FCO boosts spending on human rights

William Hague launches the FCO 2011 Human Rights report

The FCO has pledged to spend an additional £1.5m to promote freedom of expression online, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced at the launch of the FCO’s 2011 Human Rights and Democracy Report.

This represents a 30 per cent increase on the £5m the Foreign Office already spends on its human rights programme.

The report said Britain would work with other states “to prevent the internet being used as a means of political repression”.

The Foreign Secretary also announced a mechanism to make the FCO more responsive to rapid changes in the human rights situations in countries.

Instead of making a decision at the start of each year on countries of concern, the FCO will now review the human rights situations in countries on a quarterly basis.

The new measure will be applied immediately. Countries which are under more scrutiny include Ethiopia and Bahrain, while Rwanda and Egypt will be reviewed for inclusion at the mid-year point.

The UK will also in future issue a ban on human rights abusers from non-EU countries from entering Britain.

The Foreign Secretary noted that 2011 would “stand out as a positive year for human rights and democracy” because of democratic developments inspired by the Arab uprisings as well as what he hoped was Burma’s “irrevocable transformation”.

He said work developing civil society in these countries was essential, adding: “The real test will be what happens in court rooms, in parliaments, in police stations, in schools and at the ballot box.”

But he also pointed out countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, Belarus and North Korea where human rights had deteriorated.

The UK’s human rights record was also under scrutiny, he said, adding that British complicity in extraordinary rendition leading to torture would be investigated.

The UK government will also review its UK Defence Exports Policy in the light of the Arab Spring.