MIL-OSI UK: Speech: Finding a peaceful resolution to tensions in Haiti

Source: UK Government

Thank you Mr President. Let me begin by thanking SRSG La Lime for her briefing and in particular for the MINUJUSTH benchmarks mandate implementation dashboard which is very useful, very helpful and I hope we can see similar implementation dashboards for other UN Peacekeeping Missions in future.
Mr President, it’s now roughly 18 months since we as a Council visited Haiti under the leadership of the Permanent Representative of Bolivia and it is encouraging to hear that there has been progress on a number of areas.
The United Kingdom continues to appreciate the work of MINUJUSTH and its support to the Government of Haiti to strengthen the rule of law and further develop the capacities of the Haitian National Police.
I also want to recognise the efforts of President Moise to find a constructive resolution to the recent tensions. It is clear that the situation on the ground remains fragile.
Mr President, I will limit my intervention to three main points:
First, with regard to the progress made against the benchmarks, I want specifically to acknowledge some of the important milestones reached. The UK has been greatly encouraged by progress ranging from the passage and rollout of the legal aid law to the recent graduation of 692 police cadets, and the increase in the numbers of women police – which is now close to the benchmarked target. Both MINUJUSTH and the Government of Haiti can justly celebrate these successes.
However, progress is still needed in critical areas. With legislative elections on the horizon, passage of the draft electoral law by parliament, already highlighted today by France and Sweden, remains vital, as does the reconstitution of the Permanent Electoral Council and updating of the electoral role. If professionalization of the Haitian National Police is to be sustained, its oversight and accountability mechanisms need to be properly functional. This is paramount for increasing the trust between the State and the Haitian people in order to cement the social contract.
And if Haitian rule of law institutions as a whole are to stand up effectively and turn new laws into reality, budgets and implementation plans need to be finalised.
Second, if political and security efforts to build peace are to succeed, they will need to be accompanied by efforts to address the structural issues that have exacerbated or sustained the grievances of the Haitian people, including with regard to economic opportunity and access to basic services.
Dialogue at all levels is essential. The UK encourages the Haitian government, together with its international partners, to intensify dialogue among all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society, to reach greater consensus on shared peacebuilding priorities, including the adoption of measures that can respond to the immediate needs of people and minimise the risk of destabilisation or relapse into violence.
Third and finally, regarding the MINUJUSTH transition, I want to say quite simply that it is critical that we all get this right. We now have little more than nine months before MINUJUSTH is expected to leave Haiti to be succeeded by a non-peacekeeping UN presence.
As others today have already said, Haitian ownership and delivery of critical reforms is essential for the transition is to be a success, and I was encouraged to note in the report the establishment of a joint commission by the Prime Minister and the SRSG. It is vital that all parties now intensify their efforts to ensure that these benchmarks are met.
I was encouraged also to learn that efforts are being stepped up with regard to the MINUJUSTH-UNDP joint rule of law programme and its sustainability in a post-peacekeeping phase. And the United Kingdom would welcome similar efforts to ensure the sustainability of MINUJUSTH’s community violence reduction programme.
With the UN Strategic Assessment process now underway, we look forward to engaging closely with all stakeholders on how to make this transition a success. We continue to urge the Secretary-General to be realistic and clear about the division of responsibilities across the UN system and to support the UN to fill the gaps identified in capacity and capabilities of the UN Country Team, which is a key to a successful transition.
Thank you Mr President.


MIL-OSI UK: Sinn Féin introduce legislation to cap money lenders – Pearse Doherty TD

Source: Sinn Féin

12 December, 2018 – by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has tonight introduced legislation to cap the rate at which money lenders can charge interest on loans.
Speaking in the Dáil tonight, Teachta Doherty said;
“The rates are being charged by these companies are despicable, they have no place in the year 2018, and they had no place in 2012 when we first introduced this legislation.
“Regulated money lenders and other moneylenders are charging as much as 187% on loans. The borrowers caught in this trap are our neighbours, family and friends.
“Moneylenders at these rates simply take the money of poorer families and makes them poorer.
“The Government amendment to this Bill, which seeks a delay of twelve months, is not about protecting the vulnerable, it is about protecting the moneylenders.
“This is a straight forward piece of legislation that would help 330,000 people who borrow from moneylenders, or 7% of the entire population of the State. 
“This is the option before us. We have waited long enough and so have the poorest families in the State who are living week to week, month by month in fear of the knock on the door.”
Note to editors: Please see attached a copy of Deputy Doherty’s speech for tonight. Check against delivery.
Moneylenders’ PMB
It is six and a half years since I first brought this Bill before the House. Isn’t it telling that at that time the Fine Gael Minister told me that: this issue must be examined carefully to ensure the solution proposed does not adversely affect the most vulnerable members of society. This will be the Government’s main aim in considering the findings of the examination to be carried out by the Central Bank and by the officials of the Department of Finance
What has changed except the name of Fine Gael Minister? They still want time to examine the issue. You have had enough time. We must act. 
Why must we act? Let me give you some examples:
187% being charged by a moneylender called Colm Keegan.
187% being charged by Rossbro moneylender.
187% being charged by a company called Stalwart Investments.
Those rates are despicable, they have no place in the year 2018, and they had no place in 2012.
The government amendment is not about protecting the vulnerable, it is about protecting the moneylenders.
I urge all parties to reject it. The government know well this law does not pass into being tonight if we accept it. There is a process ahead of us in which preparation must be carried out but we cannot delay starting down that road.
I wish to pay tribute to the Social Finance Foundation and the Centre for Co -operative Studies, University College Cork for putting this back on our agenda. Unfortunately for many, as Christmas approaches, this is a very live issue every day.
The report by the UCC academics cuts to the chase as to why we must act:
It said clearly what the economic reality of moneylending is. It facilitates a ‘huge transfer of resources and potential assets from poor communities to the directors and shareholders of loan companies’. 
Research in the US found that low- income house owners are stripped of approximately $9.1 billion a year through the practices of the so-called ‘alternative credit sector’. Research in Britain, found that in three streets with a total of 40 households, Stg£240,000 was being paid each year to high -cost lenders.
Moneylenders at these rates simply takes the money of poorer families and makes them poorer. 
We cannot allow another Christmas to come and go without action.
I fully understand that there must be alternatives. The Credit Union movement serves this country well and is prepared to expand its “It Makes Sense” loan scheme.
It is already expanding. Some figures put on the Dáil record might suggest that the number of Credit Unions offering the loan is going in the right direction. In reality, the number of mergers might mean that on paper the number of Credit Unions offering the scheme has dropped but the reality is that more people than ever can access this scheme.
I urge all Credit Unions to take up the scheme. 
It has been suggested by the Centre for Co -operative Studies and the Credit Union Advisory Council whose job it is to review the Credit Union Act that allowing a 2% cap instead of the current 1% monthly rate would allow some Credit Unions reluctant to take up the alternative source of credit to moneylenders. 
That is not a demand of the Credit Union movement but is certainly worth looking at. I would be happy to consider using this legislation to facilitate such a change if it was deemed helpful. It would be a choice for each Credit Union whether to utilise the extra space as it saw fit.
Section 1 of the Bill inserts into the Consumer Credit Act the phrase:
The amount of APR chargeable on loans issued by licenced moneylenders shall not exceed 36 per cent.”. 36 per cent was chosen as it is three times the level the Credit Union movement can charge.
Section 2 is simply the citation.
It is a straight forward piece of legislation but would help 330,000 people who borrow from moneylenders- 7% of the entire population of the 26 Counties.
In October 2014 the total outstanding consumer loans in Ireland amounted to €153m with moneylenders. That is why we must act.
The borrowers caught in this trap are our neighbours, family and friends. Only this year the Irish League of Credit Union report told us that of the parents in debt come back to scholl time more than a quarter (27%) said they have turned to a moneylender in an effort to cope with the costs. This is up from 20% last year.
For some, this situation is getting worse and worse.
The Central Bank have carried out a consultation and done valuable work looking at regulations including restricting advertising, forcing moneylenders provide more information and warnings and improving the professionalism of the people employed in the sector.
That is all good work but I see this Bill as complimentary to them. The Central Bank idea of adopting the Australian model of a cap based on the level of income misses the whole point- a cap must be applied.
This is the option before us. The government propose a twelve month wait- what they mean is that they have no intention of implementing a cap. 
Six and a half years ago they blocked this Bill. They are trying to block it again, I call on all parties to not let the m get away with it.
Yes, there are things that need to be done as we progress with the Bill so let’s get on with them. I will not be accepting any further delay. We have waited long enough and so have the poorest families sin the State who are living week to week, month by month in fear of the knock on the door.


MIL-OSI UK: Urgent need to regulate moneylenders who are preying on most vulnerable in society – Denise Mitchell TD

Source: Sinn Féin

12 December, 2018 – by Denise Mitchell TD

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has called for urgent action to tackle what she described as ‘disgraceful’ interest rates being charged by licensed moneylenders.
She was speaking on a Sinn Féin Private Members’ Bill which seeks to cap the amount of APR chargeable on loans issued by licenced moneylenders at 36 per cent.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy Mitchell said:
“As we approach Christmas time, many families across the State are turning to these moneylending companies in order to ensure that their families – and in particular their children – have a special Christmas.
“Unfortunately, the huge interest charged by these organisations only helps drive people further and further into debt.
“I note that one moneylender based in south Dublin was given a moneylenders license by the Central Bank in July which allows it to charge 287.72% APR interest including collection charges.
“That is quite frankly disgusting.”
The Dublin Bay north TD also said research shows that those turning to moneylenders are primarily women from working class backgrounds and also lone parents:
“The reality is that the companies charging these disgraceful interest rates are leeches. They are preying on the most vulnerable in society to line their own pockets.”
Noting that many other EU countries have caps on interest rates that money lenders can charge, Deputy Mitchell added:“We need to ensure that some controls are placed on these organisations who make profits off of people in desperate situations.”


MIL-OSI UK: Tonight’s vote makes no difference to the lives of our people – Jeremy Corbyn – The Labour Party

Source: Labour Party UK

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour Party leader, responding to the result of the Conservative vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, said:

“Tonight’s vote makes no difference to the lives of our people.

“The Prime Minister has lost her majority in Parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.

“That’s why she pulled the vote on her botched Brexit deal this week and is trying to avoid bringing it back to Parliament. It’s clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe.

“She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so Parliament can take back control.

“Labour is ready to govern for the whole country and deliver a deal that protects living standards and workers’ rights.”


MIL-OSI UK: Theresa May wins Tory confidence vote by 200 to 117 votes

Source: Labour List UK

Theresa May has won the Tory confidence vote in her leadership by 200 votes to 117.

The figure of 117 Conservative MPs voting against the Prime Minister in the secret ballot is not expected to lead to her resignation as leader, but is a higher number than expected.

More than double the threshold of MPs required to trigger the no-confidence vote, which stood at 48 this morning, cast a ballot saying they had no confidence in May as leader.

The figure of 117 is also notably higher than the number of European Research Group members, which indicates that concern over May’s leadership goes beyond the opposition of hard Brexiteers in the Conservative Party.

Commenting on the result, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Tonight’s vote makes no difference to the lives of our people.

“The Prime Minister has lost her majority in parliament, her government is in chaos and she is unable to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the country and puts jobs and the economy first.

“That’s why she pulled the vote on her botched Brexit deal this week and is trying to avoid bringing it back to parliament. It’s clear that she has not been able to negotiate the necessary changes in Europe.

“She must now bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons next week so parliament can take back control.

“Labour is ready to govern for the whole country and deliver a deal that protects living standards and workers’ rights.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, as a hard Brexiteer who has led calls for the Prime Minister to step down, said it was a “terrible result for the prime minister”.

Further details to follow…

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MIL-OSI UK: Speech: Participating in the JCPoA and ending Iran’s destabilising regional behaviour

Source: UK Government

Thank you very much indeed Mr President. Thank you for scheduling this debate. And we’re very grateful to Secretary Pompeo for taking the time to be here today.
This debate comes at a very important moment. The world is an unpredictable place right now and the developments we’re going to discuss today risk making it more so. I’d also like to join others in thanking the Under-Secretary-General and in thanking the Dutch Representative and his team for all the work they have done on 2231.
Today’s agenda Mr President, is the implementation of that resolution. That resolution was an endorsement of the JCPoA but throughout the negotiations and at the adoption of the resolution, we were clear that the Council was not only addressing nuclear issues but continuing to impose binding restriction to curb Iran’s ballistic missile and proliferation activity because it threatens the region and beyond.
I just want to stress Mr President, the point about the ballistic missile proliferation is not solely about nuclear missiles, notwithstanding that there is a link with nuclear capability. Any conventional payload would cause extensive harm to civilians and infrastructure and Member States in the region Mr President, will naturally be deeply concerned about being confronted by such a threat from Iran. In itself it heightens instability in the region and it heightens the risk of miscalculation. And as Secretary Pompeo said the international community has been trying to curb this activity since at least 2006.
Mr President if I may, I’d like to set out the policy of my government towards Iran. We are motivated by three objectives. Firstly and most critically, to uphold the global non-proliferation regime and prevent Iran achieving a nuclear capability that would threaten the Middle East region and Europe beyond it. Secondly, to constrain Iran’s destabilising actions in the region. And thirdly, to encourage Iran to normalise its economic and diplomatic relations with the region and the West and assume its rightful role as a responsible power, constructively engaged.
The United Kingdom participated in negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran to secure the first of those objectives. And we believe the JCPoA has done so. It remains critical for our national security and we believe for the shared security of our partners and allies. And I agree with what the French ambassador said on the way forward. We were also clear that the nuclear deal contained elements designed to encourage Iran on a path to normalcy in its trade and diplomatic relations with the outside world.
The Secretary-General’s report records Iran continues to comply with its nuclear related obligations and the IAEA confirm this in their report of 12 November. We expect this commitment to continue and we look to Iran to continue to abide by its obligations under the deal in full. So our first objective Mr President continues to be met and for this reason the United Kingdom, together with France and Germany, have been working to ensure that Iran continues to receive the economic benefits from sanctions relief agreed as part of the nuclear deal.
To this end, in September we announced the creation of a European Special Purpose Vehicle to help facilitate this. This work continues and we hope to announce further progress soon.
There remains however much work to do towards the second objective: the ending of Iran’s destabilising regional behaviour.
And no one should be in any doubt Mr President about the strength of our concern and the strength of our commitment to tackle that and the fact that compliance with the JCPoA – important as it is – for all the reasons the French Ambassador set out it is not a licence to engage in destabilising behaviour elsewhere, whether or not that has a nuclear link.
Iran cannot, Mr President, expect to improve its relations with the rest of the world or ensure its economic prosperity and security while pursuing its current path. Business will not invest and public finances should be spent at home and not diverted to adventurism abroad. The briefing given by the Under-Secretary-General today has been very clear and the findings in the Secretary-General’s report should continue to trouble this Council. As the report notes, the United Kingdom along with our E3 partners raised our concerns over recent Iranian ballistic missile launches into Syria in a letter on 20 November. Since then as the Security Council discussed on 4 December Iran has test fired a medium range ballistic missile with a capability falling under MTCR Category 1. This latest launch like those referenced in the E3 letter is inconsistent with Security Council Resolution 2231.
Now Mr President, we heard a number of arguments when we met before to discuss this issue in consultations. I’m sure we’ll hear many of those arguments again today so I’d like to address them briefly if I may. Some colleagues have made the point that the language in Resolution 2231, OP7 and Annex B Paragraph 3 are not binding. The second plank of that argument is that the Council should therefore not concern itself with Iran’s behaviour because we argue it’s inconsistent with it.
Mr President, we believe that’s an extraordinary but it’s also a flawed argument for two reasons. Leaving aside the question of whether the language is legally binding or not, this Council has the power to make recommendations to Member States with a view to resolving any matter that threatens the maintenance of international peace and security. It is clear that these recommendations should be taken seriously by Member States rather than openly flouted. The call upon Iran to comply with the request not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons has a clear purpose and that purpose Mr. President, is to reduce international and regional tension. In defying the Council’s clearly expressed view Iran is, to say the least, not contributing to the stability of the region. Rather she is ignoring the expressed wishes of this Council.
Tendentious arguments which seek to diminish the Council’s voice on this serve only to undermine the Council’s prerogative and authority and to encourage other States to disregard the resolutions of the Security Council. We should all Mr. President be deeply concerned by such irresponsible behaviour. Another fallacious argument which I’m sure we’ll hear today is that the MTCR is irrelevant, that it is only an arms export regime. Mr President, the MTCR is itself an important part of international efforts against proliferation. MTCR Category 1 which describes a platform capable of delivering first generation nuclear weapon commonly defined as around 500 kilograms minimum to a distance of 300 kilometres. So it matters that Iran test fired a ballistic missile with a capability that falls under MTCR Category 1. These missiles are not harmless tools of self-defence; they are a source of concern and they are included in this resolution because if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon these missiles would be its delivery vehicle. They therefore not only threaten the region but Europe and potentially others beyond. Testing them is provocative and the Council should respond.
Therefore Mr President, let me say that we demand Iran ceased activity that defies Resolution 2231. We demand that Iran and all Member States fully comply with the resolutions prohibiting the proliferation of missile technology to and from Iran – on which by the way there is no doubt that these are indeed legally binding.
And our second objective, we note with deep regret but also concern that throughout the region Iran continues to play a negative role, supporting non-state actors that undermine the stability of its neighbours.
On Iran and Syria, Iran has been the key supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous seven-year campaign. Militias funded and controlled by Iran have been integral to Assad’s military campaign to retake opposition-held territory, committing gross abuses of human rights in the process. Iran has proactively shipped weapons systems into Syria, inflaming tensions with its neighbours as well as violating the provisions of Resolution 2231.
For example Mr President, in just the past week, Israel has had to take action to prevent Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants tunneling under its borders. These Hezbollah activities are a clear violation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and they are further evidence of Iran’s destabilizing activity. The United Kingdom condemns the existence of these tunnels. They threaten Israel and Lebanon. The violation of Israeli sovereignty is deeply concerning and moreover, Mr President it takes Iran’s destabilising activity literally to new depths.
In Yemen we are watching the ongoing talks in Stockholm carefully and we welcome the attendance of the Houthi delegation. And I accept Mr President, it’s important to note that Iran has expressed its strong support for the talks in Sweden. But the situation in Yemen remains of serious concern and the Secretary-General reports today includes information about ballistic missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by the Houthis as well as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles recovered in Yemen. These weapons have characteristics and components consistent with those known to be manufactured in Iran.
Mr President, I have had in the course of my recent work I have been to Tehran to discuss many of these issues with the Iranian leadership and each time I’ve been clear that this habit of testing weapons that threaten her neighbours defy the Council by exporting weapons and militias around the regions makes it very difficult to see how Iran can play a constructive role in her region. And it means that she has no legitimacy when complaining when this Council puts such behaviour on its agenda.
Mr President I have long said that Iran has legitimate security interests in the region; we recognise that. But the way Iran goes about pursuing those interests is leading to increasing destabilisation and is simply not legitimate in the modern world. A different approach is available to Iran that concentrates on reintegration into the economic community of the world and into the world of diplomatic engagement. We support Iran in seeking to benefit from economic development. We won’t have to fulfil her undoubted potential as a vibrant economy and an important power.
But these are not unconditional goals Mr President; Iran can never achieve these objectives without a vital change in approach on the issues I’ve mentioned here today. Iran needs to take steps to address the concerns of this Council seriously and to recognise that its expeditionary and expansionist security doctrine will only provoke more challenge and lead to greater instability within the region. This is why Mr President, the United Kingdom together with our European partners will continue to participate in the JCPoA. We will continue to work with everyone to convince Iran to take a radically different approach to the region and help secure for herself a more prosperous future.
Thank you Mr President.


MIL-OSI UK: Flynn to meet PSNI over security alert disruption

Source: Sinn Féin

12 December, 2018 – by Órlaithí Flynn

Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has said a Sinn Féin delegation will meet senior PSNI officers to discuss concerns arising from a four-day security alert in west Belfast. 
The West Belfast MLA said: 
“Earlier this week a four-day security alert at Upper Dunmurry Lane caused significant disruption to the lives of people in west Belfast with road closures, residents being evacuated from their homes and the closure of a local primary school. 
“While the blame for the disruption from this security alert lies first and foremost with those responsible for planting this device and we condemn their actions, there are concerns in the local area around the resulting policing operation. 
“I requested an urgent meeting with senior PSNI officers to discuss the concerns of local residents about this security alert. 
“I will now meet with the PSNI chief inspector for Belfast to raise these concerns directly on behalf of local residents. 
“The vast majority of people in west Belfast are opposed to the activities of whoever planted this device and they should not be punished as a result of their recklessness and lack of regard for the local community.”


MIL-OSI UK: Make Medicinal Cannabis Available to Those Who Need It

Source: Party of Wales

Mae Leanne Wood wedi galw ar Gymru i gymryd ymagwedd flaengar at bresgripsiwn canabis meddyginiaethol.
Galwodd yr Aelod Cynulliad ar Lywodraeth Cymru i adolygu a llacio’r canllawiau dros dro ar ragnodi canabis sy’n atal llawer o feddygon rhag cael mynediad at y cyffur ar gael er gwaethaf newidiadau i’r gyfraith.
Yn gynharach eleni, diwygiwyd deddfwriaeth camddefnyddio cyffuriau fel y gellid rhagnodi canabis meddyginiaethol ond nid yw wedi gwneud llawer o wahaniaeth i fywydau pobl fel Bailey Williams 16 oed o Gaerdydd sy’n dioddef o epilepsi difrifol, gan achosi iddo gael cannoedd o atafaeliad (seizures) yn olynol.
Defnyddiodd Leanne enghraifft Bailey yn ystod cwestiynau busnes yn y Senedd sy’n dilyn llythyr at yr Arweinydd Llafur newydd yng Nghymru oedd yn galw arno i weithio gyda gweithwyr iechyd proffesiynol i sicrhau bod canabis meddyginiaethol ar gael yn rhwydd i’r rhai sydd ei angen.
Yn ystod sesiwn dydd Mawrth yn y Siambr, meddai Leanne, 
“Mae ymlacio’r cyfreithiau ynghylch presgripsiwn canabis meddyginiaethol o ganlyniad i’r newidiadau i ddeddfwriaeth camddefnyddio cyffuriau eleni wedi achosi ychydig iawn o newid.
“Mae’n debygol iawn fod hyn o ganlyniad i’r canllawiau interim cyfyngiedig a gyhoeddwyd o ganlyniad i’r newid hwn yn y ddeddfwriaeth. Mae’r Gymdeithas Sglerosis Ymledol yn dweud na fydd dim yn newid yn y tymor byr ar gyfer y 10,000 o bobl yn y DU sy’n byw gydag MS a allai gael rhyddhad rhag poen trwy ddefnyddio canabis meddyginiaethol.
“Daethpwyd â hyn i sylw yn ystod yr wythnos ddiwethaf, gydag achos Bailey Williams, 16 oed, sydd â epilepsi difrifol, a all achosi iddo ddioddef cannoedd o atafaeliadau yn gyflym. Dywed ei deulu fod y cyflwr yn dirywio’n gyflym. Maen nhw’n dweud y byddai canabis meddyginiaethol yn gwella ei symptomau yn fawr.
“Nawr, mae’n bosib y bydd Sativex ar gael ar y GIG yng Nghymru, ond dim ond ar gyfer trin spasticity yw hwn, ac yna dim ond ar gael i grŵp bach o bobl sy’n byw gydag MS sy’n cyraedd y meini prawf.
“Nid yw hyn yn ddefnyddiol i bobl fel Bailey gydag epilepsi difrifol, neu unrhyw gyflwr arall a allai fod y tu hwnt i’r canllawiau cul hwnnw. Hoffwn weld y Llywodraeth hon yn gweithio tuag at sicrhau bod canllawiau dros dro ar ragnodi canabis meddyginiaethol yn cael eu hadolygu ac yna eu llacio, fel nad yw mynediad at driniaeth mor gyfyngedig.”
Ychwanegodd: “Mae gennym gyfle yng Nghymru i gymryd ymagwedd flaengar at bresgripsiwn canabis meddyginiaethol, ac ni ddylem adael i’r cyfle hwnnw lithro.
“Rwyf eisoes wedi ysgrifennu at arweinydd newydd Llafur, felly a wnewch chi sicrhau ar frys y bydd y Prif Weinidog newydd yn gweithredu ar hyn yn ddi-oed, gan na all y teulu aros tan y Nadolig?”


MIL-OSI UK: Speech: Lord Ahmad Speech at Amnesty International Annual Human Rights Day Reception

Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

To my lords, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome. I wish to thank Mr Speaker for allowing Amnesty to host this event, but also thank Kate and her team for organising the event today and to thank you for all you do; not just holding the government to account, because that is an important role, but equally for your dedication and devotion to this important agenda of Human Rights.

I am also delighted, as I came in I had a chance to speak to some students from Hillview School in Kent – and I understand their member of parliament has just arrived, Tom Tugendhat – talking of holding people to account, as you many of you know, he is the chair of the foreign affairs committee, so I assure you it is not just the members of the opposition who hold the government to account, but the work of our committees do. Particularly in my case as a Foreign Office Minister, the foreign affairs committee, assuring that we do stick to our principles, we do deliver upon our policies and our commitments.

The area of Human Rights is something I believe in very passionately and take very seriously, and therefore not withstanding other events – and there are a few others going on today – it is important that we show our commitment, not just through events like this, but through collaborative and collective action on this important agenda. It should not matter who you are, where you are, what country, what age, what gender, what faith, what creed, what colour – no matter who you are, wherever you are our collective responsibility on this important agenda is clear.

Therefore, I am delighted to support, amongst other human rights defender organisations, the sterling work done by Amnesty International around the world, and Kate, thank you for this opportunity to allow me to come and share some of my thoughts.

As I was walking over from the Foreign Office, there were many colours, there were many voices, there were many placards, and there were many views. But, as I reflected on this particular event, I am proud of the fact that those freedoms that we take sometimes for granted, are very apparent today amongst all days. It is important that we should respect, regard, protect and indeed strengthen those freedoms, not just here in the UK but around the world.

I am proud of the fact that we have passionate political debates on important issues of the day – not just in parliament, but around the country; on the streets, through our newspapers and press and indeed, as I know clearly from my own children – as my 13 year old or coming on to 35, keeps reminding me of her human rights – it is an important element that we continue to discuss these issues within our own homes.

But you know my lords, ladies and gentlemen, it is a cherished freedom. It is right we cherish it, but that we also stand up for those who are denied these freedoms – for which it is just a distant dream. For them, disagreeing with the government is not just difficult; it is dangerous – indeed, in parts of the world, tragically it is deadly.

Threats to Human Rights Defenders

Indeed, as we look at 70 years on from the Human Rights declaration, there are 300 Human Rights Defenders have been murdered this year alone. Why? For defending the human rights of others – that is crucial. That is 300 families shattered. 300 communities shocked and living in fear. And many thousands of ordinary people robbed of a brave and committed advocates, close friends and family.

For every one of those killed, there are many, many more thousands locked up, attacked and threatened.

Early this week, and I was delighted Kate Allen was there as well – both of us heard directly from two Human Rights Defenders; one from Kenya Wanjeri Nderu and Dina Meza from Honduras. It is was important as we marked that particular day that we should not forget the mental harm that is often done, the abuse Human Rights Defenders suffer, because they can be as damaging – those psychological wounds – as a physical one.

UK support of Human Rights Defenders

These incredibly courageous people – I salute them and look up to them – put themselves at risk to defend the rights that matter to us all, and that is why, here at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I and others that work with me make it a priority that we put human rights and Human Rights Defenders at the heart of our work. We learn from them. We not only advocate for them, we seek to also protect and strengthen the work they do – we must continue to strengthen the work we do in this area.

We work with Human Rights Defenders on our campaigns, be it to end modern slavery which our Prime Minister, Mrs May has championed around the world, that scourge and crime of human trafficking; and as I know as her representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, and I know again, talking to the students from Hillview, the importance of girl’s education – that is why, amongst other things, I am proud of our government’s collective shared commitment to ensure that every girl, no matter where they are around the world, receives 12 years of quality education – it is only through education that we will empower girls. Human Rights Defenders are essential to our work to promote good governance, media freedom, to deliver equality; whether it be gender or LGBT equality; and importantly to end the death penalty and torture.

I also, through my travels, meet many dedicated Human Rights Defenders, many of whom are faith leaders and faith communities on the front line. In the summer, I was honoured and humbled to be asked by our prime minister to also take on the additional role as her Special Envoy on the important issue of Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Over the past year, I have done this on many occasions during overseas visits, including in Iraq, Algeria, Egypt and Indonesia, to name but a few. It is so important, as we are defending the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, we should not do so alone; it is the responsibility of us collectively, to promote and respect those who hold different religious beliefs, or no religious beliefs whatsoever, but collectively stand up for their right to do just that – not just internationally, but when we see challenges at home, we should stand up. As we approach Christmas in a year of goodwill – good to remember at this particular time. It is important that we do, and it is an area that I have been looking at very closely, and as we look at Freedom of Religion or Belief, we also recognise that there are many people, because of their Christian faith around the world who won’t be able to celebrate, who will not be able to have the family dinners, who will not be able to go to church to worship in the way they wish to do – a poignant moment to reflect on.

Tribute to NGOs

But we do value our engagement with organisations such as Amnesty and the many other human rights NGOs that share common aims and aspirations.

I should like to take this opportunity, if I may, to pay tribute to the work of Amnesty International in particular and other NGOs present here: because it is you who give a voice to those who are unheard; it is you who stand up for those who are knocked down; and, crucially, it is you who defend those who risk their lives to defend others. Simply put, thank you, for everything you do.

If anyone were in any doubt as to whether defending human rights was truly a global issue, I would suggest – if you haven’t do so already – is to read Amnesty’s report, which as I admitted to Kate I had when I saw her on Monday that I had just received and not yet read, but I have now, which details how their “Write for Rights” campaign has led to 5.5 million actions, in 208 countries and territories around the world.

In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour to be here with you this afternoon, but it goes without saying that the issue of human rights and Human Rights Defenders is significant. The challenges that Human Rights Defenders face around the world are widespread, but they can only be tackled effectively through working together on a global scale.

So as we mark that 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on this Human Rights Day let us pay tribute, let us remember and those who have a faith let us pray for those brave Human Rights Defenders around the world, let us pay tribute to their courage, their incredible vision and tenacity, and ultimately let us commit to work together, even more closely than we have already, to ensure we play our part in helping them to deliver the change we all want to see. Thank you.