Foreign Affairs Committee

Human rights: Freedom of religion and belief, and human rights defenders inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Due to the general election on 12 December 2019 the Committee has now closed this inquiry. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 6 November, all Select Committees will cease to exist until after the general election. If an inquiry on this subject is held in the future, the Committee may refer to the evidence already gathered as part of this inquiry.

Scope of the inquiry

Terms of Reference

This inquiry will examine the FCO's human rights programmes and priorities, with a focus on its work on two issues: freedom of religion and belief (FORB) and the work of human rights defenders overseas. These have both been highlighted as priorities by the FCO. The Prime Minister appointed a Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief in July 2018, and in December of that year the Foreign Secretary announced an independent review into the persecution of Christians overseas. The FCO has committed to strengthening its support for human rights defenders, and to making this more transparent in 2019.

The Committee welcomes written submissions focusing on the following:


  • What changes have there been in the last year to the FCO's human rights priorities and programmes, and to its annual report on Human Rights and Democracy?
  • What impact is the new Human Rights Ambassador expected to have?

Freedom of religion and belief

  • How effective is the FCO's support for FORB, and is this sufficiently prioritised within its human rights work?
  • How satisfactory was the recent independent review into the persecution of Christians overseas, in its scope and its execution; what has the FCO done to follow up on its conclusions and recommendations; and what are its implications for the FCO's work on FORB?
  • What has been the impact of the Prime Minister's Special Representative on FORB?
  • What role does the FCO play in shaping work by DfID, the Home Office, and other departments around FORB?

Human rights defenders

  • Is support for human rights defenders sufficiently prioritised within the FCO's human rights work?
  • How effective has the FCO been at protecting civil society space and human rights defenders? To what extent are civil society groups based in the UK and abroad able to engage with the FCO on relevant policies and programmes?
  • What role does the FCO play in shaping work by DfID, the Home Office, and other departments around these issues?
  • In light of the above, is the UK Government's new framework for UK support for HRDs adequate,  including as regards dissemination, and monitoring and evaluation of implementation? 


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