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

5Evaluation and Reporting

The FCO’s monitoring and evaluation practices

22.Each year the FCO produces an Annual Report on its Human Rights and Democracy work. It supplements these with quarterly (soon to be bi-annual) updates on its designated ‘Human Rights Priority Countries’, referred to in previous Annual Reports as ‘Countries of Concern’.32 Additionally, the FCO uses quarterly monitoring and financial reports to track delivery of each project, with a completion report setting out what has been achieved at the end of the project. The FCO also carries out in-depth evaluations by visiting and reporting on 10% of projects by value each year.33

23.Whilst we appreciate that it is difficult to assess the impact of the UK’s actions on a human rights outcome,34 several of the written submissions we received commented on the need for measurable targets and objectives against which the FCO could be held to be account.35 Free Tibet and Tibet Watch said:

A basic mechanism of evaluation is to publish targets or goals and measure success against them. This allows stakeholders to assess the validity and value of the targets themselves and to assess the government’s effectiveness in meeting them. It is surprising that the government does not follow that good practice in regard to its human rights work.36

Amnesty International told us that:

Monitoring the impact of its human rights objectives and activities should be a priority for the UK government. In order for civil society to properly assess progress in this area the UK government would have to develop and publish indicators that are based on outcomes to support the measurement of progress against its own objectives.37

24.We noted the Minister’s comment in oral evidence that “I agree that my work is to look at the output over a longer period, which is much more difficult but is important, otherwise the input doesn’t have the effect one needs”.38 However, we were also told by Rob Fenn, head of the Human Rights and Democracy Department at the FCO, in oral evidence that “we don’t have any professional statisticians in my small team”.39 Whilst we recognise the resourcing and funding constraints under which the FCO is operating, we question whether the Human Rights and Democracy Department has the capability to develop the types of impact assessment and reporting that are commonplace at, for example, DfID.40 Whilst the FCO has made efforts to improve the quality of the measurement and evaluation of its human rights work (for example, the inclusion of the Human Rights in Action Chapter in the Human Rights and Democracy Annual Report), there is still significant room for improvement. The absence of measurable targets for the output of the FCO’s human rights and democracy work and its individual projects makes it extremely difficult to hold the FCO to account for its spending and to assess whether its projects deliver value for money.41 The adoption of more abstract thematic priorities could also make evaluation of the FCO’s work even harder. We recommend that the FCO should continue to address how it evaluates its human rights work. It should consider publishing headline targets for the outputs of its human rights policy in its Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy, including assessment of progress against these targets in the biannual updates on Human Rights Priority Countries and Annual Reports which follow.

Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy

25.The FCO’s Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy is a lengthy document (the 2014 Annual Report ran to 188 pages) and it is clear that the FCO puts a great deal of time and effort into its production. Human Rights Watch said:

There are very few governments in the world that produce a report of this kind, and the FCO/UK therefore deserve real credit for doing so. Human Rights Watch believes that the annual report has traditionally provided a very important element of transparency in relation to the government’s human rights work overseas. It has also been very valuable for accountability, allowing parliamentarians, NGOs and the media to hold the FCO to account for its human rights work.42

The 2015 Annual Report is expected to be shorter in length, but containing links to other published material and updates. Whilst updates are provided on Human Rights Priority Countries on a quarterly (soon to be bi-annual) basis, the reporting is inherently retrospective in nature. Additionally, unlike the presentation on the DfID website, it is very difficult to see at either micro or macro level how the FCO is operating. Amnesty International UK suggested that:

A live document that is available on the FCO website that is subject to monthly updates by the appropriate teams would present a ‘real time’ update on human rights work and offer some insight into progress on meeting objectives.43

This suggestion has merit. In oral evidence the Minister indicated that the FCO appreciates and is adapting to these issues:

I want it [the Annual Report] to be more usable and accessible. The world today looks online to get information and wants it with a tap of the finger. They do not want to be wading through a report that, although it was very laudable last year, has information that is almost out of date as soon as it is printed. Online, we can have continual updates. There will be half-yearly updates of the whole thing, and through the FCO, we will make sure that there are updates on particular country issues.44

26.The FCO’s efforts to improve the accessibility of its Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy are welcome. There is, however, some way to go before its reporting becomes as user-friendly as DfID’s Development Tracker, which enables members of the public, including civil society, to see both at a glance and in detail where taxpayers’ money on international development is going and how it is being spent. We recommend the FCO consider if elements of DfID’s Development Tracker could be replicated presentationally (with allowances for security considerations) on the human rights section of the FCO’s website.

Human Rights Priority Countries

27.Each year the FCO selects a list of Human Rights Priority Countries upon which it provides updates in its Annual Report and on a quarterly (soon to be bi-annual) basis online. Designation of a country by the FCO as a Human Rights Priority Country sends an important message to the country concerned, the wider international community and to those who are suffering from human rights abuses. The failure to include Egypt and Bahrain amongst the list of Human Rights Priority Countries contributes to the perception that the FCO has become more hesitant in promoting and defending international human rights openly and robustly notwithstanding the importance of private diplomacy. We recommend that Egypt and Bahrain be included on the list of Human Rights Priority Countries in the FCO’s 2015 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy.

Committee plans for future scrutiny

28.The Committee’s work on human rights over the course of this Parliament will entail:

a)As has previously been the case, consideration of the FCO’s Annual Reports on Human Rights and Democracy, but also the changes being made to the Report’s content, length and format

b)Specific thematic and country inquiries on areas of immediate concern

c)Reviews of the FCO’s contribution and progress in specific individual cases, issues and countries to be revisited on a yearly basis:

The FCO’s work in support of individuals who have suffered, or are at risk of suffering, human rights abuses:

Individuals that the FAC will monitor over this Parliament


Waleed Abu al-Khair

A prominent Saudi activist and lawyer who has completed a year of a 15-year prison term that stems from his peaceful criticism of the Saudi government and human rights advocacy

Muhammad Anwar

A Pakistani national arrested in 1993 when we was 17 years old and who has been on death row for over 23 years even though the execution of juveniles is prohibited under international and Pakistani law

Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala

Pro-democracy activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo arrested in March 2015

Lee Bo

A British bookseller associated with the sale of books critical of senior Chinese figures who disappeared in Hong Kong in December 2015 and is suspected of having been involuntarily removed to the Chinese mainland

Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani

A Saudi economics professor, who co-founded the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). He was sentenced to ten years in prison and a ten year travel ban

Kamal Foroughi

A 76 year old British man arrested in Iran in 2011 and in 2013 sentenced to seven years in jail for alleged espionage

Ibrahim Halawa

A young Irish man awaiting a mass trial and potentially the death penalty following his arrest in Egypt during the protests in Cairo of August 2013

Khizar Hayat

A Pakistani national with paranoid schizophrenia. Despite evidence of his mental illness, there have been a number of warrants issued for his execution in the last year

Dawit Isaak

One of a group of journalists arrested in Eritrea in 2001 and imprisoned since then without trial

Andy Tsege

A British citizen and prominent figure in Ethiopian politics given an in absentia death sentence in 2009 and rendered from Yemen to Ethiopia in 2014 where he is now imprisoned

Selected causes as exemplars of FCO policy, to be revisited annually to assess progress:

LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth

Ratification and enforcement of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Selected countries, and an annual assessment of the FCO’s performance in promoting human rights in each:



29.The individuals, issues and countries listed provide focal points for the Committee to explore the work and activity of the FCO in achieving improvements in human rights on a systematic, annual basis. They are one component of the way in which the Committee scrutinises the FCO’s human rights work and this does not exclude other issues, cases and countries from being examined by the Committee in the course of its review of the FCO’s Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy, in specific human rights inquiries and in the course of other inquiries, including those which are country-focused, that the Committee undertakes.

32 As defined in the FCO’s 2014 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy. The change in name was indicated in a letter from the Foreign Secretary to the Chairman dated 22 July 2015.

33 Written evidence from the FCO (HUM0026)

34 Reprieve (HUM0013) para 13

35 Amnesty International UK (HUM0025) para 49, Free Tibet and Tibet Watch (HUM0011) para 20 and 25 and Reprieve (HUM0013) para 15

36 Free Tibet and Tibet Watch (HUM0011) para 20

37 Amnesty International UK (HUM0025) para 49

41 We recognise that DfID’s projects have a far higher budget than those of the Human Rights and Democracy Department and the difficulties in assessing the impact of outputs, but we note DfID’s helpful use of indicators to assess, by way of example, a project designed to help nine million women and socially excluded groups to claim their rights and entitlements more effectively in India

42 Human Rights Watch (HUM0006) para 6.1

43 Amnesty International UK (HUM0025) para 51

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 30 March 2016