The Foreign Office and Freedom of Religion or Belief

Lord Alton asked in a written question “How many officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are specifically focused on freedom of religion, and for what percentage of their time; and what resources are specifically allocated for the promotion of Article 18 through United Kingdom diplomatic services?”

The reply came from Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns, who has taken up Baroness Warsi’s responsibilities at the Foreign Office: “Within the Human Rights and Democracy Department (HRDD), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has one full time Desk Officer wholly dedicated to Freedom for Religion or Belief (FoRB), who works closely with Team Leader in the Equalities and Non-Discrimination Team, who themselves spend approximately 50 per cent of their time on FoRB. Additionally, the Head and Deputy Head of HRDD spend approximately 5 and 20 per cent respectively of their time on FoRB issues; one Human Rights Advisor spends 5 per cent and one HRDD Communications Officer approximately 10 per cent.

“As FoRB is one of only six thematic human rights priorities for the FCO, a considerable number of other FCO officials in London and overseas are engaged directly on FoRB as part of their wider human rights work. Given that violations of FoRB can be closely associated with other threats to UK interests around the world, I cannot provide a precise figure for the total number of FCO officials working on FoRB, though the number is high and rising.

“This year, seven FoRB projects around the world were approved and received total funding of £307,835.”