Clarifications of UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond

On the occasion of the celebration of the international Human Rights Day on December 10th, 2015, the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, published an op-ed article in The Independent entitled ‘Promoting human rights is not about who can shout the loudest’. The article is aimed at explaining and defending UK’s human rights policy, in the face of criticism from the Parliament and the press.

British Foreign Secretary
Philip Hammond

The Minister stressed his country’s strong commitment to the protection of human rights, which he said is being approached in three ways:

“First, we are focusing on efforts which get tangible results … Quiet and continued engagement behind the scenes, nurturing a relationship and not being afraid to raise testing issues in private can sometimes achieve surprising results; lecturing people in public doesn’t always work, and can sometimes prove counter-productive”.

He added that “Just because the British Government isn’t shouting about an issue from the rooftops, doesn’t mean we aren’t assiduously pursuing a case in private. It will depend on how best we believe we can achieve the success or shift in circumstances that we seek”. The Minister cited the success of this approach in resolving the case of Karl Andree who was sentenced to prison and lashing, but was freed when the British Government convinced Riyadh to release him.

Minister Hammond explained the second approach by saying that “we make most progress on human rights around the world when our approach appeals to others’ enlightened self-interest and is sensitive to their culture and history. In short, we have to persuade countries and governments that respecting human rights will be beneficial to them”.

The third approach is based on building the capacity of FCO staff in the field of human rights. According to Minister Hammond, human rights is no longer the preserve of just a few specialised staff or experts within the FCO but is the responsibility of all British diplomats. “I have ensured that human rights sit within the everyday work of the Foreign Office… Human rights expertise is an important part of the training our staff receive”, wrote Hammond.