16 October is Blog Action day. And this year’s theme is inequality. So here’s a blog about inequality.
Tackling inequality is an important part of UK foreign policy. Two of our six human rights priorities are specifically about inequality, including women’s rights and freedom of religion and belief.
For us, the promotion and protection of women’s rights is more than a moral obligation. It is enshrined in international human rights law and it is vital to ensure stable and prosperous societies with women fully participating in political, economic and social life. Former Foreign Secretary Hague said that “the greatest challenge of the 21st Century is women’s full political, economic and social participation”. The Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit, in which Margot Wallström participated, bringing her wealth of UN expertise, and the more recent Girl Summit are two examples of UK leadership.
We are committed to securing a dedicated goal on women and girls in the post-2015 development framework, on which our Prime Minister has helped lead UN efforts. As part of this, we want to see the world agreeing to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Other vital areas for world leaders to agree on – good governance, peace, security and justice for all – are also fundamental to women’s safety and security. We successfully introduced this language in Human Rights Council resolutions in June 2014.
At a country level, we support projects to increase women’s political participation around the world from the Middle East and North Africa to indigenous groups in Latin America. We also challenge gender stereotypes of what a “traditional” women’s role is, and work with faith leaders to help ensure that the cultural application of religious doctrine does not hinder women’s development.
In my last job in London I oversaw the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Fund, which gives out millions of pounds each year to projects, usually led by NGOs, making a real difference in some of the more challenging places to operate around the world. Examples include: helping develop women lawyers in Nigeria, promoting justice, including for victims of sexual violence, in Bosnia, and supporting Mothers for Peace in Colombia.
Another key equality for us is promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief. It is a fundamental freedom which underpins many other human rights and we believe that where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, often other basic rights are threatened too.
We work through the UN to ensure that states implement Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. This resolution focuses the international community on combating religious intolerance, protecting the human rights of minorities and promoting pluralism in society. We endeavour to speak out in the wider context of the rule of law and freedom – making the point that when one faith community is under attack, the liberty of all is under attack. This is also an area where our Human Rights and Democracy Fund supports projects and NGOs, e g in Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines, trying to make a real difference, shining the spotlight on abuse, promoting reform, trying to make a reality overseas of the rights and freedoms we can take for granted here at home.