FCO Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report 2013

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Foreign Secretary William Hague launched the 2013 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report on Human Rights and Democracy. The report is a comprehensive assessment of the global human rights situation in 2013. It sets out what the Government is doing through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to promote human rights and democratic values around the world in three principal ways.

First, it documents how we are seeking to exert a positive influence in a range of countries where we have serious concerns about the human rights situation. Second, it assesses progress on a number of thematic issues that cut across geographical boundaries. And third, it reports on the benefits for UK citizens of our work on human rights, in terms of prosperity, security, and human rights for British nationals overseas.

The primary criterion for inclusion as a country of concern continues to be the gravity of the human rights situation in the country, including both the severity of particular abuses and the range of human rights affected. This year we introduced a list of human rights indicators and indices in order to ensure that our analysis of this criterion was strictly evidence-based. As a result of this analysis, no countries were removed from the countries of concern category, and the Central African Republic was added to the list.

Country case studies are a way to report on countries that do not meet the overall threshold for a country of concern, but which we judge nonetheless to be facing human rights challenges, or to be on a trajectory of change with regard to their human rights performance. The Gambia has been removed from this category, and the report features Swaziland and India as thematic case studies this year. The remainder of country case studies is unchanged from 2012: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

Our topical theme for the report is “Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict”. Rape as a weapon of war needs to be removed from the world’s arsenal of cruelty, and the culture of impunity that surrounds the issue put to an end. It is an issue of fundamental importance to international peace and security and conflict prevention. Since the launch of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, the UK has worked with many governments around the world, the UN and other multilateral organisations, and a wide range of committed NGOs and civil society organisations to achieve greater global awareness of the scale of sexual violence in conflict, and to promote changes in how the international community perceives and responds to the issue. I am determined that political will now turns to practical action In June I am co-hosting the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, with the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, in London. Over 140 countries will be represented and it will be the biggest meeting ever held on this issue.

Human rights are at the heart of our foreign policy, and remain a priority for the Government as a whole. In 2013, we were successful in our bid for election to the UN Human Rights Council, giving us a greater opportunity to support countries working to improve their human rights record, and to call to account those nations that commit serious and systematic violations against their citizens.

In 2014, the UK will continue to work on our six global thematic priorities: women’s rights; torture prevention; abolition of the death penalty; freedom of expression on the internet; business and human rights; and freedom of religion or belief. We will aim to protect those most vulnerable in society, promote human dignity for all, and respond proactively to the many existing and, as yet unforeseen, challenges on human rights that 2014 brings.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office