What is 'Focus International'?
'Focus International' (formerly known as 'Background Briefs') is a series of papers intended to provide accurate and balanced information on topics of current international interest. Their scope is wide ranging and includes:
- topics currently on the international agenda, such as international conferences, areas of conflict and human rights abuses in certain countries;
- issues of wide and long-term interest, including the environment, world trade, development issues and drug trafficking.
Distributed and used throughout the world, 'Focus International' papers have a particularly helpful role to play in circumstances where there are limited local resources for research.
Some 'Focus International' papers are translated into other languages. (Please see individual summaries for details.) Foreign language versions will normally appear on the website a little later than the English version.
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These papers are currently posted on the web site in the Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document Format) file format, which preserves the exact layout of the documents' pages as they are transmitted across the Internet. To view or print them, you will require the free Adobe Acrobat reader software which may be downloaded from the Adobe web site.
How can I find out if a new 'Focus International' paper becomes available?
As part of the personalisation function, you can register your interest in 'Focus International' with the web site. When a new paper is added to the collection, you will receive an email 'alert' message advising you of its availability.
THE COLOGNE DEBT INITIATIVE (19/08/99)
Britain has long been a driving force in international efforts
to reduce the debt burden on the world’s poorest and most
indebted countries. The latest initiative, agreed by the Group
of Seven (G7) at its Summit meeting in Cologne, in June
1999, will enhance these countries’ prospects for a lasting
exit from their debt problems.
KOSOVO CHRONOLOGY: MARCH 1998 - MARCH 1999 (02/08/99)
'We the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group countries,
together with representatives of the European Commission and
Office of the High Representative, met in London on 9 March to
discuss the increasingly tense situation in Kosovo, Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia, and the unacceptable use of force over
recent days. The Balkans region has seen too much bloodshed in
recent years for the international community to stand aside.'
- Statement on Kosovo, Contact Group, London, 9 March 1998.
GIBRALTAR: PARTNERSHIP FOR PROSPERITY (18/06/99)
The people of Gibraltar, a narrow peninsula of 6 sq km connected by an isthmus to the south of Spain, have developed a strong sense of identity during the time that the territory has been under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom (UK). For over 200 years, Gibraltar was a garrison town dependent for its livelihood on a large British military presence, in recent years under the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Today Gibraltar is undergoing a process of transition, as the military presence has been significantly reduced, and the Government of Gibraltar is actively seeking to diversify the territory’s economy. The British Government, committed to the interests and prosperity of the people of Gibraltar, is helping to achieve this aim.
NATO’S FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY SUMMIT (16/06/99)
NATO’s 50th anniversary Summit took place in Washington from 23-25 April 1999, against the background of the Kosovo campaign. The Summit was significant for four major achievements – sending a clear message to Belgrade about Kosovo; approval of a
new strategic concept which records NATO’s role today; furthering the European defence initiative launched by the British Prime Minister and the French President in December
1998; and the decision to form a security forum with the other countries of south-eastern Europe. Other important work carried out at the Summit included discussions held on
enlargement, on relations with Russia, Ukraine and NATO’s other Euro-Atlantic Partners, a decision to enhance the Mediterranean Dialogue and the launching of an initiative to
counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT (06/05/99)
The United Nations General Assembly will meet in
a Special Session (UNGASS) from 30 June – 2 July 1999
to review the implementation of goals agreed at
the International Conference on Population and
Development, held in Cairo in 1994. Although progress
has been made in the last five years, the international
community is particularly concerned about the
continuing high rate of maternal mortality, and the
spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
ENLARGEMENT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (28/04/99)
Thirteen countries have made applications to join the European Union. Successful enlargement of the EU will enhance peace, democracy, stability and prosperity in a continent which has been subject to an unnatural and cruel division. This new document in the 'Focus International' series (revised in April 1999) answers many key questions about the enlargement process.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (23/04/99)
Britain is a strong supporter of an International Criminal Court (ICC), and played a
leading role in the Rome Conference which adopted the Statute of the ICC on 17 July 1998.
Britain is one of 81 countries to have signed the Statute, which will come into force once it has
been ratified by 60 States: Britain intends to be one of those first 60.
BURMA: TEN YEARS OF REPRESSION (03/03/99)
Before the Second World War, Burma was a prosperous country recognised worldwide as a leading exporter of rice, timber and minerals. Rangoon University had a high reputation in the region. When Burma became independent in 1948, there was great optimism and hope for the future, and throughout most of the period from 1948-1962, the country enjoyed freedom and parliamentary democracy. Since 1962, however, Burma has been under continuous military rule. But without the restoration of democracy, FCO Minister Derek Fatchett said in October 1998, Burma will not be able to come back in from the cold of international isolation.
IRAQ: SANCTIONS AND THE 'OIL FOR FOOD' AGREEMENT (23/02/99)
Sanctions were imposed on Iraq in response to its illegal invasion and
occupation of Kuwait in 1990. United Nations (UN) Security Council
Resolution 661 of August 1990 is the principal Resolution which prohibits
exports from Iraq and imports by Iraq. Food, medicine and other supplies for
essential civilian needs are not covered by the import ban. Sanctions are still in place because Iraq has not yet fulfilled the obligations imposed on it by the UN.
PROGRESS TOWARDS GENDER EQUALITY (23/02/99)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, makes
clear that human rights apply equally to all people irrespective of their race, religion, political opinion or sex. Yet, just over 50 years later, although some progress has been made, millions of women are still denied even the most basic human rights.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: PROGRESS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY (27/01/99)
For the second time since the war in the former Yugoslavia ended in 1995,
nationwide elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12/13 September 1998. The elections, held at State, Entity, Cantonal and (in a few cases) municipal level, were run under international supervision. The next set of elections, to be held in 1999, at
the municipal level, will be run with less international involvement.
PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AT SEA (12/01/99)
Modern piracy is a real and growing problem. It is the responsibility of governments, industry and the relevant
international organisations to take all possible measures to tackle the problem and reduce the risk to world shipping and international trade.
THE NUCLEAR ENVIRONMENT IN NORTHWEST RUSSIA (01/12/98)
There is concern about the condition of civilian nuclear power plants in
North-West Russia and about lack of plans for dealing with spent fuel from
nuclear-powered warships and icebreakers. But the overwhelming nuclear environmental problem in this area concerns nuclear waste and spent fuel from naval submarines stationed off the Kola Peninsula.
ASPECTS OF UKRAINE'S EXTERNAL RELATIONS (18/11/98)
Since achieving independence in 1991, Ukraine has emphasised her European identity and her desire to participate in European institutions, while retaining her non-aligned status. And relations with Russia, her largest trading partner, remain of key importance.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAQ (17/11/98)
Iraq's human rights record, long notorious as one of the worst in the world, includes the use by the Iraqi authorities of weapons of mass destruction against their own people, summary executions and systematic torture. The UN Security Council and UN Commission on Human Rights have condemned the repression of the civilian population, but Iraq continues to flout Resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly and to ignore international human rights commitments.