BHRC submissions to the Foreign Affairs Committee on two inquiries into the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have been published by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The first inquiry, whose oral hearings took place on 12 June, involved a review of the human rights work of the FCO. In its submission, BHRC raised concern that knowledge and expertise is not harnessed effectively in partnership and that as a consequence there are missed opportunities, impacting on the sustainability and long-term impact of the work of both the FCO and BHRC. Although the submission praised the long-standing, productive relationship between BHRC and the embassies and FCO representatives oversees, it highlighted that resource limitations have hampered effective partnerships and policy development, finding that the processes and procedures are often ad hoc and can be difficult to navigate effectively. As a result, BHRC’s relationship with the FCO in the UK currently is inadequate owing in part the high turnover of desk officers and poor handover. There is a loss of expertise as highly experienced individuals are re-deployed to areas often outside of the human rights field.
In particular, BHRC was concerned about the lack of engagement by the FCO on Bahrain. In April 2018, BHRC requested a meeting with the desk officer in order to discuss the clemency petition and the cases of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s family members and of Nabeel Rajab. The cases related to fundamental human rights involving the death penalty and torture as well as wider issues around human rights training in Bahrain. The FCO Gulf Team refused to meet, choosing only to reply by email.
The second inquiry, whose oral hearings are scheduled to take place on 17 July, focuses on how the FCO develops and maintains the skills its staff need for the effective delivery of UK priorities. BHRC raised concern that the perception at the very least is that human rights is becoming less of a priority and that this is reflected within the revised priorities/themes, the reporting by the FCO and the turnover and loss of specialism within the FCO as regards staff. Specifically, the submission discussed the engagement from the FCO with BHRC (external skilled personnel) to be ad hoc and on occasion, falling below that experienced from other countries.
You can read BHRC’s submission to the inquiry into the FCO’s human rights work here.
You can read BHRC’s submission to the inquiry into the FCOs Skills here.