International cooperation, including with human rights mechanisms – UK Government assessment
Seeking re-election to the Human Rights Council and providing funding for the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions indicates a continued commitment to human rights cooperation. However, delays in reporting under certain international human rights mechanisms, low acceptance of findings and recommendations from UN reviews, and lack of action to establish a national monitoring and implementation mechanism, undermine this. The temporary reduction in overseas development aid and merging of the responsible government department with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office raises questions about the UK’s international commitment to improve human rights.
- In October 2020, the UK Government was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council following a year-long campaign, providing it with a platform to advocate for human rights globally.
- Funding for the Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) has supported capacity-building work for Commonwealth NHRIs, including on sexual orientation and gender identity rights.
- The UK Government has not established a national mechanism to monitor implementation of recommendations and coordinate reporting to the UN human rights mechanisms, despite multiple recommendations that it do so. This impedes scrutiny, and limits the Government’s ability to effectively implement UN human rights provisions and recommendations in accordance with its human rights obligations.
- While the UK Government has submitted several reports to the UN human rights mechanisms between 2017 and 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to delays in reporting, including delays to the UK’s report on the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the voluntary mid-term update on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
- In 2017, the UK Government accepted just 42% (96 out of 227) of the UPR recommendations, 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.
- 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, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child, limiting the provision of redress for human rights violations.
- In 2019, the UK Government challenged the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, which said that the Government’s austerity policies “amount to regressive measures in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations”, claiming that it painted a “completely inaccurate picture”. It also rejected the suggestion of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that some of its policies exacerbate racial inequality.
- The UK Government reports progress in meeting some Sustainable Development Goals, such as education, but notes that it needs to take further action for others, such as housing.
- The temporary reduction in overseas development assistance announced in the Spending Review 2020 poses risks to a range of human rights, with stakeholders particularly concerned about negative impacts on the rights of women and girls.
- The UK’s exit from the European Union will impact on the UK’s involvement in European cooperation mechanisms on foreign policy, development, security and criminal justice cooperation.
Read more about the UK Government’s actions on international cooperation, including with human rights mechanisms.