Where Brexit will leave the UK’s human rights diplomacy

Sean Molloy, Connal Mallory, New Castle University

Boris Johnson, as foreign secretary, attends the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2018. Magali Girardin/EPA

The UK has played a leading role within the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) since its creation in 2006 as the main international body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. But when the UK seeks re-election in October 2020 – a requirement for membership of the council – it’s likely to have departed from the European Union and its powers of human rights diplomacy will be on an uncertain new footing.

In recent years, Britain’s human rights diplomacy at the HRC has operated in two channels. On the one hand, the UK has been able to influence human rights directly by its own efforts, acting in its capacity as a sovereign state and through British diplomats. On the other hand, the UK has exercised influence indirectly through its membership of the EU collective process. In theory, this permits the UK to prioritise certain rights on its own, while also influencing a much broader range of human rights through the EU bloc. But by leaving the EU, it will be left to go solo.

This raises questions about which rights the UK will prioritise and which rights will be sidelined diplomatically without the ability to rely on the EU to push them.

Our recent research with our colleague Rhona Smith examined the possible consequences of Brexit on the UK’s human rights diplomacy. We looked at the UK’s engagement as an EU member state between 2006 and 2018, by examining participation in what are called “interactive dialogues”, where UN-appointed experts are questioned in relation to a designated theme or country.

We found that the UK is less active and considerably more selective than the EU in its participation in these dialogues.

UK priorities

We found that in some cases, the UK and the EU are very similar in their involvement in interactive dialogues. For instance, both the UK and the EU are regular participants in discussions with special mandate holders for such countries as the Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Iran.

When looking at themes, the UK tends to participate in dialogues on civil and political rights for certain, specified groups. So of the 12 dialogues on violence against women across the 38 session of the HRC that we studied, the UK participated in nine, and five out of a total of seven dialogues on discrimination against women. The UK also has a high participation rate of over 80% with dialogues relating to terrorism and freedom of expression and association, among others.


But there are some countries and thematic human rights issues on which the UK’s participation is either non-existent or falls far below participation rates of the EU. We found four countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cuba, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Burundi – where British participation in country dialogues was minimal.

There are also a large number of themes with which the UK rarely engages, including dialogues with groups such as indigenous peoples, the rights of migrants, the sale and exploitation of children and people of African descent.

As the graph below shows, the UK rarely participates in discussions on social, economic and cultural rights, such as the right to health, education and housing. This can be contrasted with the EU where participation rates rarely fell below 90% across the 38 sessions of the council.

An opportunity

Should the UK continue to focus on a narrow subset of rights and countries after Brexit, it’s unlikely to be able to contribute to the shape and development of aspects of the international human rights project outside of these areas. Not only will this diminish the UK’s place as a leading promoter and advocate on human rights, it also offers less liberal and progressive countries the opportunity to push back.

One way the UK could prevent a backslide in its status as a human rights leader would be to continue to align with the EU. Despite the fallout from the EU referendum, the UK and EU still agree more than they disagree in respect to international human rights law.

Another route would be for the UK to use Brexit as an opportunity to expand its human rights diplomacy beyond its current list of priorities, which include modern slavery, freedom or religion or belief and freedom of expression. It could also treat Brexit as a chance to invest more in human rights diplomacy. A conscious political decision to be more proactive across all engagement at the UN would not only ensure Britain’s ongoing influence as a human rights champion, but also retain its stature as a global power while its reputation transitions as it leaves the EU.

If attention isn’t paid to both the UK’s role in global diplomacy and human rights issues after Brexit, the consequences for both could be profound.

Credit: The Conversation

Mondelēz International Invests $6 Million in Reading, UK

Mondelēz International announced today it is investing $6 million in its Reading Science Centre in the UK to support the development of new chocolate, biscuit and candy products, serving over 150 different countries.

Rob Hargrove, Executive Vice President, Research, Development and Quality

The Reading Science Centre is currently home to over 290 scientists, chemists, food technologists and other specialists. The new investment will result in the creation of 50 highly skilled food science and engineering jobs over the next five years.

The announcement is aligned with the company’s strategy to develop a global network of state-of-the-art technical hubs strategically positioned around the world. These technical centres support the company’s growth-oriented innovation agenda as they improve speed, efficiency and effectiveness, while enabling the company to address evolving consumer needs more quickly. The new Reading investment comes on top of the company’s previously announced global investment of $65 million in its eleven technical centers around the world.

“Our mission at Mondelēz International is simple – to offer consumers the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way. And our global Technical Centre network is crucial to support this,” said Rob Hargrove, Executive Vice President, Research, Development and Quality. “Reading is our largest global R&D centre dedicated to research work and, as such, it’s a central hub for food testing and analysis for all our product categories. This new investment will enable us to further accelerate our understanding of the science behind our products.”

Louise Stigant, UK Managing Director at Mondelēz International said: “Over the last seven years, we’ve invested over $25 million into our research centres in Reading and Birmingham and they play a vital role in developing products for consumers, not just in the UK, but across the world. This extra investment will allow for the creation of 50 highly skilled jobs. It will also help accelerate our growth strategy, offering innovative chocolate, biscuit and candy products that meet the changing needs of consumers, while maintaining a competitive edge in the markets of tomorrow.”

The Reading Science Centre is part of a global network of eleven technical centres in key locations that enable greater effectiveness, improved efficiency and accelerated project delivery. These locations are: Curitiba, Brazil; Suzhou, China; Thane, India; Mexico City, Mexico; East Hanover, New Jersey; Wroclaw, Poland; Jurong, Singapore; Bournville, United Kingdom; Reading, United Kingdom; Saclay, France and Munich, Germany.

Mali: Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi transferred to UK prison facility to serve sentence

The Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that  Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi has been transferred to Scotland, United Kingdom, to serve his sentence of imprisonment.

Al Mahdi was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for
intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu

On 27 September 2016, Trial Chamber VIII found Al Mahdi guilty of the war crime consisting in intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012 and sentenced him to nine years’ imprisonment. He had pleaded guilty at the beginning of the trial. 

The transfer of Mr Al Mahdi was not immediately announced while the Court considered a number of matters related to his safety and security.

The Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on Friday that on 29 August 2018, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi was transferred to Scotland, United Kingdom, to serve his sentence of imprisonment.

The ICC relies on state support at the enforcement of sentence stage and is highly appreciative of the voluntary cooperation of the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments in respect of Mr Al Mahdi.

Al Mahdi was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment on 27 September 2016, by Trial Chamber VIII, for the war crime of intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012.

Al Mahdi was the first accused to make an admission of guilt at trial before the ICC. He has expressed remorse for his conduct and apologised to victims.

President Bio Visits Horton Training Academy, Assures Commitment to Capacity Development of Military Personnel

President Julius Maada Bio has paid a working visit to the Horton Military Academy, managed by the International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT), where he assured of his commitment to developing the capacity of servicemen.

As the oversight body to the military academy, ISSAT strives to contribute to improving security and justice as a means to help prevent violent conflict, build sustainable peace and establish a conducive environment for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

President Bio said he was excited about the work of the military academy in Sierra Leone, saying that the institution had done remarkably well in training professional military men and women in the country. He mentioned that his government was committed to improving the capacity of servicemen, which would enable them to fit for purpose even after their tenure in the service.

“We are delighted with the work of ISSAT and the Academy. We need such an institution to develop the intellectual capacity of our officers whom we need to prepare in a way that they are able to easily move into the civilian culture by offering them quality training which will be helpful even outside the military. My government will work with ISSAT to expand the capacity of Horton to reflect a proper institution of training for our personnel,” he said.

Chief Instructor at the Academy, Captain Philip Joseph Schenks, said the Academy was working in line with the President’s vision for human capital development by embarking on capacity development for servicemen. He added that the institution did not only offer military training but also gave theoretical training in other fields, especially in management.

Captain Schenks further disclosed that the Academy, which is the think-tank for professional military training in the country, was working with the University of Sierra Leone to review its programmes to conform to other institutions around the world. He maintained that when given the required training, military personnel would develop professional mindsets that would enable them to be conscious of their duties and responsibilities.

Chief Superintendent Helen Williams, attached to the ISSAT Police Wing, said they were working in partnership with the Sierra Leone Police to improve transparency and professionalism and to enhance community confidence. She also lauded President Bio’s commitment to ending rape and domestic violence in households across the country.

Established in 2003, the Horton Academy is the highest military training institution in Sierra Leone. The institution is now recognised in Africa and the sub-region as a training school for military personnel. Affiliated with the United Kingdom Defense Academy, the Horton Academy is funded by the United Kingdom.

World leaders pledge US$1 billion to transform health and nutrition of world’s poorest women, children and adolescents


The Global Financing Facility (GFF) in Support of Every Woman Every Child on Tuesday announced US$1.005 billion in contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Burkina Faso, Canada, Côte d’Ivoire the European Commission, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Laerdal Global Health, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom.

This will help the GFF partnership on the pathway toward expanding to as many as 50 countries with the greatest health and nutrition needs and contribute to saving and improving millions of lives by 2030. The event today was an important milestone toward the goal of raising as much as US$2 billion to expand to a total of 50 countries; the GFF is expecting additional pledges from new and existing investors who are considering new multi-year commitments.

The GFF is a catalyst for health financing that is helping countries to transform how they invest in women, children and adolescents because for too long, their health and nutrition has been chronically and persistently de-prioritized and underfunded—resulting in the preventable deaths of 5 million women and children every year. The GFF helps countries in three specific ways: developing an investment case and implementation plan prioritizing reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition and a strong primary health care system;  strengthening a country-led platform that aligns all key stakeholders around a prioritized health and nutrition plan; and  working with countries to mobilize and coordinate the financial resources needed to accelerate progress for the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach regions.

“Today there is great hope that the world’s poorest countries can build healthy, vibrant futures where no woman, child or youth is left behind. The GFF partnership is effective and efficient—working with countries to develop the capacity to build and sustain the health systems their women and children need to survive and thrive,” said Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocates.

More than 2 billion people live in countries that spend less than $25 per capita on health. This is less than a third of what is needed for countries to provide basic, life-saving health services for their people. Through working with the GFF, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and other GFF-supported countries have shown that it is possible for all countries to improve their future and invest in the most vulnerable people in their societies by increasing investment in health. It also demonstrates that generous, but relatively small financial contributions can—when aligned and spent catalytically and efficiently in support of national investment cases—have exponential impact by mobilizing additional financing and saving millions of lives.

Ten new investors—Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, the European Commission, Germany, Japan, Laerdal Global Health, the Netherlands, Qatar and an anonymous donor—have joined since the launch of the Global Financing Facility replenishment. They join existing funders the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, MSD for Mothers, Norway, and the United Kingdom to fund the GFF to improve the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

– US$1 billion pledged to the GFF Trust Fund in Oslo today is expected to link to an additional US$7.5 billion in IDA/IBRD resources for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition.

– Burkina Faso reaffirmed its commitment to allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improve health; Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing its health budget 15% annually; and Nigeria recommitted to investing US$150 million per year from its budget to sustainably finance health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

– US$1 billion will help the GFF partnership on the pathway toward expanding to as many as 50 countries with the greatest needs, to transform how health and nutrition are financed. Alongside other global health initiatives, this can contribute to saving and improving millions of lives by 2030.

In Oslo, Burkina Faso reaffirmed its commitment to allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improve health; Côte d’Ivoire committed to increasing its health budget 15% annually; and Nigeria recommitted to investing US$150 million per year from its budget to sustainably finance health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents. Increasing domestic resources is an integral focus of GFF-supported countries.

“The GFF is about country-ownership—working with countries to set priorities, and drive domestic resource mobilization. These are the GFF’s great strengths. It makes the most compelling case for why countries must lead and put their own money on the table, and it reinforces the prioritization of resource allocation for basic social sectors, particularly the health sector,” said Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso.

Donors and countries today responded to an urgent need for countries to transform health financing in order to accelerate progress on universal health coverage and to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of ending preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths and improving the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

“In 2018, all mothers should be able to protect their own health, and the health of their babies and children. But each day, 830 women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth and 450,000 children under five die needlessly every month,” said Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. “The GFF brings bold new thinking that aims to end this injustice through smart interventions and coordinated finance that can transform the health, wellbeing and life-chances of women, children and adolescents in developing countries.”

Today the World Bank, which hosts the GFF, announced that in just the last three years, US$482 million in funding from the GFF Trust Fund had been linked to US$3.4 billion in funding from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The US$1.005 billion pledged to the GFF Trust Fund in Oslo today is expected to link to an additional US$7.5 billion in IDA/IBRD resources for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition.

Additionally, in partnership with the GFF, the World Bank announced that the World Bank Treasury had launched a series of Sustainable Development Bonds to raise awareness among investors of the significant and long-lasting benefits of investing in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents, and that these have raised US$935 million since June 2018. These bonds bring private capital into the IBRD financing pool and serve as an entry point for investors to become aware of the growing opportunities in sustainable investments. To reduce barriers for countries to access these funds, the GFF provides co-financing and loan buy-down grants that enable governments to catalyze public and private funds for investing in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents.

A recent peer-reviewed study published in The BMJ Global Health—reflecting the combined efforts that contribute to bending the curve on maternal, newborn and child mortality rates, including by the GFF; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; UNAIDS; FP2020; and other partners—estimated that countries can save as many as 35 million lives by 2030 if global health investment continues to grow at current rates and if other global health initiatives hit targets, and if the GFF partnership can extend its reach and help all 50 countries with the greatest health and nutrition needs. It also estimated that the GFF Trust Fund financing had the potential to mobilize as much as an additional US$50-75 billion for women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition, 70% of which would be from countries’ domestic resources.

“Healthy women, children and adolescents contribute to a virtuous cycle,” said Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “With health comes the ability to go to school and learn, which helps people prosper as adults, who are then able to raise empowered children who continue the cycle. That’s why the GFF is such a great investment.”

With the commitments announced today, a total of $US1.005 billion in commitments has been raised for the 2019-2023 replenishment period, which aims to raise US$2 billion in total to expand the GFF to reach a total of 50 countries.

“Today we are on the cusp of transformative change in global health when no woman, child or adolescent will be left behind. The GFF partnership is helping countries to transform the futures of their people by embedding the prioritization of health culturally, politically and financially. Supporting leaders around the world to make these changes is vital and we are thrilled today to have the support of so many to make this vision a reality,” said Mariam Claeson, Director of the GFF.

The GFF was founded in 2015 by the World Bank, the governments of Canada and Norway, the United Nations and other partners. As a pathfinder for innovative financing of the SDGs the GFF is helping to address the unfinished agenda of women, children and adolescents’ health and nutrition and to close the financing gap.

Donors pledge over US$15 million to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies

Donors have pledged an additional US$15.3 million to support quick action by the World Health Organization to tackle disease outbreaks and humanitarian health crises through its emergency response fund in 2018, the Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE).

WHO   Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced contributions ranging from US$20,000 to US$5.6 million at a conference hosted at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday (March 26) – increasing CFE funding levels to US$23 million.

This will enable the rapid financing of health response operations in the coming months – filling that critical gap between the moment the need for an emergency response is identified and the point at which funds from other sources can be released. WHO will seek to secure further donor commitments to achieve its US$100 million funding target for the 2018/2019 biennium.

First-time pledges were made by Denmark, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malta and Norway. The UK has increased its overall commitment to the fund from US$10.5 million to US$16 million, making it the second largest donor after Germany.

“For the UK, the CFE is an extraordinarily good investment. We are convinced it has a vital and unique role to play in the global effort to prevent and mitigate health emergencies. Today we pledge an additional £4 million (US$5.6 million) for the Contingency Fund and pledge to work with WHO to better profile to a wider audience the huge value it brings. The G7 and the G20 share the UK’s desire for an adequately funded CFE. We urge our fellow Member States and donors to heed WHO’s call and to step forward to provide financial support for the Contingency Fund for Emergencies,” said Alistair Burt, UK Minister of State for International Development.

The CFE’s ability to release funds within 24 hours sets it apart from complementary financing mechanisms that have different funding criteria and slower disbursement cycles. While other funding mechanisms allow for the scale up of response operations, none are designed to deliver an immediate and early response. The CFE has demonstrated that a small investment can save lives and dramatically reduce the direct costs of controlling outbreaks and responding to emergencies.

“Without the CFE, recent outbreaks of Ebola in DRC, Marburg virus Disease in Uganda and pneumonic plague in Madagascar could have gotten out of control. By acting decisively and quickly, we can stop disease outbreaks and save thousands of lives for a fraction of the cost of a late response. The CFE has proven its value as a global public good that should be underwritten by long term investment,” said Dr Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director General for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Since 2015, the CFE has enabled WHO, national authorities and health partners to get quick starts on more than 50 disease outbreaks, humanitarian crises and natural disasters, allocating more than US$46 million. It has supported the rapid deployment of experts; better disease detection and reporting; the delivery of essential medicines, supplies and personal protective equipment; the strengthening of surveillance and vaccination; improved access to water, sanitation and health services; community engagement; and more.

Madagascar’s health minister Dr Lalatiana Andriamanarivo called for increased support for the CFE, saying it was instrumental to containing an unprecedented outbreak of pneumonic plague that rapidly spread across the island nation in 2017.

“We call on our international partners to support the Contingency Fund for Emergencies to enable WHO to respond to outbreaks everywhere across the world, and to reinforce national capacities to manage health emergencies in the future,” said Dr Andriamanarivo.

In 2017, the CFE provided nearly US$21 million for operations in 23 countries, with most allocations released within 24 hours. Over half (56%) of allocations funded responses in the WHO Africa region, with 28% going to responses in countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and 11% to the South East Asia Region.

Over 10,000 Refugees Resettled in UK Under Flagship Scheme

The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).


Syrian children finish pre-departure orientation sessions in Istanbul just before being resettled in the UK. © IOM

The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.

The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.

Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.

“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”

“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.

The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.

“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”

IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.

“The UK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,” said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”

“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”

The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.


“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed.  Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.

A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.

“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.”

Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Voluntary Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.


Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.