27 September 2019


At the University of Liverpool on 16 September, Liam Walpole, Policy Manager at ORG, sat on a panel of experts to comment on papers presented by academics on the past, present and future of the human rights agenda in British foreign policy. 

The event was organised by David Grealy, a PhD student at Liverpool University, who is researching the role that David Owen, a former British foreign secretary, played in embedding a human rights agenda into British foreign policy. 

Liam argued that there appeared to be a renewed debate, in both the Labour and Conservative parties, about how the UK can renew its commitments to act as a positive influence on the world. For the Labour Party, their focus is on a return to internationalism and an ethical foreign policy. While on the opposite side, the Conservatives have called for a renewed commitment to the rules-based international order through their 'Global Britain' agenda. 

Commenting on some of the historical case studies raised throughout the conference, Liam said:

There is a lot that we, as policy experts, can learn from the history of Britain's past efforts to incorporate a human rights agenda into Britain's foreign policy. The point that stands out is that the challenges that politicians like David Owen came up against during their time in the Foreign Office are similar to the ones we are now seeing with the increase in partnered operations. By reviewing past approaches, we can ensure that our policy recommendations take into account historic challenges and propose mechanisms that are more effective at reducing risks that the UK foreign policy directly or indirectly leads to human rights abuses.