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Getting all children and young people back into school for the new academic year has been a national priority. As of 10 September, over 99% of schools were open to some or all of their pupils. Schools have been able to claim additional funding for exceptional costs incurred due to COVID-19 between March and July, such as additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases and increased premises costs to keep schools open for priority groups during the Easter and summer half term holidays.
Schools have also continued to receive their core funding allocations throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Following last year’s Spending Round, school budgets are rising by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20.
As stated in our guidance, schools should use their existing resources when welcoming all children back this autumn.
The UK Government is deeply concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public finances of low-income developing countries. During 2020, developing countries were projected to spend around $36 billion on servicing external debts to bilateral, multilateral and private sector creditors. In this time of crisis, it is vital that creditors work together to ensure that servicing debts does not prevent countries protecting their citizens and economies.
The UK, alongside the G20 and the Paris Club of official creditors, has committed to a temporary suspension of debt service repayments from the poorest countries. This official sector effort could provide up to $12 billion of additional fiscal space for eligible countries until the end of the year, allowing their governments to redirect finances towards mitigating the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. This initiative provides time to assess what further assistance these countries may need.
The G20 has called for the private sector creditors to participate on comparable terms and has asked the Multilateral Development Banks to explore whether there are options for them to participate, while maintaining their current credit ratings and low cost of funding which are important for supporting their client countries.
The UK Government is deeply concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public finances of low-income developing countries. The UK, alongside the G20 and the Paris Club of official creditors, has committed to a temporary suspension of debt service repayments from the poorest countries.
The UK, together with other G20 Finance Ministers, has asked the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to explore options for them to participate in the G20 initiative, while maintaining their current credit ratings and low cost of funding which are important for supporting their client countries. The MDBs are currently conducting analysis and will report back to the G20.
During 2020, developing countries were projected to spend around $13 billion on servicing external debts to multilateral creditors. In response to COVID-19, the international financial institutions (including the World Bank and African Development Bank) have made over $300 billion of finance available for developing countries over the coming 15 months.
The UK Government is closely monitoring the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border following an increase in tensions. We welcome the ongoing communication between the parties and urge them to use this opportunity to de-escalate the situation peacefully.
The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas urged both parties to work with the ICRC to expedite the return of all prisoners of war. Our Embassies in Baku and Yerevan continue to raise this with the Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The UK continues to support a robust approach in response to Russia's malign activity. Sanctions are an important tool in delivering targeted economic and political pressure in order to change Russian behaviour. The UK has transitioned existing EU Russia sanctions regimes into UK law through regulations made under the Sanctions Act. The sanctions set out clear conditions for Russia to meet including the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement and the withdrawal of troops from Ukrainian soil. Until this happens sanctions will remain in place. As long as Russia persists in its efforts to undermine our interests and values, we will work with our international partners to continue to deter and counter them.
We are aware of allegations that cluster munitions were deployed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas has raised the alleged use of cluster munitions with both the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers.
The UK Government welcomes the ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas spoke to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Bayramov on the 13 November and welcomed Azerbaijan's commitment to keep the Lachin Corridor open to allow the free movement of people between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. The governments of both Azerbaijan and Armenia should continue to work closely with the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to ensure the safety and protection of all civilians.
The Minister for the European Neighbourhood spoke to the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers on 28 October and urged both parties to abide by the humanitarian ceasefire. She strongly condemned all targeting of civilian infrastructure and the increasing number of civilian casualties.
The UK Government has not made an assessment of a threat of mass atrocities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. We continue to urge both parties to abide by the humanitarian ceasefires. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood spoke to the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers on 28 October and condemned shelling of civilian settlements.
We are increasingly concerned about the humanitarian impact of the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood spoke to both the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers on 28 October and condemned shelling of civilian settlements. On 31 October we announced an additional £1 million in funding for the International Committee for the Red Cross to provide further support for those worst affected by the conflict.
The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas spoke to the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers on 28 October. She highlighted the importance of ensuring the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to access the conflict zone to provide emergency humanitarian assistance. She also urged both Foreign Ministers to abide by the recent ceasefire agreements to allow for the facilitation of return of prisoners of war and the remains of the deceased.
The UK has stated it does not accept the results of the fraudulent Presidential election and has condemned the excessive violence used to suppress the subsequent peaceful protests. We have urged the Belarusian authorities to engage in a constructive dialogue with political opposition and civil society. We intend to double our support for independent media, human rights organisations and community groups in Belarus - with an extra £1.5 million for projects over the next two years.
We will keep working with our international partners to support and strengthen democracy and human rights in Belarus. We are calling for an independent investigation through the OSCE into the electoral process and the repression which has followed. The UK is also working with international partners to sanction those responsible, and to hold the Belarusian authorities to account.
Both I and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief plan to attend the US National Prayer Breakfast on 6 February in, Washington DC.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has held discussions with the US and other countries about joining the Alliance. We will be announcing our decision on our membership shortly.
Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief is a longstanding human rights priority for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO has already agreed to host in 2020 conferences on Preventing Sexual Violence and COP26 then co-host a conference on the Equal Rights Coalition on LGBT rights. We will announce a decision on whether the UK will host a ministerial level conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief shortly.
?Promoting Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) globally is a key priority of this Government. The office of the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief is supported by a Chief of Staff, and we are recruiting an Assistant Private Secretary. In addition, we also have a FoRB team whose work includes providing policy advice and support to the Special Envoy and other Ministers. For this financial year, we have agreed the Special Envoy’s office will receive £73,453 to cover travel and administration costs. Future funding will be decided at a later stage.
We are liaising with the UK mission to the UN in New York on how best to implement this recommendation. We are keen to work with all governments in the Middle East and North Africa region and support them to protect Christians and all religious minorities from persecution. The Government remains committed to implementing all the recommendations of the Bishop of Truro's Review in full and in a way that will bring real improvements to the lives of those persecuted because of their faith or belief.
Her Majesty’s Government is deeply concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income developing countries. It is vital that all creditors work together to ensure that countries especially vulnerable to the pandemic are able to protect their citizens and economies.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and his counterparts called on commercial creditors to participate in the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative on comparable terms to the official sector.
Her Majesty’s Government is working closely with the Paris Club of official creditors and Institute of International Finance (IIF) to explore options for its membership to implement equivalent debt service suspensions. HM Treasury attended a joint meeting of the Paris Club and IIF on 28 April where both parties agreed to collaborate in support of the initiative.