The FCO's human rights work in 2013 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

6  Women's and children's rights

The Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative

53. The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative was one of the five priority initiatives listed in the FCO's 2013 Report. The Initiative was launched in May 2012 by the then Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, whose personal commitment to the cause and whose energy in leading the UK's political campaign to galvanise support from national governments, multilateral and regional organisations, has been widely recognised.

54. A number of international commitments have been secured since the launch of the initiative:

·  The G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (April 2013);

·  United Nations Security Council Resolution 2106 (June 2013); and

·  UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (September 2013).[109]


55. In June 2014, William Hague and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, co-chaired the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, in London. The Summit was high profile and was attended by representatives of over 120 countries, experts in the field, faith leaders, youth organisations and representatives from civil society and international organisations. The FCO's stated purpose for the Summit was to create "irreversible momentum" towards ending the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict, and to deliver "practical and ambitious agreements" to end the culture of impunity.[110]

56. The Chair's Summary, which was released after the Summit, stated that four key areas of change were addressed:

i)  Improve accountability at the national and international level, including through better documentation, investigations and prosecutions at the national and international level, and better legislation implementing international obligations and standards;

ii)  Provide greater support and protection to survivors of sexual violence, including children;

iii)  Ensure sexual and gender-based violence responses and the promotion of gender equality are fully integrated in all peace and security efforts, including security and justice sector reform and military and police training; and

iv)  Improve international strategic co-operation.[111]

One key outcome of the Summit was the launch of the International Protocol on Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. According to the Chair's Summary, the Protocol will help strengthen the evidence base for bringing perpetrators to justice, thus overcome one of the key barriers to tackling impunity for sexual violence in conflict.


57. A number of written submissions commented that the focus should now be to continue translation of commitments into action. Womankind told us that a "robust accountability framework" was necessary if a long-standing change was to be achieved.[112] We asked Baroness Warsi what mechanisms would be in place to monitor the implementation of commitments made at the Global Summit and earlier declarations. She responded by saying that there would not be "a great body that will sit and monitor whether everybody has done what they are saying that they are going to do".[113] Rather, it would be "driven by countries coming forward themselves" and would sit as "part of an overarching plan regarding violence against women, and women, peace and security".[114]

58. We believe that some form of accountability and review is needed if the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative is to be followed through effectively. It is not the place of the UK to be an international policeman; but, having led the Initiative, we would argue that the UK has some duty to track the implementation of commitments. We recommend that the Government bring forward proposals in its response to this report for tracking implementation of commitments under the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. We see advantage in an accountability exercise funded by the Government but undertaken by a non-governmental body, rather than by the FCO itself, reporting to this Committee on the implementation of commitments.

Women, peace and security

National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

59. The Government published its third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security on 12 June 2014.[115] The National Action Plan is the joint output of the FCO, the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD): it provides a framework to ensure that the provisions of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and associated resolutions are incorporated into the Government's work.[116] The Foreign Secretary, in a Written Ministerial Statement on 16 June 2014 on the National Action Plan, said that it is a "tool to enable us to articulate our priorities on women, peace and security and coordinate implementation of our work at the national level".[117]

60. The Government did not publish an implementation plan with the National Action Plan in June. The implementation plan will include indicators and baseline data that will be used as a benchmark to assess UK efforts on Women, Peace and Security throughout the life of the National Action Plan. It will articulate the key actions to be undertaken together by each of the FCO, DfID and MoD. We asked Baroness Warsi when the Government intended to publish the implementation plan. Baroness Warsi accepted that the implementation plan should "go hand in hand" with the national action plan, and she told us that it would be published by the end of 2014. We recommend that, in future, the implementation plan for women, peace and security should be published in conjunction with each new National Action Plan to ensure that it is not just words, and that action will follow.


61. The Government has not ring-fenced funding for work under the National Action Plan on women, peace and security. Baroness Warsi told us that she was a "firm believer in the idea that you mainstream rather than silo important human rights work".[118] Without a dedicated allocation of funding, however, the Government will need to have in place a mechanism to monitor the expenditure that contributes towards securing the commitments made under the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security so it is able to demonstrate that it has backed its political commitments with sufficient financial resources. As a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the British Government is already required to provide the DAC with statistical data on its aid-related activities and expenditure; but the OECD recently reported that the UK is less effective than almost all of its OECD partners in tracking its aid-related activity on gender equality.

62. The main reporting mechanism employed in regard to gender equality is the OECD Gender Equality Policy Marker (GEM). The tool is used by OECD governments to mark aid-related activity and expenditure as "principal"[119], "significant"[120] or "not targeted"[121] to denote the extent to which the programme is working towards gender equality. The value of using the tool is that it increases transparency of spending on gender equality. The UK Government already uses the GEM, but the OECD reports that the UK Government marks only 58 per cent of its aid expenditure against this marker.[122] Most other OECD countries checked all, or close to all, of their aid-related activities using the gender marker. This meant that they were able to state what proportion of their total aid budget was directed to advancing gender equality.

63. The UK is lagging behind its Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) partners in using the OECD's Gender Equality Policy Marker. The Marker is used by OECD countries to check whether their aid-related activities promote women's rights. We recommend that the Government should use the Marker to identify all aid which supports the advancement of gender equality, as a way of increasing transparency of expenditure.


64. Afghan women activists and the 'No Women, No Peace' campaign, which is a coalition that includes ActionAid, Amnesty International UK, Oxfam GB, Womankind Worldwide and Women for Women International, protested at the lack of women involved in the discussions about Afghanistan's security at the NATO summit held in Newport in September 2014.[123] The campaigners argued that the recent positive efforts from the Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, and National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, were undermined by the absence of women at the NATO summit. We believe that the Government's initiative to increase the involvement of women in peace and security discussions would have benefited from greater participation of women at the NATO Summit, including participation by women representing civil society who would suffer as a result of any deterioration in the security situation.

Children's human rights

65. The FCO's 2013 Report dedicates a section to children's rights, and the initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict had a focus on children, primarily on the need to support children born of rape. The 2013 Report has a separate section on 'children and armed conflict', which outlines the FCO's five priority countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Chad and Burma. The FCO said that it also would look for opportunities to link children and armed conflict work to the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI). UNICEF, in its written submission, argued that the FCO should build on this commitment and work with national governments to align country action plans on children and armed conflict with any PSVI national activity. It also told us that it was concerned that the FCO's Report "does not cover children's rights comprehensively", and that the FCO should award greater priority to the rights of children.[124] The FCO insists that the promotion and protection of children's rights form an "integral part" of the FCO's wider international human rights agenda.[125]

66. In our report last year on the FCO's human rights work in 2012, we recommended that the FCO should do more to gain confidence of children's rights group in its human rights work and said that the Foreign Secretary should appoint a child rights expert to his Advisory Group on Human Rights. The Government, in its response to our recommendation, said that it would "bear this recommendation in mind for the future", but noted that while there was no representative from a child rights-specific organisation in the group at present, many if not all of the group's members are familiar with child rights issues.[126] No child rights expert has been appointed to the Advisory Group as yet.

67. The FCO should do more to demonstrate publicly its support for children's rights. As we observed last year, one simple way for the FCO to improve engagement with child rights groups is for the Foreign Secretary to appoint a child rights expert to his Advisory Group on Human Rights. This would provide reassurance that children's rights are represented at the FCO, and the FCO has the necessary support to deal with these issues.

109   As of July 2014, 155 states had signed the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Back

110   FCO Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14, HC (2014-15) 17, page 14; FCO, Human Rights and Democracy: 2013 FCO Report, Cm 8870, April 2014, page 20 Back

111   "Chair's Summary - Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict", FCO policy paper, 13 June 2014, Back

112   Memorandum from Womankind, paragraph 22 Back

113   Q 70 Back

114   Ibid. Back

115   The UK published its first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in 2006, the second one in 2010, and the third and most recent National Action Plan covers the period 2014 to 2017.  Back

116   UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted on 31 October 2000. It reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict. The resolution provides a number of important operational mandates, with implications for Member States and the entities of the United Nations system. Back

117   HC Deb, 16 June 2014, col WS81 [Commons written ministerial statement] Back

118   Q 73 Back

119   Principal (primary) policy objectives are those which can be identified as being fundamental in the design and impact of the activity and which are an explicit objective of the activity. They may be selected by answering the question "would the activity have been undertaken without this objective?" Back

120   Significant (secondary) policy objectives are those which, although important, are not one of the principal reasons for undertaking the activity. Back

121   The score not targeted means that the activity has been screened against, but was found not be targeted to, the policy objective. Back

122   OECD, Aid in Support of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment - Donor Charts, April 2014, p 29 Back

123   "At the NATO Summit - where are the women?", No Women, No Peace, 3 September 2014, Back

124   Memorandum from UNICEF, paragraph 4.1 Back

125   FCO, Human Rights and Democracy: 2013 FCO Report, Cm 8870, April 2014, page 73  Back

126   FCO, "Government response to the Third Report of Session 2013-14 from the Foreign Affairs Committee", Cm 8762, page 14 Back

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Prepared 27 November 2014