Human Rights Protections in International Agreements Contents

2Negotiation of International Agreements: Government process

8.International agreements are negotiated by the Government—usually by officials in the first instance, before requiring signature by a duly authorised Minister. The negotiating stage is therefore key—both the decision to enter into negotiations with a given country on a given subject, and the negotiating objectives to achieve (including any “red lines” in any negotiation). Human rights need to be considered at the outset of such negotiations.

9.Many commentators have highlighted the importance of ensuring that adequate human rights awareness and expertise are available during the negotiation of international agreements, and that such expertise is embedded within the negotiating teams. The Institute for Human Rights and Business said the Government should include:

“Human rights capacity within future trade missions. Understanding human rights due diligence is increasingly necessary for all UK companies overseas […].”8

10.However, we were concerned to note that the Minister for Human Rights had not been involved in the negotiation or preparation of the UK-Israel Agreement and did not know what human rights protections were (or were not) in the UK-Israel Agreement which was announced on the same day as our evidence session. We consider that the human rights Minister and his team should know about such agreements so as to be satisfied about the human rights protections contained in such agreements.

11.The Government must ensure that human rights expertise is embedded into the negotiating teams working on all international agreements.

12.The Government must undertake adequate human rights analysis of all international agreements as part of its internal sign-off process. For simpler agreements there should be a memorandum. For more complex agreements (such as complex trade agreements) a human rights impact assessment might be more appropriate.

8 Institute for Human Rights and Business (HIA0005)

Published: 6 March 2019