The FCO's human rights work in 2011 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  This Report is about the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in promoting higher standards of human rights overseas in 2011-12. It takes as a starting point the FCO's own report on human rights and democracy in 2011, published on 30 April 2012.[1] We look briefly at the report itself and at some of the initiatives which the FCO has pursued. We also take the opportunity to comment on aspects of the FCO's human rights staffing and policy formation process.

2.  In the remainder of our Report, rather than try to cover exhaustively such a vast field, we have been selective. We have dwelt upon issues where political considerations are particularly prominent, such as:

  • The designation of "countries of concern", where human rights failings are serious and to which the FCO wants to draw particular attention;
  • Torture prevention, and in particular its implications for the Government's policy on deportation and rendition;
  • When and how the FCO judges that more public pressure should be applied, for instance through economic sanctions or sporting boycotts; and
  • FCO policy on the promotion of responsible business practice abroad by UK firms.

Our inquiry ranged beyond the territory covered by the FCO's Report to cover matters which were current in the first half of 2012. The inquiry has also illustrated the connections between the FCO's human rights work and the work of other Departments, notably the Home Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Ministry of Justice.

3.  Written submissions to the inquiry are listed on page 56. As in 2011, we took oral evidence from two human rights organisations (Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) and from the FCO Minister with responsibility at the time for human rights (Jeremy Browne MP). We are pleased to acknowledge these contributions and to present our findings.

1   Human Rights and Democracy: the 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report, Cm 8339 Back

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Prepared 17 October 2012