This year it will be 65 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Open any newspaper or news website today and you find depressingly many and varied examples of continuing breaches of those universal rights in countries around the world.
Advancing respect for universal human rights is a priority for UK, and EU, foreign policy. For that reason, every year the Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes a Human Rights Report. The Report covers our global human rights priorities and countries of concern. On 15 April our Foreign Secretary William Hague launched the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012.
If you follow the Embassy on Twitter or Facebook or read my last blog you will know how the UK as G8 President is prioritising the issue of tackling rape and sexual violence in conflict. This year there is a new section on the Preventing of Sexual Violence Initiative in the Report.
At the launch event the Foreign Secretary was joined by two guest speakers; Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Human Rights Council special Rapporteur on Iran, who shared his insight into the work of the UN and Madeleine Rees from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a member of the PSVI steering board spoke more widely about the violence against women, including sexual violence.
We want to know what you think too. On the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy homepage you can submit your comments on this important issue.
20 March, as well as being the Spring Equinox, was budget day in the UK.
As in other European countries, the UK economy has been affected by the chill of the eurozone’s problem and the long winter of the international financial crisis.
Against this backdrop, our government has announced several new measures to stimulate recovery. More details on the HM Treasury website.
• Reduction in the main rate of corporation tax (currently 24%) by an additional 1% to 20% by April 2015, the joint lowest rate in the G20.
• Simplifying the corporation tax system to a single rate.
• Boosting innovation by increasing R & D tax credits and reducing corporation tax rate on profits from patents to 10%
• Plans to increase spending on infrastructure by £3bn a year by 2015.
• Implement Lord Heseltine’s recommendations including the creation of a single local growth fund, to attract international investment.
• £1.6bn to support investment in 11 key sectors through the new industrial strategies from the Department for Business.
• Investing £5.4bn in new housing schemes to encourage buyers and increase access to mortgages, and support the UK’s construction sector.
• To take forward two Carbon Capture Storage projects to the detailing planning and design stage. This represents the next step in the £1 billion CCS commercialisation programme.
It was an honour to attend the beautiful and moving funeral service for Princess Lilian, at Slottskyrkan on Saturday.
It was a service with a strong British flavour, with the Palace Choir singing Vaughan Williams’ For All the Saints and a wonderful choral arrangement of Parry’s Jerusalem.
The congregation sang Abide with Me (in English) and Amazing Grace (in Swedish). At the end a lone piper played Auld Lang Syne in the hushed chapel.
Representatives of the British community, including from societies of which Princess Lilian was patron, were invited to the service. Many more lined the streets of central Stockholm, with many thousands of Swedes, as the cortege made its way to the Royal burial ground north of the city. It’s clear the Princess had a special place in the hearts of people in Sweden.
Unlike my predecessors I never had the privilege of meeting Princess Lilian, but, like others, I have been moved by the story of her and Prince Bertil’s life together.
She clearly meant a great deal to many in the British community here and we plan a memorial service at the English Church in due course.