I have today laid before the House a copy of the 2011 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report on human rights and democracy.
The report comprehensively assesses developments in human rights in 2011 and provides information about some important developments in early 2012. It sets out what the Government are doing through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to promote human rights and democratic values around the world, in three principal areas: it documents the serious concerns we have about a range of countries where we are seeking to influence the human rights situation; it assesses progress on thematic issues that cut across geographic boundaries; and it reports on areas where we believe we have seen positive developments over the last year. We have made some significant changes to the format of the report itself this year, including the introduction of case studies.
I am determined that we will continue to strengthen and develop the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s work on human rights. With this in mind, I have decided to allocate an additional £1.5 million in 2012 to our human rights programme work, which will be focused in particular on projects to promote freedom of expression online and the implementation of the UN guiding principles on business and human rights.
I have also decided to introduce changes to make the Foreign Office’s human rights reporting even more responsive to rapidly changing situations. An annual report can only look backwards, yet in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office we monitor and respond to change as it happens and our reporting needs to reflect this. It is sometimes the case that a country not regarded as a ‘country of concern’ at the beginning of the reporting period may experience important human rights developments.
Over the current reporting period, and for the first time, we will make quarterly decisions on whether systematic reporting on developments in other countries, not listed in the 2011 report as countries of concern, is required.
This more flexible quarterly reporting will strengthen the assessments we make about which countries should be added to or removed from the list of countries of concern in the 2012 annual report.
On the basis of the first of these assessments, I have decided that we should report quarterly on the situation in Bahrain and Ethiopia, and that we should review the situation in Rwanda and Egypt in depth at the mid-year point. These four countries are covered as case studies in the 2011 report.
Taken together, the report, the additional funding and these changes to our reporting system underline the Government’s determination to continue to place the effective promotion of human rights at the heart of our foreign policy.