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.
Index of 'Focus International' papers 1995-1999
A complete Subject Index of all Focus International papers issued between 1995-1999 is available in PDF format (356K). Copies of papers that are not available on the FCO website may be requested by completing our feedback form.
BRITAIN AND ANTARCTICA (14/03/00)
In May 2000, it will be 40 years since Britain signed the
Antarctic Treaty. The objectives of the Treaty include
ensuring that Antarctica is used for peaceful purposes and
promoting scientific cooperation. Britain is a leading player
in scientific and environmental work in the region.
POST-HOLOCAUST ISSUES (09/03/00)
In response to widespread public interest in the fate of gold looted by the Nazis both from countries and individuals before and during the Second
World War, Britain hosted an international Conference on Nazi Gold in
London from 2-4 December 1997. Subsequent developments, highlighted in this paper, demonstrate the international community’s hope
that, through education and remembrance, future generations may
continue to realise the relevance of the Holocaust and that all may be
committed to oppose racism, anti-Semitism, victimisation and genocide.
THE MODERN COMMONWEALTH AND THE UNITED KINGDOM (21/02/00)
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in
Durban, South Africa, from 12-15 November 1999 provided
an opportunity to reflect on how the modern Commonwealth
has changed over the last 50 years and to look back on past
achievements. More importantly, it provided an opportunity
for Heads of Government to begin to consider what role the
Commonwealth can most effectively play in the global
community of the 21st century.
HONG KONG: BRITAIN'S CONTINUING COMMITMENT (07/02/00)
Two and a half years have passed since Britain transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to China (at midnight on 30 June 1997). This was an unprecedented event, the culmination of over 15 years of negotiations with China to secure Hong Kong’s stability, prosperity and way of life after the return of sovereignty. Developments in what is now the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (HKSAR) since the handover have largely been encouraging. Although the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group, which was established in 1985 to negotiate the handover of Hong Kong, was formally wound up on 1 January 2000, Britain’s interest in Hong Kong has not diminished. Britain remains politically and morally committed to the people of Hong Kong – and is building on its long-standing ties to forge new partnerships for the future.
THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD (26/01/00)
On 11 November 1999, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention, which was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly on 20 November 1989, is the most broadly ratified UN treaty. Opened for signature on 26 January 1990 it was signed by 61 countries on the same day. The Convention came into force on 2 September 1990, and has now been ratified by all but two of the 193 Member States.
THE 27th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT (17/01/00)
The 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
took place in October/November 1999, and adopted a Plan of Action for
the next four years. Britain is a firm supporter of the Movement and its
work in both humanitarian action and promotion of international
humanitarian law, and took an active part in the Conference.
BRITAIN’S PARLIAMENTARY COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA (11/11/99)
The aim of the British Government’s programme of
technical cooperation with the countries of Central and
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, (known as the
Know How Fund) is to support the countries of the region
during their transition to fully fledged market economies
and pluralist democracies while seeking to ensure that the
benefits of transition are sustainable and spread though all
levels of society.
EAST TIMOR: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND (20/10/99)
'The people of East Timor voted clearly, conclusively for independence,
and independence is what we are committed to giving them.... I have
stressed that Britain will want to play its part, contributing to both the
administration and the troops on the ground, to make sure that we do
deliver that freedom which the people of East Timor want.' - British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook,
in radio interview in New York, 22 September 1999.
MONEY LAUNDERING (23/09/99)
Experts estimate that around $500,000 million of 'dirty
money' enters the international capital market every year.
This poses a growing global threat, and the measures to
counter it have become the focus of an intense international
effort. Britain takes the threat very seriously, not least because
the City of London is a major international financial centre.
BRITAIN AND CHINA: A GROWING PARTNERSHIP (20/09/99)
Relations between Britain and China have grown closer and
more wide-ranging in recent years. The warmth of the
relationship will be highlighted by the State Visit of
President Jiang Zemin to Britain – the first ever by a
Chinese leader – which takes place from 19-22 October 1999.
This paper outlines some of the most important aspects of
THE EXPLORATION AND PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE (15/09/99)
The key objective of the Third UN Conference on the
Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, held in July
1999, was to create a blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer
space in the 21st century, with the emphasis on increased
international cooperation. Britain took an active part in the
Conference, and is already involved in several international
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).