Posts Tagged ‘FCO’


UK FCO Human Rights Report 2012 – Ukraine gets a paragraph

May 5, 2012

As readers of this blog will be aware, as this is not the first time the UK FCO Human Rights Report has been featured.

Every year the Foreign & Commonwealth Office issues a report on what it has done (or not) with regards to human rights around the globe, the threats it sees and the action it takes to  mitigate such threats.

A few days ago, the FCO Human Rights Reoprt 2011 was released.  A lengthy document consisting of 392 pages.  Undeniably the past 12 month reporting period has been a busy one.

There is though, only one reference to Ukraine throughout the entire document that I can find, which reads:

“On 19 December, Ukraine concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union that includes human rights requirements.  That marked the end of a year in which Ukraine’s respect for democratic principles and the rule of law had been called into question, principally over the detention, trial and convictions of opposition political leaders.  Independent experts, including the Danish Helsinki Committee, identified serious flaws in trials that were widely judged to be politically motivated.  The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the treatment of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko was “disgraceful” and the Foreign Secretary issues a statement expressing his deep concern.  The Minister for Europe issued a  similar statement when an appeal court upheld Ms Tymoshenko’s conviction and sentence.  The UK and the EU have made clear that to ensure that the association agreement is ratified, Ukraine must demonstrate that it can live up to EU principles.”

That, as far as any mention of Ukraine goes, is your lot in the hefty tome of UK human rights positions via the FCO.

Not an awful lot.  No mention of whether the UK is supporting (or not) the supposed “fast tracking” of Ms Tymoshenko’s ECfHR appeal which you would think would be poignant as the UK currently holds the Presidency of the Council of Europe and is the driving force behind reforms of the ECfHR.

I know that the UK does support the fast tracking of her case through the ECfHR, but the report doesn’t say so.

Also no mention of the 80+ Somalian refugees indefinitely detained near the EU border.  No mention of human trafficking.   No mention of any human rights issues in Ukraine other than Ms Tymoshenko and a vague reference to “other trials”.  At 392 pages long, a brief mention of the other issues, even if it meant the report went to 393 pages long, really would not have hurt anybody would it?

Returning to Ms Tymoshenko, one has to hope that such support is robust, given the statements referred to in the quote above, and the fact that whether she is guilty or innocent of the actual allegations, a fair trial must be the method to reach that verdict.

The issue as I have written here numerous times, is not her guilt or innocence from an EU perspective, but the method used to reach that conclusion.  In her case, that methodology was flawed (just as in so many other cases that the EU have ignored for everyday Ukrainians for decades) and a transparent due process lacking.

As an aside, recognising the system is flawed for so many other Ukrainians, one wonders how the EU can deny everyday Ukrainians Visas based on the fact they have a criminal record when they received that criminal record through the same system they now decry over Ms Tymoshenko and former colleagues.  If we believe one of the core human rights for everybody is equality before the law and a fair due process, the system is either flawed for all Ukrainians or it isn’t.  (And we know that it is.)  Therefore legal rulings resulting in a dubious criminal record, thus preventing a Visa to the EU being granted in the future must be of less than solid foundation as far as grounds for refusal very often as well.  – Hmm.

It all gets rather messy and unfair when decrying a system as seriously flawed and yet accepting some results for some Ukrainians and dismissing results from the same seriously flawed system for others.

Anyway, a very long read for those of you who want to know what the UK FCO is doing about human rights around the world.  As far as Ukraine is concerned, as you can see from the quote, for now, it is making public statements!  (And hopefully much more behind the scenes that will never see the light of public scrutiny.)


Farewell to “Our woman in Kyiv” – Judith Gardiner

January 17, 2012

Today I am supposed to be attending the leaving function of Judith Gardiner, Deputy Head of Mission (Second in Command) of HM Embassy Kyiv.

Unfortunately due to a rather heavy cold I will not be going despite a genuine desire to be there.  Whilst numerous pharmaceutical wonders undoubtedly will mask the symptoms, being responsible for infecting all others present is not something I would wish to be remembered for.

Of course emailed apologies have been duly sent in good time to HM Ambassador and to Judith individually.

The reason for this post, aside from a public bon voyage and bonne chance with regards to Judith as I am unable to pass on such wishes in person, is also to publicly recognise the sterling service that Judith gave to me as well as recognising the lighthearted (and in good taste) emailed banter from “Our woman in Kyiv” and myself.

As far too few will say thank you for her time and effort, I can at least do so for myself in the public domain.  Manners maketh man as my Mum drilled into me.

Now I have never been one to cause a problem for our people in Kyiv.  There has been no time when I have needed to call on our Embassy in times of need having got myself into a situation whereby they have had to intervene on my behalf.  The same applied to my time in Moscow.

However, of all our Embassy staff, Judith has been the most helpful, frank and entertaining of them, both in person and by email.  It is also fair to say, now completing her second tour of duty in Ukraine, she is hardly naive when it comes to matters Ukrainian.

It is with regards to getting things done, or more accurately pointing me in the right direction to investigate matters further myself, that Judith has been extremely helpful.  I suspect her occasional assistance would not have been forthcoming from others in her position and dismissed out of hand.

Choosing my words carefully and making an empirical judgement based on my years working in the public service as an extremely small cog two very big public service machines, but in doing so coming into contact with numerous civil servants and politicians, it is fair to say she ranks very highly in my esteem.  In short Judith is a solid citizen (to use an old-school expression) with a sense of humour I can relate to.

I trust her next few years as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Bishkek will be enjoyable.  An appointment which is undoubtedly deserved and I am sure all Embassy staff in Bishkek will be relieved to know such a worthy individual is en route.  I am sure Kyrgyzstan will be a challenge (as will all Central Asia as a geopolitical region in the immediate future).

As for her replacement, Mr Martin Day, meeting him will have to be delayed as I am certain not to be forgiven for inflicting illness upon him unnecessarily.  It is rather juvenile to imagine him in Judith’s shoes, and one suspects her shoes are smaller than those of Mr Day, at least physically, however, metaphorically speaking  they will be very hard to fill.

Nevertheless, adieu, bonne chance and bon voyage Mrs Gardiner and please accept my public thanks for the assistance given to me in the past.  I am pleased your ticky box FCO appraisal was as good as it deserved to be and a suitable appointment made as a result.

(For some reason my public service appraisals always employed some very long words designed to encourage whilst keep me in my place in the scheme of things.  I don’t suppose things have changed much.)

Suffice to say I will keep my eye on the FCO appointments and the Honours Lists in future to see where you go and if you get a little enameled gong with St George and a dragon on it!


Cultural leadership or masked coercive policy?‏

July 29, 2011

I have much discussed the overt and covert roles of NGOs here over the years.

Here is the British Council looking for the next generation of “cultural leaders” in Ukraine and offering leadership training, funding to the tune of £3000 for personal development and perusing the written plans of said applicants with “cultural leadership” aspirations.

From a UK perspective, of course, it is most wise to familiarise with and mentor where possible the next generation of Ukrainian “cultural leaders”. To help shape and forge strong bonds with the next Ukrainian people of influence from an early developmental position is exactly what the UK should be doing.

In the world of leadership and international relations, personal relationships go a very long way when it comes to the ease of access and negotiation with another nation.

From a Ukrainian point of view, on one hand it may turn out to be quite beneficial in the future to have the same easy access and personal connections with those determining policy in the UK, but on another, depending upon the transparency of the selection process employed by the UK Foreign Office via the facade of the British Council NGO (a budget that is the responsibility of the Foreign Office), there will be an acute awareness of the ability to be rather partisan in selection and therefore coercive to certain interests.

Of course you would expect HM Gov to have an agenda otherwise there is no real point to the exercise. Without an agenda, they may as well pay the fees for my next Open University educational upgrade in one of the political sciences (P,P or E to be exact, starting in a few months if they ever get around to setting the fees for overseas students that is) and then use their influence to shoe-horn me into a Ukrainian NGO in which they have a particular interest.

From my perspective a good trade-off of course. It is actually quite difficult to get actively involved in a NGO even when you want to. It’s even harder to get involved in EU or UN bodies despite what would appear to be obvious benefits to them ostensibly based on costs and location . We will see, for example, if anyone asks me or any resident foreigner I know, to act as an OSCE observer for the next 2012 parliamentary elections here in Odessa, or whether the taxpayer will be asked to pay for a different foreigner with a far worse linguistic ability (thus needing additional funds for an interpreter) to be flown here, accommodated and then flown out again.

Which is the most effective use of EU taxpayers money? – Exactly, so the chances of that happening are similar to the hole in my derriere disappearing overnight!

Anyway, returning to the point, whilst this is quite an overt and seemingly well intentioned endeavor (and it quite possibly is just that), there is of course, depending upon the transparency of the selection process, the ability for rather darker motives in the long-term, as anyone excelling within this sponsored programme will very likely become a prominent figure either regionally or nationally in Ukraine over the next 10 years.

One has to recognise though that there is no neutral action in foreign policy. Even inaction can be something other than neutral depending upon the circumstances. I could and maybe should go on to explain that further, but it becomes quite an academic argument and this post would turn into more a dissertation/thesis than flippant commentary you are used to.

Maybe I should create another section called “It’s all really quite academic….” and take a layman’s meander into policy in clear and simple English, but the amount of research and reading required would mean sporadic and lengthy entries. What do you think?

As it happens, I am all in favour of this UK endeavor, even if the long-term motives are somewhat more opaque and coercive than they appear prima facie. Then I would be, as I have one foot firmly planted in Ukraine and the other in the UK. It is in my personal interest to have and encourage top-class bilateral relations between both nations and between Odessa as a region and the UK for that matter whether it be with the leadership of today or that of the next generation.

The less I have to explain the more nefarious or opaque actions of the UK when confronted about them, the better it is for me. Like so many in society, issues judged separately and in the short-term rather than in the context of the bigger picture over the medium/long-term.

So, if there are any fledgling Ukrainian “cultural leaders” reading amongst my Ukrainian followers, click on the above link and apply. If you need help with the application or working on your personal progression plan, leave a comment. All comments are screened by me before publication, so if you do not want your comment/interest released for public consumption and would prefer a more confidential arrangement, mention it when making contact with the blog.

If there is one thing I am more than capable of, it is writing dry, strategic, technically sound English for the corporate and government machines of the UK and EU. Now there’s an offer you don’t get every day!

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