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Foreign Policy Centre

Ideas for a fairer world

Research: Democracy, Governance and Human Rights

Related Research Projects
Africa
Caucasus and Central Asia
Iran
Middle East
Russia and Eastern Europe
South Asia

Promoting the development of human rights, democratic principles and better governance are at the heart of the Foreign Policy Centre's mission. The FPC believes that these goals need to be given greater weight in international decision making for both moral and long-term strategic reasons. However we understand that the mechanisms used to reach those goals will differ depending on context. The FPC's research aims to support the work of local and diaspora human rights activists and develop clear policy recommendations for how the international community, in particular the UK and EU, should act to support those on the ground in achieving their goals.

Upcoming Events

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> Investing in women's economic resilience & social wellbeing: Rethinking the role of private sector development in Africa

Nestle logo

supported by Nestlé

Part of the 'Africa Rising? Building Africa's Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth' series

This series of roundtable discussions - supported by Nestlé - are taking place at a time when global development priorities are being reshaped and redefined by the 17 recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change agreement (COP21). COP21 aims to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels) however, has yet to provide the commitments needed to achieve this aspiration. In addition, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will mark its 60th anniversary (CSW60) in 2016. Its priority focus will be women's empowerment and sustainable development. The level of global inequality and insecurity disproportionately affecting women and girls continues to be compounded by an unprecedented global economic crisis, on-going austerity and mounting uncertainty. These conditions present very real challenges for public spending dedicated to sustainable development. As such, understanding the development transformation role played by business and enterprise has become increasingly important.

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Articles

> FPC Briefing: How Investment Treaties have a chilling effect on Human Rights

By Sam Fowles.

In a new FPC Briefing Sam Fowles (Researcher in Law at Queen Mary University of London) argues that human rights are the ultimate arbiter of the relationship between the state and the individual, yet a new generation of trade and investment agreements are increasingly subjecting human rights to the interests of international investors.

Fowles writes that this 'Second Generation' of agreements has transformed provisions intended to protect investors from state overreach, into guarantees of preferential treatment. This allows investors to exert an unprecedented level of influence on governments. This has often been brought to bear in relation to human rights, with international investors able to compel governments to abandon or roll back measures indented to protect and promote rights. Fowles believes that with Brexit approaching, the UK must shortly embrace Second Generation treaties. Negotiators must, therefore, take account of the risks such instruments pose to fundamental human rights.

Download FPC Briefing: How Investment Treaties have a chilling effect (520 kilobyte PDF)


> FPC Briefing: Why Burma's political transition should be viewed with caution

By John Harley Breen.

John Harley Breen examines the challenges Burma/Myanmar faces as it attempts to transition to a more open political structure after decades of military and colonial domination. It looks at the history of military rule and the economic and political power structures that this embedded. The paper looks at relationship between the state and minority groups across the country and challenges around the emerging peace process.

Download FPC Briefing: Burma's political transition (400 kilobyte PDF)


> Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy Conference speeches

There are videos available of key portions of the FPC's Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy London Conference from October 26th 2016. The After Brexit: Can we build a new democratic foundation for UK-EU relations? panel comprising: Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Emma Reynolds MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Professor Vernon Bogdanor (Kings College) and Stephen Booth (Open Europe),with Marie Le Conte (Buzzfeed) chairing is available to watch on Youtube. The keynote speech by Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, chair of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee is available on Facebook. It is also available on BBC Iplayer by BBC Parliament until November 28th 2016.


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Publications

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> The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

[Cover of The information battle: How governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad]

Exporting Repression series

Adam Hug (Ed.)

March 2017 Hard copy: £7.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download The information battle publication (2.75 megabyte PDF)

A new Foreign Policy Centre publication examines the ways in which the governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them. The information battle examines the influence of Russian media content in the former Soviet Union and the wider world. This is delivered through Russian domestic TV channels reaching Russian-speaking audiences in the region, the developing role of the news agency Sputnik and the international broadcaster RT. The publication examines how these outlets are used not only to promote Russian political narratives but to challenge Western approaches and sow confusion about what is going on in the world. It offers ideas for how independent broadcasters and international outlets can provide effective alternatives.

Despite cracking down on Western-backed NGOs at home, the governments of the former Soviet Union are seeking to directly influence the European and US political debate through NGOs, think tanks and lobbying organisations. This publication looks at how to improve the transparency and accountability of such actions. Repressive regimes that use advertising and the hosting of international events to promote themselves, are increasingly being challenged by human rights defenders through the publicity such activities bring. It also looks at the way social media is used by regimes to target opposition activists and other critics. The publication argues that, in what is increasingly becoming a battle involving the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground and must take action in order to meet the challenge.

The publication contains contributions by regional and international experts: Natalia Antelava, Coda Story; Ana Divali and Revaz Koiava, Caucasian House; Arzu Geybulla; Richard Giragosian, Regional Studies Center; Melissa Hooper, Human Rights First; Adam Hug (ed.), Foreign Policy Centre; Rasto Kuzel, Memo 98; Dr David Lewis, University of Exeter; Ben Nimmo, Atlantic Council; and Dr Justin Schlosberg, Birkbeck, University of London. Kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations as part of the FPC's Exporting Repression project.


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> Iran Human Rights Review: Due Process

[Cover of Iran Human Rights Review: Due Process]

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam (Ed.), Tahirih Danesh (Ed.)

February 2017

In this latest issue, the Iran Human Rights Review focuses on due process in the Iranian legal system. The review contains contributions from experienced human rights lawyers, activists and defenders. The Iran Human Rights Review: Due Process focuses on a number of key issues including the legal history of Iran and the current legal system of the Islamic Republic laws, with a particular focus on areas that either are in need of or are open to improvement to provide access to justice and ensure the legal system follows due process. The key arrears for improvement include resolving the tensions between Iran's national codes, its international commitments and its religiously inspired 'qesas' laws, with a particular focus on the use of the death penalty and juvenile executions.

The Iran Human Rights Review: Due Process edition was edited by Tahirih Danesh and Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. It contains contributions from experienced human rights lawyers, activists and defenders such as the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed and a number of other experts including Roya Kashefi, Sedigheh Vasmaghi, Shahin Milani, Ladan Boroumand, Kamyar Behrang, Azin Tadjdini, Araz Fanni, Behrouz Javid-Tehrani and Rebin Rahmani. Leading international lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC has kindly provided the foreword.


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> No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union

[Cover of No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union]

Exporting Repression series

Adam Hug (Ed.)

November 2016 Hard copy: £7.95, plus £1 p+p.

Download No Shelter publication (2.23 megabyte PDF)

A new Foreign Policy Centre publication No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union examines the experiences of activists and other people who have had to leave their former Soviet country of origin due to the risk of persecution at home, but who are unable to escape the pressures of their country's security services. It looks at both the legal and illegal means used by the security services to put pressure on exiles from Interpol Red Notices and formal extradition procedures, to surveillance, harassment, physical attacks, kidnapping and assassination. Though the publication looks at the issue across the post-Soviet region there is a particular focus on the activities of the security services from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and on both Turkey and Russia as places where exiles are most at risk. No Shelter examines regional security service cooperation and collusion in putting pressure on activists, alongside the influence of Western activities that have helped exacerbate the situation.

The publication contains contributions from: Nadejda Ataeva, Association for Human Rights in Central Asia; Civil Rights Defenders; Dr Mark Galeotti, Institute of International Relations-Prague; Arzu Geybulla; Giorgi Gogia, Human Rights Watch; Dr John Heathershaw, Eve Bishop and Rosa Brown, University of Exeter; Adam Hug (Ed.), Foreign Policy Centre; Dr Edward Lemon, Columbia University. Kindly supported by the Open Society Foundations as part of the FPC's Exporting Repression project.


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Past Events

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> The information battle: Brussels

The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Wednesday 29th March 2017

TIME: 4.30pm - 6:00pm

VENUE: Open Society European Policy Institute, Rue du Trône 130,Brussels B-1050, Belgium

Speakers:

  • Rebecca Harms MEP, Chair, Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
  • Kati Piri MEP, Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Jakub Kalensky, East StratCom Task Force, European External Action Service
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London

Chair: Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.


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> The information battle: how governments in the former Soviet Union promote their agendas & attack their opponents abroad

DATE: Tuesday 21 March 2017

TIME: 18:00 - 19:30

VENUE: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Dr Justin Schlosberg, Lecturer in Journalism and Media, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Dr David Lewis, Senior Lecturer and Director of Education, University of Exeter
  • Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

Chair: Maeve Shearlaw, Commissioning Editor– World Networks, The Guardian

This event will focus on the ways in which governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) countries look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their points of view and exert pressure on those who oppose them. The event will look to build on and broaden the existing literature on Russian-backed internationally focused media outlets and pro-government media elsewhere in the region. It will explore how they operate to shape global narratives about their countries, influence thinking on international disputes, blunt criticism of their actions while challenging Western values and behaviour. It will look at similarities and differences between the operation of outlets from the FSU and Western supported global news services.

The event will examine the ways in which authoritarian regimes work to project their image abroad beyond the use of the media. This includes the use of sponsorship and advertising to shape international perceptions in addition to the way in which regimes create or support their own think tanks, pressure groups, diasporan organisations, parliamentary groups and work with others (such as public affairs agencies) to promote their policy agendas and influence the responses of international institutions and policy makers.

The event may also explore how government backed broadcasters, press and websites from the FSU run stories to attempt to discredit the work of diasporan and other activists challenging official narratives from outside the country. At the direction or encouragement of the authorities this can involve direct harassment, the production of untrue or politically distorted stories that aim to make activists' lives difficult even when abroad (as well as putting pressure on friends and family who remain in the country). The event will explore the growing fight for control of the social media space - with organized pro-government activity becoming increasingly visible both in responding to the actions of opposition and independent civil society and in directly promoting their agenda online. These methods include the use of paid-for trolling and the mobilization of 'patriotic youth movements' to target opponents and spread pro-government narratives to national, diasporan and international audiences.

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and affiliation (if you have one). Free copies of the new publication will be available. The event is free and open to all.

Download The information battle: London, 21 March 6pm (310 kilobyte PDF)


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> Iran Human Rights Review: Where now for human rights in Iran?

IHRR

Date: Tuesday 21st February 2017

Time: 6 - 7.30pm

Venue: Committee Room 9, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA

Speakers:

  • Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and current UN SR on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Mehrangiz Kar, Iranian Lawyer and Chairperson of the Siamak Pourzand Foundation
  • Tahirih Danesh, Chief Editor, Iran Human Rights Review
  • Roya Kashefi-Ladjevardi, Head of Human Rights - Association des Chercheurs Iraniens

Chair: Rt Hon. Ann Clwyd MP, Chair of the Human Rights APPG

This event will take place as Iran looks ahead to a Presidential election in May 2017, where even the challenging human rights situation under the Rouhani Presidency is at risk of deteriorating further under growing pressure from hardliners. It will explore the current culture of human rights in Iran and attempts by sections of the regime to position personal freedoms as threats to Iran's security. The seminar will focus on the themes of the three latest editions of the FPC's Iran Human Rights Review: the human rights impact of the economy as sanctions are slowly lifted; issues of women and human rights; and the upcoming edition on due process (due to launch in early 2017).

Please RSVP to events@fpc.org.uk providing your name and any affiliation.

Download IHRR event February 21 2016 (210 kilobyte PDF)


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