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Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Minister of State (Europe) 4:34 pm, 13th October 2008

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of promoting democracy and human rights.

Foreign policy has traditionally been associated with the peace, security and prosperity of this country. It is about all those things, but the title of today's debate reminds us that it is also about people. Much of the work done by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, our partners in foreign policy, is about improving the lot of people, wherever they are in the world. Our work to promote democracy and to further human rights goes to the heart of that. It is quite a challenge. We need to change the minds and behaviour of other Governments, and we need to challenge the most intimate political relationship—that between a state and its people.

We do this because a democratic rules-based world will benefit Britain and British people as they go about their daily lives, whether in business, on holiday or simply as taxpayers financing our contributions to military and development missions abroad. We can do that work bilaterally, and we do. In many cases, our human rights work is fundamental to achieving our departmental priority, whether it is climate security or stopping arms proliferation, but—and this is unique in today's era—we also have the ability to work with international partners, so a crucial part of our strategy is to make international institutions work better.

As Minister for Europe, I want to start with the European Union. I know that my predecessor, along with many other Members, has spent months thinking about the institutional questions facing the European Union. I hope that, during my time as Europe Minister, we can move on from that to concentrate on how the European Union can improve not just the lives of its own citizens, but those of the many millions on the borders of the EU who do not yet enjoy the standards, rules and rights—the simple democracy—that we have here.

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