On Human Rights Day, 10 December, UNA-UK joined forces with other civil society organisations in writing to the UK's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, urging the UK Government to do more to prevent atrocities.
The letter comes after the UK Government issued its response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee's (FAC) recent report on humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect which made recommendations for the UK to establish a cross-government atrocity prevention strategy - something UNA-UK has suggested for some time.
In its response to the report, the FCO stated that the UK's work on preventing atrocities takes place as part of the Government's conflict prevention agenda and through existing geographical and thematic workstreams. UNA-UK, alongside experts and practitioners working on atrocity prevention, have made the case for a cross-departmental strategy to better support and strengthen the UK's contributions to preventing atrocities. Read our reaction to the UK Government's response in more detail.
Support for stronger British leadership on the prevention of mass atrocities has increased across the political spectrum. The recommendations outlined in the FAC report have also been echoed in previous reports: the International Development and Foreign Affairs Committees on UK policy in Burma, published in March 2018, called on the Government to prioritise atrocity prevention and learn lessons so that those identified shortcomings in the UK’s response to atrocity risks would not be repeated elsewhere.
This letter - signed by representatives of UK-based civil society organisations working to reduce the risk of mass atrocities worldwide - welcomes the FAC report's core recommendations and calls for the UK Government to reconsider its response. We ask for the UK Government to make public its work on preventing atrocities and to clarify who has ministerial responsibiilty for the UK's contributions to atrocity prevention. The letter highlights the value of an effective cross-government approach in improving the Government's response to predicting and preventing these kind of crimes.
In light of Jeremy Hunt's recent promise to "do more" within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office budget to prevent mass atrocities, the letter expresses concern at the UK Government rejection of the report's recommendations and waits to hear what the Foreign Secretary's pledge looks like in practice given the department’s reluctance to develop a strategy. UNA-UK is ready to work alongside its partners with the UK Government in improving its contributions to preventing atrocity crimes and ensuring that this vital issue receives the attention it deserves.