yet happened.

The final section of the report contains a review of the human rights situation in 28 countries where the UK government has wide-ranging concerns. We will continue to report on the countries of concern on a quarterly basis.

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