FCO priorities – is FoRB being downplayed?

On 22 July the Government replied to Kerry McCarthy MP’s written question To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what his Department’s human rights priorities are for the current Parliament”. 

Minister David Lidington delivered a ‘holding answer’: “We are currently reconfiguring our work on human rights around three pillars to promote greater focus, boost our impact, and increase our ability to respond to international developments.
These pillars are:
(i) Democratic values and the rule of law;
(ii) The rules-based international system and,
(iii) Human rights for a stable world.
These will accommodate everything our Embassies, High Commissions and multilateral missions currently prioritise, in locally appropriate ways.”

Under the previous government, the Minister regularly emphasised that freedom of religion or belief was one of the FCO’s six human rights priorities. For example, “Freedom of religion or belief is a key human rights priority for this Government” (David Lidington, 16 January 2015)

Yet on 15 July FCO Minister Baroness Anelay stated, in a written answer, “Freedom of religion or belief remains one of this Government’s core human rights priorities and we continue to support its development globally,” and FCO Minister Hugo Swire also wrote, on 10 June 2015, “Freedom of religion or belief is a human rights priority anchored in the Government’s manifesto.”