Policy

Promoting human rights internationally

Supporting detail:

Equality and non-discrimination

Freedom of religion or belief

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief is guaranteed by major international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on Religious Intolerance.

A Freedom of Religion or Belief “toolkit”, published by the FCO, helps our staff overseas raise concerns about religious freedom with host governments, take action on cases of persecution or discrimination and lobby for changes in discriminatory practices and laws.

Gender equality

The UK is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment and participated in international, intergovernmental mechanisms for the advancement of women’s rights. Our work is guided by the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women convened by the UN in Beijing in 1995.

CEDAW is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and a commitment for national action to end such discrimination. To date it has been ratified by 186 countries. It is also known as the international bill of Rights for Women.

The Government Equalities Office takes the lead coordinating the production of the UK Periodic Report to CEDAW (every four years). The UK was examined in July 2013 and the CEDAW committee issued a number of observations and recommendations following the examination. The next periodic report is due in July 2017.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) is an international declaration of women’s rights set up at the UN’s landmark Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. It was supported by 189 countries. The BPfA covers 12 key critical areas of concern or areas for action including, women and poverty, violence against women and access to power and decision-making.

In June 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration reaffirming Member States’ commitment to the objectives set forth in the BPfA and a Special Session was held by the General Assembly in 2005 to review Member States’ progress in implementing the BPfA. The UK took an active role in the process. 2010 was the 15th anniversary of the BPfA (Beijing +15). In 2009, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) circulated a questionnaire to assess progress on Beijing +15 to all UNECE members and the UK responded with a full report.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established through the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is one of the main international policy-making bodies dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. CSW meets annually in February/March at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss and negotiate the text of a number of ‘agreed conclusions’ around a priority theme and related Resolutions proposed by States.

This theme changes annually and is set out in the multi-year programme of work. The 58th session of CSW is scheduled for 10 to 21 March 2014 and the priority theme is ‘Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls’. The UK has a longstanding commitment to the CSW and participates actively in the annual meeting.

We work to support gender equality through participation in The Council of Europe’s newly established Gender Equality Commission (GEC).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual rights

The UK works towards protecting and promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people internationally, including through intergovernmental organisations such as the EU, Council of Europe and UN, and through our overseas missions.

The first ever UK cross government Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality Action Plan, published in March 2011, reinforced our commitment to supporting LGB&T rights abroad.

We support LGB&T equality at the United Nations and played an active role in the adoption of the UN Human Rights Council historic resolution expressing grave concern about acts of violence and discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We welcomed the UN report by the High Commissioner for Human Rights examining discrimination and violence facing LGB&T people.

Indigenous and minority groups

We condemn all instances of violence and discrimination against people from indigenous and minority groups. We believe, as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People states, that the best way to support indigenous people is through direct consultation with both them and others affected by the issue, including regional organisations and the UN.

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