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The UK Government continues regular bi-lateral dialogue with governments to raise human rights issues and as part of country planning. This includes working with governments in developing countries to assess human rights as a basis for development programmes and to develop human rights commitments with agreed indicators of progress.
Active participation in international fora to promote human rights is a priority for the UK Government. This includes support to the UN Secretary-General's initiative to strengthen human rights institutions at country level; and to the UN's new Universal Periodic Review process which will review the human rights record of all UN states over a four year period.
The UK Government support a range of programmes at country level which support civil, economic, political, social and cultural rights. This includes support to women and excluded groups to participate in elections, livelihoods work focusing on the right to a decent standard of living and work on the law to secure disabled people's rights.
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date consultation with the Unite trade union on the possible need to reduce the level of locally-engaged staffing in the UK Embassy to the Republic of Ireland commenced; what discussions on (a) the provision of redeployment, (b) retraining and (c) the avoidance of compulsory redundancy ensued; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jim Murphy: Consultation with the Unite trade union on the decision of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) management in London to restructure the UKTI section at our Embassy in Dublin began on 22 January.
Our Embassy and Unite, the union acting on behalf of the Embassys Local Staff Association, reached a mutually satisfactory agreement on the consequences for staff of the restructuring of the UKTI section on 21 February.
Dr. Howells: We continue to make clear our desire to see the Gaza border crossings opened for both humanitarian and commercial activity. We are working with the UN to secure Israeli agreement to support efforts to facilitate humanitarian access. In addition, on a regular basis my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary engages with the Israeli Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs on issues of the border crossings into Gaza.
Meg Munn: The UK has maintained a strong interest in the role of the International Seabed Authority since its inception. The UK is currently a member of the Council and is represented on both the Finance Committee and the Legal and Technical Commission (although appointees to these bodies are in a personal capacity). The UK delegation to the authority consists of officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who liaise closely with experts from the National Oceanography Centre on matters of a technical and scientific nature.
We will continue to take an active interest in the work of the authority as the development of mining activities on the seabed becomes increasingly viable
from a technical and economic standpoint, and will seek to ensure that potential future UK commercial interests are protected whilst at the same time ensuring that environmental concerns are adequately addressed.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Russian Federation counterpart on the UKs recognition of the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo. 
Mr. Jim Murphy [holding answer 28 April 2008 ]: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed Kosovo with his Russian counterpart since the UKs recognition of its independence on 18 February 2008. However, UK officials at all levels have continued to discuss the issue with Russian officials. The Foreign and Commonwealth Offices Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Peter Ricketts, discussed Kosovo with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Titov, and the First Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrei Denisov, on 24 April during his visit to Moscow.
Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions officials from his Department or members of the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals met Malaysian officials to consult them before the Committee decided that veterans could accept but not wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal. 
Meg Munn: Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office met with officials from the Malaysian high commission on several occasions to discuss this issue. The Malaysian authorities were kept fully informed about discussions on the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal, including the Government's decision to allow the medal to be accepted but not worn.
Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions officials from his Department or members of the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals, contacted the Malaysian High Commission or the Committee on the Malaysian authorities to consult them before the Committee decided that veterans could accept but not wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal. 
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish the correspondence between the Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals, Ministerial
officials and the Malaysian authorities prior to the decision by the Committee that British veterans may accept but not wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal. 
Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 31 March 2008, Official Report, column 526W, on Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals, if he will direct the Committee to reverse its decision on the acceptance and wearing of Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medals by British veterans. 
Meg Munn: The Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals has considered the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal thoroughly. We respect its conclusions and do not plan to seek any re-consideration.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 31 March 2008, Official Report, column 533W, on Morocco, what account he takes of the position taken by the Polisario; if he will hold discussions with the Polisario; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government take regular note of the positions of both parties to the ongoing dispute over the status of Western Sahara, as well as those of the UN Secretary-General, his Personal Envoy on Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, and the wider international community.
The UK continues to support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and Peter van Walsum to achieve a negotiated solution that will provide for the self determination of the people of Western Sahara. The UK shares the view of the UN Secretary-General that both parties to the dispute must try to find a way out of the current political impasse though realism and a spirit of compromise.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I do not currently have plans to hold discussions with representatives of the Polisario. However, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials maintain regular contact with the representatives of the parties to the dispute, including the Polisario.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 20 February 2008, Official Report, column 710W, on President of the European Council: pay, what the timescale is for discussions on the salary and job-related benefits of the President of the European Council. 
Mr. Jim Murphy:
Discussions on the identity of the new full-time President, on his/her terms and conditions, and on the new rules of procedure of the European Council will take place at the appropriate
time before he/she takes up the post. All of these decisions will, of course, depend on ratification of the treaty by all 27 member states.
Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports of increased Sudanese government military presence in the Abyei region; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: We are aware of reports of a military build up around Abyei. We plan to raise the resolution of Abyeis status, and the installation of joint integrated units of the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army for the areas protection, during forthcoming high-level contacts.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received of Chadian involvement in Darfur; and what representations he has made to President Deby on this issue. 
Meg Munn: We are aware of reports that both Sudan and Chad continue to support each others rebel groups. The Government, together with the UN, the EU and the African Union, have urged both sides to cease all support for armed groups in the region, commit to a peace process and abide by previous ceasefire agreements.
The Dakar Accord, signed in Senegal on 13 March 2008, commits Chad and Sudan to reconciling their differences, normalising relations and contributing to stability in the region. We have made clear to both parties that we expect them to abide by the terms of this agreement.
We regularly raise the issue of Darfur in our bilateral contacts. Staff from our high commission in Yaoundé, accredited to Chad, raised Darfur with the Chadian Deputy Foreign Minister on 9 April 2008.
Meg Munn: My right. hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development, and my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown have all pushed Sudanese Government Ministers to resolve the dispute over Abyei as part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the last six months. Our embassy in Khartoum has raised Abyei regularly in its contacts with the Government of Sudan.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the terms of appointment are of Sir Derek Plumbly as the head of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission in Khartoum in bringing progress to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. 
Meg Munn: Sir Derek Plumblys appointment is unique: having completed his career as a UK diplomat he has been placed on full-time secondment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) for two years. He was appointed by Sudanese Presidential Decree 39 of 11 February 2008 as chair of the AEC charged with delivering its mandate as defined in Sudanese Presidential Decree 36 of 2005, including monitoring and assessing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement implementation and producing mid-term evaluation reports. He took up his post in Khartoum on 26 March 2008.
Meg Munn: Countries that have offered troops and that are scheduled to deploy with the force of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur include Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Gambia, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and the Netherlands.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether UNAMID the joint AU/UN force for Darfur has a Chapter 7 mandate from the UN; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1769 mandates the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in respect of the tasks set out for UNAMID in operative paragraph 15 of that resolution.
Meg Munn: Ethiopia is contributing four light tactical helicopters to the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur. No other country has made a definite commitment to provide helicopters and we continue to explore with the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations all possible options for the provision of helicopters.
Lyn Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of reports of divisions within the Lords Resistance Army over the content of the draft peace agreement in Uganda; and if he will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The Government are aware of unverified reports of divisions within the Lords Resistance Army although reports of the death of International Criminal Court indictee Okot Odhiambo appear to have been erroneous. The Government continue to fully support the Juba Peace Process and hope that the Final Peace Agreement will be signed soon.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the process is for nominating members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; and for what reason there is no British nominee for forthcoming elections to the Committee. 
Meg Munn: States parties are invited to nominate one candidate from among their own nationals to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). States parties to the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women elect 23 members to the Committee. The convention states that CEDAW nominations should be experts of high moral standing and competence in the field covered by the convention.
The UK strongly supports CEDAW and believes that an effective treaty monitoring body is one of the best mechanisms to promote and protect the human rights of women around the world. But we need to consider carefully the balance of UK representation across all the UN bodies and this sometimes means making difficult decisions about which bodies to seek election for.
This year we are seeking re-election to the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice. These are respectively the UN's principal bodies for the promotion and protection of all human rights, including gender equality and for the maintenance of the international rule of law.
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