The FCO's administration and funding its human rights work overseas Contents


1.Like our predecessors, we intend to dedicate part of our time to scrutiny of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights work annually. In the light of the Permanent Under-Secretary’s statement to this Committee in September 2015 that human rights “is not one of our [the FCO’s] top priorities” and that “the prosperity agenda is further up the list”,1 this report examines the FCO’s administration and funding of its human rights work overseas and explains how we intend to scrutinise the FCO for the remainder of this Parliament.

2.We announced this inquiry and its terms of reference on 8 January 2016.2 We invited written submissions on the following issues:

a)The consequences of the Spending Review and apparent deprioritisation for the FCO’s human rights work, particularly in the context of staffing and funding

b)The way in which the FCO’s three new human rights priorities (democratic values and the rule of law, strengthening the rules-based international system and human rights for a stable world) operate in practice

c)The way in which the process used by the FCO to decide which local human rights programmes to support operates, particularly:

i)whether it makes the best use of funding

ii)whether it rewards initiative and local knowledge

iii)the impact of some states’ legal restrictions on foreign funding of NGOs

d)The FCO’s use of external advice in forming policy

e)How the FCO’s work and performance on overseas human rights should be assessed internally and externally, and how it evaluates its own programmes and overall performance

f)The FCO’s plans for the future format and content of its Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy

3.We held two oral evidence sessions; the first with David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, and Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, and the second with Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St. Johns DBE, Minister of State at the FCO, Rob Fenn, Head of the Human Rights and Democracy Department at the FCO and Paul Williams, Director of Multilateral Policy at the FCO.

4.We received 22 written submissions. These can be found on the Committee webpages.3 We are pleased to acknowledge these contributions and to present our findings in this Report.

1 Oral Evidence taken on 15 September 2015, HC 467, Q10 and Q11

2The FCO’s Administration and Funding of its Human Rights Work Overseas”, Foreign Affairs Committee, 8 January 2016

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 30 March 2016