In 1948 after the horrors of World War Two had finally been brought to an end the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in Paris. It was the first time that human rights would be universally protected for all people and was a huge milestone in world history.
But today British ministers are being criticised for their words and actions which seem to imply that trade with countries such China, Saudia Arabia and Egypt is more important to Britain than pressing these countries on their human rights abuses. Examples are when in October, Sir Simon McDonald, the Foreign Office’s most senior civil servant, said human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and comments made by Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood, who has said he could not remember whether he had raised human rights during a visit to Egypt with a business delegation.
The saddest thing is that with all these comments the impression is given to British people that trade is more important than human rights when actually the British foreign office has been taking huge action on protecting human rights too. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said improving human rights was a “core function of the Foreign Office” and a special fund for human rights has been doubled.The UK actually supports over 75 human rights projects in more than 40 countries.
For some up-to-date stories about human rights battles around the world make sure you check out Amnesty International‘s website. The global movement exposes human rights abuses and then fights for the UDHR to be followed by protesting, writing letters and raising awareness of issues with governments and the public. Its founder Peter Benenson said: “Only when the last prisoner of conscience has been freed, when the last torture chamber has been closed, when the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a reality for the world’s people, will our work be done.”