Persecuted Christians Worldwide
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is committed to defending Freedom of Religion or Belief as a universal human right which should be enjoyed by everyone. The UK regularly raises this issue with governments across the world and funds projects that promote respect for all people of different faiths.
In January 2019, the then Foreign Secretary launched an independent review led by the Bishop of Truro, into FCO support for persecuted Christians. The report has identified specific steps the British Government can take to address the issues faced by persecuted Christians around the world. The government has accepted the recommendations in full and will work to implement them. This work will include exploring how best to deliver a new Security Council Resolution on protecting Christians in North Africa and the Middle East; and sanctioning those who persecute people for holding a religion or belief.
Children in conflict
The government are committed to protecting children effected by armed conflict, including ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The UK is an active member of the United Nations Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict (CAAC), which leads the international response on the issue of child soldiers and child protection. In November 2019, the UK will host an international meeting on preventing sexual violence in conflict. One of the key focuses will be how the UK can better support children born of sexual violence in conflict, including tackling stigma.
The Department for International Development (DFID), run education programs in nations effected by conflict. Alongside these education programs, DFID are the largest bilateral donor to “Education Cannot Wait” an organisation that protect access to education for children in conflict zones. The education programs that DFID run and donate to support children’s psychological well-being and promote inclusive an education systems which minimise the negative effects of conflict.
I fully support the great work that DFID do in conflict zones to enable children to have the start in life they deserve.
Universal health coverage
The UK is a strong advocate for universal health coverage. The government provides funding to the World Health Organisation through the universal health coverage (UHC) partnership programme, along with the EU, Japan and other donors. The UK is the world’s second largest health donor, investing around £1 billion per year through bilateral aid programmes. This aid goes to projects in areas such as reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health. Our support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has contributed to the safe vaccination of over 700 million children.
I believe that everyone has the right to access to healthcare and will continue to support this in parliament where possible.
Protection of Palestinian health workers
The government remains concerned about the use of live ammunition and excessive force by the Israel Defense Forces. While Israel has the right to self-defence, it is vital that its actions are proportionate and seek to avoid civilian casualties. The UK have stressed to Israel the need for independent and transparent investigations into these deaths however Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories remains a human rights country of concern.
The primary responsibility for prosecuting those who attack humanitarian workers in any context lies with the state authorities. In a conflict context, where the state authorities are unable or unwilling to do this, international accountability mechanisms may be invoked, as appropriate. The UK supports international mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court or ad hoc tribunals acting within their mandates when grave violations of international humanitarian law are suspected, and the state is genuinely unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute.
I believe that no aid worker should be at risk of violence. They must have the protection they need from the responsible authorities to allow them to do their jobs safely.
Protests in Hong Kong
The recent protests in Hong Kong have shown the strength of feeling among its people. The UK supports the Hong Kong people's right to peaceful and lawful protest. It is imperative that any protests are conducted in a peaceful manner, and that the authorities' response is proportionate.
Hong Kong's success is underpinned by its high degree of autonomy, independent judiciary and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Joint Declaration. However, recent events have demonstrated increasing pressure on this high degree of autonomy and Hong Kong's rights and freedoms. It remains the British Government's view that, for Hong Kong's future success, it is essential that Hong Kong enjoys, and is seen to enjoy, the full measure of its high degree of autonomy and rule of law as set out in the Joint Declaration and enshrined in the Basic Law, in keeping with the commitment to 'One Country, Two Systems'.
The government have noted the announcement of a special inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Council into recent events in Hong Kong and look forward to reading the results.
The Government takes its defence exports responsibilities extremely seriously and operates some of the most robust export controls in the world. The UK only approve equipment which is for Israel's legitimate self-defence, when we are satisfied that this would be consistent with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and other relevant commitments. A licence will not be issued if there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression, or if there is a clear risk that it would provoke or prolong conflict. The government continue to believe the best way to achieve peace is through substantive peace talks between the parties leading to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
The Government publishes Official Statistics (on a quarterly and annual basis) of licences granted and refused for military exports on GOV.UK, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/strategic-export-controls-licensing-data
Export licence applications are carefully assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. A licence would not be granted if to do so was inconsistent with the Criteria. The policy remains as announced to parliament in a Written Ministerial Statement on 25 March 2014 (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140325/wmstext/140325m0001.htm#14032566000018) and updated with an additional policy, as announced in a Written Ministerial Statement on 13 September 2018 (https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-09-13/HCWS957/).
I have also raised the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and will continue to do so.
Libyan detention centres
The government remain deeply concerned by the situation in Libya and the conditions in Libyan detention centres. All parties to the conflict must do all they can to prevent any further loss of life, including by respecting their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, and engage with the UN and humanitarian community. This is essential to ensure aid can reach those in need and to allow for civilians, including refugees and migrants, to be immediately evacuated to safety.
The UK has announced a contribution of £1 million to the UN Flash Appeal. This includes funding to the World Health Organisation to deliver life-saving medical care, and funding to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to improve humanitarian access for agencies on the ground. The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $2 million to provide life-saving assistance to civilians caught up in the fighting, including vulnerable migrants and refugees. The UK was the biggest donor to the CERF in 2018, providing £114.3 million.
The detention centres in Libya are the responsibility of the Libyan authorities however, the government will continue to press the Libyan authorities to pursue alternatives to detention and implement a better functioning migration system that respects human rights.
International Development - Aid Budget
I am very supportive of the excellent work our Department for International Development carries out and have visited projects in Ethiopia, Nigeria and other countries to see how this work is changing lives on the ground. Of course, our aid budget must be transparent and properly targeted on projects which assist in saving lives, starvation, illness and building capacity in the poorest countries across the world. Fostering stability in areas of deprivation across the world enhances the security of us all.
I recently lead an Estimates day debate on this topic which can be viewed here
Loans to developing countries
The UK is working through the G20 to promote sovereign debt transparency and sustainability, particularly for low income developing countries. UK-based lenders are subject to extensive prudential disclosure requirements under UK prudential and accounting law, including for material loans made to foreign Governments, which appropriately reflect firms’ exposures. Compliance with these requirements are independently assessed by the relevant UK regulator during their supervisory activities.
UN Global Compact on Migration
The UK Government is supportive of the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, both as a step forward in international co-operation to tackle irregular migration and as a framework to help us deliver our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals.
Our participation in the Global Compact will not affect our continued ability to determine and implement our own migration policy in the national interest. The Compact is a ‘non-legally binding, cooperative framework’, which reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy.
The Migration Compact aims to bolster international cooperation by providing a framework to implement regular and managed migration through effectively managing our borders and returning those with no right to remain.