In the room: the UK’s role in multilateral diplomacy Contents

4Organisation-specific conclusions and recommendations

44.This chapter presents our conclusions flowing from the analysis of the evidence (as detailed in the Annexes) pertaining to the six focus organisations. We also consider the external audit system of the United Nations. In addition, the chapter details our specific recommendations for each organisation.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

45.The OSCE106 is an essential forum where the complex relationships of Europe and Central Asia are negotiated and where a battle for influence in the young democracies of the former Soviet Union is underway. Russia, and those in its sphere of influence,107 are both passively and actively undermining the structures of the organisation which promote democracy and open societies by vetoing key leadership positions in the secretariat and delaying budgets.108 Russia is also applying tactical influence, in terms of mobilising states within its sphere of influence to consolidate support for its positions. This influence would exploit any lack of engagement by liberal democracies, in order to undermine democracy in certain states as well as other founding principles of the organisation.109 With regards to China, there was no mention in the Government’s Integrated Review of the deleterious impact of China’s growing influence in OSCE states that make up the Belt and Road Initiative (particularly in Central Asia).110 This influence and the consequential impact on UK interests should not be underestimated. In order to strengthen the OSCE successfully in line with the Government’s intentions detailed in the Integrated Review:

a)We recommend the UK’s approaches to strengthening the OSCE be fully integrated into a wider strategy of moderating Russia’s damaging influence on the modern international system and on the democratic mandate of governments of OSCE member states. We recommend it also consider the growing influence of China in Central Asia and other OSCE regions. Steps should be taken to ensure that the OSCE is adequately funded both at headquarter level and field mission level to enable it to function effectively whilst retaining independence from malign agendas.

b)The FCDO’s approach to supporting OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) monitoring missions, which appears fragmented and inconsistent, requires improvement. Greater clarity on the “new capability” for election monitoring, as outlined in the Integrated Review, should be provided as soon as possible. We recommend strategic support of democracies and open societies through a clear election monitoring strategy put forward by the FCDO that includes:

i)Publishing an annual list of which ODIHR election monitoring missions it will support, with strategic considerations of which countries are chosen based on wider foreign policy objectives and streamlining the appointment of Long-Term Observers.

ii)Working with ODIHR to introduce a methodology for observation of online and media aspects of elections, and to support the resilience of democratic institutions against cyber-attacks.

iii)Strategic support to allies in Europe play their own role in the OSCE by lending expertise or capability to another country’s lead envoy.

The United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC)

46.Whilst the OHCHR is, overall, a professional and competent body,111 it is underfundedand suffers from obstruction in certain situations.112113 The HRC has a flawed system of electing members that allows states with a negative direction of travel with regards to their human rights record to gain a seat on the council. Many of these states hold an alternative view of human rights to those they initially ratified in the UN charters and seek to control the agenda to reflect this. This trend has gone largely unchallenged despite clear criteria for selection of membership.114 The failure of the Council to take substantive action on issues such as the ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang, China, exemplify the scale of the problems the Council faces (we are considering this topic in more detail in our inquiry into Xinjiang Detention Camps). The withdrawal of the US from the HRC in 2018 left a vacuum which was filled by others such as Cuba and China to the detriment of the RBIS.115 There is an unwillingness by European partners to oppose the election of states with poor human rights records. The Government has taken important steps in addressing some of the issues identified in these bodies but should go further if these bodies are to defend human rights in line with the Government’s intentions as outlined in the Integrated Review:

a)In terms of strengthening the OHCHR to uphold and further the cause of rights-based development, we recommend the FCDO lead the way by using the expertise (now incorporated from DFID) to provide voluntary core funding for the organisation and should use the information to raise awareness of the need to engage with the organisation. This should focus on promoting OHCHR secretariat independence and strengthening core operations against unacceptable interference.

b)Renewed focus on building coalitions of like-minded states, which aim to uphold democratic and individual human rights values will be key to defending the RBIS through the Human Rights Council. We recommend that the Government:

i)speaks out against the election of states with a negative direction of travel with respect to their human rights record and gives a complete picture of activity at the Human Rights Council in its reporting to Parliament.

ii)uses minilateral arrangements, to advance the case for a ‘competitive slate’ system for elections, initially amongst European and Commonwealth partners.

iii)seeks the support of states who share UK values to call for more Special Sessions and motions using the Irish Principles as criteria for proposing them.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)

47.Global health is an area where there is considerable vying for influence and China’s sway is disproportionate to their funding and representation in the secretariat.116 China employs aggressive diplomacy against members who are critical of their position. The onus for improvement lies with the member states rather than the secretariat as does the role of holding to account those who are not acting in the spirit of the IHRs.117 Whilst we recognise the UK’s leadership in providing core funding for the WHO, the organisation’s reliance on voluntary earmarked funding leaves programme work vulnerable and its core costs underfunded.118 The FCDO’s role in liaising with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is key to the UK’s effective engagement with the WHO. Our inquiry into Global Health Security will look at some the issues relating to the WHO in more detail. Our specific conclusions and recommendations for the UK’s relationship with the WHO are outlined below:

i)Where there is reliable intelligence to do so, the UK Government should continue to use its voice to call out states that are not complying with, or acting in the spirit of, the International Health Regulations.

ii)The UK can be a rule setter in the WHO by leading on the revision of the International Health Regulations (IHR) in the light of lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic. We recommend the Government work with groups of like-minded states, both net financial contributors and recipients, to bring forward proposals on how the IHR can be strengthened. These improvements should ensure the group has an investigatory mandate and ensure individual states cannot block the much-needed inquiries to help prevent future pandemics.

iii)We welcome the steps outlined by the DHSC and FCDO regarding the continued support of the WHO through voluntary earmarked funding arrangements and the 30% increase in core costs as outlined in the Integrated Review. As the second largest donor to the WHO we recommend the UK, under the leadership of the FCDO, convene a meeting of like-minded donors (including Germany and Sweden) to align priorities and release more funding for core costs.

The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL)

48.INTERPOL is an important multilateral organisation in the fight against international crime.119 Despite extensive efforts at reform, there are still significant structural and governance issues within INTERPOL that allow states, including Turkey, Russia, and China, to repeatedly attempt to use Red Notice and Diffusion functions in an abusive way with no remedial action taken against them.120121 Governance and funding structures allow for unacceptable interference by both state and non-state actors.122 Refusal by the UK Government and the INTERPOL secretariat to acknowledge that there is a problem sends a message to would-be-abusers that this behaviour is acceptable, and it has the potential to constrict reform as well as supporting victims in the UK. The resulting failure of the international community and the secretariat to bring remedial action against those who repeatedly attempt to misuse the system allows this corrosive behaviour to go unchecked.123 Our conclusions and recommendations on INTERPOL are as follows:

a)If the Government’s renewed engagement with INTERPOL is going to be successful in strengthening it against malign activity, it needs to be prepared to publicly recognise the extent to which states still attempt to abuse the system.

b)Whilst we appreciate the operational need to keep information regarding legitimate Red Notices and Diffusions from those to whom they pertain, we see a need for greater support for those whose lives are impacted by failed attempts to use this system maliciously. We therefore recommend greater coordination between the FCDO and the Home Office on the approach to dealing with individual cases of Red Notices and Diffusions. This should include a designated team responsible for supporting those who may face consequences of attempts by states to issue abusive notices.

c)We recommend that the Government consider a Global Crime Coordination Group involving the Home Office and FCDO, as well as other relevant Whitehall departments, to harmonise the approach toward INTERPOL reform and misuse. This should be focussed on facilitating a unified approach to the treatment of Red Notices and Diffusions by UK authorities, countering malign uses of these against UK interests, and ensuring that engagement with Russia and China at INTERPOL is consistent with wider policies toward their actions.

d)Significant and rapid steps are needed to ensure the independence of the Commission on the Control of INTERPOL’s Files. The FCDO and Home Office should carry out a review of the existing structures, particularly concerning the selection criteria for candidates of the Executive Committee and make recommendations for actions required to achieve changes that would facilitate greater independence and transparency.

e)We recommend the FCDO coordinate with the Home Office to work with other democratic funders of INTERPOL tabling a resolution to the General Assembly affirming the secretariat’s power (under Article 131) to suspend abusive states.

f)We recommend the UK Government work with other democratic funders to harmonise donor practices and enable a situation where voluntary core funding reduces the reliance on the INTERPOL Safer World Foundation. This would have the goal of promoting the financial independence of the secretariat and integrity of the organisation. Requirements for greater transparency in INTERPOL’s finances should be built into these arrangements.

g)We recommend the Government works with ‘Five Eyes’ partners to actively lobby against any attempt by any other state with a poor record of use of INTERPOL’s systems, to have a candidate elected to the presidency role at the next general assembly meeting.

h)We recommend the Government works with ‘Five Eyes’ partners to track and expose malicious, vexatious, and politically motivated use of Red Notices by member states.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO)

49.The WTO faces an existential crisis, with two of its core functions unable to operate.124 The WTO, we believe, has the potential to be a powerful vehicle for managing relationships between free market economies and the Chinese economy. Low friction trade with China is important for the prosperity of the British people and for global prosperity. There is contention over the level and nature of Chinese compliance. Some commentators detail how, to date, China has responded positively to the requirements for reform made upon its joining and has shown apparent willingness to abide by decisions in disputes that it has lost. However, China is accused of deliberately mis-interpreting rulings against it and the extent to which it has complied in practice has been questioned. There is still a significant gap between China’s economic model and that of the rest of the world, and therefore a requirement to reconcile these systems in a way that promotes free and fair trade. There is also significant criticism that China, which has a Purchasing Power Parity of 4.2 to $1 in contrast to India’s 21.3 to $1, should no longer be classified as a developing country in terms of its WTO membership. The concerns raised by the US Government which have led to the stalemate in the Appellate body are of critical importance to how successful the organisation will be at resolving disputes in global trade. We make the following recommendations for the FCDO in terms of the UK’s relationship with the WTO:

a)The best way to strengthen the WTO is to use it. The most viable way of using the WTO at the current time is through issue-based plurilateral trade agreements, which have the potential for scaling up and setting new rules and norms; minilateral discussions about new rules to address challenges posed by harmful Chinese trade practices; and engaging with the US Administration over their reservations about the Appellate Body:

i)We recommend the UK Government leads engagement with the US Administration in discussions aimed at resolving US issues with the Appellate Body, ultimately concluding with an appointment of a US judge.

ii)We recommend the FCDO plays a key role, in conjunction with other relevant departments, to apply its diplomatic resources in promoting issue-based plurilateral agreements within the WTO framework amongst willing states.

iii)The UK should work to build within the WTO a grouping of states that apply the rule of law and principles of fair competition to support each other as issues are raised. This group would work toward addressing the challenges posed by the Chinese economic model within the WTO rules. We recommend that the Government’s approach to this considers how to formulate and introduce new trading rules that uphold minimum standards and behaviours that will require evolution of economic practices in China through dispute rulings. It should be an objective of this group to remove China’s classification as a developing country.

The International Criminal Court (ICC)

50.The ICC performs an important function despite the lack of universality and limited jurisdiction. There are significant challenges facing the ICC both from within and outside its ranks, chiefly non-compliance with Court rulings, a root cause of which is the lack of universality, particularly amongst P5 members. Whilst there have been significant improvements to the process of voting for judges, it is still vulnerable to overt political influence, to the detriment of the Court’s effectiveness. Yet there is every indication the ICC is committed to change. The UK Government has taken significant steps to strengthen the ICC by supporting highly experienced and competent personnel to senior positions in the Court, reinforcing the Fund for Victims, and leading initiatives for internal changes within the ICC’s operations. We make the following recommendations for the UK’s engagement with the ICC:

a)The Government should use the UK’s voice at the UN and Assembly of State Parties to call out states who are non-compliant with Court orders; and to push for greater financial support of the ICC by the UN when investigating cases mandated by the UNSC.

b)The UK’s financial approach to the ICC should be based on the assessed need of the Court. There should also be a scholarship programme for candidates from Commonwealth countries to undertake internships at the ICC.

c)In the process of aligning aid with strategic priorities, we recommend the FCDO work with groups of like-minded Development Assistance Committee states to provide incentives for ratifying states parties (who are recipients of development assistance) to comply with ICC rulings and orders.

The External Audit System of the United Nations

51.In addition, the process of selecting Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) to the external audit system of the UN is vulnerable to political manipulation and represents another area of influence that could be used by authoritarian regimes with deleterious motives. There are varying levels of competence across governing bodies of UN organisations and in SAIs themselves. We recommend the Government calls for a technical competency led external audit selection process in UN bodies, and a combined assurance process to streamline financial and performance audits.125

106 The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (initially CSCE) was the product of a diplomatic process started in 1972 by leaders Nixon and Brezhnev in Helsinki. 34 states signed the Helsinki final act in 1975. The ‘Charter of Paris for a New Europe’ in 1990 marked the end of the Cold War and saw agreement to move toward an era of democracy, peace and unity in Europe. The secretariat consists of three autonomous institutions (media freedom, national minorities, and democratic institutions/human rights). It has 16 field operations, including in Ukraine, Central Asia and Western Balkans.

107 I.e. the countries of the former Soviet Union

108 See, for example, comments Q38, Q43, Q48, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (MUO0030) Annex D, Philip Remler (MUO0007) p4

109 Joseph Worrall (MUO0019) p1; Q42 [Dr Neil Melvin]

110 As described by Professor Stefan Wolff (MUO0003) para 9

111 More detail for OHCHR and HRC in Annex 2. For comments on competence of OHCHR see: Q118 [Fred Carver]; Q139 and Q142 [Peggy Hicks]

112 See, for example of obstruction: Human Rights Watch (MUO0020) p3

113 See, for example of underfunding: United Nations Association - UK (MUO0017) para 20; MOPAN 2017–18 ASSESSMENTS: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), MOPAN, April 2019, ch12

114 See, for example: United Nations Watch (MUO0029) p1; Q124 [Fred Carver]; Q132 [Hillel Neuer]

115 Q33 [Alistair Burt]

116 See Annex 3 for more details on the WHO. For comments on China’s influence see: Q245, Q244 [Dr Yanzhong Huang]; Anthony Dworkin (MUO0028) para 8; Q324 [Lord Ahmad]

117 See, for example: Q101 [Dr David Nabarro]; Anthony Dworkin (MUO0028) para 6

118 Q114 [Dr David Nabarro]

119 For more information on INTERPOL see Annex 4. See also, for examples of benefits of INTERPOL: Q150 [Bruno Min]; Q181 [David Armond]

120 See, for example: Transcript of INTERPOL oral evidence session; Fair Trials (MUO0023) para 24; Peters and Peters LLP (MUO0024) para 3; William Browder (MUO0011) p8

122 Specific recommendations to be found in Chapter 4

123 See responses by Q160 [Bruno Min]; Q190 [David Armond}

124 For more analysis of the WTO see Annex 5. For explanations and descriptions of current failures see: Q227 [Dr Liam Fox]; Anthony Dworkin (MUO0028) ; Q210 [Prof James Bacchus]

125 For more information on, and analysis of, the UN External Audit system see Annex 7

Published: 17 June 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement