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Updated: 2018-04-22T17:29:23+01:00

 



Press release: Foreign Secretary travels to Toronto for G7 meeting

2018-04-22T17:29:23+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson travels to Toronto for a meeting of Foreign Ministers from G7 countries.

Today and tomorrow (22nd and 23rd April) the Foreign Secretary will be in Toronto for a meeting of Foreign Ministers from the G7 countries. During the summit the Foreign Secretary will discuss issues ranging from gender equality and women’s empowerment, to non-proliferation and disarmament, to conflict prevention and stability. For the session on counter-extremism the Foreign Secretary will be joined by Home Office Security Minister Ben Wallace.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

I am proud to represent the UK at this meeting of the top economies and international powers in the world. Last week London hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and later this week I will travel to Brussels for a NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

The UK and Canada are the only two countries that are members of all these organisations – evidence not just the closeness of the UK-Canada relationship, but of the UK’s influence in the world. Influence that will continue long after we leave the European Union.

The G7 is a group of likeminded partners who work to protect the rules-based international system. I welcome unanimous G7 support in recent week both for the joint UK/US/French action in Syria, and for the UK’s response to the terrible poisonings in Salisbury. I look forward to continuing that work in Toronto this week.

Notes to editors

  • The G7 countries are the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The EU, represented by High Representative Federica Mogherini, will also attend the meeting.

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Press release: African leaders gather in London for illegal wildlife talks

2018-04-20T17:15:00+01:00

African leaders gather in London to discuss ambitious proposals to protect endangered species across Africa.The Duke of Cambridge, the Foreign Secretary and leaders of African Commonwealth countries met on Friday 20 April for high level talks on tackling the illegal wildlife trade in advance of the next international conference in London later this year. Ambitious proposals to tackle the crime were discussed and debated, including opportunities to boost cross-border law enforcement so that more elephants and other animals can move more freely and safely in Africa. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: Many African countries are already working together and taking robust action to protect and preserve their precious wildlife but this is a serious problem driven by international criminal syndicates. It is only through ambitious African-led initiatives that we will stop this deplorable crime for good, and we are ready to help. Here in the UK we are taking forward our own plans for a ban on domestic ivory sales, and in October I will co-host an international conference in London on combating the illegal wildlife trade. Together we can stop the decline of the world’s most iconic species and ensure that future generations don’t have to live in a world without wildlife. During the talks, the Foreign Secretary appealed for ambitious outcomes at October’s conference, which will focus on tackling the illegal wildlife trade as a serious organised crime, building coalitions and closing illegal wildlife markets. The Foreign Secretary and African leaders discussed opportunities for increasing national and cross-border law enforcement programmes to catch poachers and stop wildlife traffickers. The numbers are horrific: around 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year. Savanna elephant numbers have declined by a third from 2007 to 2014 and there has been a 9,000% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa. Wildlife in many parts of Africa is at crisis levels. Mafias and organised crime gangs are at the centre of much of the illegal wildlife trade, driving animals to the point of extinction and decimating wildlife tourism in communities that rely on it. The illegal wildlife trade is a serious organised crime with revenues worth up to £17 billion a year, more than the combined income of the Central African Republic, Liberia and Burundi. That is why the UK is taking forward plans for a ban on domestic ivory sales and in October will host an international conference in London on combating the illegal wildlife trade. Background Representatives from the following countries attended the meeting: Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Cameroon & Nigeria. Find out more: British High Commissioner to Botswana Katy Ransome’s blog about ending wildlife crime across the Commonwealth. Further information Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



Speech: Liberia: Important lessons for today's peacekeeping agenda

2018-04-20T17:04:00+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Jonathan Allen, Deputy Permanent Representative, at the Security Council Meeting on UNMIL. Thank you Mr President. Let me also thank our briefers. Let me start with my Swedish colleague and perhaps through her, to all who have done so much on the Peacebuilding Commission in Liberia. I’d like to also thank Assistant-Secretary General Zuev for his impressive and multi-lingual briefing and also to Child Liberty for what I thought was an inspiring and uplifting story. I think your comments show just how important it is that this Council remains very focussed on the impact of conflict on children and on women and I think you really brought that home to us in an inspiring and uplifting way so thank you for that. Mr President, in 2003, when UNMIL was launched, the then Secretary-General made his first report to the Council based on an assessment mission and he said in his report then: “Liberia remains highly unstable … as armed groups, militia and criminal elements operate throughout the country … Police officers lack training and have not been paid since early 2002 … Nearly 1 million Liberians, or a third of the population, are displaced. It is estimated that Liberia has some 27,000 to 38,000 combatants, many of whom are children.” It is clear to us all that the Liberia of today is not the Liberia of 2003 and we in this Council should be united in congratulating Liberia’s leaders and people and in thanking UNMIL for this remarkable achievement. UNMIL has been able to keep and build the peace since 2003 which a considerable feat given history of exclusion, political instability and cycles of violence and so we pay tribute to all SRSG Zarif, to all UN peacekeepers and staff who have worked in Liberia for their work and their duty. We particularly remember the 202 United Nations Peacekeepers who sadly gave their lives in service to the people of Liberia and in the service of all of us here who send those peacekeepers on those missions. Mr President, I want to use this moment to reflect on some of the lessons learned for UNMIL, particularly what has gone well but also what could have been done differently. These are important lessons, not only for other peacekeeping missions but also how we sustain peace more generally; a concept that we are all debating in different formats at the moment. So what has UNMIL done particularly well? Well, UNMIL encouraged inclusive national ownership and it supported local capacity, which are two key conditions for the sustaining peace. Liberia’s police force –the change wrought in that force from the description by the then Secretary-General in 2003 to what we have now is perhaps an excellent example of this. UNMIL also coordinated extremely effectively with international and regional actors, especially ECOWAS which remains a shining light in this Council’s engagement and UNMIL’s good offices were very effective at preventive diplomacy. For example, this helped to ensure a difficult election process remained peaceful, in accordance with the constitution and rule of law. UNMIL demonstrated the strengths of the comprehensive approach to sustaining peace. The joint peacebuilding plan between the Mission, UN Country Team and government set clear and shared priorities to guide the transition. Under Sweden’s leadership, the Peacebuilding Commission has played an invaluable role. However, we also need to be honest about the shortcomings of the Mission, and learn from those as well. Arguably, the Mission stayed too long and created an over-dependence on the United Nations. A reluctance to discuss exit meant that transition planning started too late, resulting in funding gaps and UN development actors not stepping up sooner. The mission implementation plan should have included benchmarks and timescales to better focus staffing, resources and effort – and allow the Council to better track progress. And we perhaps in the Security Council - and I know this is a feature of some of what the Secr[...]



Press release: Boris Johnson hosts Foreign Minister Moyo for roundtable talks

2018-04-20T12:47:01+01:00

Historic meeting ushers in a new era in UK-Zimbabwe relations

In the margins of CHOGM Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson welcomed his Zimbabwean counterpart Foreign (and Trade) Minister Sibusiso Moyo to London for a roundtable with other international partners.

The historic meeting ushers in a new era in UK-Zimbabwe relations and symbolises Zimbabwe’s commitment to engaging meaningfully with the international community.

The Foreign Secretary said:

President Mnangagwa has been in power for 150 days and while Zimbabwe has made impressive progress, there’s still much to do.

That’s why Britain, the Commonwealth and the wider international community will do everything it can in supporting Zimbabwe on its path of reform.

But we must remember democracies are not made in a day.

July’s election will be a bellwether for the direction of a new Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Government must deliver the free and fair elections the people of Zimbabwe deserve and which it has promised. The UK stands ready in friendship to support a Zimbabwe that fully embraces the rule of law, human rights and economic reform.

There is a great deal of interest in Zimbabwe applying to rejoin the Commonwealth after their election in July. Applying is a matter for the Zimbabwean people to decide. Zimbabwe would have to formally apply to the Commonwealth Secretariat and the final decision would then be for all Commonwealth members. However, the UK would strongly support Zimbabwe’s re-entry and a new Zimbabwe that is committed to political and economic reform that works for all its people.

Today’s meeting reinstated the commitment of the British government to the people of Zimbabwe. The UK currently provides £91m in bilateral UK aid to the people of Zimbabwe in 2017/18. This includes the further £5 million the Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin announced to support free and fair elections during her visit in February.

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Speech: Why Britain is helping poor girls get better education: article by Boris Johnson

2018-04-20T11:49:00+01:00

The Foreign Secretary writes in the Evening Standard that he will use Foreign Office diplomatic muscle to get the world’s poorest girls 12 years of quality education.

Movements such as #Time’sUp and #MeToo have rightfully moved sexism and discrimination out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

The problems we have in our own country are considerable and we must tackle them – robustly. But issues with gender equality in the UK should not stop or blind us to the flagrant sexism masquerading as ‘tradition’ that is not only holding millions of the world’s poorest girls back but snatching away their futures.

It is sexism that says a girl’s value is based on how many children she has, or the marital match she makes. And it’s sexism that makes some parents invest more in their sons than in their daughters. The fact is patriarchal attitudes are shutting 130 million girls out of the classroom.

There are myriad reasons why in too many countries girls are not allowed to learn. Sometimes it’s because of the chauvinistic attitudes and behaviour that have led to the economic oppression of women. Sometimes it’s because governments lack the mettle to challenge traditions that leave women and girls stuck.

That’s why Britain will lead by example. We will provide 1 million vulnerable girls across the Commonwealth with 12 years of quality education by 2030 and we’re committing £212 million to make this a reality. Educating girls is manifestly in the global interest. It will boost economic growth, curb infant mortality rates, improve child nutrition and release the pressure valve of growing population numbers.

I will use the diplomatic muscle of the Foreign Office to get the world’s poorest girls 12 years of quality education. Why 12 years, you ask? I’ve been inspired by Novel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai’s calls for all girls to have free, safe and quality education. Twelve years is the level of education needed to move a girl from just surviving to truly thriving. And it’s a public commitment that we can’t row back from.

We’ve already made major progress: In 2000, 2 out of every 10 girls of primary school age were out of school. Now it’s below 1 in 10. Simple, practical steps will help girls learn, such as providing solar lamps so that girls can do homework when it’s dark. Or free sanitary products so that girls won’t miss school because they can’t afford them. Even just bringing schools closer to where girls live will make a difference.

I want all 53 Commonwealth countries to commit to this vision because Britain cannot do this alone. It’s not just a question of resources, the Commonwealth is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies but also half of the world’s out-of-school girls. This is about priorities and countries challenging the sexism that is holding women and girls back. Imagine the impact if we pulled together.

See also Special Envoy for Gender Equality Joanna Roper’s blog on the importance of girls’ education.




Press release: Royal Navy Ship HMS Albion to visit Indonesia 22-25 April 2018

2018-04-20T06:27:18+01:00

The British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion ship crew will conduct bilateral talks with the Indonesian Navy, UK defence industry and visit a local orphanage in Jakarta.

The British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion will be docked at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta for a three day visit, aimed to increase defence engagement with the Indonesian Armed Forces. During the visit, members of the ship crew will conduct bilateral talks with the Indonesian Navy, UK defence industry and visit a local orphanage.

British Ambassador Moazzam Malik, said:

We have a growing defence relationship with Indonesia that supports our joint security interests and promotes prosperity. The deployment of HMS Albion in Indonesia provides an opportunity to support our partners in delivering maritime security in the region. Like Indonesia, the UK has a strong maritime history. We share a naval trading heritage. We will both remain maritime nations. It is in both of our interests to enjoy secure, accessible and sustainable maritime domains.

Captain Tim Neild, HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer, said:

HMS Albion is a very capable warship, manned by a crew of highly trained and hugely professional sailors and Royal Marines and we are greatly looking forward to visiting Jakarta to help strengthen the bonds between the UK and Indonesia. The presence of the Royal Navy’s flagship in Asia-Pacific demonstrates that the UK is ready to work with our friends and allies to promote peace, security and prosperity throughout this vital region.

Notes to Editors

  1. HMS Albion is a Landing Platform Dock – a type of amphibious operations vessel with a small force of embarked Royal Marines.
  2. HMS Albion will be visiting Jakarta at the same time as the French Navy ship FS LHD Dixmude and Frigate Surcouf
  3. Media are invited to attend the welcome ceremony and tour of HMS Albion at Tanjung Priok port on Sunday, 22 April at 1100hrs (JICT 2, Dermaga 203 Kaluku)
  4. Crew of HMS Albion will also be visiting Nuruz Zahroh orphanage for social activities on Sunday, 22 April at 1330hrs. Logistics for media will be provided.
  5. For further information please contact Embassy’s press officer Raras Tulandaru at raras.tulandaru@fco.gov.uk



News story: Foreign Secretary launches Platform for Girls' Education

2018-04-20T00:15:00+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calls on world leaders to ensure 12 years of quality education for all.At a launch reception attended by Ms Meghan Markle and HRH Prince Harry, the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made his case to global leaders to sign up to 12 years of quality education for the world’s most marginalised girls. Britain will lead by example and will provide £212 million in UK aid money to help one million vulnerable girls across the Commonwealth receive 12 years of quality education by 2030. Mr Johnson also launched his Platform for Girls’ Education, a group of 12 influential figures from across the Commonwealth to drive forward the political momentum on girls’ education. The group will hold countries to account and champion best practice across the Commonwealth. Amina Mohammed, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Education will co-chair. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said: Girls’ education is the Swiss Army knife, the Rosetta Stone, the Black and Decker toolkit that solves a multitude of the world’s problems. Educating girls is in all our interests. If we fail, we store up huge problems for the future and wilfully miss out on boosting economic growth, managing population pressures and creating stable, prosperous societies. As a Commonwealth we’ve pulled together to make one of the great problems of our time a global priority. We must keep up the momentum, we must drive forward change and we must do everything to ensure that the world’s poorest girls get 12 years of quality education. Prince Harry and Ms Markle met and spoke with Commonwealth ministers and individuals who work to promote girls’ education worldwide. Despite global efforts, poverty, cultural taboos, poor teaching and a lack of resources is shutting the world’s girls out of the classroom. The recently launched Policy Lab will bring the UK’s world-class expertise to help Commonwealth countries deliver for girls – supporting developing countries to ultimately become self-sufficient and provide quality education. This will begin with a pilot of five countries. All children have the right to learn in safe environments. However, in conflict zones schools are often used as bases for the military and become targets. That’s why the UK has this week endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and is lobbying Commonwealth countries and the wider international community to do the same. This is a real and urgent problem - globally over 130 million girls are not in school, and in conflict areas girls are over twice as likely to be out of school. Australia, Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone are among other Commonwealth countries that have this week confirmed their own commitments to provide 12 years of quality education for all. See also Special Envoy for Gender Equality Joanna Roper’s blog on the importance of girls’ education. Further information Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



Speech: UK stands with Colombia in support of Peace Agreement

2018-04-19T19:43:13+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefing on Colombia.Thank you very much Mr President. It is an honour to have their Excellencies the Vice-President and Foreign Minister with us today. I too would like to open by expressing my personal condolences to our Côte d’Ivoire colleagues, to Bernard’s family and friends and on behalf of the British government and the British people to our friends in Côte d’Ivoire, the government and the Côte d’Ivoirian people as well. It is a great loss and we send you all our condolences and sympathy. Turning to Colombia Mr President, it is very good to have the SRSG back here. He and I have known each other for a very long time. I’d like to thank him for his work and also the work of all your team on the ground. This is a historic peace agreement. I think Colombia is to be congratulated on taking this tremendously important and historic step. It ended 50 years of conflict. This is a huge achievement and it serves global inspiration for others. It shows what can be done for peace when you have bold leadership. The United Kingdom knows from Northern Ireland that implementation of these sorts of agreements is very challenging and I think it has proved to be no less challenging for Colombia. The United Kingdom is proud to stand with Colombia in support of the implementation process – and you can rely on us to do so over the months and years ahead. I was very interested to hear from the SRSG of some of the remarkable progress that there has been over the past three months. What he had to say about the ruling and about the banks is an important step forward and we welcome also the congressional elections in March that saw FARC participate in Colombia’s democratic process for the first time. Mr President, we believe that this is indeed a key point in the FARC’s political transformation and a truly remarkable achievement in the short time since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016. We also welcome the progress there has been in implementing the Peace Agreement, notably the structures for truth, justice and reparations for victims of the conflict and the activation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and the Special Unit for the Search for missing persons are two very important steps. On the resumption of talks with the ELN, we very much welcome the return to dialogue but I would also like to turn to the very real challenges that remain to the implementation of the Peace Agreement. These challenges include continued insecurity in some of the areas affected by the conflict and they include violence and threats against former FARC members. The protection measures, including FARC participation in close protection of their leaders are key steps in helping address this. It is vital that the Government’s strategy for security guarantees is properly resourced and coordinated with the police, the Fiscalia (Attorney General’s Office) and judicial authorities. I was reassured by what the SRSG had to say about the arrest of the FARC leader and we would like to echo those calls for calm and for ensuring that the provisions of the peace agreement continue to be followed. One of our other concerns Mr President, is also the levels of violence against community leaders and also human rights defenders. It is very good that the Special Investigative Unit in the Fiscalia will be able to investigate these attacks. The launch of Plan Horus represents is a bold and comprehensive response to security challenges in vulnerable areas and we look forward to seeing an ongoing and coordinated stabilisation approach with police and civilian agencies. I think this will be vital for long-term stability. Turning to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we would like to thank those staff and Mr Todd Howland in particular[...]



Speech: UK and Nigeria will continue to be long-term partners: speech by Paul Arkwright

2018-04-19T16:25:00+01:00

In his speech,the British High Commissioner to Nigeria spoke about the UK's commitment to do more to support Nigeria's economic development.Your Excellency, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning. I’m delighted to be with you here today at the London Stock Exchange in the heart of the City of London. I’m honoured to be alongside His Excellency President Buhari and many thanks to Yewande Sadiku, Atam Sandhu and their respective teams for organising what promises to be a really engaging day. As you know, the LSE has a great track record of supporting the development of African capital markets and supporting investment in African companies. Indeed, in parallel to today’s programme, the UK’s Development Secretary is speaking at another event at the LSE, celebrating the role of London’s capital markets in financing growth across the Commonwealth, and showcasing the UK’s commitment to driving mutual prosperity across the Commonwealth through investment, trade and jobs. The huge success of Nigeria’s recent bond listings is further testament to this and reinforces the City of London’s position as a leading partner for raising finance - laying strong foundations on which to build our economic and financial relationship. I’m delighted that the Lord Mayor will be speaking at this event this morning and spearheading a mission to deepen our relationship on financial and insurance services on his visit to Nigeria in a few months. Nigeria, economy and reform As many of you will know, 2017 was a difficult year for the Nigerian economy. The slump in the price of oil in particular led to significant challenges in the economy, not least around the foreign exchange. But with each crisis comes an opportunity. And the Government of Nigeria has worked hard to turn back the tide and put in place measures to promote diversification and greater ease of doing business and to make further progress on key sector reforms. The Government has set up a new Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) designed to improve the ease of doing business. And this year, Nigeria rose by 24 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. It was one of the world’s top 10 performers. Consumer-facing industries such as telecommunications, banking, healthcare and real estate have experienced rapid expansion and can fuel the new engine of growth that Nigeria needs to take it to the next level. The Nigerian Government is committed to addressing the scourge that is corruption. His Excellency President Buhari is personally committed to this and we have seen notable achievements in the last few years, particularly through its active engagement in the Open Government Partnership. We know more needs to be done and the UK Government is working closely with the Government of Nigeria to make progress on this – both in Nigeria and internationally, for example through the Global Forum for Asset Recovery and through our own UK Unexplained Wealth Order. Firms often cite lack of infrastructure, red tape and high-entry costs as further obstacles to entering the market, but these are not insurmountable and the opportunities and rewards available to those who persevere are immense. Nigeria needs an investment of US$127bn in infrastructure over the next five years. We know the scale of this challenge can sometimes be difficult to determine when based in the UK or other European countries. Activating fresh sources of capital, both from within and outside Nigeria will be critical to help close this funding gap and the UK government is here to help. We all know of Nigeria’s great potential: the largest economy in Africa; set to be 3rd most populous nation in the world by 2050; fertile land; abundant natural resources; and a young, energetic upwardly mobile population, with a deserved reput[...]



News story: Foreign Secretary expands UK Commonwealth diplomatic network

2018-04-19T11:19:00+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced an expansion of the UK's overseas network with the opening of nine new diplomatic posts in Commonwealth countries.

Today the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced the opening of 9 new diplomatic posts across the Commonwealth.

The new posts will extend Britain’s global influence:

  • Lesotho
  • Swaziland
  • The Bahamas
  • Antigua and Barbuda,
  • Grenada
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Vanuatu

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said:

As a Commonwealth family of nations, it is in our shared interest to boost prosperity, tackle security issues and clear up the environment.

These new diplomatic posts are in regions which provide huge potential and opportunity post-Brexit for British businesses and will help us to deepen our relationships across the Commonwealth.

After we leave the EU, Global Britain will remain outward facing, open for business and a champion of the rules-based international order.

Britain has one of the largest diplomatic footprints in the world. The UK’s overseas network is instrumental in promoting our national interest, particularly post-Brexit. The expanded network puts Britain in peak position to enhance military cooperation, boost trade and provide services to the rapidly expanding middle classes of the developing world.

The UK will also have a greater presence in Europe and in all regions of the world. An increased global footprint will also ensure that Britain and its allies are able to counter the malign influences of countries who seek to undermine the UK. The UK will also use its world-class soft power to continue to win hearts and minds for the global good.

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News story: Foreign Secretary announces £9m to save our oceans

2018-04-19T09:13:00+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson commits £9 million to protect the marine environment and drive economic development in Commonwealth small island states.Britain will use its position as a leading maritime nation to help Commonwealth Small Island Developing states (SIDS) drive economic development and make the most of their marine environments. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, will announce £9 million over two years to help Commonwealth Small Island Developing states (SIDS) use their marine resources to sustainably grow their economies . The funding which will be delivered through the Commonwealth Marine Economies programme will also safeguard healthy seas and build resilience against environmental disasters. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: Britain is using its seafaring prowess to help reverse the decline of our oceans. Our oceans are the largest living space on Earth with a delicate and complex biodiversity. They are not only integral to the economy, but crucial to supporting the cultures, food and security of the world. We must as a Commonwealth protect our marine inheritance. That’s why today’s £9 million will help Commonwealth small island states sustainably develop their maritime environment to create jobs and drive growth. The Foreign Office is on course to safeguard over four million square kilometres of ocean by 2020 through its Overseas Territories Blue Belt programme. The programme’s scientific expeditions around St Helena have discovered a potential new species of octopus. Evidence is now being put to the international scientific community for formal validation. Through projects in the SIDS such as seabed mapping, sustainable tourism and identifying marine pollution hotspots, the UK will share its world-renowned expertise to help SIDS tackle climate change, reduce poverty and boost the blue economy. Many Commonwealth countries are at the coalface of climate change, even though their populations account for a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse emissions. Mr Johnson wants to build global political momentum to ensure that this generation leaves the environment in a better state than we found it. Background The Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme works in 17 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean and Pacific, and is delivered by three world-leading UK agencies: the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). The Blue Belt Programme works in the UK’s Overseas Territories and is run by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Marine Management Organisation. The funding will come from the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund which provides funding for cross-government projects and programmes. Find out how the Blue Belt programme is supporting Henderson Island, a remote Overseas Territory in the middle of the Pacific ocean, to tackle plastics pollution. Further information Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



Speech: Russian account of Salisbury attack is a re-write of Orwell’s 1984: statement to the UN Security Council, 18 April 2018

2018-04-19T00:59:00+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefing on the OPCW findings on the Salisbury attack.Thank you very much, Mr President. Thank you very much to the High Representative who has read out the findings and thank you also, on behalf of the United Kingdom, to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its staff themselves. The Council invited us to keep it updated, Mr President. Thank you for agreeing to this meeting today. We wish to brief on the latest stage in the investigation but I will also cover briefly findings, attribution and a refutation of some of the public statements that have been made by Russia against my country. This meeting is being held immediately after one in The Hague, that the High Representative referred to, of the Executive Council of the OPCW and I would just like to stress, if I may Mr President, that the report itself has been circulated without any redaction or amendment to the states parties and to underscore the point I’d like to stress that the report to Executive Council members is exactly the same the report that the United Kingdom itself received. As the High Representative has set out the OPCW’s findings confirm the United Kingdom’s analysis of the identity of the toxic chemical. It supports our finding that a military-grade nerve agent was used in Salisbury. As our investigation has found, and OPCW has verified, the highest concentrations of the agent were found on the handle of Mr Skripal’s front door. It is therefore, Mr President, the chemical that we said it was and this has been confirmed by an independent mechanism. I’d like to just say a word about the use of the term Novichok. This is a term we use to describe these chemicals. We take the Russian term for such nerve agents. The OPCW report itself does not use the term Novichok but the point I wish to stress is that it is the chemical that we said it was. And so there shouldn’t be any lack of clarity on that point. The report sets out the full forensic chain of custody. It sets out how there could be no contamination. It explains how environmental samples were analysed by two laboratories and biomedical samples by two further laboratories. Finally, the report notes the absence of any significant amounts of impurities in the chemicals that were detected. ‘High purity’ is the description given in the Executive Summary in paragraph 11. This suggests, in turn, that a highly sophisticated laboratory, ie a state laboratory, made the chemicals. The identification of the nerve agent used is an essential piece of technical evidence in the ongoing investigation. But the Porton Down analysis and the OPCW report do not identify the country or laboratory of origin of the agent used in this attack. So I would like to explain Mr President, the wider picture which has led the United Kingdom to assess that there’s no plausible alternative explanation than Russian State responsibility for what happened in Salisbury. In our view, Mr President, only Russia had the technical means, operational experience and the motive to target the Skripals. If I may turn first to technical means. A combination of credible open-source reporting and intelligence shows that in the 1980s the Soviet Union developed a new class of fourth generation nerve agents. These were known in Russia, and then more broadly, as Novichoks. The key institute responsible for this work is a branch of the State Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology at Shikhany. The code word for the offensive chemical weapons programme, of which Novichoks were one part, was FOLIANT. It is highly likely that Novichoks were developed to prevent detection by the West and to circumvent inter[...]



Speech: International Impartial and Independent Mechanism and Syria: statement to the UN General Assembly

2018-04-18T23:46:00+01:00

Statement by Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative, at the UN General Assembly debate on the mechanism to ensure accountability for the atrocities in Syria.Thank you very much, Mr Chairman, and we associate ourselves with the statement made earlier by the European Union. This first report of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) is extremely welcome. It’s an important initiative from Lichtenstein and Qatar and we join other colleagues in congratulating Catherine Marchi-Uhel, on her professionalism in setting it up. The establishment of the IIIM was an important step forward in ensuring accountability for the horrific atrocities that have been committed in Syria. These include torture in Asad’s prisons, the unlawful targeting of civilians and civilian objects, including medical facilities, and as everyone knows, the use of chemical weapons. It’s up to all of us to support the IIIM in building and bringing cases against perpetrators before any competent tribunal. The UK strongly supports the IIIM. We co-sponsored the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution in December 2016 that set it up and we have contributed over a quarter million dollars to its start-up costs. We will make a further contribution later this year and I take this opportunity to encourage all Member States financially to support this important mechanism. The barbaric chemical weapons attack in Douma on the Syrian people 11 days ago cost up to 75 lives including those of young children. But it was only the latest atrocity in this seven year conflict. We must ensure that those responsible for this crime are held to account. And I would like to take this opportunity to take a few moments now to set out the UK’s response along with French and American allies to the attack on Douma. Mr Chairman, the military action we took last week was a strictly limited operation. We have published our legal position on our action. As it sets out, the action was taken to alleviate the extreme humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Asad regime’s chemical weapons capability and by deterring their further use. We determined that there was no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives were to be saved and that the strikes were necessary and proportionate, the minimum necessary. Mr President, it cannot be illegal to use force to prevent the killing of such numbers of people. We hope our actions will also uphold the international norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. I would like to stress this is not about intervening in a civil war or about regime change. And it was not about a one-off use of chemical weapons by the Asad regime. Four cases, including one of Sarin, were documented by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) before it was shut down in 2017. We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons, which as everyone knows are prohibited under international law, to become normal, either within Syria or elsewhere. In 2014 Russia vetoed a resolution calling for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) so that there could be accountability for all the atrocities that we have seen in Syria. To date, Russia has vetoed 12 Security Council resolutions aimed at alleviating the plight of the Syrian people. This makes the work of the IIIM even more important. We commend the work that it has already undertaken to establish cooperation with Syrian civil society, international organisations including the UN Commission of Inquiry and Member States. We encourage the IIIM to investigate chemical weapon attacks, particularly in the absence of any international attribution mechanism for chemical weapon. We must demonstrate that those who have co[...]



Speech: Humanitarian situation in Syria: statement to the UN Security Council

2018-04-18T20:01:00+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefing on Syria.Before I start may I make a request to the Secretariat? It would be very helpful I think for the Council to have either a briefing or a brief account of where the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) and the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) currently are and what their forward plans are and if there has been any delay in their getting into Douma an account of what has caused that delay. So if it were possible to have that within the next 24 hours Mr President, I would be very grateful. Turning to the issue before us in this session, I’d like to join others in thanking the Under-Secretary-General for his briefing. It’s a pity that some speakers have used today’s account of the humanitarian situation to make political points and I recall Mr. President, an English philosopher Edmund Burke who said; “It’s generally a popular error to imagine that the loudest complainers for the public are those who are most anxious for its welfare.” And I think that might apply rather too much today. We’re talking about Resolution 2401. I don’t have the full compendium of the British government’s activities on the humanitarian side in Syria but I can say that in 2017 we gave a $160 million to the UN appeal and in 2018 we are giving $138 million. This compares to $5.5 million in 2017 from Russia and as far as I know zero in 2018. We are one of the top three donors to the Syrian humanitarian response plan and we are the second largest bilateral donor to the humanitarian response in Syria since 2011. To date we have committed $3.5 billion dollars in response to the Syria crisis and this Mr. President, is the United Kingdom’s largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. We encourage all of us to do what we can to support the UN appeals and we too will be playing an active role in the Brussels conference which is to come. Turning to Raqqa Mr. President, we welcomed the first U.N. assessment mission. The United Kingdom continues to provide humanitarian support to Raqqa and surrounding areas. Last October, we stepped up our support to north-east Syria and this was to restock hospitals and mobile surgical units. It was to provide a 145,000 medical consultations and 31,000 relief kits. This included cooking equipment and blankets and we helped improve access to clean water for 15,000 people. We are also contributing to the clearance of mines and explosives in Raqqa and we are looking at ways to provide additional support to mine clearance across Syria. Turning to Rukban, I would like to take the opportunity to commend the government of Jordan for providing humanitarian access to the population including a distribution of essential aid and this was in January 2018. We commend the efforts of the UN humanitarian agencies who have been negotiating access from Damascus. I would like to emphasize the right to displaced civilians in Rukban, in the so-called Berm, to protection and sustained humanitarian services and distributions. Whether these are cross-line and cross border and this is in accordance with humanitarian principles and international humanitarian law. We urge the Regime and its backers to facilitate access for the UN and humanitarian partners to deliver desperately needed assistance to the estimated 70,000-80,000 people in Duoma and all those remaining in the Eastern Ghouta. Like other speakers Mr President, we too are concerned about the poor conditions in these camps and sites where people from Eastern Ghouta there have fled. We look forward to a position where t[...]



News story: Foreign Secretary commits £4m to democracy in the Commonwealth

2018-04-18T18:36:54+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced £4 million to strengthen democracy and broaden political participation across 18 Commonwealth countries.Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has committed £4 million to support democratic accountability in parliaments across 18 Commonwealth developing countries. The new funding will support work with democratic institutions such as national parliaments and local authorities to help improve transparency and foster more stable, democratic societies. The programme will focus on how institutions are accountable and inclusive of all their citizens, and on driving efforts to widen participation by women, minorities and other underrepresented groups. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: Britain is a champion of democracy and human rights across the world. This £4 million will bring together experiences from across the Commonwealth, making democratic institutions more accountable and more inclusive. Standing up for democracy and human rights is not only the right thing to do, robust democracies are essential to prosperity and help create a safer, more stable and progressive world. The Inclusive and Accountable Democracy programme will set out guidelines on how parliaments can strengthen their processes. The two-year programme will cover Commonwealth developing countries across Africa, South Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Safeguarding, promoting and defending human rights internationally is an important UK priority. This announcement follows Mr Johnson’s £1 million commitment in November, to support and protect journalists and media professionals in countries where press freedom is under threat. In addition to the Inclusive and Accountable Democracy programme the UK’s Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy supports crucial frontline work across the globe. Notes to editor: The programme will be managed by the FCO through a consortium led by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, partnering with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s UK Branch and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum. Further information Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



News story: Prime Minister of India's visit, April 2018

2018-04-18T16:06:57+01:00

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UK for the second time as an official Guest of Government on 18 April 2018.Updated: closer military ties announcement addedIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the UK as an official Guest of Government, as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Foreign Secretary welcomes Prime Minister Modi to the UK Foreign Secretary welcomes Prime Minister Modi The UK and India are bound together by numerous personal, professional, cultural and institutional ties, and also share a global outlook and a commitment to the rule of law, making us natural partners. Prime Minister Modi’s visit will help strengthen this partnership further, improving the prosperity and security for the UK and India. Prime Ministers’ meeting Prime Minister Theresa May met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They held wide-ranging and constructive discussions and underlined our strategic partnership and growing convergence on regional and international issues. Read the UK-India joint statement. Memorandums of Understanding, agreements and partnership announcements The UK and Indian governments announced a wide range of new initiatives and agreements. View the full list of Memorandums of Understanding and agreements. Health The United Kingdom and India will extend their health partnership and share research, knowledge and technology in areas of anti-microbial resistance, low cost health products and high yield crops. Research The UK will continue to grow our already strong research partnership with India with tech-focused investments that focus on issues of global importance including agriculture, clean energy, global health and the environment. Tech A new UK-India Tech Partnership will pair businesses, universities and others from different regions in the UK with states in India. Trade A new India-UK Trade Partnership will seek to improve the accessibility of trade and remove barriers for businesses in both countries. UK-India trade links Closer military ties The UK and India will continue to strengthen their defence and security relationship, working more closer together than ever before to tackle terrorism and threats to cyber security. UK-India cultural links The UK and India are joined by a ‘living bridge’ as thousands of British and Indian people live, work and study together each year. UK-India cultural links [...]



News story: Novichok nerve agent use in Salisbury: UK government response

2018-04-18T14:48:45+01:00

This page sets out the government's response to the Salisbury attack, where a military-grade nerve agent was deployed in the UK on 4 March 2018.Updated: Statement to the OPCW Executive Council addedOn Sunday 4 March Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. G7 foreign ministers’ statement The G7 foreign ministers issued a statement condemning the nerve agent attack and agreeing with the UK’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation was responsible. Letter to NATO On 13 April UK National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill sent a letter to Jens Stoltenberg NATO Secretary General setting out further information on how Russia has the technical means, operational experience and the motive for the Salisbury attack. The UK Ambassador to Russia gave a briefing to the international diplomatic community. OPCW report On 12 April the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) published their report. It confirmed the UK findings: the toxic chemical used in the attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal was a military grade nerve agent – a Novichok. The Foreign Secretary gave a statement on the OPCW report and the Head of UK Delegation updated the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. On 18 April Peter Wilson, UK Permanent Representative to the OPCW gave a statement to the Executive Council and on 19 April the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations gave a statement to the UN Security Council. OPCW findings Read the Foreign Secretary’s statement. UN Security Council and OPCW meetings On 5 April the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Karen Pierce, gave a statement at the UN Security Council emergency meeting called by Russia. Writing in the Sunday Times on 8 April, the Foreign Secretary said that only Russia could have committed this crime. At the request of Russia, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council met on 4 April. The Acting UK Permanent Representative to the OPCW responded on the UK’s actions, in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention. Following the defeat of Russia’s proposals, the Foreign Secretary gave a statement. Prime Minister’s 26 March statement on collective diplomatic expulsions Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that 18 countries have announced their intention to expel more than 100 Russian intelligence officers. This includes 15 EU member states as well as the US, Canada and the Ukraine, and is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history. Find out more in the Prime Minister’s Commons statement on national security and Russia. The Prime Minister also spoke about this in her Commons statement on the March European Council. On 27 March the Foreign Secretary wrote in The Times that our allies will expel Russian officials because they share our view of the threat post by the Kremlin to their values and security. View our Twitter Moment about our allies and partners expelling Russian intelligence officers. In his 28 March Mansion House speech, the Foreign Secretary thanked the 27 countries and NATO for expelling Russian officials whose presence they deem to be no longer conducive to the public good. Russian disinformation: 6 points The Russian government’s response has demonstrated disdain for the gravity of the Salisbury attack. Prime Minister’s 14 March statement: immediate actions including diplomatic expulsions In her statement to Parliament on 14 March the Prime Minister said tha[...]



Press release: FCO wins Silver award from Mind for commitment to staff wellbeing

2018-04-18T14:31:36+01:00

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) received the award for strengthening the culture of wellbeing in the workplace at its locations across the world.

The FCO was one of 74 organisations to take part in Mind’s second annual Workplace Wellbeing Index, receiving a Silver accreditation at the awards ceremony last night.

The FCO was recognised for its continuing work and development of wellbeing practices, both in the UK and overseas.

Highlights over the past year include developing a Wellbeing Strategy, first-hand articles from senior leaders, and expanding the network of mental health first aiders.

Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index is a benchmark of best policy and practice, celebrating the good work employers are doing to promote and support positive mental health, and providing key recommendations on the specific areas where there is room to improve.

Sir Simon McDonald, FCO Permanent Under-Secretary, said:

FCO staff do phenomenal work around the world, often in difficult circumstances: looking after their health and wellbeing is a priority. I am proud that our commitment to wellbeing has been recognised. I hope the work we are doing will mean that in the future we can aspire to a Gold award.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, said:

Employers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of tackling stress and supporting the mental wellbeing of the entire workforce, including employees that might be struggling with their mental health. We’re delighted to recognise and celebrate employers making mental health a priority for their organisation through our Workplace Wellbeing Index.

This year, we’ve been overwhelmed to see so much good practice right across the board, from each and every one of the 74 diverse employers to take part. The Awards event provided an opportunity to recognise those forward-thinking employers who are at the cutting edge when it comes to investing in their staff wellbeing, and in turn getting the best outcomes for their business.

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Speech: OPCW Executive Council meeting: 18 April update on the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury

2018-04-18T12:13:00+01:00

Update by Peter Wilson, UK Permanent Representative to the OPCW, following the OPCW Technical Secretariat's assistance to the UK after the Salisbury attack.Thank you Chair. The United Kingdom asked the Chair convene this meeting today to enable the Technical Secretariat to update us all on its technical assistance visit to the United Kingdom. At the Executive Council in March I also promised to keep the Council informed of progress in our investigation into the use of a chemical weapon in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. First, I really do want to express to the Director General my government’s gratitude for the support the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has provided. The OPCW responded promptly to our request to send their experts to the UK. They conducted a highly professional mission. The OPCW’s Designated Laboratories have also responded professionally and promptly. What the Director General said was really important on this, and the Technical Secretariat’s presentation shows how professional that work was. The report the Technical Secretariat presented to us on 11 April was thorough and methodical. The Secretariat responded quickly to our request to share that report with all States Parties. All have had the chance to see the quality of that work. The United Kingdom is grateful for the many acts of support and solidarity from delegations in this room, and from organisations and governments around the world. As you know, on 4 March Yulia and Sergei Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England, with a chemical weapon, which UK experts established to be a Novichok. OPCW has now clearly verified those findings. This is set out in paragraph 10 of the unclassified Executive Summary. Before we talk about the report in detail, let me provide you with an update on events since we last briefed this Council on 4 April. The Skripals were victims of a barbaric attack, and our top priority is their welfare. They have received the best possible care. We are glad to see improvements in both Yulia and Sergei Skripal’s health. Yulia Skripal was discharged from hospital on 9 April. Her medical progress is testimony to the outstanding care she was given by medical staff in Salisbury. The welcome, gradual, recovery of the Skripals does not alter the core facts of the case. This was attempted murder using a military grade nerve agent on the streets of the United Kingdom. The investigation now underway is one of the largest and most complex undertaken by British police. As a result of detailed forensic examination, detectives believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at their home address. My government announced on 17 April that decontamination work in Salisbury is starting this week. It will take some months to complete. In total 9 sites, including 3 in the city centre, have been identified as requiring specialist decontamination. This will involve a complex process of testing; the removal of items which could be contaminated and that might harbour residual amounts of the agent; and chemical cleaning and retesting. All waste will be safely removed and incinerated. Each site will not be released until decontamination is complete. Mr Chair, we promised to share the findings of the OPCW’s Technical Assistance Visit with fellow States Parties. We asked the Technical Secretariat to circulate their report in full to all of you, without any redaction or amendment. The report that delegations here today have received is the same report that the United Kingdom received. It is a demonstrably prof[...]



Speech: Social work and the Commonwealth

2018-04-18T11:43:49+01:00

Children and Families Minsiter Nadhim Zahawi spoke at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting event hosted by the British Association of Social Workers.Good evening. Thank you, Ruth Allen and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), for inviting me today. I am delighted to be here for two reasons. First, it is rare that I am able to speak to a group of like-minded people from across the Commonwealth. And second - and I make no apology for this - it’s a great chance for me to talk about the great work we are doing here. I’d like to speak around three themes – the importance of social work, working in partnership and sharing our experience of how our vision for social work reform is working – especially for those on the frontline. I am delighted to recognise the contribution that social work practice makes in improving people’s lives, both here in the UK and across the Commonwealth. Social work is a human rights based profession with the overriding aim of improving social justice and citizenship for those we are here to serve and work alongside. It brings a unique approach to working with people and communities as a whole. Social workers develop relationships with people, starting with where they are and what matters to them, recognising their strengths, gifts and aspirations - and building on these to support the wellbeing of families and communities, and to ensure the care and support provided is just right. In the UK, social workers have been involved in responding to emergency and disaster situations including the Grenfell fire tragedy and terrorist attacks, as well as severe snow storms and flooding. Many social workers in Commonwealth nations are also involved in supporting and working with communities dealing with the impact of environmental disasters such as flooding and earthquakes and the impact of movements of people because of war or conflict. There is much we can learn from each other in developing and improving our social work practice to best help and support those we work with across our nations. The Commonwealth is a remarkable international organisation, spanning every geographical region, religion and culture. With 53 independent countries, it is uniquely placed to support and encourage international co-operation between people all over the world; and after 60 years, it remains a major force for change in the world today. In the UK, there have been significant improvements in the quality of social work education over the last decade, with social work now an established graduate profession with national professional standards. I know there are now over 90,000 Commonwealth students here. And we have 17 Commonwealth Scholars currently studying social work – as well as two Rutherford Fellows who, as you’ll know, are highly skilled researchers conducting postdoctoral research here. Our world-class universities attract this range of global talent. We are a world-leading destination for study and research, with four universities in the world’s top 10 and 16 in the top 100 – second only to the USA. But this is not simply about our institutions providing an excellent education – it is the people who really make the difference in building relationships between our countries. International students bring greater diversity to campuses, an international dimension to the experience of all our students, and add to the UK’s impressive research capacity. In offering a warm welcome to international students, we create lasting positive relations with future leaders, inf[...]



Press release: New partnership aims to strengthen conventional arms control in the Commonwealth

2018-04-18T10:13:30+01:00

Commonwealth countries to benefit from UK funding to increase cooperation in the fight against the illicit trade in arms.The UK’s Counter Proliferation and Arms Control Centre and the Commonwealth Secretariat have agreed a new partnership to strengthen cooperation, coordination and information-sharing on conventional arms control among Commonwealth countries. The Conventional Arms Control in the Commonwealth Initiative will provide unique tools to Commonwealth countries to support national and regional implementation of measures to tackle the illicit arms trade, in line with international obligations and standards. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, commented on the timeliness of the initiative: Our member countries have expressed the need for assistance to help implement international obligations in relation to arms control, and the Conventional Arms Control in the Commonwealth Initiative will certainly be welcome. Member countries have stressed the devastating consequences of illegal arms trade on development, by prolonging violence and undermining human rights. Cooperation between Commonwealth countries can make an important difference in tackling illicit arms trade. The Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for defence and international security said: The effective control of arms is a goal that unites us all because the potential consequences of their misuse are so grave. The UK is committed to playing a leading role in global efforts to regulate the arms trade in order to stop these weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals, who use them to undermine international peace and security and drive the illegal wildlife trade. We are delighted to provide nearly half a million pounds to fund this initiative and to join together with other Commonwealth countries in the fight against illicit arms trafficking. This is in line with one of the four main goals for the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit taking place in the UK this week, to build a more secure future through increased multilateral action and cooperation. The Conventional Arms Control in the Commonwealth Initiative will be delivered by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in conjunction with the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva based global centre of excellence on small arms and armed violence. It will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise on measures to address the illicit arms trade, take stock of progress achieved in implementing international and regional arms control instruments and provide assistance on legal reform and legislative drafting. Further information Follow the Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan on Twitter @AlanDuncanMP Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



News story: International Trade Secretary urges UK business to show off the best of Britain at Expo 2020 Dubai

2018-04-18T04:42:00+01:00

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is urging innovative UK businesses to seize the opportunities at Expo 2020 Dubai. Dr Fox announced that the Department for International Trade (DIT) is looking for an innovative, award-winning design concept for the UK’s pavilion at Expo 2020, which creates the most original, inspiring and memorable visitor experience possible. The Expo 2020 theme will be ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the future’ with an expected footfall of 25 million visitors from around the world, providing an ideal platform to project Britain as a global force for prosperity, innovation, creativity and thought leadership. As this is the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, the opportunities to connect with one of the most dynamic, young, and fastest growing regions in the world are immense. The UK’s participation will consist of a self-build pavilion, supported by an accompanying programme of business and cultural events all related to the theme: Global Britain – Innovating for a Shared Future. Britain has a proud tradition in supporting global expos, hosting the first ever Expo, The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry at Crystal Palace in 1851, with previous winning entries at Shanghai 2010 and Milan 2015. This historic expertise was a key factor in British companies, including Foster and Partners and Grimshaw Architects, winning contracts worth £1 billion to help build and deliver Expo 2020 Dubai itself. International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox said: I am delighted to announce that the UK will be participating in Expo 2020 Dubai which will offer UK businesses a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best of British innovation, over 150 years on from the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, the world’s first ever expo. As an international economic department, DIT is ensuring British businesses make the most of growing markets and export their goods around the world. The festival will be a major showcase for the UK in the Middle East, and a shop window for the best of our creativity and innovation. Further information Expo 2020 Dubai takes place between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021 and is based on the theme: Connecting Minds, Creating the future. This will be the first Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region (MEASA). 180 nations will take part in Expo 2020 Dubai alongside NGOs and sponsors. Six million visitors attended the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851. This gave rise to the development of the area now known as ‘Albertopolis’ in London, which contains a large number of educational and cultural sites including the Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the V&A. Companies have until the 24 April to apply to design the pavilion - applications should be made online Companies interested in wider Expo supply opportunities should visit the Expo procurement portal for further information DIT is holding a series of events across Britain for everyone interested in the design tender. About Department for International Trade The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialised government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy, supporting business, as well as delivering an outward-looking trade diplomacy strategy. [...]



Speech: Supporting a UN-led political solution in Yemen

2018-04-17T19:38:52+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefing on Yemen. Thank you very much indeed, Mr President. Welcome to the new Special Envoy. Thank you for your briefing Martin. Thank you to Mark Lowcock for his assessment and welcome to our Yemeni colleagues. It’s a desperate situation, Mr President, and it is clear, as the Special Envoy set out, it can only be resolved ultimately through a political solution. I think we all agree on that. I think what the Under-Secretary-General said about the humanitarian consequences and particularly eight million people being close to starvation and one million people at risk of cholera and similar illnesses is absolutely shocking and that ought to be a spur to action for the Council. I think the international community must do whatever we can to enable the Special Envoy to develop his plan at the pace that he has just outlined to us. And I just want to say I really welcome the clarity and the elements of that plan that he set out. I hope we can, as an international community, pool all our influence and urge the parties to engage in good faith with the UN process. Although the conflict has some quite desperate humanitarian consequences, this is a solvable conflict. I think the Under-Secretary-General said if we had swift and joint action, Mr President, then we can make some very good progress. So I think that’s absolutely where we should put our efforts. And as a Council, I hope that we can encourage people to grant full and unhindered access to Yemen for the Special Envoy, for his team, for the humanitarian actors. And in that respect, the meetings that the Envoy laid out in the region, including in Sana’a with senior Houthi leaders are extremely welcome. I’d like if I may just to highlight a couple of areas for specific immediate action. The Under-Secretary-General mentioned financial pledges and I agree the scale of the generosity from Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Kuwait are all quite remarkable. We ourselves as the United Kingdom have provided a quarter of a billion dollars for this year and next. I think we all know that money alone won’t be enough. We do need to do more to get commercial supplies in. I was concerned about the foreign exchange problem, Mr President, because in Yemen a lot of the food and supplies that go in need to come from commercial sources. Humanitarian assistance can’t manage the scale required. Commercial shipping needs to be able to go in and this is vital to water and sanitation systems. So I do hope we can all find ways to urge collaboration on that. I think the second point is around access to Houthi controlled areas where we see very many severely malnourished children. We had a Presidential Statement in March that highlighted the importance of vaccination campaigns as the Under-Secretary General said. And then I think thirdly, I just want to echo the call about paying non-military public workers. Families don’t have the means to buy food. They don’t have the means to buy medicine and half of the health facilities have closed, so this is all contributing to a more desperate situation in Yemen than needs to be objectively the case. I also would now like to turn to regional stability. The impact on regional stability of this conflict is growing and it’s dangerous. It puts Saudi Arabia at risk. It puts Saudi citizens at risk. The continued Houthi missile attacks including the use of bal[...]



News story: UK and Canada call for international support for Rohingya crisis

2018-04-17T19:34:30+01:00

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland call for greater international support and coordination to the Rohingya crisis.On the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hosted a roundtable on one of the most pressing global issues, the Rohingya crisis. The event provided an opportunity for Commonwealth countries to stand in solidarity with Bangladesh which is hosting more than 671,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Burma since August 2017. In addition to the two hosts, Foreign Ministers from Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh were also in attendance. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson said: The plight of the Rohingya will not be forgotten. As a Commonwealth community we need to ensure there is a strong response to the urgent request for humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh. Lives depend on it. The UK is proud to be one of the largest bilateral donors to the crisis, with £59 million committed so far, but alongside our financial contribution it is right that we use events such as the Commonwealth Summit to ensure that attention does not fade away from the almost 1 million refugees living in Bangladesh. We want these people to be able to return home. But as UNHCR have said, the conditions in Rakhine are not conducive to safe returns. The Burmese authorities need to demonstrate that they are serious about the safety and security of the Rohingya. A credible independent investigation into reported atrocities is an important step in this process. Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland added: We stand with our partners in the Commonwealth to remind the international community of the urgent need to assist the Rohingya in both Myanmar and Bangladesh. We commend Bangladesh and host communities for opening their arms to hundreds of thousands Rohingya seeking refuge, and for the delivery of life-saving assistance. Bangladesh deserves our gratitude and continued support. Canada will continue to provide gender-responsive humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in Myanmar and Bangladesh, building on the $45.9 million provided since the beginning of 2017 and maintaining its role as a lead donor to the humanitarian response. We will also take a number of immediate actions in response to the final report of Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, the Honourable Bob Rae. The international community, including key Commonwealth Nations, must rally and reaffirm their support to ensure that the basic needs of those affected by this crisis are met. We also need to work together to hold perpetrators of violence to account, and actively coordinate our efforts to further promote diversity, inclusiveness, justice and equity for all, and support all efforts towards building lasting peace and reconciliation in Myanmar. The group discussed the role of the UN in resolving the crisis including much needed access for UNHCR to Rakhine state in advance of any returns process and the upcoming UN Security Council Visit to the region. There was a general agreement that any returns must be safe, voluntary, sustainable, and dignified, and monitored by the UNHCR on both sides of the border. Attendees also discussed accountability options and the need for a credible independent investigation into mounting reports of atrocities. Further information Follow the Foreign Secre[...]



Statement to Parliament: Minister for Asia makes a statement to the House on the Rakhine crisis in Myanmar

2018-04-17T15:22:37+01:00

Statement from Minister for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field to the House relating to petitions received on the subject of Myanmar's Rohingya minorityI am grateful to the Hon Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) for chairing this debate, and I pay tribute to all her industry and patience as Chair of the petitions committee. Today’s debate has been inspired by a number of petitions which attracted hundreds of thousands of signatures, demonstrating the British public’s heartfelt concern at the desperate plight of the Rohingya. The intensity of this domestic concern was something I saw for myself last month. I met representatives from the British Rohingya community and the British Bangladeshi community, at an exhibition of photographs from the refugee camps held in Spitalfields. Some of those present had family in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Others had themselves been brought up as refugees from previous waves of Rohingya flight over the decades. They were close to despair. As I reassured them that night, I reassure Parliament today: Our Foreign Office and Department for International Development will not forget your plight. I shall set out what action we have taken so far in response to this crisis, and what we plan to do from here. Many of the petitions called for an end to the violence. Needless to say, this is what we want to see too. I have been personally horrified by the survivors’ accounts of what they experienced at the hands of the Burmese military in Rakhine State. This unspeakable violence including rape and savage assault is appalling and must end. It is also obvious that while the violence continues, there can be no hope of reassuring the Rohingya that they would be able to return safely, voluntarily, or with dignity. As I said in my statement to the House last month, the violence that broke out in August 2017 was only the latest episode in a long-running cycle of persecution suffered by the Rohingya in Rakhine. We have been urging the Burmese civilian government to take action to stop the situation deteriorating since it took office two years ago. The UN estimates that since last August, more than 680,000 people have fled from Rakhine into Bangladesh. The UK Government has repeatedly condemned the violence, as have the British people. We shall and we must continue to work tirelessly with our international partners to seek a lasting solution to this terrible situation. Last September the Foreign Secretary convened a meeting of Foreign Ministers in New York, calling on the Burmese authorities to end the violence against the Rohingya community. In November the UK proposed and secured a UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Burma, which called on the Burmese authorities urgently to stop the violence, create the necessary conditions for refugee returns and hold to account those responsible for acts of violence. I continue to discuss the crisis with counterparts across Asia, including in Malaysia and Japan last week. Tomorrow the Foreign Secretary will co-chair a meeting on the Rohingya crisis with fellow Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. We shall explore how to support Bangladesh, and how to ensure Burma responds to international concerns. The Foreign Secretary will then discuss the crisis at next Sunday’s G7 Foreign Ministers meeting, which I expect will send a strong and united message to the Burmese authorities. At the end [...]



News story: Blue Belt publication for schools launched

2018-04-17T14:30:00+01:00

New Government publication introduces the Blue Belt Programme to secondary school children.

A new Government publication has been created to introduce the work of the Blue Belt Programme to secondary school children.

The publication was launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, on board the Cefas Endeavour vessel, with the help of local school children from South London.

The Blue Belt programme supports delivery of the UK government’s commitment to provide long term protection of over four million square kilometres of marine environment across the UK Overseas Territories.




News story: United Kingdom and New Zealand to increase cooperation in the Pacific and on global challenges

2018-04-17T12:20:04+01:00

Boris Johnson and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announce closer cooperation between the UK and New Zealand in the Pacific Islands region, following a meeting in London. During the meeting, which took place at the Churchill War Rooms, Mr Johnson and Mr Peters exchanged views on a wide range of foreign policy issues of concern to both countries, including defence and security challenges and the importance of cooperation to preserve and advance the international rules-based system at a time when it is under stress. The two foreign ministers also discussed a range of bilateral issues, including future negotiations on a bilateral Free Trade Agreement once the UK departs the European Union in March 2019, and Mr Peters reiterated New Zealand’s support for the UK following the attack in Salisbury. Following the meeting; UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: The UK is one of the Pacific’s oldest friends and we want to play an even more valuable role as a partner to Pacific Island countries. We have agreed that the United Kingdom and New Zealand will co-host a Wilton Park forum on Pacific climate change issues in the United Kingdom in December 2018. Pacific Island leaders have shone a light on the grave impacts of climate change. This forum will further highlight Pacific challenges and priorities, and show how the Pacific can be an early example for how to develop global responses to climate change. We both agreed that initiatives taken by Heads of Government and Ministers this week will give new energy and focus to the Commonwealth and underline its continued relevance in promoting a more prosperous and sustainable future. New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said: Secretary Johnson and I discussed the United Kingdom’s plans to scale up its engagement in the Pacific. I made it clear that New Zealand welcomes these plans and offered practical support for the UK’s efforts, including potentially through regular dialogue on Pacific issues, staff secondments, and practical development cooperation. One example of collaboration will come in late 2019, when New Zealand is due to open a newly-built High Commission in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on a site shared with the British High Commission. Our discussions also underlined the ongoing strength of the ties between us, as well as the scope that exists for even deeper cooperation in many areas – whether through policy dialogue on priority issues, secondments and exchanges between government agencies, or practical initiatives to work together domestically and around the world. Further information Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



Press release: G7 foreign ministers' statement on the Salisbury attack

2018-04-17T11:42:00+01:00

G7 foreign ministers unite to condemn the nerve agent attack and share the UK's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation was responsible.We, the G7 foreign ministers, of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal, using a nerve agent in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2018. A British police officer and numerous civilians were exposed in the attack and required hospital treatment, and the lives of many more innocent British civilians have been threatened. We express our deepest sympathies to them all and our admiration and support for the UK emergency services for their courageous response. The United Kingdom has thoroughly briefed G7 partners. We share, and agree with, the UK’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation was responsible for the attack and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. We condemn Russia’s continued failure to address legitimate requests from the UK government, which further underlines its responsibility. We call on Russia to urgently address all questions related to the incident in Salisbury. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has now independently confirmed the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury. Russia should provide full and complete disclosure of its previously undeclared Novichok program to the OPCW in line with its international obligations. This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War and is a grave challenge not only to the security of the United Kingdom but to our shared security. It is an assault on UK sovereignty. Any use of chemical weapons by a state party, under any circumstances, is a clear breach of international law and a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is a threat to us all. Their use is abhorrent, completely unacceptable and must be systematically and rigorously condemned. We, participating states of the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, stand together against impunity for those who develop or use these weapons, anywhere, any time, under any circumstances. The G7 is committed to protecting and promoting the rules-based international system. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom. Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible and destabilizing Russian behaviour, including interference in countries’ democratic systems. We call on Russia to live up to its Chemical Weapons Convention obligations, as well as its responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to uphold international peace and security. In order to bring Russia back into the rules-based international system, we will continue to engage with Russia, as appropriate, on addressing regional crises and global challenges. The G7 will continue to bolster its capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cybersecurity, strategic communicatio[...]



Press release: G7 leaders: statement on chemical weapons use in Syria

2018-04-17T10:08:00+01:00

The G7 leaders unite in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria and support recent actions by the US, UK and France to degrade and deter further use.

We, the G7 Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the European Union, are united in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the use of chemical weapons in the April 7 attack in Eastern Ghouta, Syria.

We fully support all efforts made by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons and to deter any future use, demonstrated by their action taken on April 13. This response was limited, proportionate and necessary – and taken only after exhausting every possible diplomatic option to uphold the international norm against the use of chemical weapons.

Use of chemical weapons is a breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention and constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The repeated and morally reprehensible use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the past has been confirmed by independent international investigators. We condemn this deliberate strategy of terrorizing local populations and forcing them into submission. Syria’s possession of chemical weapons and their means of delivery are illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and the Chemical Weapons Convention. We stand together against impunity for those who develop or use these weapons, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances.

We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria. We commend and support UN Special Envoy de Mistura’s efforts towards an inclusive and credible political transition in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué.




Speech: Preventing sexual violence in conflict

2018-04-16T21:56:00+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at Security Council Debate on Women, Peace and Security.Thank you very much, Mr President. And as a number of speakers have noted today, the United Charter makes clear that the United Nations itself was established to protect the dignity and worth of the human person and therefore, Mr President, we join other colleagues in thanking you for calling this debate today. Mr President, I really do appeal to all speakers not to politicise this. This is one of the worst things we face in modern times. And I think it behoves all of us, Mr President, to treat the debate as a common problem which we are all committed to mitigating and eventually eradicating. For the avoidance of doubt, let me say incredibly clearly, the United Kingdom salutes the courage both of Ms. Sultana, for your fantastic work and I’m very glad that we’ve had the chance to hear this before the Security Council undertakes a mission to Bangladesh and Myanmar, but also to the SRSG for your efforts and for the very comprehensive report that you have given us today. Mr President, a lot of people want to speak so I will be brief. I think it’s really good that so many members of the UN want to speak. Like others, we are committed to preventing but also responding to sexual violence in conflict. We began a Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative some years ago and that showed how central tackling sexual violence is to conflict prevention and peace building. Five years on from the Global Summit that launched this campaign, the United Kingdom plans to hold an international meeting in 2019 to maintain a global focus and we look forward to working very closely with everybody in the chamber today to achieve our common goals. Mr President, I do agree with our Russian colleague that sexual violence is one of those violations IHL that applies also to non-state actors and I think that’s incredibly important. We have the UNGA declaration of 2013. We also have a 2013 G8 declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict and I hope that as work progresses on this we might be able to build on those two important documents. I’d like to focus today if I may on three specific issues. The first is the importance of education, particularly girls education. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual violence in conflict. As we’ve heard from many people, including the last speaker and the Cote D’Ivoirian Ambassador, this is not to detract from the point that men and boys can also be victims but it is women and girls who suffer most. So by extension, creating a global environment where gender equality and women’s rights exist and discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and practices do not, will obviously help that goal. The British Foreign Secretary has set a personal target for the British diplomacy of helping other countries achieve 12 years of quality education for all girls globally and we are investing our development assistance in girls’ education as we know it contributes to a safer more prosperous world, reduces conflict and increases stability. Secondly survivors stigma, the Polish representative very eloquently set this out so I will not repeat that, Mr President, but just to say that [...]



News story: Minister for Africa discusses economic cooperation in Angola

2018-04-16T15:39:56+01:00

Minister Harriett Baldwin visited Angola 12-13 April 2018, discussing economic cooperation, women’s empowerment, and work to make the country landmine-free.Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development met senior ministers of the new Angolan government between 12-13 April, as well as representatives from business and civil society. In meetings with the Foreign, Interior, and Economic and Social Development Ministers, Minister Baldwin heard about the government’s plans for economic and political reforms and discussed opportunities for UK-Angola economic and security cooperation. She also raised regional issues including the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which she had just seen for herself on a visit to the DRC, and how the UK and Angola can work together to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. Minister Baldwin said: The UK is a natural partner for Angola in economic sectors like energy, infrastructure, and agriculture, and I look forward to working with the Angolan government as it implements reforms that will continue to improve the commercial environment, providing ever greater opportunities for both Angolan and UK businesses. The Minister also attended an event in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and others to celebrate local initiatives to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, including through improving access to education and employment. Among guests were Angolan female deminers from HALO as well as representatives of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) programme, two British organisations. Visiting just after international Mine Awareness Day, the Minister stressed the importance of eradicating landmines from the country. Minister Baldwin said: The UK continues to support urgent, life-saving demining work in Angola. Not only is the UK expanding our global demining programme into Angola this year, but over Christmas, we also matched pound for pound incredibly generous UK public donations to provide over £400,000 support to MAG. This support alone will keep over 7,000 Angolan women, men, and children safe from the horrors of deadly landmines. The Minister arrived in Angola following a visit to the DRC where she announced a further £22 million of lifesaving UK aid for hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need, and pushed for a political solution to help tackle some of the causes of the escalating humanitarian crisis in the country. Further information Follow Minister Harriett Baldwin on Twitter @hbaldwin Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



News story: UK announces £2.9m for human rights across the Commonwealth

2018-04-16T14:10:06+01:00

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon announces £2.9 million for human rights projects across the Commonwealth, with particular focus on the South Pacific and small states.UK Minister for Human Rights today announces 3 projects to support human rights across the Commonwealth, with particular focus on the South Pacific and small states. This £2.9 million work will support member states, regional organisations and human rights institutions in promoting human rights standards across the Commonwealth, with a focus on equality and adherence to international human rights obligations. Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon announced a new £1.8 million project to help improve the capacity of Pacific Commonwealth countries to deliver human rights. Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said: Human rights are the bedrock of successful societies and a fundamental Commonwealth value. The Commonwealth is at its strongest when we share our expertise and experiences through our network. Smaller countries face significant challenges in establishing and maintaining their human rights institutions. This new funding will offer valuable support to our nine Pacific Commonwealth partners as they strive to strengthen their national institutions. The funding will support human rights institutions to meet international standards and help improve governance. Women, young people, persons with disabilities, and other minority groups will all benefit. The Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project will run over the 2 years that the UK is Chair in Office of the Commonwealth (2018 to 2020). The South Pacific countries are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Lord Ahmad also announced £0.6 million to support the Commonwealth’s 31 small states. The Commonwealth small states grouping includes lower income countries and small island developing states (SIDS). Head of the Commonwealth’s Human Rights Unit Karen McKenzie, said: The UK contribution will give impetus to the Commonwealth’s work with small states in Geneva, strengthening their voices in international human rights discourse. Ultimately, it will translate into better understanding and implementation of human rights promotion and protection for all citizens. Lord Ahmad also announced £0.5 million funding to support the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as it takes over the role of the Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) for the next 2 years. Further information Follow Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on Twitter @tariqahmadbt Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



News story: Foreign Secretary announces £1.6 million for women in conflict mediation

2018-04-16T13:08:00+01:00

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announces £1.6 million to put women at the heart of conflict resolution.Championing girls’ education to promote global stability will be at the heart of UK foreign policy to positively transform the lives of women and girls in conflict. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by conflict but they are also key to its resolution. The Network of Women Mediators, will train women from across the Commonwealth with the practical skills to play an active role in resolving conflict worldwide. Today the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson has committed £1.6 million UK support to fund this groundbreaking work. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: Conflict affects whole communities, but the fact is women and girls often bear the brunt. Girls are twice as likely to be out of school as boys, and more likely to experience gender-based violence. This year one of my main focuses will be to ensure that girls in the poorest countries in the world receive at least 12 years of quality education because this is the single most powerful spur to development and progress. To end wars, build sustainable and lasting peace and create stable societies, women around the world must be able to participate in peace processes. Today’s £1.6 million will empower women across the Commonwealth to rightfully take their seat at the negotiating table. Commonwealth women who take part in the programme will work across the globe to help resolve conflict. They will also support and train up women outside the Commonwealth to enter mediation and peace processes and work with grassroots organisations to empower women mediators amplifying the impact of UK funding. Despite making up over half of the population, too few women’s voices are heard when peace agreements are being drawn up. Between 1992 and 2017 only 2% of mediators, and 5% of witnesses and signatories to major peace processes were women. However, evidence shows that when women are a part of peace agreements they are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. Further information Follow the Foreign Secretary on Twitter @BorisJohnson and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Twitter @foreignoffice and Facebook Follow the Foreign Office on Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn Media enquiries For journalists Email newsdesk@fco.gov.uk Newsdesk 020 7008 3100 [...]



Speech: UK statement to the OPCW on the use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria

2018-04-16T10:51:00+01:00

Statement by Peter Wilson, Permanent Representative at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to the OPCW Executive Council Meeting 58.Thank you Mr Chair, I am grateful to the Director General for his update on the OPCW’s investigation into the horrific chemical weapons attack on 7 April in Douma, Syria. The Technical Secretariat has once again demonstrated the dedication and professionalism of its staff, willing to deploy promptly to Douma in dangerous circumstances . They have our full support and we look forward to their report. It is imperative that the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation offer the OPCW Fact Finding Mission team their full cooperation and assistance to carry out their difficult task. This Council has had to come together, yet again, to discuss another shocking violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in Syria. Up to 75 people, including children, were killed in a despicable and barbaric attack in Douma on 7 April. The World Health Organisation has reported that 500 patients, seen by its partners in Syria, had symptoms consistent with chemical weapons exposure. The world has seen the harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths. These were innocent families who, at the time the chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking shelter underground in basements. First-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers have detailed burns to the eyes, suffocation and skin discolouration, with a chlorine-like odour surrounding the victims. As my Prime Minister said on 14 April, we are clear about who is responsible for the atrocity. A significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack. Open source accounts allege a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals, and a regime helicopter was seen above Douma on the evening of 7 April. The Opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs. Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Douma on 7 April. No other group could have carried out this attack. As this Executive Council knows well, the Syrian Regime has an abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people. Chemical weapons use has become an all too regular weapon of war in the Syrian conflict. The evidence is well known to this Council: The OPCW has recorded more than 390 allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria since the Fact Finding Mission was established in 2014 The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has found Syria responsible for using chemical weapons on four occasions between 2014-2017, including chlorine and sarin Syria has not provided the OPCW with a complete account of its chemical weapons programme. The Director General reported just last month that Syria had not provided credible evidence to account for 22 serious issues. This includes quantities of agent Syria possessed, the type of agent and the munitions used for delivery Based on the persistent pattern of behaviour, and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents, we assess it as [...]



Speech: Airstrikes show we stand up for principle and civilised values: article by Boris Johnson

2018-04-15T11:43:00+01:00

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary explains why the airstrikes on Asad's regime were rational, proportionate and justifiable.There is a very simple reason why it was right for the UK to join our closest allies in launching strikes against the Asad military machine. This is about our collective future. It is about the kind of world we want our children to grow up in. It is about – and exclusively about – whether the world should tolerate the repeated use of chemical weapons and the human suffering they cause. The problem with such weapons is not just that their effect is hideous. Anyone looking at the pictures from Eastern Ghouta can see the kind of suffering involved: the foaming at the mouth, the floppy bodies of children, and the particular terror those weapons deliberately inspire. Vile, sick, barbaric though it is to use such weapons – that is not the principal objection. These munitions are not just horrible. They are illegal. It is now centuries since humanity first recoiled against the use of poison in warfare. The French and the Holy Roman Empire were so disgusted by the use of poisoned bullets they signed a treaty to ban them in 1675. It is now almost 100 years since the great post World War One treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons – and in that period we have seen nation after nation sign up to the global consensus that this particular means of killing is evil and should be banned. Indeed, the universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the destruction of declared stockpiles, must be considered one of the great achievements of the modern world. The global community simply cannot afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening in Syria. In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of the Asad Regime – guaranteed to oversee the process. Since then the Asad Regime and Russia has made a complete mockery of that pledge. A significant body of information, including intelligence, suggests the Asad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties. Multiple accounts located a regime Mi 18 helicopter in the vicinity at the time. The opposition does not have helicopters and no other actor in the Syrian theatre is thought capable of launching a chemical strike of that scale. The only reasonable conclusion is that the regime has become so hardened and cynical that it is willing to exploit the extra potential of these weapons for removing entrenched urban resistance – in complete defiance of global disapproval and the norms of civilised behaviour. The Douma atrocity alone would be enough to demand a response. But it is not a one off. The Douma massacre is now part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Asad Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Asad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in 4 separate attacks since 2014. The UK and our allies have done everything in our power to deter the barbaric use of these weapons. The EU has imposed sanctions on key figures linked to[...]



Speech: Our military action will degrade the Syrian regime's chemical weapons use: statement by Karen Pierce

2018-04-14T21:22:00+01:00

Statement by the UK Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council session on Syria after targeted strikes to degrade Asad’s chemical weapons capability.Thank you Mr President. Mr President, these are uncertain times and today we deal with exceptional circumstance. Acting with our American and French allies in the early hours of this morning, the United Kingdom conducted coordinated, targeted and precise strikes to degrade Asad’s chemical weapons capability and deter their future use. The British Royal Air Force launched Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility some 15 miles west of Homs where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapons in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Full assessment has not yet been completed but we believe the strikes to be successful. Furthermore, none of the British, US or French aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defences and there is also no indication that Russian air defence systems were employed. Our action was a limited, targeted and effective strike. There were clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and we did everything possible, including rigorous planning, before any action was undertaken to ensure that we mitigated and minimised the impact on civilians. Together our action will significantly degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons and deter their future use. The UK Prime Minister has said we are clear about who is responsible for the atrocity of the use of chemical weapons. A significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for the attack we saw last Saturday. Some of the evidence that leads us to this conclusion is as follows: There are open source accounts alleging that a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals; Multiple open source reports claim a regime helicopter was observed above the city of Douma on the evening of 7 April. The opposition does not operate helicopters nor does it use barrel bombs; And reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Douma on 7 April. Mr President, no other group could have carried out this attack. Indeed Da’esh, for example, does not even have a presence in Douma. The Syrian regime has been killing its own people for seven years. Its use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering, is a serious crime of international concern as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and this amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity. Any state is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force for the United Kingdom is humanitarian intervention which requires three conditions to be met. Number one, that there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distre[...]



Speech: The use of chemical weapons in Syria cannot be allowed to go unchallenged

2018-04-13T21:21:00+01:00

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, to the Security Council on the Middle East situation and the use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syria.Thank you very much indeed Mr President. And thank you to the Secretary-General. Secretary-General you gave us a catalogue of danger in the Middle East, including Gaza, Yemen and Iraq. It is no disrespect to those issues, that today like other speakers, I will concentrate on Syria. The United Kingdom will be ready to put its shoulder to the wheel on those other issues when the time comes. Mr President, the situation we face today, and the reason we are in this Council today, arise wholly and solely from the use of chemical weapons on the Syrian people, [highly likely] by the Syrian regime. Not just once, Mr President, but consistently, persistently, over the past five years. The highest degree of responsibility, to quote the Russian Ambassador, is indeed what this Council, and in particular the P5, are for, with that it is our duty to uphold. Mr President, the British Cabinet met recently and they concluded that the Assad regime has a track record of the use of chemical weapons and that it is highly likely the regime is responsible for Saturday’s attack. This is a further example of the erosion of international law in relation to the use of chemical weapons, as my French and American colleagues have set out. And it is deeply concerning, but more importantly than that Mr President, the use of chemical weapons cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. The British Cabinet has agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and we will continue to work with our friends and allies to coordinate an international response to that end. Mr President, the Secretary-General mentioned the Cold War. The Cold War, of course, was bracketed by East-West cooperation. We have been on the same side as Russia. In April 1945, [Soviet Forces] liberated Vienna as part of our joint efforts to bring peace to Europe. In 1995, they passed the Dayton Accords as part of our joint efforts to bring peace and stability to Bosnia. But in 2018, they refused to work with us to bring peace to Syria. Instead, Mr President, since the first attack on Ghouta and CW use in 2013, the Joint Investigative Mechanism has ascribed two uses of mustard gas to Da’esh, three uses of chlorine to the Syrian regime and one use sarin to the Syrian regime before the latest attack. As my French colleague has set out, the UK, the US and France are members in good standing of the Chemical Weapons Convention. We are members and supporters of the OPCW and its fact-finding mission. We would have dispatched an investigative mission in the debates in this Council earlier this week, but only Russia and Bolivia blocked that. Mr President, Syria is the latest in a pernicious chronology of disregard for international law and disrespect for the international institutions that we have built together to keep us collectively safe, by Russia. This is reveal[...]



Press release: PM's Trade Envoy visits Panama

2018-04-13T20:56:00+01:00

British Embassy hosted a reception at Her Majesty's Ambassador Damion Potter's Residence with members of the national government and the business sector.

Updated: Added translation

As part of the visit of Simon Hart MP, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Trade Envoy to Panama, the British Embassy hosted a reception at the residence of British Ambassador Damion Potter with distinguished members of the national government and the business sector. This event was held to welcome him to Panama and to celebrate the close commercial ties between both nations.

Simon Hart is the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and his role is to facilitate the strengthening of trade relations between the UK and markets of particular global interest. The United Kingdom continues to be one of the most important foreign investors in Panama and the intention of the British Government is to increase interaction at the highest level between officials of both nations, to the benefit of bilateral trade relations.

UK Trade Envoys are a global network of Members of Parliament, elected from the British political spectrum, and engage with one or more markets where the British Government has identified trade and investment opportunities.

The United Kingdom is the fourth largest investor in Panama, with an investment of US$ 2.6bn in 2016. Driven by substantial investment in infrastructure and backed by its role as the logistics, commercial and banking centre of Latin America, Panama has averaged annual GDP growth of over 7% over the last decade. Many UK companies - in more than a dozen sectors - have their regional offices in Panama.

During his visit, Simon Hart met with the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela, British companies with presence in Panama and visited the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal. After completing the visit to Panama, he will be visiting Costa Rica as part of the trade mission in the region.




Speech: British Ambassador to Russia briefing on the Salisbury attack following the OPCW report: 13 April 2018

2018-04-13T19:05:00+01:00

Dr Laurie Bristow briefed the international diplomatic community on the UK government's response to the OPCW report on the chemical used in the Salisbury attack.Updated: Added translationThank you for joining me today for an update on the Salisbury incident. As you know, on 14 March, the UK concluded that the Russian state was highly likely to have carried out the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. We made this assessment on the basis of 4 conclusions: The positive identification by experts at Porton Down of the specific chemical used as a type of Novichok nerve agent The knowledge that Russia has produced this agent within the last 10 years and remains capable of doing so Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations – including in the UK, and Our assessment, based amongst other things on the statements of Russia’s leadership, that Russia views defectors as suitable targets for assassination The purpose of today’s briefing is to provide an update on the further information that has been released that supports our conclusion that the Russian state was highly likely to be responsible for the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal. I’ll start with the first of our 4 conclusions: that the Skripals were poisoned by a specific chemical – a type of Novichok nerve agent. Our identification of the chemical as one of the Novichok type was on the basis of analysis by world-leading experts at Porton Down. To ensure full transparency and strict adherence to international chemical weapons protocols, we invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to independently test these samples. Yesterday the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons published an executive summary of its findings following a visit to Salisbury by OPCW inspectors between 19 and 23 March. The report says that the analysis by 4 separate OPCW designated laboratories outside the UK, I quote, “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured 3 people”. The OPCW report released yesterday confirmed that the chemical was of high purity, with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This indicates expert production, in a controlled scientific environment. It is consistent with that the UK’s view that the substance used in Salisbury was a weapons-grade nerve agent of the Novichok type that cannot have been produced by non-state actors. Two things are key in understanding the OPCW findings: First, throughout the OPCW’s analysis, the OPCW maintained its own independent chain of custody for all samples. The samples were tested in 4 world-leading laboratories outside the UK. All drew the same conclusion as Porton Down. There is no doubt as to what was used in Salisbury. The OPCW’s analysis puts the question of identification of the nerve agent beyond doubt. Secondly, the purpose of the OPCW analysis was independently to confirm the identity o[...]



Speech: Nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Wiltshire: UK statement to the OSCE, 12 April 2018

2018-04-13T13:02:00+01:00

The Head of UK Delegation to the OSCE gave a statement to the OCSE Permanent Council on the Salisbury attack following the publication of the OPCW report.Mr Chairman, A month ago, on 15 March, I tabled at the Permanent Council the attack in Salisbury, Wiltshire, involving an undeclared, Russian developed nerve-agent. As a courtesy to participating States, I would like to update the Council on this attempted assassination that left Sergey Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a British police officer hospitalised and in a critical condition. Thankfully DS Bailey has now been discharged from hospital and the Skripals’ health is improving. A painstaking and thorough UK investigation continues, working to identify the individuals involved in carrying out this attack and to establish potential criminal liability under the UK’s 1996 Chemical Weapons Act. In accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) deployed a team to the UK to collect environmental samples and to observe the taking of biomedical samples. These samples were sent to independent OPCW designated laboratories for analysis, in order to confirm the identity of the chemical involved. The OPCW has now finalised its report, distributed it to States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and published its Executive Summary of that report. I quote: the results of analysis of biomedical samples…demonstrate the exposure of the three hospitalised individuals to this toxic chemical the results of analysis of environmental samples….confirm the presence of this toxic chemical the results of analysis…confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical and: the toxic chemical was of high purity The name and structure of that identified toxic chemical is contained in the full classified report to States Parties. Mr Chairman, I will remind the Council of the reasons for the UK government’s conclusion that it was highly likely that the Russian State was culpable for this attack. These include: identification of the Russian-developed nerve agent the knowledge that the Russian Federation has produced this undeclared agent within the last 10 years, retains the capability to produce it and has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents, it is likely, for use in assassinations Russia’s record of state sponsored assassinations statements, including by the Russian President, indicating that certain people are seen as legitimate targets Also for clarity, and for the benefit of our Russian colleagues, I will explain why we use the phrase ‘highly likely’. This is because in the UK it is for a Court of Law to deliver a final verdict on responsibility for a criminal offence. The use of an illegal nerve agent in a British city was a reckless act carried out without regard to the indiscriminate public health consequences. The UK has repeatedly asked the Russian Fede[...]