'HUMAN RIGHTS - A PRIORITY OF BRITAIN'S FOREIGN POLICY'
The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, gave a speech on 28 March on human rights as a priority of Britain's foreign policy. He stressed the Government's commitment, both in innovations in human rights and its partnership with NGOs. Mr Cook addressed the issues where the Government wanted to see further change - in controlling the trade in small arms, and in the situations in Burma and China. He then identified three priorities for reform which could strengthen the capacity of the international community to promote human rights - UN reform, reform in the Commonwealth, and reaching a consensus on humanitarian intervention. The Foreign Secretary concluded, 'For too many real people, the loss of human rights is a highly personal matter of genuine suffering... they are the victims of human rights abuse... those are the people to whom we owe it to keep up the partnership between us that ensures human rights must remain a priority of Britain's foreign policy'.
'THE NEW UN AGENDA: CONFLICT PREVENTION AND PEACEKEEPING'
FCO Minister of State, John Battle made a speech on 28 March on the new UN agenda for conflict prevention and peacekeeping. He began by explaining why the Brahimi review of UN peacekeeping had been required, 'The principles for dealing with conflict are much the same, but the scale differs widely, and it was the problem of coordinating and organising the huge-scale operations required by the UN that led to the review'. Mr Battle discussed the operational recommendations and noted the contribution of British conflict prevention funds, now co-ordinated across Whitehall, in Angola, Indonesia and the Philippines. He concluded by outlining the ideal for UN peacekeeping, and added, 'We have been set on the path of doing peacekeeping better by Brahimi. The next steps are for all Member States to engage in the process of reform. It is not a task beyond our practical imagination'.
ENTRY CLEARANCE MODERNISATION
The Government will invest 7.2 million pounds from the Capital Modernisation Fund over the next three years in the entry clearance (visa) service. Using new technologies, this will help deliver a faster, more effective and efficient service, provide the option of completing, submitting and tracking visa applications electronically, and create a centralised entry clearance reference system.
UK RATIFIES EUROPEAN CHARTER FOR REGIONAL OR MINORITY LANGUAGES
The UK has formally ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Minister for Europe, Keith Vaz, said, 'Britain has entered into a binding commitment to protect and preserve Welsh, Scottish-Gaelic, Irish, Scots and Ulster-Scots as an essential part of our cultural heritage'.
In addition to their regular official and parliamentary business, FCO Ministers have the following public engagements...
FCO Daily Bulletin...