International cooperation, including with human rights mechanisms – UK Government assessment
The UK Government’s actions to seek re-election to the UN Human Rights Council indicate a continued commitment to human rights cooperation. However, low acceptance of findings and recommendations from UN reviews, and the lack of a National Mechanism for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up (NMIRF), risk undermining this commitment to cooperation. The temporary reduction in Official Development Assistance (ODA) raises questions about the UK’s commitment to improving human rights internationally.
- The temporary reduction in ODA announced in the UK Government’s Spending Review 2020 poses risks to a range of human rights internationally, with stakeholders particularly concerned about negative impacts on the rights of women and girls.
- The UK Government has submitted several reports to the UN human rights mechanisms between 2017 and 2022. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic contributed to delays in reporting. However, the UK’s report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) remains outstanding over two years after the deadline for its submission.
- UK Government funding for the chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) supported capacity-building work for Commonwealth NHRIs, including on sexual orientation and gender identity rights.
- The UK Government has stated that it has no intention to establish a national mechanism to monitor implementation of recommendations (known as a NMIRF) and coordinate reporting to the UN human rights mechanisms, despite multiple recommendations that it do so. This makes scrutiny more difficult, and limits the UK Government’s ability to implement UN human rights obligations and recommendations in a coherent way.
- The UK Government has not agreed that the UN can accept complaints from individuals under CERD, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or the Convention on the Rights of the Child, limiting the provision of redress for human rights violations.
- In 2019, the UK Government challenged a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights that said the Government’s austerity policies ‘amount to regressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations’, stating that it painted a ‘completely inaccurate picture’. The UK Government also rejected the suggestion made by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that some of its policies exacerbate racial inequality.
- In June 2019, the UK Government reported progress in meeting some Sustainable Development Goals, such as education, but noted that it needed to take further action on others, such as housing.
- In 2017, the UK Government accepted 42% (96 out of 227) of recommendations made through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a decrease from 54.5% (72 out of 132) in 2012.
- The UK Government did not accept recommendations from the 2017 UPR to consider ratifying the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on international cooperation, including with human rights mechanisms.