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Late last year, the UN General Assembly decided to make March 3 World Wildlife Day.
On this day in 1973, the UN adopted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, affirming the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being.
For the UK, a particular focus has been the sharp increase in demand for illegal wildlife products. This has accelerated in the last decade. Rhino poaching has increased 5000% between 2007 and 2012, and since 2004 the Central Africa region has lost two-thirds of its elephant population. The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct last year.
That’s why my government took the initiative to convene world leaders from over forty countries for an Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference held in London last month.
Chaired by UK Foreign Secretary Hague and attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the conference sought to secure commitment by key states to take actions to help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime.
Conference outcomes are summarised in the London Declaration. As part of that leaders agreed to:
- renounce the commercial international trade in elephant ivory until such time it is agreed that elephants are no longer threatened by poaching;
- renounce the use of products from animals threatened with extinction; and
- adopt legislation that made wildlife trafficking a “serious crime” in the context of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
These countries, supported by 11 international organisations, made bold commitments in London.
I encourage you to show your support and send the unequivocal signal that the international community will not tolerate wildlife crime. Find out more through the WorldWildlifeDay Facebook page.
It was an honour to take part in a moving and memorable seminar at the Canadian Embassy yesterday, marking the end of Canada’s chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the start today of the UK’s year as Chair.
IHRA is a group of over 30 countries, founded by the UK, Sweden and the US, dedicated to the goals of ensuring that the unique tragedy of the Holocaust if never forgotten.
We were honoured at yesterday’s event by the presence of Raoul Wallenberg’s sister Nina Lagergren and also by that of Judith Weiszmann, who as a fourteen year old Jewish girl in Budapest was personally saved by Wallenberg in August 1944.
For the UK it will be an honour and a privilege to chair the Alliance over the next twelve months. It was an honour for me yesterday to be able to set out our priorities for the coming year.
The Foreign Secretary also made a statement when he announced the Chairmanship.
The head of the UK Diplomatic Service (my boss’s boss’s boss!) was in Stockholm this week and talked at UI about Britain’s agenda for EU reform.
To help support and underpin the reform debate in the UK (and more widely), our government initiated a review of the so-called Balance of Competences between the EU and the UK. In other words, how does the current distribution of power between Brussels and the Member States impact on the UK in various areas.
This week the second batch of reports were published. They cover: the free movement of goods; asylum and non-EU migration; trade and investment; transport; environment and climate change; research and development; tourism, culture and sport; and civil judicial cooperation. They draw on a wide range of evidence to analyse the impact that EU action has on the UK national interest, and the future challenges that may arise. The review process is Government-led but involves extensive consultation with a wide range of interested parties including think tanks, academia, business and Parliament. The reports can be viewed here.
Together, the first and second semesters have received over 1,000 submissions from a broad range of organisations across the UK and beyond. Once complete, the review will provide the most extensive analysis of the impact of EU membership on the UK ever undertaken. By bringing all the evidence together in one place for the first time, it will enable people to judge for themselves what works well and where there is room for improvement. The review is an analytical, transparent and evidence-based process that will not make policy recommendations.
To date, much of the evidence echoes the UK’s ongoing arguments for EU reform which focus on helping to deliver greater growth and prosperity for all Member States. This includes for example, the need for a broader and deeper Single Market, greater competitiveness and flexibility, and better, and less, regulation.
They also identify benefits that EU membership can bring – not least the positive economic impact of the Single Market. Evidence cited in the reports suggests that, from 1996-2006, EU import prices for textiles and clothing fell by 27.5 and 38.4% respectively in real terms as a result of liberalising measures. But contributors highlighted that more could be done to maximise the potential that liberalised markets offer to consumers and businesses.
The need for better, and less, EU regulation is a theme that runs through several of the reports. They highlight areas in which EU legislation is considered to be too prescriptive or not sufficiently proportionate or risk based. Some contributors noted that the EU ought now to focus on implementation and enforcement, rather than new legislation, and concerns were also raised over the transparency around, and level of, consultation with industry by EU institutions in proposing legislation, including the quality of underlying impact assessments.
The next set of reports is due to be published this summer. The debate about EU reform will doubtless continue well beyond that!
Today is St Andrew’s day, Scotland’s national day. By this time next year a referendum will have taken place on whether Scotland should become independent. The UK Government firmly believes that it is for people in Scotland to decide their own future through democratic debate and a referendum in September 2014. This is a good example of democracy in action and one which we are proud of. None of this is to say, though, that the UK Government is neutral on the question of independence. The UK Government firmly believes that Scotland is stronger as part of the UK, and that the UK is stronger with Scotland in it.
Whatever Scots think about the politics and economics we all take great pride in the history of our country, its amazing natural beauty, and the strength and character of its people.
On this day every year, Scots men and women around the world will take time to enjoy and relive pastimes rooted in the historical customs of Scotland, such as writing poems, Scottish dancing, and, for some, possibly even bagpipe playing – although as I career diplomat I will leave that last one to the professionals for the benefit of UK/Sweden bilateral relations!
In 2014, Scotland celebrates its “Year of Homecoming”, a year-long programme of events.
For foodies, there will be first-ever “Gastrofest!” that will explore the science of Scottish food and drink and provide a fantastic excuse to enjoy all its wonderfully fresh natural local ingredients. And May has been designated Whisky Month, so if you prefer your liquids to be distilled for a little longer then you know when to go!
For artistic readers, the Creative Mackintosh Festival 2014 will offer a great range of visual art and performances as well as exhibitions, music and dance for people of all ages. This year the event will take place in, and showcase, the unique architecture to be found in the many buildings in Glasgow, where I spent 4 happy years as a student, designed by the creative genius of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Occasionally, Scots are given the mistaken reputation of being a little dour. We Scots are determined to prove that perception wrong once and for all and there are no better examples to achieve that than the world-famous Edinburgh Arts Festival every August, and the Glasgow International Comedy Festival in November, which is the largest event of its kind in Europe and last time covered 411 shows at 46 venues!
And to finish with a sporting flourish, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games next July/August, and the Ryder Cup golf championships will be at the world-famous Gleneagles Resort in September. So there really is something for everyone in Scotland in 2014.
One of the highlights of my time so far in Stockholm was the visit by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in March 2012. Just over 18 months later, The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel are visiting London this week. The themes for the visits are very similar: young people, technology, climate change, entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Royal couple will visit an inner London school, and the UK’s IT hub at Tech City in the East end of London. They’ll meet the Mayor of London, and the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The Lord Mayor kindly gave two scholarships recently to bright young Swedes.
The Crown Princess and Prince Daniel will also visit Cambridge, to see a Skanska housing project, and, at the University, to discuss conservation, local and international sustainability solutions, international Governance and Human Rights.
The overlap in themes between the 2012 and 2013 visits is no surprise: it illustrates just some of the areas where Sweden and the UK, public and private sectors alike, have so much in common and so much to discuss.
It will be a privilege to accompany the Royal Couple and, once the visit is over, to have a cup of tea with the Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge, not just a brilliant academic, but the vicar that married my lovely wife and me!