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The Fast Stream is a talent pipeline for government departments and professions. It is only right we pause bringing in candidates as departments set out how they might achieve the government’s commitment to return the Civil Service to the size it was in 2016.
Whilst we pause the Fast Stream for the 2023 intake, we will take the opportunity to further improve the Fast Stream offer. This reform will ensure that when the scheme reopens, it is focused on driving up specialist skills in the Civil Service, as well as improving the regional representation of the Fast Stream.
Information provided by departments to the Cabinet Office shows that as of 1st April 2021, 890 Senior Civil Servants were reported to have been successful in the central Fast Stream selection process. This represents 20% of all Senior Civil Servants (as a percentage of all members where information has been reported by the department as known).
My Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister has committed to write to the Liaison Committee on this and other matters raised with him during his appearance. A copy of that letter will be placed in the Library of the House.
The Office for Talent, with other government departments, is developing the GREAT campaign to attract those working in science and technology and inspire them to live and work in the United Kingdom. This will include highlighting the Global Talent visa route. The Home Office works hard to ensure the UK’s immigration rules are clear and accessible and our visa system is easy to navigate for those who want to come to the UK.
The Prime Minister has put his science and technology superpower ambitions at the heart of government business by setting up the new National Science & Technology Council (NSTC). The new Office for Science & Technology Strategy in the Cabinet Office will inform and deliver the NSTC’s vision - this includes monitoring the impact of its decisions on the UK’s status as a science and technology superpower. The Government Office for Science’s Technology and Science Insights team will provide independent and objective analysis to support this work.
The Prime Minister last spoke to President Putin of Russia on Monday 25 October.
Details of their call were published on GOV.UK (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-call-with-president-putin-of-russia-25-october-2021) and stated that:
“The Prime Minister spoke to Russian President Putin this afternoon ahead of the COP26 Summit.
He welcomed the steps Russia has taken in recent days to commit net zero by 2060. The Prime Minister expressed his hope that Russia will raise that target to achieving net zero by 2050 as well as making further progress on ending deforestation and an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution.
President Putin expressed his regret that he would not be able to attend the COP26 Summit in person in the light of the coronavirus situation in Russia.
The Prime Minister was clear that the UK’s current relationship with Russia is not the one we want. He said significant bilateral difficulties remain, including the poisonings in Salisbury in 2018. The Prime Minister also underscored the importance of Ukrainian sovereignty.
The Prime Minister said that as fellow permanent members of the UN Security Council and major world economies with a long, shared history, the UK and Russia have a responsibility to work together to tackle shared challenges like climate change and safeguard international agreements like the Iran Nuclear Deal.
The leaders also discussed the current situation in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of any recognition of the Taliban being conditional on their behaviour, including respect for human rights.”
The Prime Minister and US President announced the establishment of a UK/US Expert Working Group on international travel following their meeting on 10 June 2021. Since then, the group met in full regularly over the summer to discuss the reopening of travel between the UK and US, as well as further engagement between the UK and US chairs, our embassy in Washington, and technical discussions.
Facilitated by the UK/US Working Group, the UK reopened travel for double vaccinated US residents on 2 August, meaning that they no longer need to self isolate on arrival into the UK.
On 20 September, the US announced that they will allow double vaccinated British nationals to enter the US from November, completing the fully vaccinated travel corridor. Travellers will need proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID test taken three days before departure and will not need to quarantine.
The Prime Minister yesterday announced the appointment of Rt Hon Lord Geidt to serve as the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests. Lord Geidt is a Crossbench Member of the House of Lords, a Privy Councillor and a former Private Secretary to The Queen. He brings a distinguished record of impartial public service and experience of Government to bear on the appointment.
The Prime Minister has agreed Terms of Reference for the role with Lord Geidt. These have been published on Gov.uk and will be deposited in the House libraries.
As part of these new Terms of Reference, and taking into account the recommendations of the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Independent Adviser will now have the authority to advise on the initiation of investigations.
The Cabinet Office publishes information on the handling of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests across Government on a quarterly basis on Gov.uk.
Covid-19 has put particular pressures on public officials, but as the published figures demonstrate that between July and September 2020, departments received around 8,000 freedom of information requests and responded to almost 90% of them within 20 working days or with a permitted extension. This reflects the Government’s commitment to fulfill its freedom of information obligations, despite the pressures of responding to COVID-19.
The Prime Minister last spoke to the President of the United States on 7 October 2020 to wish him a speedy recovery from Covid-19.
The Government is committed to facilitating appropriate parliamentary oversight of the UK’s relationship with the EU and is carefully considering appropriate scrutiny processes.
The House of Lords scrutinised the TCA further in an extensive debate on 8 January, and Ministers will continue to engage with the appropriate Select Committees in the coming weeks.
In responding to this unprecedented pandemic, the Government has been guided by the very best scientific and medical advice from our world-leading experts, and we believe their advice to be trustworthy. This approach is illustrated in the advice received and followed from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). Protecting the health and safety of the British public is, and must always be, our number one priority. Minutes of SAGE meetings have been published and are available to view here: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage-coronavirus-covid-19-response
The Prime Minister demonstrated his focus on climate action on Tuesday 4 February 2020 by launching the COP26 Climate Summit. The text of the speech is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-at-cop-26-launch-4-february-2020
Regarding meetings of the Cabinet, it is a long established precedent that information about the discussions that have taken place in Cabinet and its Committees, and how often they have met, is not shared publicly.
The negotiations timetable for COP26 will be set by the UK, as President of COP26, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat. The timetable will be informed by the outcome of negotiations, including at the intersessional meeting in Bonn in June. Details of the timetable for high level and public events will be announced by the Government in due course.
The UK Government is working closely with the Scottish Government and with operational delivery partners, including Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council, to ensure the successful delivery of COP26 in Glasgow. The security plan for the COP26 venue will be jointly developed and agreed on by the United Nations security team and UK counterparts. Discussions with delivery partners regarding costs for COP26 are ongoing, and final budgets and details are yet to be confirmed.
The UK Government is committed to working with the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to deliver an ambitious and successful summit for the whole of the UK. Details of Ministerial meetings are published quarterly on GOV.UK
The UK stands ready to formalise our association to Horizon Europe at the earliest opportunity. The Government continues to do everything it can to complete this process swiftly, but disappointingly there have been persistent delays from the EU.
In order to provide reassurance to the sector, the UK Government has guaranteed funding for the first and second waves of eligible successful applicants to Horizon Europe who expect to sign agreements by December 2022 and who have been unable to sign grant agreements with the EU. If the UK is unable to associate to Horizon Europe, we will be ready to introduce a comprehensive alternative programme of international science, research and innovation collaborations.
I refer my noble Friend to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central on 27 April 2022 to Question 156445.
Royal Mail is aware of the theft of post boxes in parts of East Anglia and is working closely with law enforcement agencies and deploying preventative measures to deter theft.
The Government is not involved in the replacement of post boxes which is an operational matter for Royal Mail.
The UK is always seeking to discuss issues with our international partners where appropriate opportunities arise. This is no exception and there is a strong international community involved in monitoring and discussing the risk around the Thwaites Glacier.
In 2018, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, a five-year £20million Antarctic research programme and the largest joint project undertaken by the two nations in Antarctica for more than 70 years. This project is aimed at collecting instrument data throughout the glacier and the adjacent ocean, and modelling ice flow and the future of the ice sheet. The collaboration involves around 100 scientists from world-leading research institutes in both the US and UK alongside researchers from South Korea, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland, who will contribute to the various projects.
The changes that may occur in the vicinity of the grounding line of the Thwaites Glacier in the next decade will not, of themselves, result in a significant change in global sea level. While some computer models predict that such changes may lead to a wider loss of ice to the ocean, these are processes occurring on century timescales. For this reason, the NERC and BAS priority at present is to continue to monitor the Thwaites Glacier with satellite and ground observations, as they are presently undertaking in collaboration with the US.
The Government actively monitors the UK labour market. The latest ONS statistics suggest that, between March and May 2021, there were 758,000 vacancies in the economy, only 27,000 below the pre-pandemic level.
We are actively supporting the hospitality sector on its road to recovery. We are offering generous incentives to employers to recruit staff, with hundreds of young people starting work every day through the Kickstart Scheme. We are providing employers with a hiring incentive for each new apprentice they hire and have increased the payment to £3,000 for each newly hired apprentice of any age, helping more people to kick start or upskill their career across a broad range of industries. We are also investing £126 million in additional support to help create 40,000 more traineeships in England, funding high-quality work placements and training for 16-24-year olds in 2021-22.
The digital transformation is driving rises in the number of tech and digital jobs advertised, providing an opportunity to get people into good quality work. According to Adzuna estimates, there were 132,000 tech job vacancies in the UK in May, making up 12% of all open vacancies. There are nearly three million jobs in the digital tech economy, more than either Construction (1.9m) or Financial Services (1.2m) and the sector accounts for 9% of the UK’s workforce.
The 10 Tech Priorities, launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in March, includes ‘’building a tech savvy nation’’. Our apprenticeships and digital bootcamps will help set people up for highly skilled, highly paid roles of the future.
Encouraging many more skilled people to enter digital roles is vital if the UK is to have the digital skills it requires. In order to coordinate industry support for the teaching of computing in English schools, DCMS created the Digital Skills Partnership Schools group. In order to raise the awareness of interesting digital roles and routes into them, the Digital Skills Partnership Schools Group is working with industry to test how best to do this. The pilot, funded by DCMS, is being run by the South West Local Digital Skills Partnership.
Our commitment to research and development has been clearly demonstrated through the Spending Review announcement to increase investment in R&D across government to £14.6bn in 2021/22. This increase in investment will help deliver our ambition to increase total UK R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
The increased investment will put research and development at the heart of economic and social recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, enabling us to build back better for a greener, healthier and more resilient UK.
As the custodian of the R&D system, BEIS was allocated £11.1 billion for R&D in 2021/22. Funding for each individual programme is subject to our Departmental allocations process, which is under way. We will provide an update in due course.
Throughout this crisis, the Government has sought to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods whilst supporting businesses and public services across the UK. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is specifically designed to protect jobs, and it has been used by 1.3m employers to support 11.2m jobs. Since July, more than half of the jobs that have been furloughed were held by women, and we have ensured that women will not lose Statutory Maternity Pay if their roles have been furloughed.
We recognise that unfortunately it has not been possible to protect every business and every job and our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by this virus. While the pandemic has had a significant impact across the whole labour market, certain groups have been more affected than others. For example, the latest official statistics show that individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be out of work. Existing Covid-19 support measures and the measures announced at Budget 2021 seek to address this.
The new Restart Grants will provide up to £6k for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18k for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gyms, for example. The hospitality and personal care sectors have a higher proportion of employees that are young, female, BAME and without qualifications when compared to other industries. By contributing to business survival, these grants will therefore benefit these groups as a result.
Moreover, VAT reductions and extending business rates relief for businesses in the hospitality sector will continue to protect both the UK economy and the livelihoods of people across the country, in particular BAME employees and women.
Government officials hold regular discussions with climate scientists and negotiators from arctic nations and others, including through the Cryosphere High Urgency group run by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative.
The National Archives issued a public statement on Monday 11 July which answers this question.
The Government broadly welcomes the UNESCO 2022 Global Report ReShaping Policies For Creativity. We recognise the significant challenge the pandemic has posed to our arts and creative sectors and to the many individuals and freelancers working across these industries.
DCMS officials have been engaging with HMRC, Creative UK, Arts Council England, individual freelancers within the sector, and leading organisations such as ‘What’s Next’ to understand better the impact the pandemic has had on the sector and those working in it.
HM Government has been committed to supporting arts and culture throughout the pandemic. This can be seen through the unprecedented £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund support package which ensured venues and organisations survived the pandemic and continue to provide employment opportunities across the sector and the extension of tax relief for theatres, orchestras, museums, and galleries. We will continue to work closely with freelancers and organisations across the sector to see how we can best provide support to those affected.
We appreciate the difficulties that businesses are facing around the world as a result of the current chip shortage. The global nature of this market and a confluence of unexpected events, including the unprecedented pandemic, shifts in demand, and the impact of natural disasters, have had widespread ramifications internationally, including for major chip manufacturing countries.
Working closely with industry, experts, and international partners, the Government is looking at options that increase diversification of supply, enhance the resilience of procurement supply chains, and technical options to accelerate diversification away from silicon chips. This includes working with key allies to address risks stemming from the global nature of the industry.
The Government is focused on addressing disinformation or misinformation by any actor. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it continues to be vitally important that the public has accurate information about the virus, and DCMS is leading work across Government to tackle disinformation.
That is why we stood up the Counter Disinformation Unit up on 5 March to bring together cross-Government monitoring and analysis capabilities. The Unit’s primary function is to provide a comprehensive picture of the extent, scope and impact of disinformation and misinformation regarding Covid-19 and to work with partners to ensure appropriate action is taken.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been working closely with social media platforms to quickly identify and help them respond to potentially harmful content on their platforms, including removing harmful content in line with their terms and conditions, and promoting authoritative sources of information.
Departmental targets, as estimated by the Teacher Workforce Model (TWM), are for 20,945 secondary teacher trainees to start their initial teacher training (ITT) in autumn 2022 (including high performance ITT (HPITT) trainees). Currently, there have been 10,106 acceptances to postgraduate secondary courses in England, (excluding HPITT acceptances).
The computing TWM trainee target is 1,145 (including HPITT) and currently there have been 264 acceptances (excluding HPITT).
The modern foreign languages TWM trainee target is 2,140 (including HPITT) and currently there have been 618 acceptances (excluding HPITT).
The physics TWM trainee target is 2,610 (including HPITT) and currently there have been 361 acceptances (excluding HPITT).
The department has put in place a range of measures for trainees in 2021 and 2022, including bursaries worth up to £24,000 and scholarships worth up to £26,000, to encourage talented trainees to apply to train in key subjects such as chemistry, computing, mathematics, and physics. The department is offering a £15,000 bursary in design and technology, geography, and languages, including ancient languages, and a £10,000 bursary for biology trainees.
The department is exploring new ways to recruit trainee teachers in subjects where there is a shortage. For example, we will introduce a new scholarship to attract the most talented language graduates to the profession. We are also piloting a new ITT course designed to support more engineers to teach physics. The course is being delivered by six providers, each of whom have been supported with grant funding from the department.
To make teaching here even more attractive to the best teachers from around the world, the department will introduce a new relocation premium to help with visas and other expenses.
 Acceptances- up to 20th June 2022 excluding HPITT (sum of recruited and pending conditions), Initial teacher training application statistics for courses starting in the 2022 to 2023 academic year - Apply for teacher training - GOV.UK (apply-for-teacher-training.service.gov.uk)
We are freezing maximum tuition fees for the 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years. By the 2024/25 academic year, maximum fees will have been frozen for seven years, meaning reduced debt for students in real terms.
Maximum grants and loans for living costs were increased by 3.1% this academic year, and we have announced that they will increase by a further 2.3% next year. We are also reforming student loans so new borrowers starting from the 2023/24 academic year onwards will not, under the new terms, be required to repay more than they have borrowed when adjusted for inflation.
The department has secured up to £75 million to deliver a National Scholarship Scheme which will support high achieving disadvantaged students to reach their full potential whilst studying in higher education. This scholarship aims to address the ongoing financial barriers that can restrict high achieving, disadvantaged students from achieving their full academic potential whilst studying in higher education and is in addition to the significant sector interventions already in place.
From 2025, we will revolutionise post-18 education by rolling out the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE). The LLE will help fund both modules and full years of study, in colleges or universities, at a higher technical and degree level. People will be able to upskill and reskill throughout their lives, at the pace that is right for them. Our consultation on the LLE concluded on the 6 May.
In our guidance to the Office for Students (OfS) on funding for the 2021/22 financial year we made clear that the OfS should protect the £256 million allocation for the student premiums to support disadvantaged students and those that need additional help. The 2022/23 financial year guidance to the OfS confirms universities will continue to be able to support students in hardship through the student premium. Ministers’ Strategic Priorities Grant guidance letter to the OfS asks that the OfS looks to protect the student premium in cash terms for 2022/23.
Alongside this, the government is also making available discretionary funding of £144 million to support vulnerable people and individuals on low incomes, including students, to support those ineligible for council tax. The government recognises many households will need support to deal with rising energy costs, and has therefore announced a package of support to help households with rising energy bills, worth £9.1 billion in the 2022/23 financial year. This includes a £200 discount on energy bills this autumn for domestic electricity customers in Great Britain, which will be paid back automatically over the next five years.
The department welcomes the recent report into children regularly missing school from the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel De Souza. Regular attendance at school is vital for children’s education, wellbeing, and long-term development.
Detailed pupil absence data is collected as part of the school census and published on a termly basis and the latest statistics will be published later this week. All absence data for England, including data at regional and local authority level, is available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/.
The department has also recently launched a new live attendance data pilot which will help us identify and support schools where pupils are not regularly attending, and improve the flow of data between schools, academy trusts and local authorities.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, recently established an alliance of national leaders from education, children’s social care and allied services to work together to raise school attendance and reduce persistent absence. The Attendance Action Alliance has pledged to take a range of actions to remove barriers preventing children attending school. More information on the Alliance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/education-secretary-launches-new-attendance-alliance.
The department has also committed to a register for children not in school as part of our response to consultation. This will help local authorities undertake their existing duties to ensure children receive a suitable education and help safeguard all children who are in scope.
Centres will be expected to allow students to see the evidence used to determine their grade in advance of that grade being submitted. This, along with the internal and external quality assurance processes and the guidance provided to teachers, should ensure students can have confidence in their grades which will reduce the number of instances in which students need to appeal.
The Department is unable to estimate the exact number of appeals in advance, we have and will continue to work with awarding bodies to ensure they are prepared to respond to a range of scenarios in dealing with any appeals that arise. A clear process will be in place for students who wish to appeal their grade, and we have also been clear that appeals for those students whose higher education places are dependent on the outcome of an appeal should, as far as possible, be concluded in early September. Further guidance on the appeals process will be published in due course.
Local authorities have a legal duty to provide a comprehensive adoption service.
This specifically includes “Assistance, including mediation services, in relation to arrangements for contact between an adoptive child and a natural parent, natural sibling, former guardian or a related person of the adoptive child”.
We will be working with local authorities and regional adoption agencies to improve support around contact with birth relatives, including that which has started via social media.
It was right that the department planned for exams to go ahead because they are the fairest method of assessing what students know and can do. Despite education remaining a national priority, the department remained conscious that the course of the virus and the subsequent extent of necessary public health restrictions would be unknown. We therefore worked closely with Ofqual and the exam boards to plan for a range of scenarios between August 2020 and January 2021. This allowed the department to launch the joint Department for Education and Ofqual consultation on alternative arrangements to exams on 15 January, soon after my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State’s statement to the house on 6 January that, given the further disruption to education, exams could not go ahead as planned.
The department has now confirmed further details on alternative arrangements to exams, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/awarding-qualifications-in-summer-2021/awarding-qualifications-in-summer-2021.
The department has worked closely with other government departments throughout its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), as well as stakeholders across the sector, to ensure that our policy is based on the latest scientific and medical advice, to develop comprehensive guidance based on a PHE-endorsed ‘system of controls’ and to understand the impact and effectiveness of these measures on staff, pupils and parents.
The system of control measures as outlined in our guidance has been developed with PHE, with whom we continue to work closely to ensure that these measures are based on the latest medical and scientific advice: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/952443/210114_School_national_restrictions_guidance_FINAL_14012021.pdf.
When implemented in line with a thorough risk assessment, these measures create an inherently safer system for staff and pupils where the risk of transmission of the infection is substantially reduced. For example, this includes important measures such as, but not limited to, minimising contact with individuals who are not well, maintaining social distancing wherever possible, regularly cleaning hands and introducing enhanced cleaning measures, as well as the use of personal protective equipment where recommended. All elements of the system of controls are essential in effectively minimising risks. Schools must cover them all, but the way different schools implement some of the requirements will differ based on their individual circumstances. PHE advises that the implementation of the system of controls based on a thorough risk assessment is a sufficient and appropriate way to reduce risk in schools.
Limiting attendance does not suggest that schools and colleges have become significantly less safe for young people. Instead, limiting attendance is about supporting the reduction of the overall number of social contacts in our communities. We have resisted restrictions on attendance at schools since the first lockdown but, in the face of the rapidly rising numbers of cases across the country and intense pressure on the NHS, we now need to use every lever at our disposal to reduce all our social contacts wherever possible.
We know that receiving face to face education is best for children’s mental health and for their educational achievement. We will continue to review the restrictions on schools, colleges and universities and will ensure that children and young people return to face to face education as soon as possible.
As autonomous institutions, higher education providers determine their own entry criteria. In making admissions decisions, we would expect providers to take into account variations across the UK in examination systems and types of qualification, as they have for many years.
We have been working closely with Ofqual, the devolved administrations, and partners across the education sector on all decisions relating to examinations and qualifications in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Higher Education Taskforce, chaired by my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, provides a forum for discussion with sector representatives on a range of issues, including admissions, and we are working with the sector on the challenges which universities, colleges, and students are facing due to the pandemic.
We shall continue to engage with partners across the education sector on the measures needed to ensure that exams can be held in England, and on the issue of grading, with fairness for students as our priority.
The department has already invested over £100 million to support remote education and has delivered over 220,000 laptops and tablets to local authorities and academy trusts for children who would not otherwise have access.
The department allocated devices to local authorities and academy trusts based on its estimates of the number of eligible children that did not have access to a device through other means, such as a private device or through school. Local authorities and academy trusts were responsible for distributing the devices, being best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device delivered through the programme.
Where local authorities and academy trusts identified a need greater than their initial allocation, they could provide evidence and request more devices. No valid request for additional devices for eligible children was denied.
We are now supplementing this support by making an initial 150,000 available additional devices in the event face-to-face schooling is disrupted as a result of local COVID-19 restrictions or local lockdowns, and children become reliant on remote education.
Current estimates are that there are about 255,000 foxes in England of which about half live in urban areas, giving an estimated urban population of about 127,500. There has been no assessment of trend in fox populations for the period since 2017.
The UK continues to play a leading role in this critical area as part of our wider work to tackle zoonotic diseases, which are responsible for around 60% of all human diseases and 75% of all new and emerging infectious diseases.
Our world-class laboratories provide capability-building services to global partners, integrating technical support, surveillance, risk analysis and epidemiology expertise, and participating in numerous global research and development networks which offer a multi-disciplinary approach for early detection systems and emergency preparedness and response coordination, with a focus on animal and zoonotic diseases.
We also support country and regional partners through our Official Development Assistance budget to strengthen global health systems, so they are better able to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to a wide range of health threats, including zoonotic diseases. This includes our International Health Regulations Strengthening Project and Tackling Deadly Disease in Africa Programme, which take a One Health approach, emphasising the connections between human, animal, plant, and environmental health.
The UK is committed to ensuring that a One Health approach is also embedded in a strengthened global health security architecture. This includes work that the World Health Organisation is now leading to progress a UK G7 initiative to develop an International Pathogen Surveillance Network, as well as support for the work of the multidisciplinary One Health High Level Expert Panel, which is led by the Tripartite and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the proposed Berlin Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence.
During our G7 Presidency, we launched the One Health Intelligence Scoping Study, again led by the Tripartite and UNEP, and funded initially by the UK, which aims to improve global health resilience and early warning through building and integration of health intelligence systems. We also launched the International Zoonoses Community of Experts, which will facilitate greater international collaboration to strengthen zoonotic surveillance and risk assessment capacity, and hosted a very successful G7 Chief Vets Wildlife Meeting, which developed our collective knowledge of best practice in critical aspects of wildlife surveillance, intelligence sharing and risk communication.
This year, the UK is chairing the Global Health Security Agenda Zoonotic Disease Action Package (ZDAP), where we will work collaboratively with ZDAP member countries and organisations to strengthen our ability to prepare for and prevent, detect, respond and recover from zoonotic diseases.
In the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the Government committed to reviewing and reinforcing the cross-government approach to biological security, including a refresh of the 2018 strategy, recognising the need to re-evaluate the risk landscape and consider evolving priorities since COVID-19, and in view of rapid advances in science and technology. We recently issued a Call for Evidence (copy attached to this answer) to help inform the refresh. By engaging with the public, experts, and stakeholders beyond government, we will ensure that some of the best minds in the UK and beyond continue to provide rich insight and challenge.
The Government is concerned by the recent findings of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, that 16 percent of dragonflies and damselflies are under threat of extinction globally. In England, 12 percent of the dragonflies and damselflies that breed here are threatened.
As set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government is committed to taking action to recover our threatened native species. Natural England is taking action to conserve threatened dragonflies and damselflies through its Species Recovery Programme. For example, southern damselfly populations are being monitored and habitat condition improved. Under the ‘Back from the Brink’ partnership, habitat has been restored in Dorset, resulting in increased populations of southern damselfly at 3 out of 4 of sites.
In England we have an extensive network of protected wildlife areas providing benefits for many species, including sites specifically designated for species of particular importance. A total of 93 SSSIs in England are notified for important dragonfly or damselfly populations, including threatened species such as Brilliant Emerald and Norfolk Hawker.
The 25 Year Environment Plan commits us to restoring 75% of our one million hectares of terrestrial and freshwater protected sites to favourable condition by 2042.
The 2018 IUCN-compliant Red list assessment for Britain's terrestrial mammals classified weasels as Least Concern in Great Britain with an estimated population of 308,000; this assessment also noted that there is a deficiency of data on this species. The Government is aware of recent research suggesting the weasel may have undergone significant recent declines. The IUCN Red list assessments are an internationally recognised approach using agreed guidelines, and is an objective evidence-led process. This new evidence will be taken into account and considered when the Red list is next updated.
As set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government is committed to taking action to recover our threatened native species. Our landmark Environment Act requires a new legally binding target to be set to halt the decline of species abundance by 2030, which will help to drive actions to deliver nature recovery including benefitting species such as weasels. The Act also established Biodiversity Net Gain, Local Nature Recovery Strategies, conservation covenants and a strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities which will work together to direct investment and action across the country - including to create or restore habitats that enable wildlife such as weasels to recover and thrive as part of a Nature Recovery Network.
Beyond the Act, we are investing more funding than ever in nature, including over £750 million to protect, restore, and expand habitats like woodlands and peat bogs through the Nature for Climate Fund, and our £80 million Green Recovery Challenge Fund. And we are introducing three new schemes that reward farmers and land managers for the delivery of environmental benefits, including creating and preserving habitat, and making landscape-scale environmental changes, which will be crucial to supporting species recovery.
The Department is aware of challenges for veterinary businesses recruiting across all sectors of the profession, including farm animal vets. We have not specifically estimated the number of vacancies in the farm veterinary sector. The opening of new veterinary schools in the UK means that the numbers of veterinarians being trained here continues to grow. We are working with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the British Veterinary Association and other stakeholders to support their work to encourage recruitment and retention in the profession. We are giving careful consideration to the RCVS’s proposals, which aim to increase opportunities for veterinary nurses and other allied professionals as part of a vet-led team, creating a more robust and flexible workforce, and to foster a professional environment that is inclusive and attractive to those wishing to pursue a veterinary career.
The Climate Change Committee's (CCC) Independent Assessment of UK Climate Risk presented a detailed and up to date insight into the growing risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change. It will help inform greater ambition and action on enhancing resilience and inform the third Climate Change Risk Assessment Government Report, which we will lay in Parliament in January 2022. This report will state our position relative to the CCC's evidence and advice and set out a forward look for adaptation in the UK, including to the third National Adaptation Programme. We welcome the evidence the CCC has presented and recognise the need to go further in preparing for the impacts of climate change.
Domestic biodiversity policy is devolved in the UK, and this response refers to action in England. Our 25 Year Environment Plan marked a step-change in ambition for biodiversity and the natural environment and we are already taking action to fulfil this ambition.
We have committed to protect 30% of our land and sea by 2030, and will be extending protections on land and piloting Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters to boost biodiversity recovery. Since 2010 we have already established over 100 new marine protected sites. We have also brought forward the first Environment Bill in over 20 years with ambitious measures to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, including restoring and enhancing nature. The Bill requires a new, historic legally binding target to be set to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. This will help us to deliver our commitment to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.
Furthermore, we are investing in nature restoration and in nature-based solutions to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change and to support new green jobs, for example through our £640 million Nature for Climate and £80 million Green Recovery Challenge funds.
Fly-tipping is a crime which blights local communities and the environment, and the Government is committed to tackling this unacceptable behaviour.
The Government is committed to improving the carrier, broker and dealer (CBD) regime in England and we plan to consult later this year. We want to enhance the background checks needed to operate as a waste carrier, broker or dealer and introduce an element of technical competence as a requirement. We also plan to make it easier for regulators to enforce against non-compliant operators and to make it harder for un-registered operators to find work in the sector. We are working with industry and the regulator as we develop our consultation.
We also intend to consult on the introduction of mandatory electronic waste tracking. This will reduce the ability of waste criminals to hide evidence of the systematic mishandling of waste and make it easier for enforcement authorities to identify material dropping out of the system, and therefore make it easier to protect against fly-tipping. Together these measures will ensure all businesses will be made more accountable for the waste they handle, help to ensure that waste is dealt with appropriately and therefore help to reduce the incidence of waste crime and fly-tipping.
The Government remains committed to the restrictions put in place in 2018 on the outdoor use of three neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other pollinators. The emergency authorisation that was recently granted for the exceptional use of Cruiser SB (containing the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam) has been issued with strict conditions attached to ensure that potential risks to pollinators will be minimised. It only allows use on the 2021 sugar beet crop in England, which is a non-flowering crop.
A threshold of predicted disease level must be met before the use of treated seeds is allowed and the application rate of the product will be below the previously authorised commercial rate. Conditions are also imposed on the planting of any flowering crops within 22 months of the sugar beet crop, and no oilseed rape is to be planted within 32 months of the sugar beet crop because of its attractiveness to bees. Additionally, an industry-recommended herbicide programme must be followed to limit flowering weeds in and around any treated sugar beet crops.
Protecting pollinators remains a priority for this Government. The National Pollinator Strategy is a 10-year plan which sets out how Government, conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers and researchers can work together to improve the status of pollinating insect species in England.
No formal assessment has been made of the impact on endangered species of the economic impact of, and travel restrictions put in place to address, the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2019 data classifies 551 river water bodies out of 3767 as achieving good or better ecological status or potential. This represents 14.6% of all rivers in England. In 2015, 554 rivers were classed as achieving good or better ecological status or potential, representing 14.7% of all rivers in England. Headline national figures for water quality have remained static over this time period. The results in 2010 were that 22% of all rivers in England were meeting good or better ecological status or potential, but the methods for assessing rivers changed significantly after 2010 which mean this is not a comparable figure.
The Environment Agency (EA) undertakes targeted monitoring to provide the evidence it needs for its planning, regulatory and protection work. The law in England establishes wide-ranging regulatory requirements. For example, abstractions and discharges are permitted under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (2016), and the EA set a total of 4623 water quality permits in 2019.
The EA reports on the state of the environment in a number of different ways, including releasing data and analysis to meet specific statutory requirements and producing State of Environment (SoE) reports to provide a balanced picture of environmental state in England that go beyond these specific statutory requirements. A Water Quality report (Feb 2018) and a Water Resources report (May 2018) were produced as part of a rolling programme of SoE reports. These and other SoE reports will be updated at an appropriate time. There is currently no date set, or specific requirement for, an updated Water Resources or Water Quality report.
The Government recognises that more needs to be done and is committed to improving the water environment as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. We are tackling pollution from poor farming practice with regulation, financial incentives and educational schemes for farmers. Our Environmental Land Management Scheme, rewarding farmers for public goods, will be a key part of that. In addition to government investment in many local improvement schemes, water company investment is being scaled up to £4.6 billion in the next five-year, price review period. The Government is working with water companies to consider how best to address the problem of sewage discharge from storm overflows and our new chemicals strategy will build on a robust statutory regime to ensure chemicals are managed and handled safely.
In 2019, the UK Government published its assessment of progress with the goals and targets set under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In common with the RSPB’s assessment, this highlighted ongoing declines in biodiversity in the UK, and despite progress, a clear need to do more. Both reports point to success stories on which we can build, and the UK Government is determined to do just that.
Domestic biodiversity is a devolved matter in the UK. In England, our 25 Year Environment Plan marked a step change in ambition for wildlife and the natural environment. We are already taking steps to meet this ambition in our own backyard and in support of wider global efforts.
We have brought forward the first Environment Bill in over 20 years with ambitious measures to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, including restoring and enhancing nature. The Bill will set the framework for establishing long-term, legally-binding environmental targets, for air quality, for water, for waste and at least one target on biodiversity. We are investing in restoring nature, for example through our £640m Nature for Climate fund to restore peatland and plant new woodland. We are developing a new Environmental Land Management scheme that will reward farmers and land managers for delivering environmental public goods. The UK is also at the forefront of marine protection with 357 Marine Protected Areas protecting 25% of UK waters, and we are examining ways to pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas.
Biodiversity loss is a global problem that requires a global solution. Our international spending on biodiversity has been growing and was over £200 million per year as of 2017/18. We are playing a leading role in developing an ambitious post-2020 global framework under the CBD and putting nature at the heart of our COP26 Presidency, paving the way for transformative action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss holistically.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate provides the definitive assessment of climate change impacts on the ocean and cryosphere (icecaps). It shows that many of the changes that have taken place, such as ocean warming and the melting of sea ice, will continue if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue. Accelerated and ambitious global GHG reductions are critical to reduce the impact of climate change on the ocean, alongside protecting our marine environment to build greater resilience.
As incoming president of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26, the UK is committed to engaging with international partners, encouraging every country to develop ambitious new Nationally Determined Contributions to limit emissions. The UK is also engaging with Parties through the UNFCCC Ocean Dialogue on how to strengthen mitigation and adaptation action for the ocean under the Convention.
The UK is encouraging countries to join the UK-led Global Ocean Alliance, in support of a new Convention on Biological Diversity target to protect at least 30% of the global ocean within marine protected areas and other effective conservation measures by 2030. Scientific evidence indicates effective protection of at least 30% of the global ocean will help to reverse adverse impacts, preserve fish populations, increase resilience to climate change and sustain ocean health. There are currently 25 members of the Global Ocean Alliance from across the globe.
Through our Blue Belt programme, we are on track to protect 4 million square kilometres of ocean around the UK mainland and Overseas Territories within MPAs by 2020.
On the depletion of fish stocks, the UK has always been a strong advocate for setting harvest rates at or below a stock's maximum sustainable yield (MSY), to progress over-exploited stocks towards MSY and restore them to healthy conditions as quickly as possible, both through international agreements and in negotiations over catch limits for stocks of interest to UK fishers.
The Fisheries Bill provides the legal framework for making progress towards MSY in its precautionary objective (clause 1) and further details about how the fisheries administrations will achieve sustainable fishing will be outlined in the legally binding Joint Fisheries Statement and Fisheries Management Plans.
As we leave the EU, the UK will take its seat in regional fisheries management organisations and engage proactively with international counterparts, driving forward a sustainability agenda and helping to ensure sustainable management of high seas fisheries as an independent coastal state. The UK also plays a leading role in the global fight to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
The UK is also engaging internationally on science. For example, we are collaborating on research on the changes in the arctic ocean through a £16 million National Environmental Research Council funded programme and we will be participating in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-30), which through international collaboration will target a number of societal and research outcomes, including how climate change affects the ocean and coastal communities.
This is a devolved matter and the information provided relates to England only. Protecting pollinators is a priority for the Government. Pollinators are an essential part of our environment and play a crucial role in food production through pollination. The Government supports two major events to raise awareness of the importance of bees and other pollinators and to encourage people to take action.
Firstly, there is our ‘Bees’ Needs’ campaign, which we run with our many partners to raise awareness of the steps we can all take to protect pollinators. Under current circumstances, we shall celebrate Bees’ Needs Week online this year, from 13 to 19 July. We encourage everyone across the country to get involved, to share their own stories and to find out more about the importance of pollinators and how they can support them.
Defra also organises, in partnership with the Green Flag Awards, Championing the Farmed Environment and the Bee Farmers’ Association, an annual Bees’ Needs Champions Awards to recognise and celebrate examples of exemplary initiatives undertaken by schools, local authorities, community groups, farmers and businesses to support pollinators.
Our awareness-raising work is a key objective of the National Pollinator Strategy, a ten-year plan which sets out how the Government, conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers and researchers can work together to improve the status of pollinating insects in England.
Honey bee hives in the UK are managed by hobbyist beekeepers and bee farmers. Guidance with respect to beekeeping in relation to COVID-19 was published on the National Bee Unit’s BeeBase website in March. The guidance highlighted the importance of beekeepers acting responsibly and ensuring that they continued good beekeeping practices, effective stock management and health checks while respecting Government guidance on social distancing. Some beekeepers rely on being able to import queens and current indications are that COVID-19 does not appear to have had a significant impact on imports.
Training courses and beekeeping events provided by the Government and beekeeping groups have been cancelled. It is difficult to mitigate the effects of this but we are making efforts to develop additional online resources available to beekeepers. Our inspectors are able to continue their vital work of inspecting apiaries to target bee pests and diseases. Social distancing can be maintained as inspectors work outdoors and do not have to be in close proximity to the beekeeper.
Defra publishes annual fly-tipping statistics for England, with the most recent publication on 7 November 2019 detailing the number of fly-tipping incidents reported by local authorities in the year to 31 March 2019. These can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fly-tipping-in-england. The statistics show that incidents of fly-tipping have gradually increased over the last five years, albeit with a decrease reported between 2016/17 and 2017/18. The 2018/19 figures reported an increase of 8% from 2017/18. However, this most recent increase in recorded incidents does not necessarily mean the number of fly-tipping incidents has increased. Local authorities have reported that as they make it easier for citizens to report fly-tipping, for example through mobile apps, they see an increase in the number of incidents recorded.
Since 2017/18 we have changed the way that we present the costs of dealing with fly-tipping. The standard unit costs used for the majority of clearance and enforcement categories in previous statistical releases are now more than 10 years out of date. Defra therefore took the decision to cease using these costs from the 2017/18 fly-tipping statistical release onwards and total cost estimates for fly-tipping clearance and enforcement are not currently produced. However, we do report the clearance costs for ‘tipper lorry load’ and ‘significant/multi load’ incident categories, and enforcement costs for ‘prosecutions’, as these are reported directly by local authorities.
In 2018/19, 3% of all fly-tipping incidents were of ‘tipper lorry load’ size or larger, compared with 4% in 2017/18. This is consistent with the 3% of these incidents reported in 2014/15. The cost of clearance to local authorities in England have shown an increase however, costing £12.9 million in 2018/19, compared with £12.2 million in 2017/18 and £7.3 million in 2014/15.
Local authorities carried out a total of 2,397 prosecutions for fly-tipping offences in England in 2018/19, an increase of 7% on 2017/18 and 32% on 2014/15. Costs of prosecution actions have subsequently increased, from £288,037 in 2014/15 to £1,002,000 in 2018/19. The success rates for prosecution actions against fly-tipping are consistently above 95% and have been since records began in 2007/08.
In 2018, Defra commissioned a review into serious and organised criminality in the waste sector. This considered the operation of organised criminal gangs in the waste industry, including in relation to illegal dumping and fly-tipping. The recommendations of this review were included within our Resources and Waste Strategy (RWS), published in December 2018, which set out an ambitious package of commitments to modernise the way waste is regulated, in order to prevent, detect, and deter waste crime, including fly-tipping. In recent years, we have bolstered local authorities’ powers to tackle fly-tipping and we committed to further reforms in the RWS.
We are taking forward the commitment in the RWS to develop proposals for the reform of the waste carrier, broker, and dealer regime. We are working with industry and the regulator and we intend to consult later this year. At the same time, we intend to consult on the introduction of mandatory electronic waste tracking. This will reduce the ability of waste criminals to hide evidence of the systematic mishandling of waste and make it easier for enforcement authorities to identify material dropping out of the system, and therefore make it easier to protect against fly-tipping.
The Environment Bill provides a significant step forward in delivering a number of the commitments set out in the RWS. The provisions in the Environment Bill will work to ensure waste criminals, such as illegitimate waste operators reliant on fly-tipping for income, are held accountable for their actions.
Defra has previously worked with the Sentencing Council to amend sentencing guidance for fly-tipping offences and will continue this work to help to secure tougher penalties in line with the Government’s manifesto commitment.
As well as legislative changes, Defra is developing a fly-tipping toolkit, following a commitment in the RWS. The toolkit will be a web-based tool to help local authorities and others work in partnership to tackle fly-tipping. It will cover, for example, the use of new technology to report fly-tipping, the presentation of cases to court, the sharing of intelligence within and between partnerships and promoting the duty of care to individuals and businesses.
The Government takes all crime seriously and there are strong penalties in place for those found guilty of offences committed against wild plants and animals.
Wild plants are protected under section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, with additional protection afforded to wild plants listed on Schedule 8.
Where there is evidence to suggest that illegal activity is occurring, we encourage all relevant authorities to ensure that sufficiently robust action is taken. Enforcement of all offences, however, including those against wild plants, is an operational matter for the police.
Those found guilty of offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 already face strong sanctions, including an unlimited fine and imprisonment. We have no plans to alter these sanctions. Decisions on sentencing in individual cases are taken independently of Government.
There are currently no plans to review the relevant provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
COVID-19 lockdown measures have disrupted routine immunisation services in the poorest countries with the weakest health systems, reducing access to vaccines for vulnerable children. The World Health Organisation estimates that coverage of the third dose of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis may have declined by 25-50% in May 2020 in Gavi-supported countries as compared to baseline levels.
Routine immunisation is the strongest shield against outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. The UK is Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's largest donor. Through UK support, Gavi, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation are working closely with countries to maintain and restore coverage levels, through catch up immunisation campaigns and strengthened routine immunisation programmes.
Through our support to Gavi and DFID’s bilateral health programmes, we are advocating for the importance of immunisation within countries’ COVID-19 primary health care recovery plans, with an unrelenting focus on equity at the sub-national level and reaching zero-dose children. The $8.8 billion raised by the UK at the Global Vaccine Summit on 4th June, will enable Gavi to immunise 300 million more children and save up to 8 million lives.
The UK is concerned about food security in 2020. At the end of last year, 135 million people were facing acute food insecurity in 55 countries. This is set to increase, driven partly by COVID-19. We are working with international partners to monitor the situation and have adapted our social protection, agriculture and food security programmes, to support the most vulnerable.
In Yemen, food insecurity is increasing, substantially impacted by COVID-19 and ongoing conflict. Food prices have risen by 15% since the start of the year. In response, UK aid is supporting at least 300,000 vulnerable people each month to help buy food and treat 40,000 children for malnutrition.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, people experiencing acute food insecurity has increased from 15.6 million in 2019, to approximately 19.5 million in 2020. We are at the forefront of the humanitarian response, and our £262 million humanitarian programme will have provided lifesaving assistance to over 3 million people over 3 years.
In Afghanistan, an estimated 12.4 million people are facing ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity. DFID is working to provide life-saving support through the Multi-year Humanitarian Response Programme and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, to support the COVID-19 response. This will enable responders to implement the most urgent parts of the WHO plan, and provide vital water, sanitation and food assistance.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is currently increasing more rapidly in Africa today than many other regions in the world. Currently cases in Africa are growing by approximately 5% each day compared with 3% in Asia and 1% in Europe. Cases continue to rise in Africa and while overall it took 52 days to reach the first 10,000 cases, it took only 11 days to move from 30,000 to 50,000 cases, and Africa now has over 100,000 cases.
However, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are growing at a slower rate than was the case in Europe and Asia at the same stage of their epidemics. This slower growth in Africa may be explained by under-reporting due to low testing rates. For example, as of 7 May, an average of 69 tests were carried out in Africa per 100,000 people compared to over 30 times this rate in Europe. It is possible that the lower mortality to date could be as a result of Africa being the youngest continent demographically, with a lower proportion of older people who are at higher risk of death. It is important to remain vigilant for the potential increase in cases that Africa could see in the coming months. Africa is also likely to see disproportionate indirect impacts of COVID-19 on wider health, economic, and social outcomes, which will be important to mitigate.
So far, the UK has pledged £764 million of UK aid to help end this pandemic as quickly as possible. This includes support to Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to model the future trajectory of the pandemic in low- and middle-income countries. This will help understand how COVID-19 is progressing in Africa and help to inform governments in the region on how best to respond to the pandemic.
The UK has pledged £744 million to support the global humanitarian response to COVID-19. We?have?delivered?additional vital support in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by providing £840,000?to WHO and UNICEF to purchase and co-ordinate the delivery of?medical equipment,?treat critical care patients, train frontline public health personnel and scale up laboratory testing capacity.
The UN assesses that although the current number of detected cases remains relatively low, the capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in COVID-19 cases is poor. The situation is particularly severe in Gaza, where the health system has shortages in specialised staff, drugs and equipment. The UK is engaging with the Israeli Government on the COVID-19 response, including the response in Gaza. I most recently discussed the situation with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK at the end of April.
We are using UK aid to its full effect to counter the health, humanitarian, and economic risks and impacts of COVID-19. The UK strongly supports the United Nations Global Humanitarian Response Plan and continues to work with international partners, including the United Nations and its agencies, to ensure aid reaches those most in need.
Up to £744 million of UK aid funding has been committed so far to support the global efforts to combat COVID-19. Of that, £145 million is for United Nations appeals, including:
The UK is also providing up to £150 million of UK aid funding which will go the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to help developing countries meet their debt repayments so that they can focus their available resources on tackling COVID-19.
The UK, jointly with E3 partners, have offered Iran a comprehensive package of both material and financial support to combat the rapid spread of the disease. This includes financial support of up to €5 million through the WHO or other UN agencies to fight the COVID-19 epidemic affecting Iran, and equipment for laboratory tests, as well as other equipment, including protective body suits and gloves.
We are gravely concerned about escalating Syrian Regime and Russian military action and its humanitarian impact in Idlib. As of 6 February, the UN reports that 586,000 people have been displaced since 1 December 2019, and many more are at risk of imminent further displacement. This financial year DFID has already allocated £103 million to organisations delivering aid cross border from Turkey primarily into North West Syria, including Idlib. This has helped to provide hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people with food, clean water, shelter, and healthcare including psychosocial support.
Given the rapidly deteriorating conditions in North West Syria, we have put options in place to increase our funding further to address the pressing needs of those displaced by the conflict. We have provided funding to response partners including the UN to preposition essential supplies to support innocent families and civilians displaced by conflict and we are supporting all our partners to respond to this humanitarian crisis. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa visited Turkey on 5-6 February and discussed the crisis in North West Syria with UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs, as well as with Turkish authorities. DFID partners on the ground are working tirelessly to provide aid to those affected by the military offensive.
Supply chain resilience is a priority for HM Government. In October, the Prime Minister appointed Sir Dave Lewis to advise on supply chains and identify both immediate improvements and any necessary long-term changes. We are working to secure the supply chains of the future already, including for critical minerals, by working with like-minded nations around the world.
Although not every aspect of the market can, or should, be controlled, HM Government has taken quick and decisive action to ease pressures where immediate interventions have been required. We have put in place a raft of measures to deal with the extraordinary set of circumstances brought on by the pandemic and the re-animation of the global economy. These include increasing HGV testing capacity, extending cabotage rights, training up to 5,000 HGV drivers, and making available temporary visas for poultry workers and butchers.
In 2020, 16 Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) were granted for military rated items to Afghanistan, with a value of £21,710,485. In addition, one Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) was granted for military rated items. Because OIELs are open-ended, they are not restricted by quantities or values for the specific items the licence is granted for.
For the period 1st January to 31st March 2021, four SIELs were granted for military rated items, with a value of £533,350; and one OIEL was granted.
Information on licences granted between 1st April to 30th June 2021 will be published as Official Statistics GOV.UK on 12th October 2021; and information on licences granted from 1st July to 30th September 2021 in January 2022.
The review of the future of the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy Programme has been completed. We expect to make a written statement on the Programme in the near future.
The United Kingdom does not recognise the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including settlements, as part of Israel.
For this reason, goods imported from the settlements are not entitled to benefit from trade preferences under the United Kingdom-Israel Trade and Partnership Agreement. We will maintain this approach. HM Government has maintained a dialogue with Israel and we will continue to work towards a negotiated two-state solution, using the diplomatic means we have at our disposal.
Now that our negotiating objectives for a UK US Free Trade Agreement have been published, we are in a position to negotiate and are in discussions with the United States about when those negotiations will commence.
The Prime Minister values the UK’s relationship with the United States, our closest defence and security ally and largest single trading partner. He speaks regularly to the President and will discuss the progress of negotiations in his discussions with the President over the coming months.
The Department is currently considering options for construction and use regulations for e-scooters, which may include requirements for helmet use and a maximum design speed. We are drawing on the helpful work of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, Warwick Manufacturing Group, the Motorcycle Industry Association and others. However, no final decisions have been made.
The Department will consult publicly before any new arrangements come into force, thus providing an opportunity for interested parties to shape the new regime.
The Government has committed to legislating for automated vehicles and is currently considering the recommendations published by the Law Commissions in January, which cover cyber security.
We will publish the formal consultation response and announce next steps as soon as possible. The formal consultation response will be available to view on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/managing-pavement-parking
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) recognises the high demand for learners wanting to take their practical driving test following the suspension of routine driver training and testing during the pandemic.
As of 31 January 2022, the national average waiting time for a car practical driving test in Great Britain is 14.2 weeks.
The DVSA currently employs 1,710 driving examiners.
The DVSA is committed to the safe recovery of all its services as quickly as possible and has a number of measures in place to do this. These include offering a national recovery allowance and annual leave buy back to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays and weekends).
The DVSA is also continuing with its campaign to recruit more driving examiners across Great Britain to increase the availability of driving test appointments, which it will keep under review to meet demand.
The Department is running trials of rental e-scooters to assess their safety and wider impacts, and has in place a monitoring and evaluation programme. The Department is collecting evidence on rental e-scooter casualties (including frequency and injury severity) through its national evaluation, and will be disclosing preliminary findings in its interim report, to be published in winter 2021. A full set of safety findings on rental e-scooters from our national evaluation, will be included in our final report, due in spring 2022.
Outside of the trials, e-scooters remain illegal to use, unless ridden on private land with the permission of the landowner. However, incidents involving them will be captured more widely in road safety statistics, which are reported on a calendar year basis. The latest annual published statistics are for 2020. Data on reported personal injury road accidents in Great Britain for 2021, will be published in 2022. More information on e-scooter road accidents can be found in the Reported road casualties Great Britain: e-Scooter factsheet 2020.
Data on personal injury road accidents is collected via the STATS19 system of accidents reported by the police. Although e-scooters are not currently one of the designated vehicle types in STATS19, guidance has been issued to police forces to identify them using the free text field for other vehicles.
Data for 2020 are currently being collated and validated. Subject to the data recorded in the free text field being of sufficient quality, we intend to publish data on e-scooters and other vehicle types which can be reliably identified from the free text field alongside the annual Reported Road Casualties Great Britain statistics publication in September 2021.
The decision to introduce travel bans is in direct response to new scientific and medical data, which represents an increased risk to UK public health and an increased risk of community transmission of the new COVID-19 variants identified in other countries. These are temporary measures and the government keeps data for countries and territories under constant review.
The Government has made it consistently clear that it will take decisive action to contain the virus, including imposing travel bans if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high.
The introduction of additional measures including hotel quarantine will be an important measure in the Government’s border response. Plans are urgently in development and the Government will set out a detailed implementation plan in due course.
The Government believes that air connectivity between the UK and US is very important.
The Government engages regularly with its international partners, both on a bilateral basis and through international forums, to discuss issues pertaining to international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes how testing schemes may be used to allow for greater levels of travel between countries, and more flexibility for passengers with regards to self-isolation requirements following travel.
Travellers from the US will be able to opt into the Government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme from 15 December.
The number of accidents involving where the contributory factor ‘Driver using mobile phone’ was allocated to a pedal cyclist, by road user involved, in England, between 2013 and 2018 can be found in the below table. 2018 is the latest year for which data is available.
Contributory factors assigned by police officers do not assign blame for the accident to any specific road user, however they do provide some insight into why and how road accidents occur. They give an indication of which factors the attending officer thought contributed to the accident. Officers do not need to carry out a full investigation of the incident before allocating contributory factors; they usually use professional judgement about what they can see at the scene. Not all accidents are included in the contributory factor data; only accidents where the police attended the scene and reported at least one contributory factor are included.
Reported road accidents where the contributory factor (CF)1 of 'driver using a mobile phone' was assigned to a pedal cyclist, by road user involved, England, 2013-2018
Accidents involving road user
Other pedal cyclist (not allocated with CF)
Source: DfT, STATS19
1 Includes only accidents where a police officer attended the scene and in which a contributory factor was reported.
The Department is committed to launch the public consultation over the summer which will run for 12 weeks. Ministers will decide the appropriate course of action in light of the consultation findings, which will determine the timeframe for delivering a solution to this problem.
To help authorities deliver at pace, new emergency legislation came into force on 23 May 2020 to help speed up the Emergency Traffic Order process in cases where measures are being introduced to deal with the effects of coronavirus. The main change is to how orders are advertised, which can now be done via digital means. It is for the Traffic Authority to decide which type of Order to use to introduce changes and to comply with the relevant regulations. Orders can be Emergency, Permanent, Temporary or Experimental.
The Department has reminded local authorities of the need to consult businesses and other stakeholders before introducing road space reallocation measures in their proforma for Tranche 1 of the Emergency Active Travel Fund. It is for local authorities, to take decisions at the local level, on where and how to consult wider local communities.
Since 17 March over 160,000 season ticket holders have received refunds totalling over £260 million in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions. We are monitoring train operators’ refund processing times to ensure that refunds are paid as quickly as possible. Train operators have allocated additional resources to process the unprecedented number of refund requests, and the majority are being paid within the industry standard processing time of one month.
We have worked with train operators to ensure they are providing clear information on their websites about the season ticket refund process including estimates of the expected claim processing time and a refund calculator, so passengers know when they should receive their refund and are reassured that the time taken to process their claim will not affect the amount refunded.
This Government is committed to reducing child poverty and supporting low-income families, and believes work is the best route out of poverty. With a record 1.3 million vacancies across the UK, our focus is firmly on supporting people to move into and progress in work. This approach is based on clear evidence about the importance of parental employment - particularly where it is full-time – in substantially reducing the risks of child poverty and in improving long-term outcomes for families and children.
The latest available data on in-work poverty shows that in 2019/20, children in households where all adults were in work were around six times less likely to be in absolute poverty (before housing costs) than children in a household where nobody works.
To help parents into work, our Plan for Jobs is providing broad ranging support for all jobseekers with our Sector Based Work Academy Programmes (SWAP), Job Entry Targeted Support and Restart scheme.
We are also extending the support Jobcentres provide to people in work and on low incomes. Through a staged roll-out, which started in April 2022, around 2.1m low-paid benefit claimants will be eligible for support to progress into higher-paid work. This is on top of the support we have already provided by increasing the National Living Wage to £9.50 per hour and giving nearly 1.7 million families an extra £1,000 (on average) a year through our changes to the Universal Credit taper and work allowances.
To further support parents to move into and progress in work, eligible UC claimants can claim back up to 85% of their registered childcare costs each month up to a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child and £1,108.04 per month for two or more children. This is on top of the free childcare offer in England which provides 15 hours a week of free childcare for all 3- and 4-year-olds and disadvantaged 2-year-olds, doubling for working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds to 30 hours a week.
Around 1.9 million of the most disadvantaged pupils are eligible for and claiming a free school meal, saving families around £450 per year. In addition, around 1.25 million more infants enjoy a free, healthy and nutritious meal at lunchtime as well as over 90,000 disadvantaged further education students. We are also investing £200 million a year to continue the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which benefitted over 600,000 children last summer, and we have increased the value of the Healthy Start Vouchers by a third to £4.25 a week.
Child Maintenance can make a real difference to lone parent households on a low income whether that is through a family-based arrangement (FBA) or the statutory scheme administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). We estimate that receiving parents in separated families received £2.4 billion annually in child maintenance payments in the three financial years ending 2019 to 2021 through both FBAs and payments received through the CMS. As a result, there were around 140,000 fewer children in absolute low-income households each year on average between 2018/19 to 2020/21 (on an after-housing costs basis).
The poverty statistics included in the Joseph Rowntree Trust’s report cover the period to 2019/20 and therefore do not help us to understand how low-income households have fared over the last two financial years. The data shows that in 2019/20, household incomes saw their strongest annual growth for nearly 20 years, and that 700,000 fewer people, including 100,000 fewer children, were in absolute poverty before housing costs compared with 2010.
The Government is committed to a sustainable, long-term approach to tackling poverty.
Up to the end of April 2021 there have been 94,560 starts on the Job Entry: Targeted Support (JETS) scheme in England and Wales (launched 5 October 2020), and 3,800 starts on the scheme in Scotland (launched 25 January 2021).
So far there have been 12,665 job outcomes in England and Wales and 160 job outcomes in Scotland (a job outcome is defined as when an individual achieves £1000 cumulative earnings within eight months of starting). It should be noted that JETS provides support for up to six months and many people who have started on the scheme will not yet have had time to achieve a job outcome.
The information requested for Universal Credit is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.
Statistics are available on the number of self-identified disabled people who have received an adverse sanction decision whilst in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance and these are published by decision type online.
To ensure our approach to sanctions is fair those who are not expected to look for work, those with severe health conditions are not in scope of sanctions. For those who we do expect to look for work, conditionality requirements are tailored to the claimant’s circumstances so they are reasonable, achievable and are agreed between the claimant and their Work Coach. Should there be a doubt, the Decision Maker will take into account all the claimant’s individual circumstances, such as health conditions, and any evidence of good reason they have provided, before deciding whether a sanction is warranted. Claimants have the right to a Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal should they wish to dispute the decision.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is working with system partners to prevent onward transmission of the monkeypox virus, raising awareness of the outbreak and advising the public on symptoms and how to access the appropriate treatment options.
The UKHSA has procured more than 20,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine Imvanex, which is being offered to identified close contacts of those diagnosed with monkeypox to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and severe illness. On 21 June 2022, the UKHSA recommended that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox should be offered the vaccine to control the outbreak. Vaccines are also being offered to at risk healthcare workers.
The following table shows the number of unique patients under the age of 18 years old prescribed anti-anxiety medication on a National Health Service prescription in England and dispensed in the community in each of the last five years, including the most recent data available.
1. The list of anti-anxiety medicine identified is based on British National Formulary (BNF) chapter 04 - section 01 hypnotics and anxiolytics using the classification system prior to BNF edition 70.
2. It should be noted that some of these drugs have multiple indications associated with different dosing regimens and it will be for the clinician to decide what is relevant for their patient. In addition, there may be medicines not listed in this section of BNF which clinicians may prescribe for their patient to alleviate anxiety.
The following table shows the number of unique patients under the age of 18 years old prescribed anti-anxiety medication on a National Health Service prescription in England and dispensed in the community in each of the last five years, including the most recent data available.
1. The list of anti-anxiety medicine identified is based on British National Formulary (BNF) chapter 04 - section 01 hypnotics and anxiolytics using the classification system prior to BNF edition 70.
2. It should be noted that some of these drugs have multiple indications associated with different dosing regimens and it will be for the clinician to decide what is relevant for their patient. In addition, there may be medicines not listed in this section of BNF which clinicians may prescribe for their patient to alleviate anxiety.
The information requested is not collected centrally in the format requested.
This information is not held in the format requested as there is no current waiting time standard for this service.
NHS England and NHS Improvement consulted on the potential to introduce five new access and waiting time standards for mental health services. This included a standard for children, young people and their families or carers presenting to community-based mental health services to receive care within four weeks from referral. We are now working with NHS England and NHS Improvement on the outcome of the consultation.
The Department has held recent discussions with the Royal College of Nurses on this commitment. NHS Digital’s monthly workforce statistics include a headline measure for progress towards recruiting 50,000 nurses and a range of other detail. The data complies with the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics, which promotes the production and dissemination of official statistics that inform decision making.
The information requested is not available as a national access and waiting times standard for child and adolescent mental health services has not yet been defined.
NHS England and NHS Improvement have consulted on the definition and introduction of five waiting time standards, including four for children and young people. The consultation closed on 1 September 2021. We will work with NHS England and NHS Improvement on the next steps for the proposed mental health access and waiting measures.
NHS England and NHS Improvement have regular discussions with the General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners and community pharmacy stakeholders, including the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. These bodies were contacted prior to the announcement of 12 December.
Whilst no specific date was set for the vaccination programme to be operating at full capacity, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked health systems to work partners, including local authorities, other public sector organisations and the voluntary and community sector, to maximise delivery during December 2021 and early 2022. This is to ensure every eligible adult over the age of 18 years old has been offered a booster vaccination by 31 December 2021.
As of 19 December, three-quarters of eligible people in England over 40 years old and more than four fifths of people over 50 years old had received a booster dose, with approximately four million doses administered in England.
The Department’s pandemic preparedness plans are kept under constant review and regularly evolve with new scientific information. We integrate learning from previous outbreaks, including COVID-19, and from rigorous testing and exercises. We continue to prepare for a range of pandemic and emerging infectious disease scenarios and aim to have robust, flexible and deployable capabilities that can be adapted to outbreaks of different scales and characteristics.
We are committed to learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and will commence a full public inquiry in spring 2022. This will be considered by the Government and a range of stakeholders, including expert advisory groups and local emergency planners, to inform our planning for potential future pandemics.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) was established on 1 October 2021 and incorporates the new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness (CPP). Working with the CPP, the UKHSA will ensure that we are protected from future health threats, including pandemics, by building on the enhanced capabilities deployed to tackle COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks.
On 3 December 2021, NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to National Health Service systems on the implementation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s advice. The National Booking System was operational on 15 December 2021. Every eligible adult in England aged 18 years old and over was offered a COVID-19 booster vaccination by the end of 2021.
This information is not held in the format requested.
The following table shows the mean average waiting times in hours, minutes and seconds in each category for ambulance trusts in England in October 2021 and compared to October 2019.
Source: NHS England
South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) has the longest mean waiting times across England for Categories 1 and 2. West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has the longest mean waiting times across England for Categories 3 and 4. The following table shows the mean average waiting times in hours, minutes and seconds for SWAS in Categories 1 and 2 and WMAS for Categories 3 and 4 in October 2021 and compared to October 2019.
Source: NHS England
The information requested on the number of safety incidents in National Health Service ambulance trusts as a result of waiting times is not held centrally.
In the 12 months to the end of June 2021, 2,875 midwives left service in the National Health Service in England. This includes midwives on maternity leave and those moving to work in healthcare roles in non-NHS providers.
The Government has committed to increasing the number of available midwifery training places in England by more than 3,650 in the four years from 2019, with an initial additional 650 training places made available and increases of 1,000 in each year since then.
NHS England is providing £95 million for the recruitment of 1,200 more midwives and 100 more obstetricians and to support multi-disciplinary team training.
We have been clear that a transparent, independent and science-led investigation is an important part of the international effort to understand how Covid-19 started and how it spread. Phase one of the World Health Organisation-convened COVID-19 origins study reported on 30 March and was always meant to be the beginning of the process, not the end. Our priority now is to ensure a timely, transparent, evidence-based, and expert-led Phase Two study.
NHS England and Health Education England are working with the profession to increase the general practice workforce in England. This includes measures to boost recruitment, address the reasons why doctors are leaving the profession, and encourage them to return to practice. As of March 2021, there were 536 more full time equivalent (FTE) doctors and 2,237 more FTE primary care professionals, such as physiotherapists, social prescribers and pharmacists, working in general practice compared to March 2019. The highest ever number of doctors accepted a place in general practitioner specialty training in 2020/21 and from 2021, the Government has committed to increasing the number of training places to 4,000 a year.
Provisional data for 2020/21 show that the number of children and young people attending accident and emergency departments in England with a diagnosis category of ‘psychiatric conditions’ fell substantially from 2,094 in March 2020 to 930 in April 2020. The latest information shows that they have since risen to 2,899 in November 2020 and that the levels of attendances between June and November 2020 remain broadly equivalent to the same period in the year before.
We continue to work closely with the Department for Education, the National Health Service, Public Health England and a wide range of stakeholders to monitor the situation and support children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Dr Alex George will be joining the Department for Education’s mental health action group, which will look specifically at how young people’s mental health and wellbeing can be supported as they return to schools, colleges and universities.
The National Health Service across the United Kingdom will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups but everyone will still receive their second dose and this will be within 12 weeks of their first. The second dose completes the course and is important for longer term protection.
When an appointment is booked at a vaccination centre, two appointments will be made at the same time.
Vaccine suppliers are required to deliver to the UK against a contract delivery schedule and this will vary depending on the vaccine. Once the vaccine has reached the UK’s central holding facility, the vaccine is stored at the required temperature until the vaccine is packed against an order from the National Health Service (NHS). The following factors determine how quickly the vaccine is delivered into NHS administration sites: how much vaccine is held centrally; how many orders are received from the NHS; and, how frequently orders are received. . The average time cannot be calculated because of these variables. There have been no incidents of wastage reported through Public Health England’s vaccine ordering system thus far.
NHS England recommend that administration of the vaccine is planned from the day after receipt of the vaccine. The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses that have gone to waste to date within the NHS in England is not available in the requested format.
NHS England and NHS Improvement are working with Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to help the public access to accurate National Health Service information and avoid myths and misinformation. This includes ensuring Google provides easy access to verified NHS guidance when someone searches for COVID-19; working to verify or ‘blue tick’ over 800 social media accounts belonging to NHS organisations including hospital trusts and local commissioning groups; and working with Twitter to suspend false accounts posing as trusted institutions.
The National Cyber Security Centre is also asking the public to report suspect emails to its Suspicious Email Reporting Service. All emails forwarded to the service are analysed and if they are found to link to malicious content, they will be taken down or blocked, helping prevent future victims of crime. In addition, the Advertising Standards Authority taking action to ban fraudulent adverts.
NHS England, the Head of Action Fraud, the National Crime Agency and the National Cyber Security Centre have issued joint advice that the COVID-19 vaccine is only available for free on the NHS and health service staff will never ask for payment for it.
The Community Investment Scheme was launched in September 2018 and is run by NHS Blood and Transplant on behalf of the Government. Currently, fifty organisations have been funded to address concerns, barriers and misconceptions about organ donation, with a total investment of £345,000. The funded projects cover Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Hindu and Jain faith organisations and within Indian, South Asian, Chinese, African and Caribbean communities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on face-to-face contact, many organisations are now delivering educational material online.
An attitudinal survey was carried out twelve months after the launch of the scheme, which showed increasing support for organ donation including in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The scheme for 2020/21 has been extended to fund projects to increase participation and engagement in blood donation as well as organ donation.
‘R’ is just one of the many indicators the Government takes into account when making a decision on national COVID-19 restrictions. These include indicators related to National Health Service pressures and the weekly case rate.
The Department has made no specific assessment.
NHS Blood and Transplant is accountable to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and is responsible for the provision of a safe, reliable, efficient supply of blood to hospitals in England.
NHS Blood and Transplant aims to retain around six days’ supply of blood at any one time. This is in addition to the stock held within hospitals, which is typically five to six days’ stock. As at 2 December, NHS Blood and Transplant had eight days’ supply of blood, including donations being processed.
We are unable to provide the information requested as the costs involved are commercially sensitive, as they vary between supplier. The cost will also vary depending on the cost of the delivery channel used, the logistics involved, and the laboratory that processes the test results.
The Department has asked the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to review how Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions were used during the coronavirus pandemic, building on concerns that the CQC reported earlier in the year. Interim findings are expected to be reported later this year with a final report in early 2021.
NHS England and NHS Improvement are working on revised, patient-facing guidance on DNACPRs and where to get support. The guidance will be published shortly following consultation with key stakeholders and people with lived experience.
The Department is regularly in discussions with other countries including the United States on a wide range of issues relating to the international response to COVID-19. The United States continues to play an important role on global health, and we will continue to work with the United States and other international partners to tackle the current crisis. The specific conditions of the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization are a matter for the United States and the WHO. The United Kingdom has a strong and committed relationship with the WHO and, as the second largest Member State donor, continues to work closely with the WHO. The UK has already contributed £75 million to help the WHO-led international efforts to stop the spread of the virus and end the pandemic and the UK has no plans to stop funding the WHO, which has an important role to play in leading the global health response to COVID-19.
The Alert Level is currently determined and set by the Chief Medical Officers of the United Kingdom. The Chief Medical Officers consider advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which is a part of the Department, in setting the level. In time the JBC is expected to take on responsibility for independently setting the Alert Level.
The Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Oxford is scheduled to be fully operational in 2022. We are assessing whether it should be accelerated.
NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England and key stakeholders are implementing actions from the Measles and rubella UK elimination strategy 2019, to increase take-up of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This includes:
- Implementing a catch-up vaccination programme for 10 and 11-year olds through general practices, to continue into 2020/21;
- Notifications from Child Health Information Services to help general practices identify children with due and overdue vaccinations; and
- Initiatives led by local teams to address inequalities in vaccine uptake, such as a targeted MMR catch-up campaign with 16 universities in October 2019.
Data from nationally representative surveys indicate that, in England, current vaping among young people remains low and concentrated among those who have already smoked. Among adults, vaping prevalence is 6.3%, with almost all vapers being smokers or ex-smokers. This data can be found in the attached Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin, Adult smoking habits in the United Kingdom: 2018.
Smoking rates continue to decline among both adults and youth. Public Health England (PHE) monitors the developing evidence on effectiveness of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking. A major UK randomised control trial has found e-cigarettes to be twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy products when combined with behavioural support.
Data from English stop smoking services indicate that people who use an e-cigarette in their attempt to quit have the highest success rates. UK regulation of e-cigarettes includes measures to protect young people, including a ban on most forms of advertising, a minimum age of sale of 18 years and a ban on proxy purchasing.
PHE provides evidence-based information to healthcare professionals, teachers and the public about the relative harmfulness of e-cigarettes, vaping devices and smoked tobacco.
NHS Blood and Transplant is responsible for the collection, manufacturing and issuing of blood products to the National Health Service in England.
There is always a need for new blood donors, of all blood types, to replace those donors who can no longer give blood. There is a high demand for male blood as only men’s blood can be used for some specialist transfusions and blood products. NHS Blood and Transplant also needs new blood donors from a black African or black Caribbean background to treat sickle cell disease.
In November 2019, NHS Blood and Transplant and BT Sport joined forces to recruit more male blood donors as, in 2019, 41% of new donor recruits were male. The campaign is being shown on live television, video on demand and social media.
The Department has not conducted any such research and has therefore made no projections on future costs. Public Health England’s Stoptober campaigns have continued to achieve positive anti-smoking outcomes. For example, in 2018 19% of smokers reported making a Stoptober-related quit attempt in comparison to 16% in 2017. Adult smoking rates in England are at their lowest level since records began, currently at 14.4%.
We remain determined to achieve our 2019 Green Paper ambition of a smoke-free society by 2030. Prevention remains at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan, with clear commitments for smoking cessation services in secondary care, and we continue to fund stop smoking services provided by local authorities.
I [Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon] was saddened by the loss of life that occurred during recent events in the Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan. I understand that initially peaceful protests against plans to change Karakalpakstan's autonomous status within Uzbekistan, developed into violent unrest with casualties among civilians and law enforcement. The situation now seems calm. We have taken note of the creation of an Independent Commission under the Parliamentary Ombudsman to investigate these events.
On 7 July, I raised the unrest in Karakalpakstan with the Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister and our Ambassador and his team in Tashkent are also in contact with the Uzbek authorities. We have been clear in our communications that the right to peaceful protest and respect for media freedom should be protected. In discussion of these events in multilateral fora, we urged the Uzbek authorities to adhere to their international commitments in their response, and that due process be followed as the authorities seek to understand what happened. We will continue to monitor developments closely.
We remain in close contact with the US and other partners on the tragic case of Shireen Abu Akleh. We continue to call for justice, accountability, and urgent steps to be taken to de-escalate tensions, and for restraint in the use of force. The safety of journalists across the globe is vital and they must be protected when carrying out their critical work.
As of 1 July, the UK has donated 84.4 million covid-19 vaccines. Of these approximately 76.5 million have been donated to COVAX, and 7.9 million have been donated directly by the UK to countries in need.
Global supply of covid-19 vaccines now far outstrips demand, meaning countries have greater access to vaccines and dose donations are no longer critical. We are working with COVAX and other international partners to ensure that developing countries are able to roll-out vaccines and meet their national vaccination targets.
We are aware of reports of ongoing violence in Kashmir and are monitoring closely. We unequivocally condemn the killings which have been carried out by militant groups in Kashmir and extend condolences to the families of those killed. We condemn any instances of discrimination because of Freedom of Religion or Belief, regardless of the country or faith involved.
As we seek to keep the UK and our interests at home and overseas safe from the threat of terrorism, tackling Al-Shabaab is one of our top counter-terrorism priorities. With international allies, regional partners, and with the Federal Government of Somalia and our international partners, we are pursuing a comprehensive effort to address the Al-Shabaab threat and the conditions through which Al-Shabaab has become entrenched in Somalia, as well as working with the new government in Somalia to improve governance, economic reform, security and justice, and humanitarian resilience in the country.
The UK continues to play an important role in strengthening Somalia's security capabilities and supporting the transition towards Somali-led security. The UK has provided training to the Somali National Army and Somali Police, and provided technical advice to civilian institutions to help improve operational effectiveness. As penholder at the UN we helped to secure authorisation for a reconfigured African Union Transition Mission in Somalia. We are supporting efforts to weaken Al-Shabaab and restrict its financial flows, including through UN sanctions.
The Prime Minister wrote to Gustavo Petro last week to congratulate him on his election as President. We look forward to working with him on the wide range of interests our two countries share after his inauguration on 7 August 2022.
The impact of the invasion is being felt around the world but most acutely in countries already facing dangerous levels of food insecurity. The World Food Programme estimates that if the war continues, up to 47 million more people could face acute food insecurity this year, bringing the total as high as 323 million by the end of the year. There is an estimated 25 million ton backlog of grain unable to leave Ukraine due to Putin's reckless blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports. The UK is working closely with our international partners to mitigate the impacts of Russia's actions and to tackle global food and nutrition insecurity. We are holding Russia's actions to account, being clear that Western sanctions are not to blame, supporting UN-led negotiations to reopen maritime routes for food exports from Ukraine's sea ports, and supporting efforts to transfer grain to global markets via rail routes.
The security situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is concerning. We welcome regional efforts to deliver a peaceful solution. In recent weeks we have raised our concerns about the increase in violence, hate speech and increased movement of armed groups with the Governments of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the leadership of the UN Peacekeeping Mission, MONUSCO. The UK engages frequently and at a senior level with the Governments of Rwanda and DRC through our missions in the region, and in the UK. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and the Minister for Africa most recently raised our concerns about the escalating violence in the region, with the Rwandan Foreign Minister last week. The Minister for Africa will also raise these concerns with the Government of DRC over the coming days. The UK is committed to supporting regional efforts to build stability and reduce violence in DRC, and we welcome the recent meeting of regional Heads of State in Nairobi towards this end.
We regularly discuss these issues with our international partners, including the Government of the United States. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and engage with all local and regional partners to improve the security situation.
The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling our international human rights obligations. The proposed Bill of Rights is fully in line with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
Turkey is a NATO ally and long-standing partner of the UK. We support the strengthening of NATO's southern flank by boosting the air capability of Allies and reducing dependencies on Russia-sourced equipment. It is for the US Government to decide on the military equipment they sell to Turkey.
Ministers and senior officials regularly engage in the UN and with our international partners on matters relating to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT has, for the last 50 years, been the cornerstone of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, create a nuclear weapon free world and enable access to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
The UK was part of the G7 Non Proliferation Directors Group Statement on 9 May, which strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and reaffirmed the G7's commitment to strengthening the NPT and existing nuclear security architecture. The UK looks forward to working with all states to strengthen the NPT at the upcoming Tenth Review Conference this August.
We welcomed the holding of parliamentary elections on 15 May. Lebanon's new Members of Parliament must now put aside their differences to work together in the interests of the Lebanese people. We urge the new parliament to proceed urgently to form an inclusive government that is empowered to take forward the essential reform agenda, including finalising the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, to get Lebanon on the path to recovery. Since 2011, the UK has allocated over £787 million in humanitarian and development funding to Lebanon to support Syrian refugees and other vulnerable people, including Lebanese. The UK and members of the International Support Group for Lebanon stand with the people of Lebanon in their time of need, but we are clear that Lebanon's leaders must implement a credible reform process as the only sustainable way to address the ongoing crisis.
The change in government was a domestic matter for Pakistan. We respect Pakistan's democratic system, and do not interfere in its domestic political affairs. We will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan to advance our shared priorities and interests, including the promotion of national and regional stability.
The UK continues to be deeply concerned over the high levels of global acute child malnutrition, with over 60 million children expected to experience wasting in 2022. As highlighted in the recent UNICEF Child Alert, the UK has been at the forefront of tackling this devastating condition which not only takes lives but also leaves children with lifelong disabilities. The UK has historically been the largest funder for treatment of child wasting, providing roughly one quarter of all financing for wasting. In September 2020 the FCDO launched a 5-year partnership with UNICEF to drive improvements to the prevention and treatment of child wasting.
Levels of acute malnutrition in Afghanistan are particularly concerning, with 1.1 million children expected to require life-saving treatment for severe wasting this year. In response the UK has pledged a further £286 million for Afghanistan, the majority of which will go towards life-saving humanitarian assistance. A priority focus is emergency food assistance and nutrition services through key partners, including UNICEF and the World Food Programme. This support is expected to reach over 4 million people with a focus on vulnerable women and children.
The UK is concerned by President Saied's decision to dissolve Parliament and the possibility of politicians from the previous government facing criminal charges. Tunisia faces many economic and political challenges that can only be addressed through democratic engagement, transparency, the protection of human rights, and free speech. The UK has closely monitored the political situation since the changes brought in by President Saied on 25 July 2021, and we will continue to do so. Her Majesty's Ambassador to Tunis met with President Kais Saied to present her credentials in January 2022. The Ambassador welcomed the moves toward public consultation and accountability to the Tunisian people in the President's political roadmap, and shared her hope that Tunisians would achieve their aspirations for jobs, freedoms and dignity.
The Prime Minister discussed the applications of Finland and Sweden for NATO membership with President Erdoğan on 20 May. The Prime Minister underlined the UK's support for the rapid accession of both countries, who will add to the collective security of the Alliance. He welcomed Turkey's plans to discuss with Sweden and Finland the issues raised by the President, and reiterated the UK's willingness to support the accession process.
The Prime Minister visited Abu Dhabi on 15 May to pay respects following the death of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and to offer his condolences to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the people of the United Arab Emirates. The Prime Minister also congratulated His Highness on his appointment as President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. They reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the UK and the United Arab Emirates.
During a call with the Israeli Ambassador on 19 May, Minister Milling made clear the UK's sadness at the recent death of Shireen Abu Aqleh and the deeply disturbing scenes at her funeral in Jerusalem. She urged a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the events. The UK Ambassador to Israel has reiterated the importance of an investigation with the Israeli authorities. We call for urgent steps to de-escalate tensions and for restraint in the use of force. The safety of journalists across the globe is vital and they must be protected when carrying out their critical work.
It is important that local elections in Central African Republic (CAR), which have not been held since 1988, are credible and inclusive. We have regular conversations with international partners on a range of issues in CAR including elections. In May, British diplomats met members of the international community including the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), and discussed local elections. The UK contributes approximately £40 million annually to MINUSCA, which continues to provide security across the country. MINUSCA also plays a role in election security.
The UK has a strong record of providing electoral support in CAR. During national elections in 2020-21, our £500,000 contribution to UNDP's elections fund supported procurement of critical election materials and greater participation of women and marginalised groups.
Even before the conflict in Ukraine, 273 million people needed humanitarian assistance globally and 43 million people were one step from famine. Russia's invasion is further accelerating this trend through its impact on food, fuel, and fertiliser prices. The UK is stepping up to respond. We have announced a package of emergency humanitarian assistance to address rising food insecurity in Africa, and provided £72.25 million for crises in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan. At the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in April, the UK and our partners secured the largest ever financial commitment from the World Bank of $170 billion over the next 15 months to support countries impacted by the Russian invasion. We are also calling for all countries to keep food trade flowing; we know from the last global food crisis that this is the best way to keep prices down.
The British Ambassador to Morocco, Simon Martin, represented the UK government at the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh Ministerial meeting in Marrakesh on Wednesday 11 May. I [Lord Ahmad, Minister for South Asia and Central Asia, North Africa, the United Nations and the Commonwealth] was unable to attend. The conclusions regarding Coalition action against Daesh in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Africa are available in the Ministerial Communique. This is available at https://theglobalcoalition.org/en/communique-global-coalition-morocco/
We are closely monitoring the political, economic and security situation in Sri Lanka. We encourage a peaceful, democratic, and inclusive approach to resolving the current political and economic challenges. We call on all parties to explore constructive and democratic ways of resolving the current situation.
The UK Government strongly condemns the violence against peaceful protesters in Sri Lanka. Lord Ahmad, called for accountability for those responsible and for the right to protest peacefully to be protected. Fundamental rights including the right to peaceful protest, must be protected as part of a democratic resolution to current economic & political challenges.
On 11 May, the Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East [Amanda Milling] publicly expressed her sadness upon hearing news of the tragic death of veteran Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, and called for a thorough investigation. The Foreign Secretary also made this clear in a statement on 12 May. Officials from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv have reiterated the importance of an investigation with the Israeli authorities. The safety of journalists across the globe is vital and they must be protected when carrying out their critical work.
World Malaria Day provides an opportunity to keep malaria high on the international health agenda. Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Ministers used social media and a response to an oral question in the House of Lords to highlight the need for global collaboration and commitment to tackle malaria.
The British Deputy Head of Mission to the United States also raised similar themes at an event in Washington convened by President Kenyatta of Kenya to mark World Malaria Day. We will continue to use upcoming events to maintain political momentum to protect those most vulnerable such as children under 5, who are disproportionately impacted by this disease.
We have reached the end of talks in Vienna to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). There is a deal on the table that would return Iran to its JCPoA commitments, and return the US to the deal. Iran is currently preventing conclusion of the deal with demands beyond the JCPoA. We are in regular discussion with the US on the urgent need for a diplomatic solution to end Iran's nuclear escalation.
The Prime Minister spoke to President-elect Yoon on 14 March to congratulate him on his election win. They briefly discussed a number of topics, including the DPRK. Minister Milling attended President Yoon's inauguration as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy. She met with President Yoon on 9 May and reaffirmed the UK's concerns about DPRK destabilising activity and our commitment to peace in the Korean peninsula.
The UK works closely with our partners to urge North Korea to return to dialogue and take credible steps towards denuclearisation in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.
We echoed the concerns of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in a statement to the UN Security Council on 28 March. Ministers, British Embassy staff in Khartoum and FCDO officials also continue to raise our concerns at the situation and encourage all Sudanese political actors to engage in the talks facilitated by the UN and African Union (AU) to resolve the crisis. Most recently senior FCDO officials delivered these messages in meetings with Sudan's military leadership on 3 March and the UK and partners released a 'Friends of Sudan' statement in support of the UN/AU talks on 29 March.
We continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Sudanese people to help alleviate the immense economic pressures they face, exacerbated by the ongoing political crisis. In 2021, the UK contributed £27 million to humanitarian assistance in Sudan, which provided approximately 1.2 million people with live-saving assistance such as food, cash and voucher support, safe drinking water, shelter and sanitation. Restoration of a civilian-led government is however vital to help create the conditions for the resumption of wider support for Sudan's economy, including for International Financial Institution re-engagement and potential debt relief.
Russia's reckless attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station posed an unnecessary risk to nuclear safety and security in Ukraine. The UK convened an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council on 4 March to condemn the Russian attack and to call on Russia to act in line with its international obligations. On 15 March, the G7 Non-Proliferation Director's Group issued a statement that welcomed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) efforts to establish a framework agreement on the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine, and endorsed the seven pillars of the framework. The UK will continue to support the tireless efforts of the IAEA to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities in Ukraine.
The Iranian authorities committed to allowing Morad to return home to his family in Tehran on furlough, and we expect them to fulfil that commitment. We continue to work with the US to secure Morad's permanent release and departure from Iran and have been clear that he must be allowed to return to his family's home in Tehran immediately. We remain in close contact with Morad's family.
We urge the Government of Iran to stop its practice of unfairly detaining British and other foreign nationals, and we will continue to work with likeminded partners to that end. It remains - and always has been - within Iran's gift to release any British national who has been unfairly detained.
The UK remains committed to making progress towards a two-state solution. On 10 March Minister Milling held a meeting with Israeli Ambassador Hotovely and a meeting with Palestinian Head of Mission Zomlot to discuss the Middle East Peace Process and importance of making progress towards a sustainable solution to the conflict.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest report is clear that the effects of climate change have not been felt equally across the world, and this trend will continue. Water scarcity is one of the ways people are most likely to experience climate change. Our latest assessments can be found on the Knowledge For Development Water Learning Journey website (K4D Learning Journey on Water Security (ids.ac.uk)). They show that water can be a risk or threat multiplier for conflict and instability, and a trigger for conflict at the local level. Water shortages can compound existing fragilities and social stressors making conflict or migration more likely.
The UK recognises the importance of ensuring that countries most vulnerable to climate change can respond to the risks they face, including those related to water. We are supporting a number of initiatives that help to improve water security and from a range of angles including policy and regulation, investment, and water footprints.
For instance last week we launched the 'Al Murunah' project in the Middle East and North Africa region, the world's most water-scarce region. The project aims to increase water security through the integration of resilient nature-based solutions.
The UK also funds the Transboundary Water Programme, supporting countries in southern Africa to manage their shared water resources (rivers, lakes and groundwater) for economic development and contribute to climate resilience and poverty reduction.
In addition, we are funding the development and piloting of the new 'Water Tracker', led by the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, which is being used by developing country governments to integrate water resilience within their national climate plans.
Russia has shown a flagrant disregard for the principles of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and for the commitments it has made through the organisation. However, continued Russian participation at the OSCE gives us the opportunity to call it out for its behaviour and encourage others to do the same. It also provides a channel for crisis communication, and keeps open a space for diplomacy.
The most recent discussion between a member of the British Government and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu took place on 11 February when the Defence Secretary met him during his visit to Moscow.
The Foreign Secretary spoke with her Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi, on Friday 25 February. In the call, the Foreign Secretary underlined that the UK expects China to stand up for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and urged China to uphold its commitment to the UN Charter.
The UK continues to work intensively with our allies and partners, including the US, to make clear to the Russian Government that we will not accept its campaign to subvert its democratic neighbour.
The UK has led efforts to bring together allies to expedite an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the situation in Ukraine, through state party referral. With 37 countries joining the UK, it is the largest referral in the history of the ICC.
Indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians amounts to war crimes, for which the Putin regime must be held accountable. There is very strong evidence that war crimes have been committed and Putin is behind them. This is ultimately however a matter for the ICC to decide.
A negotiated political settlement is the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the humanitarian suffering. The UK will continue to use its diplomatic relations and role as penholder on Yemen in the UN Security Council to support efforts towards political dialogue and peace. The UK supports fully the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, and the UK continues to encourage the parties to engage constructively with those efforts.
The UK regularly engages with Brazil on deforestation in the Amazon, both at Federal and State levels, bilaterally and with international partners, as well as with the private sector and civil society. The UK will continue to convey to Brazil the importance of respecting its own environmental licensing processes, including on major infrastructure projects. We follow the deforestation situation in Brazil closely and will continue to raise our concerns regarding any project that could intensify forest loss.
While we remain concerned by the rising rates of deforestation in the Amazon, we were pleased to welcome Brazil's positive commitments at COP26. Brazil signed the Forest and Land Use pledge and committed to eliminating illegal deforestation by 2028, and to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The UK will support this and other climate commitments by doubling our International Climate Finance to £11.6 billion over the next five years - we will be investing at least £3 billion of this in solutions that protect and restore nature. The introduction of world-leading due diligence legislation through the Environment Bill will also tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains.
The crisis in Ukraine has increased food prices and risks exacerbating high food insecurity in vulnerable countries. Countries immediately affected are those most dependent on food and fertiliser imports from Ukraine and Russia, in particular those that may not have sufficient options for substitution in the short term and have weak public finances. The UK is monitoring developments closely and is encouraging the relevant multilateral institutions to prioritise rapid information, analysis, and response options. We are working with G7 partners to consider policy and programming response that mitigates the risk of an extended global food price crisis and protects food security. This included the agreement on 11 March by G7 Agricultural Ministers to call on all countries to keep their food and agricultural markets open.
In recent weeks we have seen reports of malicious cyber incidents in Ukraine which bear the hallmarks of similar Russian activity we have observed before, including the NotPetya incident.
HMG assess the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the Ukrainian banking sector on 15 and 16 February 2022 to have involved the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). The decision to publicly attribute this incident underlines the fact that the UK and its allies will not tolerate malicious cyber activity.
This activity is yet another example of Russia's aggressive acts against Ukraine. At times of heightened international tension, all organisations need to be vigilant to the risk of cyber compromises and follow the National Cyber Security Centre best practice guidance.
I (Lord Ahmad) spoke to Foreign Minister Qureshi about Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 27 February. Our High Commissioner in Islamabad has discussed with Prime Minister Khan and senior officials in Islamabad; and officials in London have spoken frequently to the Pakistan High Commissioner in London. The UK is working with our partners to put pressure on Russia, and to build international support for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister spoke to President Macron on 22 February to update on new UK sanctions against Russia, the leaders agreed they needed to continue to synchronise actions in order to target Russian individuals and entities bankrolling President Putin's aggressive approach. The pair reiterated that together, the UK and France were working to reinforce Europe's borders and defend European security against increasing Russian aggression.
It is the longstanding policy and practice of successive British Governments to accord recognition to States, not Governments.
The Afghan Embassy in London continues to be recognised as Afghanistan's diplomatic mission to the Court of St. James's, in line with Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961. The FCDO therefore continues to engage with staff at the Embassy.
The unfolding crisis in Ukraine will affect food and input supplies, and further threaten already high food prices. There is also a risk that it will exacerbate food insecurity in already vulnerable countries. Countries immediately affected are those most dependent on imports from Ukraine and Russia, such as Turkey, Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East, and in particular those that may not have sufficient options for substitution in the short term. The UK is monitoring developments closely and is encouraging the relevant multilateral institutions to prioritise rapid information, analysis, and response options. We have also encouraged the G7 to consider a policy and programming response that mitigates the risk of a global food price crisis and protects food security.
The political and security situation in Belarus is worsening. The UK condemns the role the Belarus regime is playing in Russia's unprovoked and barbaric attack against Ukraine. On 1 March, the Foreign Secretary imposed a first package of sanctions on Belarusian individuals and organisations who are aiding and abetting the invasion.
The removal of the neutrality clause from Belarus' constitution must not be used to allow further support for Russian aggression. The decision to change the constitution came following a flawed referendum which failed to meet international standards. We urge the Belarusian authorities to end the repression, enter into an inclusive dialogue with the democratic opposition and civil society, and offer the Belarusian people genuine choices.
The UK believes that checks and balances are needed in all political systems and an independent judiciary is a core component of a functioning, transparent democracy. We have raised these issues with Tunisian Foreign Minister Jerandi. We strongly support the people of Tunisia in their pursuit of effective, democratic, and transparent governance. We have called for continued public commitment to and respect for all Tunisians' civil, political, social and economic rights, and to the rule of law.
In January, the Foreign Secretary announced £97 million humanitarian assistance, delivering on the UK's promise to double UK aid to Afghanistan to £286 million in 2021-22. We have now disbursed over £176 million to Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region to address the most urgent humanitarian needs. We are working closely with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to ensure children have increased access to life-saving health, nutrition and protection services, including supporting over 224,000 children with lifesaving treatment for severe acute malnutrition in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Prime Minister Imran Khan when they spoke in August 2021. They discussed the importance of international and regional partners working together to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. We remain in close contact with the Government of Pakistan on the situation in Afghanistan. In November, the UK Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan travelled to Islamabad and discussed the crisis with senior members of the Pakistan Government. Most recently, Lord Ahmad discussed Pakistan's role in helping the people of Afghanistan with Foreign Minister Qureshi on 27 February.
Of the c.14,500 personnel that make up the UN Peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the UK deploys 300 troops. Separately, we also deploy four Chinook helicopters with around 100 troops providing logistical support to the French counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane. We have been part of Operation BARKHANE since July 2018. As the French mission in Mali concludes, so will the UK's contribution to it. We are reviewing our deployment to the UN Peacekeeping mission MINUSMA. The Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean has expressed concern about the increasing restrictions on UN Peacekeeping and international forces in Mali, and has urged all partners to continue working together to protect and support a better future for the Malian people.
We are concerned by the deteriorating situation across the Sahel and the impact on regional security. We joined the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and international partners to condemn the coups in Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali. We call for the return to democratic, civilian and constitutional rule without delay. In a meeting with ECOWAS President, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, on 22 February, the Minister for Africa set out the UK's continued support for ECOWAS' mediation efforts. In Chad, we condemned the killing of President Idriss Deby in April 2021, and are working with the African Union to support a return to civilian and constitutional rule.
We also condemned the actions of the Sudanese military in October 2021 and issued statements alongside Troika (UK, Norway, US) and quad (UK, US, Saudi Arabia, UAE) partners. We urge all political actors to engage in UN-facilitated dialogue to end the crisis and engage with all parties to demonstrate support for the democratic transition.
I refer the noble Lord to my [Lord Ahmad] reply to their question HL5391 on 27 January. The UK's position on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law. The former Minister for the Middle East, North Africa and North America, James Cleverly, raised UK opposition to settlement expansion with the Government of Israel on 9 November.
The UK is monitoring international developments in missile technology. We will continue to push for all countries to act responsibly in the international system. The UK engages regularly with Chinese officials on arms control issues, including through our annual dialogue on Counter Proliferation and discussions with the Chinese Arms Control and Disarmament Association. We continue these discussions with China through the P5 Process.
The Prime Minister spoke to President Erdoğan most recently on 14 January, when they discussed the situation on the Ukrainian border and emphasised NATO's collective resolve to avoid further escalation.
Almost 60 members of staff of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office currently have valid exam passes in Russian at C1 level. Exam passes are valid for five years. In December 2017, that figure was below 50. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office does not routinely collect data on language skills below C1 level.
The UK is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security and political situation in Burkina Faso. As the Minister for Africa set out in her statement on 25 January 2022, the UK condemns the coup d'etat by military forces in Burkina Faso, and calls for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all members of the civilian government who have been detained, including the President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. It is vital that all parties remain calm and respect human rights, and for Burkina Faso to return to democratic civilian and constitutional rule without delay. We are monitoring the political and security situation closely, and working with partners to encourage a swift, peaceful and constructive resolution to events. Dialogue between all parties is required to tackle insecurity across Burkina Faso, and respond to the needs of the Burkinabe people.
Through our deployment to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), our deployment of Chinook helicopters to the French counter-terrorism mission Barkhane, and our programmatic support for stabilisation and conflict resolution, the UK is working to build long-term peace and stability in the Sahel. We also provide humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable in the region, including in Burkina Faso.
India and Pakistan are long-standing, important friends of UK. The UK has consistently encouraged both sides to ensure communication channels are load-bearing and provide a means to find a lasting, diplomatic solutions to maintain regional stability. However, it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution on Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of Kashmiri people.
The protection of the Antarctic environment is discussed annually at Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM), and the UK engages actively to ensure all activities in Antarctica are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Within the Antarctic Treaty System, tourism and research vessels must operate in accordance with the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection, which includes actions to be taken to prevent the introduction of non-native species, as well precautions to prevent the accidental introduction of micro-organisms not naturally present in the Antarctic Treaty area. Fishing vessels are regulated under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Following work led by the UK, both the ATCM and CCAMLR have adopted practical guidelines for the exchange of ballast water in the Antarctic Treaty area, designed to minimise the risk of introducing non-native species.
The UK is deeply concerned by the appalling devastation caused by the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga. While full details of the humanitarian impact are still unknown, it is estimated that up to 80,000 people will have been affected. Her Majesty's Government has been working with partners on options for support, helping to ensure a coordinated regional response.
On Friday 21 January, the UK sent supplies to support the humanitarian and disaster relief effort on Australia's HMAS Adelaide. 17 pallets are on board, including 90 family tents, 8 community tents and 6 wheel barrows. All of these items were requested by the Tongan government.
In addition, HMS Spey has now set sail for Tonga, loaded with additional items including fresh water and medical supplies.
The UK is also funding the deployment of crisis experts through the United Nations. They will support the Tongan authorities to coordinate the international response.
The UK-funded International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) has also released £345,000 to support Tonga. The UK has committed a £6 million contribution to the DREF through an annual £1.5 million donation 2020-2023.
We are aware of the announcement of joint Russia-Belarus military drills due to take place in Belarus in February. We continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly in light of current regional tensions.
The UK fully supports the UN-facilitated, Libyan led and owned political process. Successful free, fair and inclusive elections will be a crucial step in this process, and the Libyan people have made clear their aspirations to have a say in who governs them. The UK is working with Libyan and international partners - including the UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor Stephanie Williams, the United Nation's Support Mission in Libya, and the United Nations Secretary-General - to pursue this priority, supporting Libya's sovereignty and national unity, and putting the country on a path to sustained peace, security and prosperity.
In support of Lebanon's response to coronavirus, the UK has contributed nearly £4.5 million for medical supplies via World Health Organisation, support through the British Red Cross, training to medical professionals, and funding for 10 isolation centres.
The UK is committed to supporting vulnerable Palestinian refugees in Lebanon through our annual support to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UK aid helps UNRWA provide essential services to vulnerable Palestinian refugees including responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK's position on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law. Minister Cleverly raised UK opposition to settlement expansion with the Government of Israel on 9 November.
The Government is closely following events in Kazakhstan. We greatly regret the loss of life and injuries sustained as a result of recent unrest and condemn the violence and destruction of property that occurred, particularly in the city of Almaty. The reasons behind the violence remain unclear, although we note that President Tokayev has characterised what happened as an 'attempted coup'. We also take note of the President's decision to establish an investigative commission and await a full account of what led to these unprecedented events and loss of life. I was assured by President Tokayev's Special Representative, Ambassador Kazykhan, that the work of the commission would be transparent and effective.
The Government's long-standing position is that legitimate protest must be peaceful and genuine grievances resolved through dialogue. We have called for law enforcement responses to be proportionate, and for freedom of speech and expression to be respected in line with Kazakhstan's international commitments. We will continue to underline these points in our engagement with the Kazakh Government, as we seek to understand the chain of events and to ensure that human rights are upheld.
I welcome the decision by the French authorities on 13 January to relax the border restrictions which were introduced on 18 December. The UK and France are in regular contact about the requirements for travel between our countries. FCDO travel advice is kept up to date as restrictions change.
Abdallah Hamdok's resignation as Prime Minister of Sudan reflects the wider political crisis over the future of Sudan's democratic transition following the 25 October 2021 coup. His resignation reinforces the urgent need for all Sudanese political actors to work together to deliver the civilian rule that millions of Sudanese continue to call for. The Troika (UK, Norway, US) and EU issued a statement on 4 January urging all sides to engage in dialogue to secure an end to the political crisis and we therefore welcome the UN's announcement that they will facilitate talks. The Sudan Quad (UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE and US) released a statement on 8 January urging the Sudanese to seize this opportunity. With our international partners, we will continue to urge all parties to work on the basis of the 2019 Constitutional Declaration to deliver the Sudanese people's demands for freedom, peace and justice. We recognise however, that despite the talks the Sudanese people continue to protest; it is essential they are able to do so without fear of violence.
The ongoing political crisis has also exacerbated an already fragile security situation in Darfur and other historically marginalised areas of Sudan, which will have serious humanitarian implications for the people of Sudan. The UK raised concern at the increase in violence and high levels of displacement in Darfur, along with the wider political crisis, at the UN Security Council on 12 January. British Embassy staff in Khartoum and FCDO officials will continue to engage with all Sudanese parties to encourage dialogue and help ensure that the progress made since the 2019 revolution is not lost.
Work is ongoing on the FCDO's Strategic Workforce Plan, which will define the longer-term workforce size, skills and expertise that the department will require for the next three years, out to 2025. At this stage no decisions have been made.
The department's focus on strategic workforce planning will ensure that we have the right capabilities to deliver on our international priorities as set out in the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy and the forthcoming International Development Strategy.
In the South China Sea, our commitment is to international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to freedom of navigation and overflight. We take no position on sovereignty disputes and encourage all parties to settle their disputes peacefully through the existing legal mechanisms, including UNCLOS. We oppose any action which changes the situation on the ground, raises tensions or hinders the chances of peaceful settlement of the disputes.
The UK is committed to engaging with South East Asian countries in support of shared prosperity and regional stability. We are working with allies to strengthen regional capacity on maritime law and security, including with South China Sea claimants, through a programme of dialogues, training, and conferences. In July 2021, the then Minister for Asia signed a new Maritime Security Partnership with Vietnam, which will enhance the UK's bilateral maritime capacity cooperation. The Foreign Secretary discussed the South China Sea and regional security with counterparts during her most recent visit to SE Asia on 6-12 November.
The UK welcomes negotiations between China and ASEAN countries for an effective and substantive Code of Conduct for claimants' activities. We continue to make clear that the text should support and complement UNCLOS and reflect the legitimate interests of third countries, including the UK. This was stated most recently in the Chair's statement on 12 December following the first meeting between G7 Foreign and Development Ministers and ASEAN member States.
We are in regular contact with the Iranian Government. At ministerial level, the Foreign Secretary spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian on 22 September and 8 November, and the Minister for Middle East and North Africa spoke with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Bagheri Kani on 11 November. The Prime Minister wrote to President Raisi after he was elected, urging him to engage with the UK on a range of issues, including our nuclear concerns, our consular cases, human rights and Iran's role in the region. Our officials, including those in the British Embassy in Tehran, also regularly engage with Iran on a wide range of issues.
We are deeply concerned by the pattern of Russian military build-ups on the borders of Ukraine and in illegally-annexed Crimea, and we are monitoring the situation closely. We have been clear with Russia that any military incursion into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake and result in severe economic and diplomatic consequences.
The Prime Minister spoke to President Putin on 25 October and again on 13 December. He reaffirmed the UK's support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and urged the Russian government to de-escalate the situation. The Foreign Secretary met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 2 December and delivered these same messages.
British Embassy Moscow have also raised our concerns with the Russian authorities, most recently on 9 December.
Free, fair and inclusive Parliamentary and Presidential elections on 24 December 2021, including women and youth's full, equal and meaningful participation, is one of the top priorities for the UK in Libya. They are captured in UK-drafted UN Security Council Resolution 2570, and in the communiqués agreed by the Berlin II Conference on 24 June and Paris Conference on 12 November. The UK is committed to supporting the UN facilitated, Libyan-led and owned political process. The UK is working with international and Libyan partners - including UN Special Envoy Ján Kubiš, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, and the United Nations Secretary General - to pursue these priorities, restoring Libya's sovereignty and putting the country on a path to sustained peace, security and prosperity.
We continue to have regular discussions with a range of regional and international partners, including Israel, on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Iran's nuclear escalation. We are clear that our priority is to see the US return to the deal, and Iran return to compliance with its commitments.
Most recently, on 29 November the Foreign Secretary hosted Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, to formalise a new plan for the UK - Israel bilateral relationship over the next decade. Iran was discussed, with the Foreign Secretary updating on the UK's efforts to restore the JCPOA through talks that restarted in Vienna on 29 November.
The PM welcomes this initiative from President Biden to help rejuvenate the world's democracies and defend them from harm. The summit, with its themes of defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights, offers an opportunity to promote the Open Societies commitments made as part of our G7 Presidency.
The UK is working closely with the United States on preparations for the virtual Summit in December, including finalizing arrangements for UK attendance. The Prime Minister will lead the UK's engagement through a summit statement. As full details of the Summit emerge, we will consider further opportunities for UK engagement.
The UK Government welcomes the ceasefire but remains concerned about the increase in tensions in recent months that has resulted in loss of life. We continue to raise the importance of securing a peaceful settlement to the conflict through negotiations facilitated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The Foreign Secretary did so most recently at the 2 December OSCE Ministerial Council. The Minister for Europe and Americas also raised this and other issues in her meetings with the Armenian and Azerbaijani Ambassadors on 4 and 17 November respectively. The UK Government has ongoing discussions with all members of the Minsk Group, including the Co-Chairs, to support their efforts to secure a peacefully negotiated settlement and stability in the region.
The UK regularly engages international partners on the security situation in Somalia, including the threat from Al Shabaab, the role of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia's ongoing needs for international support as it transitions to take greater control of its own security. The UN Security Council (UNSC) mandate for AMISOM runs until 31 December 2021. A UNSC briefing on Somalia took place on 17 November, during which the UK reiterated the necessity for progress on discussions on a successor mission to AMISOM to support the transition to Somali-led security in accordance with the Somalia Transition Plan. We continue to work with international partners, including those on the Council, on our collective interests in supporting long-term security and stability in Somalia and how a future mission can meet shared objectives.
The participation of the national team at the Olympics and Paralympics is a matter for the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association, which are required to operate independently of the Government under International Olympic Committee regulations.
The Prime Minister has been clear that he is not in favour of sporting boycotts. As the Government has previously made clear, no decisions have yet been made about Government attendance at the Beijing Olympics in 2022.
We regularly engage across government departments and with partners on a range of issues related to China and human rights.
The UK remains committed to making progress towards a two-state solution. The Foreign Secretary regularly discusses this issue with international counterparts. Peace will only come through negotiations between the parties, but international action has a role in facilitating progress. We firmly believe a just and lasting resolution that ends the occupation and delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. That is why we support steps to increase understanding and dialogue between the parties that can help create the conditions for meaningful negotiations.
In north east Syria we assess that the ceasefire is broadly holding. We regularly engage with actors on the ground and urge all parties to continue adherence to ceasefire agreements and international law. We also remain committed to the Global Coalition Against Daesh and at the most recent ministerial meeting in Rome on 28 June 2021, the UK announced £2.6 million of new funding to help prevent violent extremism in the north east, in support of the Coalition's Stabilisation Pledge. Further, we continue to support the delivery of aid through all modalities, and to date, we have committed over £3.7 billion in response to the Syria Crisis, our largest ever humanitarian response.
The United Kingdom (UK) is a long-term supporter of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). We recognise UNRWA's unique mandate from the United Nations General Assembly, to provide protection and core services including health and education to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. The UK's annual contribution to UNRWA's programme budget helps UNRWA to provide basic education to more than 533,000 children a year (half of whom are girls), access to health services for 3.5 million Palestinian refugees and social safety net assistance for around 255,000 of the most vulnerable across the region. The UK is working with UNRWA and other donors to improve UNRWA's financial viability. This includes broadening UNRWA's donor base, encouraging the full disbursement of pledges and encouraging support through multi-year funding.
The UK Government is at the forefront of international efforts to protect endangered animals, including pangolins, from poaching and illegal trade. We are investing over £46 million between 2014 and 2022 on work to directly counter the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in animals and plants, including counter-poaching initiatives and efforts to reduce demand for pangolin and pangolin products, to benefit wildlife and communities. The UK is also making a significant contribution to halting biodiversity loss and tackling IWT through funding the Global Environment Facility, totalling £250 million (2018-2022).
UK Border Force and National Crime Agency officers based in Nigeria are working closely with Nigerian law enforcement agencies at Lagos' port to tackle IWT. This has resulted in three major seizures totalling over 18 tonnes of pangolin scales in 2021 alone. The British Deputy High Commission in Lagos has also established a "Friends of Nigeria Wildlife" group and is supporting a number of grass-roots initiatives to protect the pangolin, from opening a rehabilitation centre for pangolins freed from the illegal wildlife trade, to supporting a conservation Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that teaches school children about Nigeria's diverse wildlife. The British High Commissioner and her team raise IWT with the Nigerian Government regularly, including in quarterly meetings (alongside US and German counterparts) with the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs, the key Nigerian Government agency responsible for this issue.
More broadly, through our £4 million contribution to of the International Consortium for Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) strategic programme, we are building capability in law enforcement and customs officials to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in key countries, including countries across Africa and Asia.
The UK will spend £286 million on humanitarian and development needs in Afghanistan this year. On 31 October the Prime Minister announced that £50 million would be allocated to provide over 2.5 million Afghans with life-saving food, emergency health services, shelter and warm clothing to prepare for winter.
The Foreign Secretary and international colleagues spoke with Olusegun Obasanjo on 12 October and offered our full support to his efforts. The Minister for Africa spoke with him on 4 November to discuss the situation in Ethiopia and reiterate our full support. Whilst he is in Addis Ababa, our ambassador is keeping in close contact with him.
It is vital that all cyber actors use capabilities in a way that is legal, responsible and proportionate to ensure cyberspace remains a safe and prosperous place for everyone. The UK works closely with allies around the world to tackle cyber threats and improve our overall global resilience to attacks. The National Cyber Security Strategy, supported by £1.9 billion funding, has transformed the UK's fight against the cyber threat since 2016. The UK does not operate a US style "entity list" for commerce blacklisting. We operate a policy of sanctions against organisations and individuals who are a threat to UK national security, including in Cyber.
The UK is deeply concerned at the deteriorating security situation in Haiti and the impact this is having on both the Haitian people and attempts to return to political stability following the assassination of President Moise. We are closely following developments. We encourage all actors to work in cooperation with the international community and the United Nations to tackle these serious challenges. The UK continues to use our platform both in country and at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to support the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Haiti, Helen Meagher La Lime and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, BINUH, in their ongoing diplomatic engagement with, and support to, the Haitian authorities and civil society.
The presidential election that took place in Nicaragua on 7 November was an election in name only. It was neither free, nor fair. The abuses committed by the Ortega-Murillo regime have prevented the Nicaraguan people from making the democratic choice they have the right to make. The UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all opposition leaders and other political prisoners in Nicaragua and for the full restoration of all of their civil and political rights.
Prior to the election, we raised our concerns repeatedly in London, Managua and at multilateral fora. On 8 November, the day after the presidential election, Her Majesty's Government published a statement highlighting the UK's deep concern over the deterioration of political and human rights in Nicaragua and the subversion of democratic processes. We will continue to work closely with our partners to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Nicaragua.
Free, fair and inclusive Parliamentary and Presidential elections on 24 December 2021, including women's full, equal and meaningful participation, is one of the top priorities for the UK in Libya. They are captured in UK-drafted UN Security Council Resolution 2570, and in the communiqué agreed by the Berlin II Conference on 24 June. The UK is working with international and Libyan partners, including the interim Government of National Unity, to pursue these priorities, restoring Libya's sovereignty and putting the country on a path to sustained peace, security and prosperity. We have spent £1.4 million to support the long-term delivery of credible elections, through building the capacity of the Libyan local and national electoral commissions, and £347,000 on increasing women's engagement in the electoral process.
We applaud the efforts of Prime Minister Kadhimi and the Independent High Electoral Commission to run smooth elections with unprecedented support from the UN. The technical processes show a clear improvement on previous elections, and the lack of any major security incidents is testament to the hard work of the security forces. We call on all parties to respect the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral process.
We condemn any incidence of violence by settlers against Palestinians. The UK regularly raises the issue of settler violence with the Government of Israel, most recently with Israel's Ministry of Defense on 19 October. We welcome the efforts of Israeli authorities to address settler violence, and urge them to investigate thoroughly every instance to bring those responsible to justice. We also continue to stress the importance of the Israeli security forces providing appropriate protection to the Palestinian civilian population, in particular the need to protect children, and urge restraint in the use of live fire.
We note the joint statement issued on 18 October by the ten Ambassadors calling for the release of Osman Kavala. We are concerned that Turkey has not yet complied with the European Court of Human Rights judgment concerning Osman Kavala. We will continue to raise his case with the Turkish Government and expect Turkey to fulfil its international legal obligations.
We strongly condemn the actions of the Sudanese military on 25 October, including to detain Prime Minister Hamdok and members of the civilian government and declare a state of emergency. Over the past two years, the UK has taken a leading role to support Sudan on their delicate path from oppressive autocratic rule to freedom and democracy; the acts of the military represents a betrayal of the Sudanese people and that journey. Hamdok remains under house arrest. As a signal of support, our Ambassador and other senior members of the diplomatic community in Khartoum met with Hamdok on 27 October and were able to ascertain that he is well. The whereabouts and condition of other civilian members of the transitional government are still unknown.
With our Sudan Quad partners (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and US) we issued a statement on 3 November calling for the release of all those unlawfully detained and restoration of the civilian-led transitional government. We expressed our condemnation at a meeting of the UN Security Council meeting on 26 October, which was followed by a statement from members of the Council. We also secured a Special Session at the UN Human Rights Council on 5 November to discuss the situation.
The UK Government remains deeply concerned about the crisis in the North-West and South-West (Anglophone) regions of Cameroon, including the disturbing reports of human rights abuses and violations by both armed separatists and the security forces.
We work with international partners, including France and the United States, to raise the crisis in multilateral fora. At the UN Human Rights Council in September, the UK called for an end to violence and impartial investigations to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses to account.
At the UN Security Council briefing on UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) on 7 June, the UK reiterated the UN Secretary General's call for an end to violence and for all actors to refrain from attacks against civilians. We urge all parties to remain engaged with the Swiss-led process to facilitate talks.
The Minister for Africa expressed her deep concern at escalating fighting and airstrikes in Northern Ethiopia on 20 October. The conflict in Tigray has taken a terrible toll on the people of Tigray and also civilians in neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. There can be no military solution to this crisis and political negotiation is the only way to resolve this and other conflicts in Ethiopia. The former Foreign Secretary raised the need for a political dialogue to bring a lasting peace to Tigray directly with Prime Minister Abiy on 5 August. The Minister for Africa also raised these issues in her first meeting with the Ethiopian Ambassador on 22 September.
We regularly discuss the conflict in Ethiopia with our partners, and both the Minister for Africa and the Secretary of State raised their concerns about the continued obstruction of humanitarian efforts in discussions with the US, EU, African Union and other counterparts on 12 October. We continue to push both sides of the conflict to prioritise the wellbeing of people in need in Ethiopia and allow the flow of badly needed humanitarian assistance. It is longstanding practice not to speculate on future sanctions designations as to do so could reduce the impact of the designations.
The UK has consistently pressed the Lebanese authorities on the need for a transparent conclusion of the investigation into the tragic Beirut explosion. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa raised this when he met the new Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on 25 September.
The Houthis' offensive on Marib and Shabwa and their intensifying of cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia worsens the crisis and risks derailing the peace process. On 20 October the UK supported a UN Security Council Press Statement calling for an immediate end to the Houthi escalation in Marib. The Foreign Secretary also raised Yemen with Saudi counterparts on her visit to Riyadh on 20 October. We fully support the Yemen peace process led by the UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg. An inclusive political settlement is the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and end the humanitarian suffering. We urge the parties to engage constructively with this process and call on all states to release humanitarian funding commitments promptly.
Iran's decision to proceed with these baseless charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through.We are doing all we can to help Nazanin get home to her young daughter and family and the Foreign Secretary will continue to press Iran on this point, most recently discussing it with Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollain on 22 September. Our Ambassador in Tehran continues to regularly raise our detainees with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The UK is clear in its condemnation of the coup and the appalling violence by the military, which has left over 1000 people dead. We regularly monitor the situation in Myanmar and assess there is a continued political, Covid and humanitarian crisis. We're deeply concerned about escalating conflict across the country, particularly in Chin State. The UK is calling for a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the crisis which is extremely serious. We continue to call publicly for a return to democracy and the release of all those in arbitrary detention.
We are prioritising our aid to be more strategic and remain a force for good across the world, and are working towards finalising funding and country allocation for GMAP3. We have welcomed feedback from our partners in the mine action sector. The UK remains committed to our international treaty obligations and our mine action work will continue to promote peace and conflict recovery while saving the lives of those most in need.
The UK supports the EU-facilitated Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, with the aim of a comprehensive and sustainable normalisation agreement to the benefit of both countries' people. During the recent period of heightened tension, the UK, alongside international partners, held bilateral discussions with the Governments of Kosovo and Serbia to help de-escalate tensions and encourage the resolution of issues through the EU-facilitated process. We welcome the news of an interim agreement on the licence plate issue and encourage both sides to find a permanent solution that ensures freedom of movement.
I most recently visited Uzbekistan on 14 September, after also visiting Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the week of 30 August for discussions on Afghanistan. The former Foreign Secretary also had telephone conversations with the Uzbek Foreign Minister on 6 September and the Tajik Foreign Minister on 2 September. I called the Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan, on 3 September, the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan on 25 August and Deputy Foreign Minister of Tajikistan on the same day. We held discussions with counterparts on securing safe passage for those fleeing Afghanistan and advancing the government's international priorities.
The UK is a long-standing friend of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. On 10 September, the former Foreign Secretary said: "The formation of a new Lebanese government must be followed by implementation of urgent reforms, a transparent conclusion of the investigation into the tragic Beirut explosion and timely elections next year. The UK supports Lebanon, but we must see concerted action". We continue to press the new government to implement the reforms needed set the country on a more sustainable footing.
We support fully the UN-led peace process in Yemen and urge the parties to engage constructively with the new UN Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg. UK Ministers engage with their regional counterparts on Yemen regularly to encourage efforts towards a political solution and end the humanitarian suffering. We welcome the recent diplomatic activity by Oman. On 14 September, the UK Ambassador to Yemen met Omani Foreign Minister Sayd Badr to discuss how best to coordinate our efforts.
Her Majesty's Government's priorities for the UN General Assembly High Level Week from 20 to 27 September were to secure further climate commitments ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, to work with our partners to respond to the Afghanistan crisis, to strengthen and establish new international partnerships particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, and to improve global access to vaccines
We are aware of this report and we continue to closely monitor the situation in Tunisia. We recognise the legitimate demands of the Tunisian people for a better standard of living and honest, effective governance. We believe that the solution to Tunisia's challenges can only be achieved through the principles of democracy, transparency, respect for human rights, and free speech. Minister Cleverly spoke to Tunisian Foreign Minister Jerandi on 11 August. G7 Ambassadors in Tunis, led by the UK, issued a joint statement on 6 September setting out our joint position, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/g7-ambassadors-in-tunisia-issue-joint-statement-6-september-2021
On 18 September, the Minister for Africa published a national statement setting out the UK's deep concern for the escalation of the current political crisis, which risks the safety and future of the Somali people. We are working closely with international partners, including in Mogadishu, to discourage Somalia's leaders from unilateral actions that could deepen tensions or increase the risk of violence and instead to encourage meaningful mediation. As penholder on Somalia at the UN Security Council, the UK tabled a discussion on the ongoing situation on 17 September, following which the UN Security Council issued a joint press statement.
The UK is also concerned by the impact of this crisis on the broader political and security situation. It is vital that all stakeholders maintain peace to avoid any risks to Somalia's stability and security. We have underlined the need to restore focus on the priority of conducting peaceful elections, as agreed on 27 May, without further delay to prevent further insecurity and avoid exacerbating the grave humanitarian challenges the country is facing. Likewise, it is important that Somalia's security forces remain focused on countering the common threat from Al Shabaab, who stand to gain from this ongoing political crisis, and progress discussions on a successor mission to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to support the transition to Somali-led security, in accordance with the Somalia Transition Plan.
In Afghanistan, we will continue to provide life-saving humanitarian support and assistance to those most in need. We will also continue to support humanitarian demining and to support agencies to collect data to map emergency humanitarian needs and respond effectively.
Over the past 5 years 63 FCDO staff have achieved qualifications in Mandarin at C1 or C2 level (in the Common European Framework Reference scale). FCDO language qualifications are valid for 5 years.
At the Prime Minister's request, the Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas led the UK delegation to the International Crimea Platform summit on 23 August. She was accompanied by the Minister for Defence Procurement, who also represented the UK at the military parade commemorating 30 years since Ukraine's declaration of independence on 24 August.
South Sudan remains one of the world's most fragile states, with 7.2 million people facing acute food insecurity and high levels of sub-national violence. The full and inclusive implementation of the 2018 Peace Agreement remains South Sudan's best chance for sustainable peace and stability and recent progress, such as the formation of a new national legislature is welcome. Overall implementation however, is slow and inconsistent: important tasks such as the unification of armed forces have been significantly delayed, contributing to increased instability and a worsening humanitarian situation.
This slow and partial implementation of the Peace Agreement has generated discontent among several parities in recent months. This includes a split within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement 'In Opposition' (SPLM-IO) but 1st Vice President Riek Machar remains in post. In a Troika statement (with Norway and the US) on 13 August we called for all parties to abide by the Peace Agreement, for signatories to show a greater sense of unity, and for an end to the fostering of divisions and splits that risk further delays to the peace process and violence. Where there are legitimate grievances, however, we have made clear that it is important for voices to be heard and for freedom of expression to be protected.
Media reporting indicates Ashraf Ghani was in the UAE following his departure from Kabul on 15 August.
The Prime Minister spoke to US President Biden on 23 August and at the G7 on 24 August. The Foreign Secretary spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on 18 August. We are in regular contact at an official level with the Russian government through our Ambassador and her team at the British Embassy in Moscow. This is also the case through our missions in New York, where we convened a meeting of P5 representatives on 23 August. We are planning further Ministerial engagement in the coming days.
The UK is closely monitoring the situation in Tunisia. We believe that the solution to Tunisia's core challenges can only be achieved through the principles of democracy, transparency, human rights, and free speech. We call on all parties to uphold Tunisia's reputation as a tolerant and open society and to protect the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution.
We remain committed to doing all we can to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's return home. Iran has put her through a cruel and intolerable ordeal and we have called on them, in the strongest possible terms, to end her suffering and allow her to be reunited with her family. The Foreign Secretary continues to raise the UK's serious concerns about Iran's practice of detaining foreign and dual nationals with his Iranian counterpart. Our Ambassadors in Tehran have regularly raised our detainees with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The UK Government is concerned about the arrest and detention of Andrei Pivovarov. The British Ambassador to Russia raised Mr Pivovarov's case with authorities in St Petersburg on 3 June. We continue to raise our concern about the deteriorating human rights situation with the Russian Government and make clear that Russia must fulfil its international commitments to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
According to figures released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 8.3 million people in South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 7.2 million face high levels of acute food insecurity (including over 100,000 in famine-like conditions), and 1.4 million children are expected to be acutely malnourished in 2021. The Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, witnessed the dire humanitarian situation first hand when he visited South Sudan with the UK Special Envoy for Famine and Humanitarian Affairs in October 2020.
We remain in regular contact with the Government of South Sudan and implementing partners on our assistance programme and any impacts of reductions in ODA. While we are still working through what the reduction to UK ODA means for individual programmes, our aid budget will be allocated according to the UK's strategic ODA priorities: global health security, girls' education, humanitarian preparedness and response, open societies, and conflict resolution.
The UK continues to take a global leadership role in standing up for the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. We have repeatedly called on countries to respect their obligations not to force persons to return to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of fundamental rights violations.
We also encourage all states, including the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to uphold international human rights obligations. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary discussed the situation in Xinjiang with the Saudi Foreign Minister on 19 May.
The UK is extremely concerned by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Since 2019, HMG has spent £37 million in humanitarian aid in response to the Venezuelan crisis, focusing on health, nutrition, and water and sanitation, both inside Venezuela, and with refugees in countries in the region. Inside Venezuela, our funds have also made an important contribution to childhood vaccinations, and strengthening the capacity of the country to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to the entire population. As a result of the economic contraction, the UK will not be funding new bilateral humanitarian programmes in response to the Venezuela crisis in 2021. Our remaining programmes will end in July 2021 as planned.
We will still be spending around £10 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) globally, meaning that we will remain one of the largest donor countries in the world. The UK continues to be the largest contributor to the United Nations' Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), and provides considerable funding to other multilateral humanitarian agencies. We are proud to be a founding donor of the Venezuela Humanitarian Fund, which is increasing funding to national NGOs, and are exploring whether we might be able to provide some additional funding to the Venezuela Humanitarian Fund for work inside Venezuela. We will continue to work with others through diplomatic channels in addressing the root causes of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
The UK supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, and a sustainable resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, with a special status for the Transnistrian region. Since Moldovan Presidential elections in 2020, which were assessed by international observers to have been 'well-managed', we do not assess that the security situation in Transnistria has worsened. However, we are concerned by recent reports of human rights abuses and limitations placed on freedom of movement by the de facto Transnistrian authorities. There have been no recent bilateral discussions between the UK and Russian governments on the status of this issue. Minister Morton discussed Transnistria with Moldovan President Maia Sandu, and Interim Prime Minister Aureliu Ciocoi on 12 May during her visit to Chisinau. The UK raises Transnistria regularly in international fora, and we will continue to press for the withdrawal of illegally-stationed Russian forces from the Transnistrian region, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolutions.
The recent attacks in Kirkuk Governorate demonstrated that Daesh still remains active and represents a continuing threat to the safety and security of the people of Iraq and the wider region, particularly in the disputed territories such as Kirkuk. We work closely with the UN and international partners to encourage the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to resolve their issues, including on disputed territories.
As a leading member of the Global Coalition against Daesh, the UK continues to support the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish Security Forces in maintaining capacity and capability to tackle the threat from Daesh.
The UK worked actively to urge the parties to work with mediators towards an immediate ceasefire. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa engaged the Egyptian Ambassador in London, and the British Embassy Cairo worked closely with the Government of Egypt. We fully supported Egyptian, Qatari and UN efforts to mediate, working closely with the US.
The UK welcomes the announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza on 20 May, which is an important step to ending the cycle of violence and loss of civilian life. Hamas must end all attacks on Israel. It is also now important for Israel to facilitate rapid humanitarian access in and out of Gaza. As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have made clear, this cycle of violence must stop, and every effort must be made to avoid loss of life.
We are concerned about the increase of tensions on the Sudanese/Ethiopian border in the al-Fashaga territory and have stressed the need for de-escalation on both sides. We are also concerned by the numbers of people displaced and the impact this will have in the region.
We are working with our international partners to encourage all parties to de-escalate and engage in a political process. The Foreign Secretary has discussed the issue with both Prime Minister Abiy of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Hamdok of Sudan, and our Embassies in Addis Ababa and Khartoum have raised with host governments.
The UK remains concerned about ongoing protests in Colombia. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. We call on all actors to continue to engage in dialogue in order to deescalate tensions.
We have raised our concerns with the Colombian government on several occasions during the past two weeks. Most recently, Minister Morton spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May, where she welcomed the Colombian Government's commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force, and their commitment to continued dialogue.
The UK welcomes the announcement of a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza on 20 May. As the Prime Minister has made clear, leaders in the region must now work to find a durable solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict that prevents terrorism, ends the cycle of violence, and delivers a sustainable and just peace based on a two state solution. We continue to fully support Egyptian and UN mediation efforts.
The Foreign Secretary visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 25 and 26 May for talks with senior leaders and reiterated the UK's firm commitment to the two-state solution as the best way to deliver Palestinian self-determination and ensure Israel's status as a Jewish, democratic state.
Ministers and Ambassadors throughout the Middle East are also engaging regional partners, including Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, while we remain in close contact with the US administration.
We are disappointed that elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been postponed. The Palestinian people should be allowed to enjoy their democratic rights - and Israel must allow voting for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, in line with the Oslo Accords. Elections are long overdue and we urge the swift setting of a new date.
We have prioritised our aid to be strategic, and remain a force for good across the world. Following a thorough review, the FCDO's aid budget has been allocated in accordance with UK strategic priorities against a challenging financial climate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK remains an important donor to UNICEF and the UN, Ministers and officials have been engaging directly with UNICEF. The FCDO will be maintaining all its assessed contributions to the UN, including upholding our share of the UN Regular Budget, the UN Peacekeeping Budget, and payments to the budgets of UN specialised agencies of which we are a member.
We are also working with partners to help them assess and manage the impact of UK funding reductions on individual programmes and we will share further details on this in due course. We continue to look to UN leadership in finding multilateral solutions to global challenges, including poverty, insecurity, girls' education, climate change, and pandemics. Our continued leadership on COVAX with the WHO and other partners is evidence of our multilateral approach.
The UK is deeply concerned by reports of Mr Navalny's hospitalisation and the continued deterioration of his health. Mr Navalny must be given immediate access to independent medical care and we reiterate our call for his immediate release from his politically motivated imprisonment. We note recent media reporting that Mr Navalny has ended his hunger strike and will continue to monitor closely reports about his health.
We raise Mr Navalny's case regularly with the Russian Government. Most recently, our Embassy in Moscow raised it with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15 April.
The Foreign Secretary speaks regularly with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. He and his officials take every opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with Iran, including regional stability and security. We are clear Iran must end its destabilising interference in Yemen, which has stoked further conflict in Yemen and the Houthis' reckless cross-border strikes into Saudi Arabia. We have raised this concern with the Iranian government. Iran's provision of weapons to the Houthis is widely documented, including in reports by the UN Panel of Experts, and is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
While Iran has stated that it supports UN-led efforts to bring peace to Yemen, we urge Iran to ensure its actions are consistent with this commitment. Iran should fully support the proposals by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, including for an urgent nationwide ceasefire.
We welcome the strong statements from the UN Secretary General in response to the coup and subsequent violence. We are working with his office, and with partners including ASEAN, to explore all options such as a high-level UN Special Envoy visit to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The Minister for Asia has met the United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar to discuss the UK's concern at the coup and how we can ensure a coordinated international response.
The UK remains committed to supporting Afghanistan on its path to a more peaceful and positive future. We will continue to work closely with the UN, Afghanistan and our international partners to intensify peace efforts as NATO forces drawdown.
The UK has assisted in the significant improvement in the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities. There are 8.2 million more children in school now than in 2002, including 3.7 million girls. However, only a negotiated and inclusive settlement will safeguard the rights and freedoms that Afghans want and deserve. We will continue to make clear to all sides that any political settlement must protect progress, including protection for women and minorities.
Iran's announcement on 16 April that they have started uranium enrichment up to 60% using advanced centrifuges is a serious and deeply worrying development in violation of its nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). This is the latest step in Iran's continued and systematic non-compliance with the JCPoA. The production of highly enriched uranium is an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon. Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.
The UK has made multiple official level representations to the Iranians on this issue, both bilaterally and as part of the E3 alongside the governments of France and Germany. As the E3 said in a statement on 14 April, this step is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of discussions in Vienna that have the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPoA.
We continue to work with the parties to the JCPoA and the US Administration to seize the diplomatic opportunity for a full return to the JCPoA. We call upon Iran to avoid any escalatory measures which make a return to mutual compliance harder to achieve.
We welcome Prime Minister Abiy's statement on 23 March that the perpetrators of human rights atrocities in Ethiopia's Tigray region should face justice - whoever they are. We need to see action now to stop further atrocities and to allow for the independent investigation of those that have occurred. Since the conflict started, the UK has consistently called for an end to fighting, and for all parties to the conflict to prioritise the protection of civilians.
The UK has also been consistent in calling for free and unfettered humanitarian access to the 4.5 million people in Tigray in need. The Foreign Secretary raised the need for humanitarian access to Tigray with Prime Minister Abiy during his visit to Ethiopia and pressed for a political dialogue to bring lasting peace to the region. The Minister for Africa re-enforced the urgency of the need for humanitarian access when he spoke with the Ethiopian Ambassador on 24 February. The presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray is one the main barriers to humanitarian access and they should leave Ethiopia immediately. Humanitarian providers must be protected to ensure they can help those in need. UK-funded aid agencies in Tigray are delivering support in challenging circumstances, including food, shelter, water and healthcare. A joint humanitarian and political team from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa visited Mekelle on 5 March. They heard harrowing accounts of human rights violations, the challenges of aid delivery and how some of the £15.4m of UK Aid is helping to support those affected by the Tigray conflict. The Government of Ethiopia must act now to protect its people.
This government continues to urge Lebanon's leaders to urgently form a government willing to implement the reforms needed to stabilise the economy and meet the basic needs of its citizens. The UK stands in support of the Lebanese people.
The UK welcomes the inauguration of the interim Government of National Unity in Libya, charged with leading the country to elections. This is an important step towards the unification of Libyan institutions and a comprehensive political solution that ultimately makes Libya more stable, secure and prosperous. On 12 Feb, the Prime Minister spoke to then Prime Minister designate Dabaiba to express UK support for the new government. The UK is working with international partners, including through the UN Security Council and the Berlin Process, to support the interim Government of National Unity to hold national elections in December 2021, improve the delivery of services to the Libyan people, and prioritise implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries.
The UK is deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation in northern Mozambique, and the increasing attacks by groups with links to Islamist extremism. As the Minister for Africa set out publicly on 17 March, we are appalled by reports of beheadings of children in the Cabo Delgado province. We have been particularly concerned by recent attacks in Palma, which we utterly condemn, and are in close contact with the local authorities in Cabo Delgado. We regularly engage with our international partners, including the US, France, Portugal and South Africa, to discuss a shared approach to the situation in Cabo Delgado.
We are working with the Governments of Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to address the root drivers of conflict and instability. In Mozambique we are providing targeted assistance under the framework of a Defence Memorandum of Understanding and £19m of humanitarian and development support to support those displaced by the conflict. In DRC we are contributing to the UN Peacekeeping Mission MONUSCO (£52m in 2020/21 and the provision of three military staff officers), while our seven-year peace and stability programme is supporting local-level peace building initiatives and helping communities to secure land access, construct critical infrastructure and access income-generation opportunities in the east. We continue to urge the UN and the DRC Government to work closely together to protect civilians from ongoing violence and address the root causes of conflict. The Minister for Africa discussed the importance of addressing these issues with President Tshisekedi during his visit to DRC in November last year and during a telephone call on 10 March.
Iran's continued systematic non-compliance with its nuclear commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) is undermining the non-proliferation benefits of the deal and jeopardising our efforts to preserve it. On 23 February 2021, the Foreign Secretary, alongside his French and German counterparts, expressed our deep regret at Iran's suspension of the Additional Protocol and urged Iran to return to compliance with its JCPoA commitments.
On 10 March 2021 the Prime Minister in his call with President Rouhani of Iran stressed that while the UK remains committed to making the Iran nuclear deal a success, Iran must stop all nuclear activity that breaches the terms of the JCPoA and come back into compliance. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of Iran seizing the opportunity presented by the United States' willingness to return to the deal if Iran comes back into compliance. Our priority is now, with the parties of the JCPoA and the new US Administration, to find a diplomatic way forward that realises the benefits of the deal.
The UK has always been clear that Khashoggi's murder was a terrible crime. We condemn his killing in the strongest possible terms, which is why we have sanctioned twenty Saudi nationals involved in the murder under the global human rights regime.
The Foreign Secretary raised the killing of Khashoggi during his visit to Riyadh last year, and we continue to raise it in our engagement with the Saudi government.
This latest UN report from the Commission of Inquiry shows further confirmation of a decade of appalling atrocities in Syria and is a shocking reminder of why Syria remains one of the worst human rights crises in the world.
The UK has repeatedly condemned a number of issues raised in the report, including the use of illegal detention by the Asad regime, affiliated militias and proscribed terrorist organisations. We have raised the plight of detainees at the UN Security Council, most recently during our national statement on 15 March and through our leadership at the Human Rights Council, where this month we are hosting a side event to discuss next steps for accountability. We will also shortly complete an information sharing agreement with the International, Independent and Impartial Mechanism for Syria (IIIM) to strengthen accountability for international crimes and human rights abuses committed in Syria.
The UK Government supports both the democratically elected Government in Armenia and the right of the Armenian people to protest peacefully. We followed closely the events surrounding public comments made by senior Armenian military figures, and have urged all parties to abide by democratic and constitutional processes in a calm and peaceful manner.
The UK is facing the worst economic contraction in over 300 years, and a budget deficit of close to £400 billion. As announced last year, given the impact of this global pandemic on the economy and, as a result, the public finances, we will move to a target of spending 0.5% of Gross National Income as Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2021.
On 1 March, the Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa announced that the UK will provide at least £87 million to Yemen over the course of our next financial year (2021/22), with the UK contributing over £1 billion since the conflict began. Our funding will feed an additional 240,000 of the most vulnerable Yemenis every month, support 400 healthcare clinics and provide clean water for 1.6 million people. We will also provide one-off cash support to 1.5 million of Yemen's poorest households to help them buy food and basic supplies.
Somalia is at a important stage in agreeing an electoral process, which will have broader implications for its political and security development. It is vital that talks resume and leaders come to an agreement on the implementation of an inclusive electoral process, to proceed as soon as possible. The UK, with its international partners, raised concerns over the violence around demonstrations in Mogadishu on 19 February, and called on all parties to maintain calm and exercise restraint to allow political dialogue to advance. We urge Somalia's leaders to reach agreement on the elections, in the interests of the people of Somalia and in order to cement progress towards long-term security and stability.
The UK strongly supports EU-facilitated Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo as the best way of securing lasting stability in the region. We will continue to work with international partners to promote a comprehensive and sustainable normalisation agreement that benefits the peoples of both countries. The Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas has affirmed the UK's support for the Dialogue to EUSR Lajcak and in the last year has visited both countries where she reiterated this to Dialogue leads and senior political figures. We will continue to encourage renewed engagement from both sides following the recent Kosovan elections.
The UK has been consistent in calling for the protection of civilians in Ethiopia, unfettered humanitarian access, and respect for human rights. The UK continues to liaise closely with a wide range of regional and international partners in support of these objectives. As a complement to the efforts of the region to find sustainable solutions to the humanitarian crisis, we will continue to press these messages with all relevant international partners, including at the UN Security Council (UNSC) where the UK chaired a closed UNSC discussion on the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region on 3 February.
We are concerned about the impact of the conflict on food security and nutrition in Tigray and we note recent assessments that there are still significant restrictions to access in Tigray. UK-funded aid agencies in Tigray are working hard to deliver support in challenging circumstances, including food, shelter, water and healthcare. In this context we welcome the recent visits to Ethiopia by senior UN officials and hope that they will deliver a sustained step-change in humanitarian access.
The UK is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel. Over the years conflict has spread from the north of Mali to the centre, as well as into Burkina Faso and Niger. 2020 has registered more deaths by violence than any previous year in the past decade. Through our recent deployment to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and our support aimed at bolstering conflict resolution, the UK is committed to building long-term peace and stability.
In our engagement with G5 Sahel countries and international partners, including the French, the UK has raised concerns about escalating violence and emphasised the need for a more coordinated response based on mutual accountability between G5 governments and donors. The Foreign Secretary speaks to his French counterpart regularly. At the G5 Sahel Summit on 16 February, attended by France and other international partners, the Foreign Secretary set out the need to strengthen civil-military coordination, address impunity for human rights abuses and violations, and improve the stabilisation approach based on a shared understanding of conflict drivers.
Ensuring full implementation of the 2018 Peace Agreement is a priority for UK engagement in South Sudan and is the best chance for a more stable and prosperous future. The Agreement sets out how the parties to the conflict must work together to bring an end to violence. This includes the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity and, in time, elections so the people of South Sudan can choose their own government.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and member of the Troika (with Norway and the US), the UK is at the forefront of international efforts to pressure South Sudan's leaders to deliver peace together. As the Minister for Africa made clear during a visit to South Sudan in October 2020, all parties must work together to ensure a lasting end to violence and address the worsening humanitarian crisis; key to this is building trust at all levels. More recently, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa discussed regional stability, including South Sudan, with President Kenyatta on 20 January during a visit to Kenya. The UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan also discusses issues of peace and unity regularly with international and regional partners including with President Kenyatta in January and with President Museveni of Uganda in December 2020. In addition the UK provides technical support to the peace process including to civil society groups and mechanisms that implement the agreement, support mediation efforts, and monitor the ceasefire and security arrangements.
The Foreign Secretary speaks regularly with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. He and his officials take every opportunity to discuss with Iran a wide range of issues, including regional stability and security.
While Iran has stated that it supports UN-led efforts to bring peace to Yemen, we urge Iran to ensure its actions are consistent with this commitment. Iran's provision of weapons to the Houthis is contrary to the relevant Security Council resolutions. It is important that Yemen is not used as a theatre in which to escalate conflict in the region.
UN Envoy Geir Pedersen has described a 'fragile calm' in Syria that could break down at any moment. The UK welcomes Turkey's efforts to uphold the ceasefire in Idlib and prevent a further regime offensive. We urge all parties to adhere to agreed ceasefires and their obligations under international law. We also fully support Geir Pedersen's efforts towards a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Tackling the humanitarian impact of the Syria crisis remains a priority for the UK as the Assad regime's policies devastate the Syrian economy and deny aid to the most vulnerable. We continue to use our position at the UN Security Council to push for greater aid access into Syria and we remain committed to supporting aid delivery, through all mechanisms, to those in need.
The UK was pleased to secure a strong statement from the UN Security Council on the situation in Myanmar. This was the first such statement since 2008. China has an important role to play as a key regional partner for Myanmar. We welcome its agreement to such a strong statement, and have made it clear that there must be a coordinated response to ensure that the security situation does not further deteriorate. We will continue to work to ensure a strong response from the Council and urge China to live up to its international responsibilities.
The UK is committed to making progress towards a twostate solution. We believe that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between Israelis and Palestinians, supported by the international community. The UK is supportive of a regional approach to peace and we have actively encouraged the parties back to dialogue. The UK joined a UN Security Council session, attended by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States on the 26 January. The Arab League and Arab states have a key role in the peace process and we are in close contact on this issue.
The UK is a long-standing friend of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. Since 2011, the UK has allocated over £700 million in humanitarian and development funding to Lebanon. We were one of the biggest donors following the devastating Beirut Port explosion, providing a £27 million package of assistance to support the most vulnerable. The UK and other members of the International Support Group for Lebanon have consistently called for the swift formation of an effective government which reflects the aspirations of the Lebanese people, and stressed that the right of peaceful protest must continue to be respected. We stand ready to support the people of Lebanon but look to a new government to urgently demonstrate its commitment to reform.
The Government is concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) following presidential and legislative elections. Ahead of the second round of legislative elections on 14 February, we have repeatedly called on all parties to cease violence including through a UN Security Council (UNSC) statement and a tweet from the Minister for Africa, both of which were issued on 21 January. On 24 February the UK, as President of the UNSC for the month, will chair a meeting on CAR to re-assess the situation a month after its last discussion, renew its calls for a cessation of hostilities and consider any further action.
The UK supported election preparations in CAR through a £500,000 contribution to the UN Development Programme's basket fund for elections, to support procurement of critical election materials and greater participation of women and marginalised groups. The UK contributes approximately £40 million annually to the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) which continues to provide security across the country. The UK is also contributing £21.5 million towards the humanitarian effort in 2020/2021, delivering emergency health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods support to a million Central Africans.
The United Kingdom is appalled by the politically motivated detention of Alexei Navalny. We continue to call for a full and transparent criminal investigation into Mr Navalny's poisoning, and for his immediate and unconditional release. The Foreign Secretary has also condemned the indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and journalists, and the Russian authorities' unacceptable use of violence against them. We have called on the Russian Government to respect its international commitments and release those detained during peaceful demonstrations.
The UK has galvanised the international community in condemnation of these deplorable detentions. As G7 President, the UK led a G7 Foreign Ministers' statement, issued on 26 January, emphasising our deep concern at these developments, and calling on Russia to adhere to its national and international obligations.
We raise Mr Navalny's case regularly with the Russian Government. On 15 January, immediately prior to his return to Russia, the UK's Ambassador to Moscow raised our concerns with the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Minister responsible for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas also raised Mr Navalny's case with her Russian counterpart in November 2020.
On 15 October 2020 the UK enforced asset freezes and travel bans against six individuals and an entity involved in the poisoning and attempted murder of Mr Navalny under the EU's chemical weapons sanctions regime. These listings include senior representatives of the Russian government and the Director of the FSB. Following the end of the Transition Period, these individuals and entity are now designated under the UK national sanctions regime on Chemical Weapons. We are considering all options for further action. We will continue to work with the OPCW and all of our international partners to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention and to hold Russia to account.
The UK is committed to rapid equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. We are supporting the COVAX Facility as the best mechanism to deliver this, and have committed £548 million to its work, making the UK one of its largest donors. Through match funding, this commitment has encouraged other donors to commit $1 billion by the end of 2020. Our commitment will contribute to the supply of at least 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 for up to 92 countries in the global south.
The UK is also working closely with international partners such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and UNICEF to support COVAX's preparations for vaccine rollout in countries in the global south. We expect deliveries of vaccines to begin by the end of February. It is too early to determine how many doses ordered by the UK will not be needed for domestic use. We are working through multilateral institutions, such as the UN and the G20, and with the WHO and international partners to support vaccine development, manufacturing scale-up, and distribution to meet both domestic and international needs now and in the future.
Following unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud in the November 2020 elections, Myanmar's armed forces took control of the country on 1st February, declaring a state of emergency. The country is now under effective control of the Commander in Chief and the military Vice President Myint Swe.
The UK condemns this military coup and the detention of members of the civilian Government and civil society, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. The UK calls for the peaceful reconvening of the elected National Assembly, and respect for the results of the November 2020 general election and expressed wishes of the people of Myanmar. We are considering UK actions in response to the coup.
We share the concerns raised by the UN and NGOs about the impact of designation on what is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis. We have already engaged with the US to urge them to ensure that the vital humanitarian response, including food supplies, are not disrupted and aim to raise this urgently with the new administration.
Ten years after the fall of President Ben Ali, Tunisia continues to consolidate its transition to democracy. The UK works closely with Tunisia to support political and economic reform, bolster democratic institutions, and build the country's resilience. The UK also has a strong partnership with Tunisia on security issues, which has helped strengthen our response to the shared challenges of terrorism and extremism, and to work together to address the conflict in Libya.
Our High Commission in Kampala has been consulting with the diplomatic community, civil society actors, other international observers, and the Government of Uganda, to ensure we have a comprehensive and accurate picture of the elections. We deployed 51 Election Observers across Uganda on election day, covering over 120 polling stations. Following analysis from the observer missions, we have raised our concerns with the appropriate authorities. Through our lobbying, including at senior levels of government and through our public messaging, we continue to urge the Government of Uganda to respond to any concerns raised and to meet their international human rights commitments. The treatment of opposition figures post-election, including Robert Kyagulanyi, has been unacceptable and the Minister for Africa expressed his concerns about this in his tweet on 19 January. The Minister for Africa welcomes the High Court of Uganda's decision of 25 January that the detention of Robert Kyagulanyi was unconstitutional and unlawful and that these restrictions are now lifted. This is a positive step towards removing the restrictions on political freedoms of Kyagulanyi and the UK will continue to raise these issues with the Government of Uganda
The British Embassy in Tel Aviv and the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem are in regular contact with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities respectively. We will continue to raise access to safe COVID-19 vaccines.
The UK supports World Health Organisation (WHO) leadership on the COVAX Facility. The UK will continue to liaise with the WHO on timescales for vaccine delivery in the OPTs in our capacity as a major contributor to COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and as a key international partner to the Palestinian Authority. We understand first vaccine deliveries are anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
The UK continues to work with international partners, including at the United Nations, to raise our deep concern about the situation in Hong Kong. On 9 January, the Foreign Secretary released a statement with his Australian, Canadian and US counterparts underscoring our serious concern at the arrest of 55 politicians and activists.
At the UN, on 6 October, alongside Germany we brought together a total of 39 countries to express grave concern at the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong in a joint statement at the General Assembly Third Committee.
The Prime Minister and his New Zealand counterpart, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, last spoke on 10 December 2020, when they discussed a range of foreign policy matters, including Hong Kong. On 9 January, the Foreign Secretary and his New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, discussed developments on arrests in Hong Kong. We will continue to work closely with international partners to call on China to live up to its obligations and responsibilities as a leading member of the international community.
The UK is committed to rapid equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. The UK has committed up to £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is the international initiative to support global equitable access to vaccines. This makes the UK one of the COVAX AMC's largest bilateral donors. Our commitment will support access to COVID-19 vaccines for up to 92 developing countries through contributing to the supply of 1 billion doses in 2021, and vaccinations for up to 500 million people.
Our consular staff endeavour to give appropriate and tailored support to British nationals overseas and their families in the UK, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. What we can and cannot do is set out in our guide on gov.uk. We help around 30,000 British nationals abroad every year. Cases range from supporting those who have lost their passports, been victims of crimes or had accidents while in another country, through to complicated, long-running consular cases such as people detained overseas. The UK is a party to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), which is a multilateral agreement setting out how States will cooperate in the support of their nationals in distress overseas including for example granting access to detained nationals The Government's ability to provide consular assistance remains at all times dependent on other states respecting the VCCR and must be done in accordance with the laws of that country.
The UK Government is concerned by the current security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and reports of violence during the electoral period. We have repeatedly called on all parties to cease violence and allow the Central African people to exercise their right to vote in peaceful, free and fair conditions. The UN and CAR authorities are working together to ensure a successful second round of legislative elections in February. We have noted the preliminary Presidential election results announced by the National Elections Authority on 4 January, which will be confirmed by the Constitutional Court on 19 January.
We support the UN's call for the Government of CAR and all parties to favour an inclusive, open, constructive and credible political dialogue to promote national stability. The UK supported election preparations in CAR through a £500,000 contribution to the UN Development Programme's basket fund for elections, which enabled the procurement of critical election materials and greater participation of women and marginalised groups. The UK also contributes approximately £40 million annually to the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) which continues to provide security and patrol areas across the country.
The Government has discussed this matter with the United States Government. We share the concerns about Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp destabilising activity in Yemen and condemn the ongoing Houthi cross-border attacks. However, Yemen is one of the world's worst humanitarian crises and our main priority is to support the UN's peace process and ensure life-saving humanitarian aid can reach the millions of Yemenis in need. We are not considering proscribing at this time. We keep the use of sanctions under review.
The UK is extremely concerned about increased levels of food insecurity and risk of famine in Yemen, with thousands of people already in famine conditions and 13.5 million Yemeni people at risk of starving or struggling to get enough food to feed their families according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) data. We have been sounding the alarm on Yemen since September, when we announced an additional £30.8 million in UK aid specifically for famine prevention.
On 3 December, in response to the release of the IPC data, the Foreign Secretary announced an additional £14 million in UK aid to Yemen. This new funding will help 1.5 million households access food and medicines, and takes the UK's commitment to £214 million this financial year (2020/21). We continue to urge the international community to step up, including though urgently disbursing humanitarian funding, supporting the economy and encouraging the parties to engage in new peace talks led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.
The UK does not recognise the legitimacy of the Venezuelan legislative elections held on 6 December. Electoral conditions were neither free nor fair, and did not reach international democratic standards. We welcome the strong international condemnation of the elections by the International Contact Group (ICG) on Venezuela, the Organisation of American States, the European Union, and others. Staff at our Embassy in Caracas, and in London talk regularly with opposition leaders. We are discussing next steps with like-minded partners in both Europe and the Americas.
The UK is committed to rapid, equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and tests. This is demonstrated by our strong support for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. The UK is its largest bilateral donor, contributing up to £813 million to the ACT-Accelerator partners. This includes up to £548 million for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is the international initiative to support global equitable access to vaccines as well as other important medical technologies.
The UK recognises that there are critical ACT-Accelerator funding gaps. We continue to encourage international partners to actively work together to mobilise the resources needed, both bilaterally and in international fora.
President-elect Biden has said that if Iran returns to compliance with the deal, the US would re-enter the agreement and seek to both strengthen it and extend it. This is an important opportunity to restart engagement between Iran and the US, and to realise the objectives of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which we support. We look forward to engaging with the new administration as soon as possible.
The Government is very concerned at the high numbers of Palestinians, including children, killed by Israel Defence Forces in the West Bank and Gaza. The UK Minister for the Middle East and North Africa expressed the UK's sadness to hear of the death of Palestinian child Ali Ayman Abu Alaya, following clashes between the Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian civilians. We have urged Israel to ensure that its investigation is swift and comprehensive. We continue to stress the importance of the Israeli security forces providing appropriate protection to the Palestinian civilian population, in particular the need to protect children, and urge restraint in the use of live fire. In instances where there have been accusations of excessive use of force, we advocate transparent investigations.
The UK Government is supporting Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA). These terrorist groups have caused immense suffering to local communities in North East Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad Basin region. We are providing a comprehensive package of assistance in support of efforts to bring stability to this region. For example, we help fund the Lake Chad Basin Regional Stabilisation Facility, implemented by the UN Development Programme, to strengthen community security, provide basic services and support livelihoods. Our contribution was £2 million in the financial year 2019-20. Additionally, we have provided funding and operational support for the Multinational Joint Task Force, a regional force coordinating military efforts for regional security.
Over two million people have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict in North East Nigeria and 10.6 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. We work closely with the UN and international partners to provide life-saving assistance to people affected by the conflict.
The circumstances of Fakhrizadeh's death remain unclear and we will not speculate when we do not have the full facts. To date no State or non-State actors have claimed responsibility, but the UK repeatedly and consistently condemns extrajudicial killings wherever these take place. We are concerned about the situation in Iran and the wider region. We continue to urge all sides to show restraint and avoid any actions which might escalate tensions in the region.
As the Foreign Secretary made clear in his statement of 2 December following the sentencing of Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, prosecution decisions must be fair and impartial, and the rights and freedoms guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration must be upheld.
We have raised our concerns about Joshua Wong's and other cases with senior members of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Beijing authorities and will continue to do so. We urge the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to bring an end to their apparent campaign to stifle legitimate opposition and reconsider their current course.
The UK ended traditional bilateral aid programmes to China in 2011. China's size, rising economic power and influence make it an important partner in tackling global challenges. We now offer expertise and skills to help tackle global issues like climate change, which is firmly in the national interest. Bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) spend for 2009-2019 as categorised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/920048/Table-A4b.od. This includes ODA spend on activity such as British scientists and researchers working with Chinese counterparts, Chinese Chevening scholars, the British Council's ODA eligible activity in China and, for 2015 and 2019, the ODA eligible portion of costs related to UK diplomatic staff in China (in 2016-2018 these costs were presented regionally).
ODA programmes, including those relevant to China, were reviewed in July 2020 as part of the ODA reprioritisation exercise due to the reduction in Gross National Income (GNI) during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer's announcement in the Spending Review that ODA will be reduced to 0.5% of GNI until the fiscal situation allows a return to 0.7%, the Foreign Secretary will run a short cross-government process to review, appraise and finalise ODA allocations across all departments.
We remain deeply concerned by ongoing instability in Libya. However, we welcome recent positive developments and the commitment shown by Libyans to engage constructively in the UN-led political process. The comprehensive ceasefire, and roadmap to elections in December 2021, both brokered by the UN, are important steps towards achieving a sustainable and inclusive political settlement for all Libyans. The UK is actively engaged in international diplomatic efforts, in support of the UN, to help Libyans to find solutions to the issues they face.
The top twenty recipients of UK bilateral aid between 2015 and 2019 are:
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Government is introducing a new strategic approach which will allow us to drive greater impact from our ODA spending around a set of strategic objectives. First, tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity and financing low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies in poor and emerging economies. Second, tackling COVID-19, and promoting wider international health security. Third, prioritising girls' education. Fourth, resolving conflict, alleviating humanitarian crises, defending open societies, and promoting trade and investment, including by increasing UK partnerships in science research and technology. Finally, improving delivery of aid in order to increase the impact that we have on the ground, in the countries and the communities that they are designed to benefit and help. We will do this by strengthening accountability, value for money and in-house capability.
The UK will deliver on its commitment to global equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines through our commitment to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The UK is the largest funder to the COVAX AMC with a commitment of up to £548 million. This will contribute to 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 92 developing countries in 2021, and immunisation for up to 500 million people (subject to vaccines successfully securing stringent regulatory approvals). The COVAX AMC has achieved its 2020 funding target for $2 billion to secure vaccine supply for 92 developing countries. It has announced agreements with several companies. Negotiations with additional companies are ongoing.
At least 4 vaccines developed by Chinese companies are in phase 3 efficacy trials. Results are not yet available. Other vaccines are in earlier stages of development. Several countries have announced bilateral agreements to support clinical trials, manufacturing and for future procurement. China has joined the COVAX Facility for self-financing countries to access vaccines for its domestic use. We continue to promote the COVAX AMC as the best mechanism to support equitable and rapid global access to safe and effective vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
We have the deepest sympathy for Giulio Regeni's family and their quest for justice for his appalling murder. As Mr Regeni was an Italian citizen, the Italian Government is taking the lead role on his case. We continue to follow the investigation into his death and to work closely with the Italian Government. We last discussed this at an official level with the Italian authorities on 23 November. We have also raised with the Egyptian authorities at a senior level the need for a transparent and impartial investigation, in full co-operation with Italy, so that Mr Regeni's killers can be brought to justice.
The UK is deeply concerned about the arrest of Gasser Abdel Razek, Mohammed Basheer and Karim Ennarah. We continue to raise our concerns with the Egyptian authorities both in London and in Cairo. All human rights defenders should be able to work without fear of arrest or reprisals. The Foreign Secretary raised the issue directly with his Egyptian counterpart on 19 November. We are working closely with partners in the international community who share our concerns.
The UK is concerned by the ongoing violence between federal and regional forces in the Tigray region and the risk it poses to civilians, and by reports of ethnically-motivated attacks both within Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia. We are gravely concerned at Amnesty International's report of killings of civilians on 9 November; we call for transparency and accountability to be delivered for such incidents. We are also concerned about the risk these events pose to Ethiopia's overall political stability and its democratic transition of which the UK has been supportive. The Foreign Secretary called Prime Minister Abiy on 10 November to raise our concerns and stress the urgent need to prioritise the protection of civilian lives, restore services (including banks and telecommunications) and enable humanitarian access. He also urged de-escalation swift moves to political dialogue. The Minister for Africa reiterated our concerns when he spoke to the Ethiopian Ambassador in London on 18 November. We will continue to track the situation and to raise with the Government of Ethiopia and regional leaders these concerns, our concerns about civilian deaths and casualties, and the importance of respect for human rights.
The safety and security of all our personnel is of paramount importance. The Ministry of Defence keeps operational risk for both Afghanistan and Iraq under constant review, and we adjust our force protection arrangements in accordance with the circumstances. We have regular discussions with the US and other Allies about our approach to both countries, which we do not discuss publicly.
As part of our coordinated international efforts to address climate change, the UK Government works closely with the Government of Indonesia on shared objectives to reduce and avoid deforestation and improve the sustainability of Indonesia's palm oil sector, including through regular bilateral engagement. Our partnership incorporates UK support for a number of programmes designed to reduce and avoid deforestation in key forested provinces, including Papua and West Papua, as well as thematic programmes to promote the Government of Indonesia's initiatives on palm oil sustainability and better governance of the forest and land-use sector.
The UK continues to follow the situation in Varosha with concern. Prior to the visit of President Erdogan to the island, we made representations to Turkey through our Embassy in Ankara. The Foreign Secretary raised the issue of Varosha during his call with the Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusolgu on 19 November.
The UK continues to strongly support the numerous Security Council Resolutions covering the issue of Varosha, notably 550 (1984) and 789 (1992). The issue underlines the importance of reaching a comprehensive Cyprus Settlement as a matter of urgency.
We warmly welcome the agreements between Israel and Bahrain, and Israel and the United Arab Emirates. We welcome both the decision to normalise relations, as well as the suspension of plans for annexation - a move the UK has opposed - as it would have been counterproductive to securing peace in the region. The changing regional context and converging Arab and Israeli interests presents an opening to make progress on the Israel-Palestine issue. The UK is committed to making progress towards a two-state solution, and supports a regional approach to peace. The UK welcomed therefore the announcement on 19 November that the Palestinian Authority and Government of Israel have agreed to restore cooperation. Restoring cooperation is an important and constructive step towards peace, and shows both sides are willing to put the needs and security of both Israelis and Palestinians first. We need to build on this momentum through further dialogue and compromise to move towards a lasting solution to the conflict.
The UK is concerned by the recent short-notice closures of displacement camps in Iraq, which has affected 26,300 people to date out of a total population of 110,000 in federal Iraq. The speed of camp closures and lack of coordination with the UN, NGOs and donors risks forcing vulnerable people to return to areas without adequate shelter, infrastructure, or services. The UK is coordinating advocacy efforts with international partners to slow the rate of unplanned camp closures.
Since 2014 the UK has provided £272 million in humanitarian support to millions of vulnerable Iraqis displaced by the Daesh conflict including providing food to over 500,000 people and life saving healthcare services to 4.3 million people. The UK will continue to work with the Government of Iraq, UN and partners to ensure that the conditions for voluntary and safe returns are met.
The imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong constitutes a clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration. We have raised our concerns directly with the Beijing authorities, including by summoning the Chinese Ambassador on 13 November. The UK will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, working with our international partners to hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law.
The imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong constitutes a clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration. We have raised our concerns directly with the Beijing authorities, including by summoning the Chinese Ambassador on 13 November. The UK will continue to stand up for the people of Hong Kong, working with our international partners to hold China to the obligations it freely assumed under international law.
The United Kingdom welcomes the fact that the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to end the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Minister for the European Neighbourhood spoke to the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister on 13 November welcoming the news of the ceasefire and urging engagement with the OSCE Minsk Group. The UK Government continues to support the role of the Minsk Group and the Co-Chairs in ensuring a sustainable and peaceful settlement.
The security situation in Afghanistan remains of serious concern. The FCDO advises against all travel to many parts of Afghanistan. Violence across many parts of the country remains high, principally due to the actions of non-government armed groups, including Daesh-affiliate Islamic State Khorasan Province. Whilst details cannot be provided for operational security reasons, we take necessary measures to mitigate the risks to our service personnel and staff. International NGOs are responsible for their own security provisions, and we make it clear that they must withdraw from any area they cannot operate safely in.
The UK Government has noted the provisional election results published by the Independent Electoral Commission in Côte d'Ivoire. In his statement of 30 October ahead of the election, the Minister for Africa was concerned by the violence in the run up to elections and urged the Ivoirian authorities to ensure that all deaths and election-related violent incidents were properly investigated. In his statement on 5 November, the Minister for Africa condemned the violence and incendiary rhetoric during the electoral period in Côte d'Ivoire, and expressed his condolences to the families of those who died. The UK Government notes the varied voter participation around the country, whether through choice or disenfranchisement. The lack of consensus on the electoral process has divided communities, but creating parallel structures is not a resolution. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and abstain from declarations which may inflame the situation further. We encourage all parties to respect the constitutional order and democratic process and to re-establish a genuine political dialogue to resolve their differences.
The UK stands with the people of Côte d'Ivoire at this important moment, and reiterates its commitment to working with all stakeholders in a peaceful way. We continue to follow developments closely.
The UK has regular contact with the Governments of Pakistan and of India, including about regional issues and regional stability. We encourage both sides to engage in dialogue. The UK's long-standing position is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
We share Ban Ki-Moon's concern about the attacks on, and harassment of, lawyers globally. This Government is absolutely clear that any form of violence or abuse against lawyers is utterly unacceptable. The implementation of rule of law by national governments is central to securing the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The independence of the judiciary, legislature, and executive helps ensure that each institution is able to hold the others to account, thereby protecting individual citizens. The UK is part of the Rule of Law Core Group at the UN Human Rights Council; ensuring that the rule of law remains prominent on the Council's agenda. The UK also supports a range of resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council that seek to promote the importance of the rule of law and democracy. In March 2019, the Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the United Nations, Julian Braithwaite, delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council on behalf of the Rule of Law Core Group, highlighting why the implementation of the rule of law is particularly important for the protection and empowerment of citizens throughout the world.
I spoke to Afghanistan's Acting Foreign Minister on 3 November. I expressed the UK's profound condolences for the loss of life caused by the attack in Kabul and noted the particular tragedy of targeting young Afghans in a place of education.
Acting Foreign Minister Atmar and I agreed on the need for a reduction in violence levels and for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to receive continued international support. The UK has committed up to £70 million to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces for 2021. This funding will help ensure those forces are better able protect the Afghan people. Tuesday 3 November was a day of National Mourning in Afghanistan and the British Embassy flew the flag at half-mast in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.
Refugees and other forcibly displaced people are amongst the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1.2 million people in Idlib live in overcrowded camps and unable to practice social distancing or access proper healthcare or shelter.
The UK has pledged at least £300 million to the Syria Crisis for 2020, to support refugees and host communities in the region as well as humanitarian needs in Syria, including specific activities to help tackle Coronavirus in North West Syria. Funding through UN and INGO partners has already provided over 375,000 IDPs daily access to 35 litres of clean water, access to safe sanitation across 38 camps and distributed over 23,000 family hygiene kits. Our funding also includes cash assistance for refugees and IDPs. The UK is monitoring the situation in Idlib and across the whole of Syria closely, working with the UN and our humanitarian partners to respond to the outbreak and to sustain life-saving services.
The UK Government has made no such assessment. We are clear that there can be no military solution to the current conflict and continue to urge Armenia and Azerbaijan to undertake substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group.
The UK continues to provide diplomatic and programmatic support to the UN Special Envoy to help achieve the necessary political progress to end the conflict in Yemen. Alongside our diplomacy, we are championing and supporting the important role that women, youth and civil society can play in ending the conflict. For example, we are currently funding the Senior Gender Advisor and Senior Inclusion Advisor positions in the office of the UN Special Envoy. We will continue to support Yemeni women, youth and civil society at all levels to help create the conditions for an inclusive and durable peace in Yemen.
The UK remains committed to Iraq's sovereignty and ensuring that Iraq is able to govern effectively in the interests of its people. The Prime Minister underlined this support during his meeting with Prime Minister Kadhimi on 22 October. The UK regularly engages with all partners of Iraq, including Iran and the United States, in order to support stability in Iraq and the wider region.
The UK is committed to combatting the rise of anti-Semitism in all its forms, and we have a regular, frank and open dialogue with international partners on this issue. The UK also respects the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders and organisations. They must be able to operate freely, including in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
It is indefensible that Iran has brought new charges against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. We made a formal request to the Iran Government for the UK Government to attend her hearing. We have consistently called for her full and permanent release and continue to raise her case at the most senior levels. The Foreign Secretary has done so repeatedly with Foreign Minister Zarif. Senior FCDO officials summoned the Iranian Ambassador to London on 29 October to raise concerns over her treatment. The Iranian Ministry of Defence requested the adjournment of the November hearings. It would be inappropriate to comment further on ongoing legal proceedings, but we continue to explore all options to resolve this dispute.
Parliamentary elections on 4 October were marred by allegations of widespread electoral malpractice. There was significant political and social unrest and violence in the immediate days following the Parliamentary elections and the situation remains fragile.
It is for the people of Kyrgyzstan to choose their leaders in free and fair elections consistent with the constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. The UK continues to call for an inclusive, legal and democratic resolution. We have delivered messages through Ministers and at the OSCE urging for peace and calling for the constitutional and democratic processes to be followed, and in support of the UN's work in this area. These messages have been reinforced by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Bishkek.
We are following the protests in Thailand closely. The UK believes that the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental freedom that should be guaranteed in democratic societies. We continue to urge restraint and proportionality in any response to peaceful protest, encourage all sides to respect the rule of law and basic freedoms, and refrain from violence. It is vital that political space in Thailand can be maintained so that a peaceful and productive dialogue can take place.
To that extent, we welcomed the lifting of the Declaration of the Serious Emergency Situation in Bangkok on 22 October, and the announcement of a dedicated Parliamentary session on 26 and 27 October. We hope that these will meaningfully address the concerns of the protesters.
We are concerned by any action which raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait and risks destabilising the status quo. Her Majesty's Government continues to monitor the situation closely, and considers the Taiwan issue one to be settled by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait through constructive dialogue.
We consistently call for an immediate end to all actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution, including settlement expansion within the West Bank. As the UK made clear on 16 October, in a joint statement alongside France, Germany, Italy and Spain, we are deeply concerned by the recent decision taken by the Israeli authorities to advance more than 4,900 settlement building units in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv raised our concern with the Government of Israel on 13 October, alongside European partners. The UK's position on settlements is clear. They are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the physical viability of a two-state solution. Settlement expansion is also a counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalisation agreements reached between Israel, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. We urge Israel to halt settlement expansion immediately. We are encouraging both sides to maintain calm and avoid taking actions which make peace more difficult to achieve.
In light of the decision to move to a one-year spending review, the Government is considering the implications for the completion of the Integrated Review and will provide an update in due course.
We understand that the media reporting that the Iran-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has been finalised is premature. Until final details of the deal become public, we are unable to make a full assessment of the implications. Our priority remains to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. We remain committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) however Iran's continued reduction in compliance has seriously undermined the non-proliferation benefits of the deal. To preserve it Iran must engage with the JCPoA's Joint Commission and Dispute Resolution Mechanism (which we triggered with E3 partners on 14 January) and return to compliance.
We are concerned by any action which raises tensions in the Taiwan Strait and risks destabilising the status quo. Her Majesty's Government considers the Taiwan issue one to be settled by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait through constructive dialogue.
We are aware of the 2 October statement by the International Crisis Group. However, we will not speculate on the outcome of the US election, which is a matter for the US people.
We continue to monitor developments in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh closely. We have issued a number of joint statements with Canada, and we will continue to work closely with all partners to help facilitate a peaceful end to this conflict.
We consider all our export licence applications against a strict assessment framework, and keep all licences under careful and continual review. We comply with the OSCE arms embargo relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is considered a part of our export licensing process.
We warmly welcome the agreement between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. We welcome both the decision to normalise relations, as well as the suspension of plans for annexation - a move the UK has opposed as it would have been counterproductive to securing peace in the region. We profoundly hope that this moment can be used as a step towards direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as there can be no substitute in order to reach a two-state solution and a lasting peace. The Foreign Secretary visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 24-25 August and encouraged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to build on this momentum. We urge the Palestinian Authority to resume co-operation with Israel, which is in the interests of the Palestinian people. We also call on both parties to make constructive and open steps towards a return to dialogue.
The Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas spoke to the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers on 28 September. She raised UK concerns over civilian casualties and fatalities, urged immediate de-escalation and reinforced the importance of returning to negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The UK continues to engage actively with international partners in support of these objectives. The Prime Minister discussed the situation in Nagorno Karabakh with President Erdogan on 28 September, and Minister Morton raised this with Deputy Foreign Minister Onal on 2 October. And, following a request from the UK and its European partners, the issue was discussed at the UN Security Council on 29 September.
We are deeply concerned by reports of civilian deaths in Washah. Whenever the UK receives reports of alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law, we routinely seek information from all credible sources, including from NGOs and international organisations. We use every opportunity to raise the importance of complying with IHL with the Saudi Arabian Government and other members of the Coalition, including requesting investigations into alleged incidents of concern. The UK continues to call on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to exercise restraint, comply fully with IHL and engage constructively with the peace process led by the UN Special Envoy, which is the only way to end the cycle of violence.
The Prime Minister last spoke by telephone to President Putin of the Russian Federation on 8 May 2020 when they discussed the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the importance of global cooperation on COVID-19. The UK Government will continue to raise our serious concerns about the poisoning of Mr Navalny and the current situation in Belarus with the Russian Government. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary also raised these issues in a letter to Foreign Minister Lavrov on 25 September 2020. On 23 September 2020, the Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas raised these issues in a telephone call with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Titov. On 7 September, the FCDO summoned the Russian Ambassador to the UK to express our grave concern about Mr Navalny's poisoning. In addition, the British Embassy in Moscow will continue to raise these issues, including at Ambassadorial level with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The UK strongly supports the beginning of negotiations between the Afghan Government and the Taliban, currently taking place in Doha. I attended the virtual opening ceremony for the Afghan Peace Negotiations on 12 September and delivered remarks behalf of the UK. We hope this historic opportunity leads to progress, including an inclusive political settlement and an end to the violence in Afghanistan.
We are actively supporting the negotiations through diplomatic engagement in Doha, as well as in the region. Through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), the UK's Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Programme provides capacity building support to the Afghan Government, in partnership with the European Institute of Peace and the UN Development Programme.
The collapse of government negotiations following the resignation of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib is disappointing, as well as damaging for the long-suffering people of Lebanon. Lebanon's leaders must act in the national interest and urgently form a new government and implement reforms. The UK will continue to support the Lebanese people.
The G20 Leaders' Summit is an opportunity to address issues of global importance, and is particularly important in the context of COVID-19. The UK sees agreements on health, the economy, and climate as the priority. We want agreements to cover vaccine access, funding and debt financing for developing and middle income countries, and commitments on the Paris Agreement. These should be supported by continued commitments on free trade as the basis for a strong and sustainable recovery. Our close relationship with Saudi Arabia allows us to raise our concerns about human right in private and in public. The UN Human Rights Council statement on 15 September is an example of this, and ministerial colleagues and I regularly raise human rights with the Saudi authorities. The UK has always been clear that Khashoggi's murder was a terrible crime, and that Saudi Arabia must ensure such an atrocity can never happen again. The Foreign Secretary raised the issue during his visit to Riyadh in March this year. The UK has sanctioned twenty Saudi nationals involved in the murder under global human rights regime.
The Prime Minister spoke to newly appointed Japanese Prime Minister Suga on 23 September. They discussed economic and trade issues, including the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and reform of the World Trade Organisation. The UK is concerned by the impacts of the current trade dispute between the governments of the US and China, and is clear that nobody benefits from trade wars. We continue to raise our concerns about the trade dispute with both parties, and to work closely with them on our bilateral trade and investment relationships.
The Prime Minister expressed his concern at increased tensions between China and India in the House on 24 June. We welcome recent progress between China and India to manage tensions along their disputed border and the meeting of Foreign Ministers Wang Yi and Jaishankar on 10 September. Both sides agreed a five-point plan to ease tensions, we encourage them to maintain dialogue and continue to monitor the situation closely.
We are deeply concerned about the situation in the North-West and South-West (Anglophone) regions of Cameroon. These regions are suffering from high levels of violence, which has driven almost 740,000 people from their homes. 2.3 million people are in need of humanitarian support. Last month the Government announced £4.5 million in additional funding to humanitarian efforts in Cameroon, bringing our total support to £13.5 million this year.
The Minister for Africa regularly discusses the situation in Cameroon with the British High Commissioner in Yaoundé, and did so most recently in September. In May, the Minister for Africa spoke to the Prime Minister of Cameroon and stressed the need for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the Anglophone regions. He has committed to visiting Cameroon soon and will raise HMG's concerns directly with the Government of Cameroon.
Reports of human rights violations and abuses by security forces and armed separatists are extremely disturbing and violence and intimidation aimed at humanitarian workers is unacceptable. We continue to call for protection of civilians and unhindered humanitarian access to those affected by the crisis. All those responsible for human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable. The Government strongly condemns the appalling terrorist attacks on innocent civilians, including women and children, in Cameroon's Far North region.
The UK regularly discusses with the US a variety of issues related to Iran, including our shared concerns about Iran's nuclear programme, Iran's destabilising activities in the region and the various sanctions programmes targeting Iran. These discussions take place at all levels of government, including recently during the Foreign Secretary's visit to Washington in early September.
The UK is in regular contact with Turkish and Greek partners with regard to the ongoing tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and we welcome the announcement that Greece and Turkey will resume exploratory talks. The Prime Minister discussed this with Turkish President Erdogan on 28 September. The Defence Secretary discussed this with the Turkish Defence Minister on 28 August. The Foreign Secretary also raised the matter with the Turkish Foreign Minister on 8 July. The Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas has spoken to both her Turkish and Greek counterparts in recent weeks. Officials continue to raise the issue with the parties concerned. We believe it is critical for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and for the integrity of the rules-based international system that tensions be reduced and disputes resolved through dialogue and in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
It is positive that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains on furlough, but we continue to urge the Iranian Government to make her release permanent so she can return to her family in the UK. Iran bringing these new charges against Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is unacceptable. We welcome the deferral of this groundless court hearing. We have been consistently clear that she must not be returned to prison. We continue to raise her case at the most senior levels, and discuss it at every opportunity with our Iranian counterparts. The Foreign Secretary spoke twice with Foreign Minister Zarif in August. We raised her case again with the Iranian Ambassador to London on 22 September. Our Ambassador in Tehran consistently discusses all of our British dual-national detainees with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
COVID-19 threatens to reverse hard-won gains in HIV, TB and malaria. This Government is working hard with international partners to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on global efforts to address these diseases.
Many of our partners are taking urgent action on all three diseases, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The UK is the second biggest donor to the Global Fund's fifth and sixth replenishments. To date, the Global Fund has provided up to US $1 billion to help countries adapt HIV, TB and malaria programmes in the face of COVID-19, ensuring essential services such as testing, treatment and access to medicines can continue and also to strengthen health systems more broadly.
The UK is also supporting marginalised groups at risk of HIV - such as LGBT+ people, sex workers, mothers and young children - to advocate for their needs and rights in the pandemic. And we continue to invest in research and product development, working with partners to provide tools that are urgently needed to fight all three diseases. For example, UK support to Unitaid is enabling developing countries to access pioneering technology for HIV, TB and malaria.
The UK did not participate in the foreign envoys' visits to Indian-administered Kashmir in January. We continue to make clear to the Government of India that we wish to conduct independent visits to Indian-administered Kashmir once COVID-19 allows, and regularly raise our request with the appropriate authorities.
The Foreign Secretary has been clear that the UK does not accept the results of the fraudulent Presidential elections in Belarus of 9th August. The UK is calling for a thorough independent investigation by the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) into the conduct of the elections and the violent crackdown that followed. The Government supports the call for constructive political dialogue between the regime in Belarus and opposition leaders to find a way forward that is supported by the Belarusian people. The Government is concerned by the continued reports of intimidation, harassment and arrest of opposition figures in Belarus, which only undermines the prospects for dialogue.
We regret the recent UN Security Council resolution on Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Reintegration was not adopted. We are working closely with international partners to reduce the risk posed to us collectively by foreign fighters. The US and UK remain committed to working together to seek to address the issues posed by foreign fighters and Daesh affiliates.
The UK is a long-standing friend of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. In the aftermath of the terrible explosion in Beirut, the UK has been one of the biggest donors to the crisis, committing £25 million overall in UK aid. In August we sent HMS Enterprise to survey damage to Beirut Port so that reconstruction work can urgently begin. The Foreign Secretary spoke to then PM Hassan Diab on 5 August to discuss UK assistance, and the Prime Minister spoke to President Aoun on 8 August. We engage regularly with the full range of Lebanese leaders and will maintain a regular dialogue with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib.
The UK is concerned about the current political crisis in Mali, which is creating uncertainty at a time when the country is facing multiple security, humanitarian and health challenges. In his statement on 19 August, the Minister for Africa condemned the coup and urged all actors to exercise restraint, respect human rights and the rule of law and engage constructively in efforts to find a resolution. It is vital that the current crisis does not undermine efforts to respond to the deeply troubling humanitarian situation, drive forward development and build stability in Mali. The coup leaders' stated commitment to their international partnerships and the Malian peace process is welcome, as is their decision to enter into dialogue with a wide range of Malian actors to determine the shape of transition.
We support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in their efforts to encourage a successful transition and to ensure the release of detainees. We are working with international partners to encourage a transition that can deliver a legitimate, civilian government that meets the needs and aspirations of the Malian people. The UK hopes that a successful transition can help Mali to respond better to the complex governance challenges that have driven instability and impeded development in recent years.
The Government is deeply concerned by the recent ceasefire violations on the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and regrets the loss of life. We continue to monitor the situation closely. The Government supports the negotiations facilitated by the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group aimed at securing a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement of 14 July called for both sides to respect the ceasefire, engage in dialogue and refrain from rhetoric that could increase tensions. In our conversations with both governments we will continue to stress the need for a return to substantive talks and the importance of building confidence in the peacebuilding process.
The UK is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation across the Sahel, including in Mali. The current political crisis in Mali adds another layer of complexity to an already fragile situation. We urge all actors to exercise restraint, respect human rights and the rule of law and engage constructively in efforts to find a peaceful resolution. We welcome swift engagement by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to encourage progress.
The current situation further underlines the need to address the underlying drivers of conflict in Mali and the broader region. The UK is contributing to international efforts to do this. The Minister for Africa attended the first meeting of the Sahel Alliance General Assembly and the sixth Summit of the G5 Leaders (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) in Mauritania on 25 February and the virtual ministerial meeting of the Coalition for the Sahel on 12 June. At the meetings, he reaffirmed the UK's efforts to improve security and encourage development in the Sahel. The UK is due to deploy to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) at the end of the year and provides non-combat assistance to the French-led counter-terrorism mission Operation BARKHANE, in the form of three CH47 chinook helicopters. Our aid provides life-saving assistance to those most in need, helps ensure the protection of civilians, and contributes to improving governance and stability in the region.
We closely coordinate with our key partners, including the US and France. No decisions on the status of US forces in West Africa have been formally communicated to the UK Government by the US Government. We assess that any possible withdrawal of US forces would have a minimal impact on our deployed forces, but we will keep this under close review.
The UK is concerned by the instability in Gedo, where clashes between forces of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the Somali Federal Member State (FMS) of Jubaland in February and March reportedly displaced 56,000 people and killed at least ten, including civilians. We have consistently underlined the need for urgent political dialogue between the FGS and FMS (including Jubaland) to build consensus and longer-term stability; and for Somalia's regional neighbours to engage constructively with the FGS and FMS to pursue their common goal of long-term stability. We raised this issue at UN Security Council meetings on 24 February and 21 May.
The UK and Israel share a strong partnership, and we regularly discuss regional issues with the Government of Israel, including their policy towards Iran. We continue to urge de-escalation and dialogue in the region.
The UK is committed to encouraging and contributing to international action to address the problem of deforestation in the Amazon region. The Prime Minister spoke to President Bolsonaro on 15 January and they discussed the environment and the need for Brazil and the UK to work together to tackle climate change. The Prime Minister invited President Bolsonaro to attend COP26. The UK has been working with the Brazilian authorities to help them address the issue of deforestation in Brazil for a long time. Since 2012, the UK has invested £259 million in a number of International Climate Finance programmes in Brazil aimed at supporting small landowners to increase their productivity through low-carbon farming, the acceleration of sustainable business in the forest economy, preventing forest fires, and implementing the Forest Code. The UK has committed an additional £100 million for 2021-2025.
The UK Government is clear that those individuals who have fought for, or supported Daesh, whatever their nationality, should face justice through a fair trial in the most appropriate jurisdiction. Any decision in relation to the continued detention, transfer or prosecution of detainees is ultimately a matter for authorities under whose jurisdiction the individuals are detained. The UK will continue to work with international partners, as well as partners in the region in seeking to secure the prosecution of individuals who have committed crimes in the name of Daesh. Any such justice mechanism must respect human rights and the rule of law, as well as ensure fair trials and due process.
Following an explosion on 2 July in a building at the Natanz facility, Iran's Supreme National Security Council said they knew the cause but due to "security concerns" further details would be released at an "appropriate time". We will continue to monitor Iran's response to this explosion. The IAEA have confirmed that the location where the incident occurred did not contain nuclear materials.
The UK supports inclusive, one-person-one-vote (OPOV) elections in Somalia in 2021, in line with Somali commitments and mutual goals of building longer-term stability. We have consistently underlined the need for urgent, constructive political dialogue between the Federal Government and the Federal Member States to build consensus, and for accelerated progress on technical preparations to deliver timely OPOV elections.
We are in regular contact with Egypt on the need for all sides in Libya to engage in the UN led political process. The Foreign Secretary raised this with his Egyptian counterpart, most recently on 8 June. Since President Sisi's announcement, we have spoken to senior Egyptian officials to reiterate the need for a political solution and that any intervention would exacerbate the conflict.
We remain deeply concerned by the situation in Libya and the risks to wider regional stability. The UK is actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. We continue to call on all Libyan parties, and their external backers, to de-escalate, commit to a lasting ceasefire and return to UN-led political talks. We welcome the recent resumption by the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army of talks on the framework for a ceasefire. It is essential that both sides engage constructively with this process.
On 25 June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Board of Governors adopted a resolution tabled by the E3 in response to Iran's denial of IAEA access to two sites, and its failure to engage in substantive discussions with the IAEA on questions relating to possible undeclared material and activities. In denying access, Iran is not adhering to its legally binding safeguards obligations and the IAEA cannot verify the completeness and correctness of Iran's nuclear accountancy. The resolution reinforced the mandate of the IAEA Director General to continue his investigation, and sent a clear message to Iran that it should cooperate fully with the IAEA.
The Foreign Secretary made clear in his E3 statement on 19 June that we remain committed to ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon. Iran's reductions in nuclear compliance raise serious proliferation concerns, which is why the UK, with France and Germany, triggered the JCPoA's Dispute Resolution Mechanism (DRM) on 14 January 2020. We are clear that we want to use the DRM to resolve these concerns, and bring Iran back into full compliance with the JCPoA. The UK continues to work closely with all JCPoA parties, including Iran, to find a diplomatic way forward.
On 29 June the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2531, renewing the mandate of UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) until June 2021. The UK worked with partners to secure a mandate that ensures that the mission helps drive forward the implementation of Mali's 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation as a priority. Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State responsible for the UN, participated in the UN Security Council Debate on MINUSMA on 11 June and stressed the importance of fully implementing all requirements of the peace agreement. Our deployment of 250 troops to MINUSMA, planned for later this year, will also increase the Mission's capacity to fulfil its peacekeeping and civilian tasks, helping it to perform its role in support of the peace process.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) remains an important mechanism to prevent conflict across the country that disproportionately affects civilian communities. It is vital that all parties engage in good faith. The UK provides support to Myanmar's Peace Process through the multi-donor Joint Peace Fund. This fund provides support to mechanisms established within both the NCA and bilateral ceasefire agreements, as well as providing specific technical support to conflict management mechanisms and negotiation groups involved in the process ahead of formal dialogues. Through the fund we can provide the direct support needed for coordination and the development of common positions in order to enable negotiations.
We welcome the announcement of the intention to hold a Union Peace Conference this summer. However, we are concerned that the formal process is not inclusive of all groups so will have a limited impact on conflict in large parts of Myanmar. We acknowledge the Government's recent attempts to resume talks with non-signatories digitally. Outside of the NCA, the Tatmadaw's recent unilateral ceasefire was welcome but excluded large parts of the country.
We remain committed to supporting displaced Iraqis, including religious and ethnic minorities, to return to their homes, such as in Nineveh province. UK humanitarian and stabilisation assistance, totalling £382 million since 2014, has contributed to helping more than 4 million to return to their homes. Our support includes £28 million to the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilisation (FFS), which has completed over 490 projects in the Ninewa plains helping to restore vital infrastructure and basic services. We also remain committed to supporting Iraq to prevent Daesh resurgence, as the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed to new Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein on 25 June. As part of our leading role in the Global Coalition against Daesh, UK forces have trained over 110,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces and 21,000 Kurdish Peshmerga.
The security situation in Kirkuk remains fragile - we are concerned by reports of increased terror attacks in Kirkuk and across the disputed territories over the last few months. The resuming of talks under UN supervision to settle the status of Kirkuk are a welcome sign, and we continue to encourage all sides to work towards resolving their issues. The ongoing priority must remain the defeat of Daesh in order to build stability in the disputed territories.
The UK is concerned by North Korea's unprovoked demolition of the Kaesong Liaison Office and by their recent inflammatory remarks criticising South Korea. We are in contact with international partners and support South Korea in its efforts to maintain calm and stability. The UK is committed to securing peace on the Korean peninsula and the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.
On 8 June, al-Qaeda (AQ) issued a multi-page article in its English-language magazine, One Ummah, focusing on the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests. There have been no references to the protests in AQ's central media since, though AQ and Daesh on-line followers continue to discuss and celebrate the ongoing situation in the USA.
The UK supports the UN Secretary-General's call for an immediate global ceasefire in armed conflicts. We have made that support clear at the UN Security Council, and in joint statements with other UN member states as part of the Groups of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and Children and Armed Conflict on 30 March, and the Protection of Civilians on 27 May.
The UK recognises the necessary role of counter terrorism operations, to protect civilian populations and prevent terror groups from using the Covid-19 pandemic to their advantage. We are deeply concerned about the impact that Covid-19 will have on vulnerable countries, particularly those tackling extreme poverty. We continue to work within the UN Security Council to promote initiatives which will build on the global ceasefire and marshal support for UN efforts to take forward peace processes and mitigate risks of conflict escalation.
We are aware of the recent reports of increased tensions between China and India and reports that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in an incident in the Galwan Valley on 15 June. We encourage the two sides to engage in dialogue on issues relating to the border. We are closely monitoring the situation.
The UK engages directly with Chad through our non-resident ambassador and our office in N'Djamena. The ambassador last spoke to Foreign Minister Cherif on 9 June to discuss the impacts of COVID-19, the security situation, plans for elections and other elements of UK-Chad cooperation.
The UK is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel and is clear that long-term peace and stability in this region will support UK interests, including in wider West Africa. The UK is committed to working with all partners, including the G5 Sahel countries, to support those most in need and tackle the long-term drivers of instability in the region. The Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, attended the first meeting of the Sahel Alliance General Assembly and the sixth Summit of the G5 Leaders (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) in Mauritania on 25 February. He also attended the virtual ministerial meeting of the Coalition for the Sahel on 12 June. At both meetings, he reaffirmed the UK's efforts to improve security and encourage development in the Sahel.
The UK is supporting the security response across the Sahel region, including in Chad, through three CH47 Chinook helicopters and support personnel in a non-combat role with the French-led counter-terrorism mission Operation BARKHANE. The UK is committed to helping the G5 Sahel Joint Force reach full operational capability, and has provided bilateral funding towards the provision of non-lethal military equipment and support for the human rights compliance framework. The UK is also supporting efforts to improve security in the Lake Chad Basin. The UK contributes military personnel to the P3 Cellule de Coordination et Liaison in N'Djamena, which gives the Multi-National Joint Task Force technical and strategic support. The UK is also supporting Chad by providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis, while investing in longer-term resilience through programmes that help widen access to social protection and enable households to adapt to the changing climate. Between 2015 and 2019, the UK provided over £91.2 million to Chad in bilateral humanitarian and development aid.
As the UK Consul General in Jerusalem and the UK Ambassador in Tel Aviv stated on 31 May, we are deeply saddened to hear about the death of Iyad Khairi Hallaq after he was shot by Israeli police in East Jerusalem. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family. We urge restraint in the use of live fire by the Israel Defense Forces. In instances where there have been accusations of excessive use of force, we have advocated swift, transparent investigations and if wrongdoing is found, that those responsible be held to account. The perpetual cycle of violence must end.
We welcome the proposals that the Palestinian Authority has made for renewed dialogue. We urge the parties to find a means of restarting negotiations, and avoiding unilateral action. The Foreign Secretary made clear our concerns about reports that the new Israeli Government coalition has reached an agreement, which may pave the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank, during a call with the Israeli Alternate Prime Minister Gantz on 20 May and Foreign Minister Ashkenazi on 2 June. We also reiterated our concerns at the UN Security Council remote meeting on the Middle East Peace Process on 20 May. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law. We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to return to negotiations to achieve peace and the realist action of a two state solution.
The British Government is deeply concerned by fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. We call on all sides to resolve their differences peacefully. The security situation must not be used as an excuse for further restrictions on the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine. On 14 May, the United Kingdom convened the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in Rakhine and Chin States and called for a cessation of hostilities, greater humanitarian access and lifting of the internet shutdown to facilitate the Covid 19 response.
The Foreign Secretary is engaging actively with a range of international partners to explain our position and impress on them the gravity of situation. We want to build up a groundswell of those who share our commitment to international law. We believe that is the most effective means of getting China to live up to its obligations and responsibilities as a leading member of the international community. We will also work within international institutions such as the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that China upholds the commitments they made as co-signatory to the Joint Declaration. The UK?and the US raised the issue at the UN Security Council on 28 May.
The parliament of Sri Lanka was dissolved on 2 March ahead of a planned general election. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic the general election was postponed. The Sri Lankan Government has made clear that they want to see the election take place as soon as practicable. The UK has taken note of the decision made by the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka on 2 June to dismiss seven petitions related to elections and reconvening parliament. We understand that the Elections Commission of Sri Lanka is due to convene shortly to announce a date for the next general election, and that a range of practical preparations are underway. We will continue to follow the situation closely.
We are aware of a small number of British journalists and camera crews being affected by the US police response to the unrest. Our Embassy in Washington has raised the issue with the US Administration.
Journalists all around the world must be free to do their job and to hold authorities to account without fear of arrest or violence.
The Foreign Secretary made clear our concerns about reports that the new Israeli Government coalition has reached an agreement which may pave the way for annexation of parts of the West Bank during a call with the Israeli Foreign Minister on 2 June. We also made clear our concerns at the UN Security Council remote meeting on the Middle East Peace Process on 20 May. The UK position is clear: any unilateral moves towards annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel would be damaging to efforts to restart peace negotiations and contrary to international law. The UK is committed to making progress towards a two-state solution. We will continue to press Israel and the Palestinians strongly on the need to refrain from taking actions which make peace more difficult.
We assess that Amnesty International's report provides useful further evidence of unlawful attacks by the Assad regime and Russia on civilian targets in Idlib. It therefore complements recent reports by the UN Commission of Inquiry and the UN Board of Inquiry. It is inexcusable that hospitals have been attacked despite their coordinates being provided to Russia and others by the UN deconfliction mechanism. The UK continues to call for accountability for these crimes and for all parties, including the Assad regime and Russia, to respect the ceasefire in Idlib and to abide by International Humanitarian Law. We also continue to support those displaced by the recent offensive, as documented in the Amnesty International report.
The UK works closely with the Government of Tunisia on security and related issues, including counter-terrorism capacity building, border security and countering violent extremism. The UK also supports work to address drivers of instability in Tunisia, including in the areas of economic and public sector reform, transparency and anti-corruption.
The UK welcomes the broadly peaceful conduct of the elections in Burundi on 20 May, and takes note of the provisional presidential and parliamentary results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission on 25 May. We are, however, concerned by reports of violence against political party members during the electoral period. In advance of elections, the UK called on all parties to resolve electoral disputes through legal mechanisms and to ensure a peaceful post-electoral environment, through a joint statement with Germany, Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the EU and the United Nations Country Team. We are continuing to follow developments closely.
The Burundi elections took place against the challenging context of the COVID19 pandemic. We have called on the Government to ensure necessary measures are implemented to limit the transmission of COVID-19. A Department for International Development humanitarian affairs officer is working with United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to support preparedness and contingency planning for COVID-19 in Burundi.
We are aware of reports concerning the recent launch of a military satellite by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). The launch - using ballistic missile technology - is of significant concern and inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The UN has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran must abide by this. We remain concerned about the activities of the IRGC and the revelation it has developed an independent military space launch capability, and call on Iran urgently to cease all forms of destabilising activity.
The announcement of self-rule by the Southern Transitional Council is a dangerous move which risks prolonging the conflict. The UK supports the Saudi-brokered Riyadh Agreement between the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council. The Riyadh Agreement is the best means of restoring security and stability to Southern Yemen and the UK urges the parties to resume their efforts towards implementation. We are encouraging the parties to refrain from unconstructive acts and statements, and we are working with them to agree a way forward. This is more important than ever after the heavy flooding in the South and the recent confirmation of deaths in Yemen from COVID-19.
On 3 May, gunshots fired from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) side of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) hit a guard post on the Republic of Korea (ROK) side. The ROK military discharged two volleys of warning fire towards a designated, unmanned area in response, in line with its established protocols. There was no escalation or any casualties. The United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) is still investigating but the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff publicly said it assesses the DPRK shots were accidental.
We continue to urge the DPRK to return to the talks with the United States and deliver on its denuclearisation commitments.
The Government is deeply concerned by the continuing fighting in Libya and actively engaged in international diplomatic efforts to bring it to an end. All the signs are that, despite calls for a humanitarian truce, hostilities are continuing on all sides. We are calling on all the parties, including Khalifa Haftar, to de-escalate, support a ceasefire, ensure humanitarian access, and return to UN-led political talks. The Libyan institutions set up by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement remain central to that process.
The UK is in regular contact at the highest levels with our US partners on our joint response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to work with all of our international partners - including the US - ahead of the Global Vaccine Summit on 4 June, to ensure new vaccines, treatments and tests will be accessible to everyone, as quickly as possible, to end this pandemic
The UK has always been clear that, at the right time, there will need to be a full and independent review into the pandemic. Our immediate focus remains stopping the spread of the virus through international action. The World Health Assembly resolution on COVID-19, which the UK is co-sponsoring, calls on the WHO to initiate an independent and comprehensive evaluation. This will be an important step in learning the lessons of this pandemic.
We consider it important that an Iraqi Government is in place to address the significant economic, security and health challenges Iraq faces. The UK maintains frequent engagement with Iraqi political leaders and parties. The Minister for Middle East and North Africa discussed the current situation in Iraq with the Iraqi Ambassador to London on 16 March and with Foreign Minister Hakim on 1 April. The Iraqi Parliament is due to vote on 6 May the proposed Iraqi Government under Prime Minister designate Mustafa Khademi.
The UK is committed to supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensuring the people of Ukraine are able to define their own future. We welcome President Zelensky's clear commitment to ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian people deserve peace. We have been clear on the importance of finding a diplomatic solution and continue to support the Minsk agreements and the work of Germany and France within the Normandy Format. We welcomed the withdrawal of forces in three zones last year. Since the December Normandy Format summit, there have been two limited prisoner exchanges, but there has been little progress on further disengagement or a ceasefire. The renewed commitment to a ceasefire in the 30 April telephone call between the Normandy Four Foreign Ministers was a further positive step. Continued discussions are a fundamental step in further progress towards peace.
We continue to call on Russia to play its part to end the conflict by immediately ceasing its support for the separatists and fulfilling its obligations under the Minsk agreements. We have repeatedly raised with Russia the need to use its influence on the separatists to provide unrestricted access to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and humanitarian organisations.
The UK last had discussions on arms control with the Russian Federation at the meeting of the five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nuclear weapon states, or 'P5', which took place in London on 12-13 February. At that meeting, all five states underlined the importance of reducing nuclear risk and promoting stability, and agreed that dialogue on strategic risk reduction should continue. We also engage regularly with Russia through OSCE conventional arms control instruments and confidence building measures.
We are concerned by reports that some governments are using the current crisis to curb freedom of expression and civil society. The UK supports freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, which must be respected at all times. We are closely monitoring the human rights situation in Middle East and North African countries. On 9 April, the UK participated in the UN Human Rights Council's first ever virtual conversation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Discussion focused on the human rights implications of the COVID-19 crisis which included concerns about restrictions being imposed on freedom of expression. In his statement to the Council, our Ambassador to the UN in Geneva stressed the importance of ensuring that parliaments, media and civil society all play their role to scrutinise the actions of governments and international agencies, and that we make use of the international human rights frameworks. The British Government remains committed to standing up for human rights and the rule of law in all circumstances.
The UK welcomes the unilateral ceasefire announced by Saudi Arabia on 8 April following the call on 25 March by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a cease to hostilities in Yemen. To ensure the success of this ceasefire, it must be underpinned by a political deal between the conflict parties. We fully support the efforts of the Secretary-General and the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths's call for all parties to engage in urgent political talks and de-escalate the conflict. Now that the Saudi unilateral ceasefire has been extended it is more important than ever that both the Houthis and the Government of Yemen seize this opportunity for progress in Yemen. A permanent ceasefire and co-operation with the UN-led political process is the best defence we have against a potentially devastating outbreak of COVID-19.
We are relieved that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was temporarily released on March 17. While her further extension is a welcome step, we continue to urge the Iranian Government to immediately release her - and all UK dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran - to enable them to return to their families in the UK. The Foreign Secretary raised this with Foreign Minister Zarif on 16 March and Minister of State for the Middle East with the Iranian Ambassador on 26 March. Our Ambassador in Tehran consistently raises all of our dual national detainees with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Prime Minister spoke to President Xi about the coronavirus pandemic on 23 March. A summary of this call is available on gov.uk.
We are aware of recent reports of Turkish fighter jets flying over the Libyan coast. We remain concerned by Turkish military involvement in Libya, which risks further aggravating the conflict. We have expressed these concerns to the Turkish Government, as we have done to other external actors whose activity continues to fuel the conflict. We continue to call on sides to de-escalate, support a ceasefire and a return to UN-led political talks. The UK is clear that lasting peace and stability in Libya will come only through an inclusive political settlement.
We regularly make clear, using a range of Ministerial and diplomatic channels, that the British Government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country, as a matter of principle. We note Amnesty International's report highlighting an increased number of executions in Saudi Arabia in 2019. As a Human Rights Priority Country, Saudi Arabia will be reviewed in the Annual Foreign and Commonwealth Office 2019 Human Rights and Democracy Report (to be published during 2020).
The former Minister for the Middle East and North Africa raised our concerns about the death penalty with Deputy Justice Minister HE Abdullah Al Sulaimi on 11 February. The Foreign Secretary also raised our human rights concerns with Saudi Arabia during his visit in March this year. We will continue to raise our concerns with the Government of Saudi Arabia.
The Government takes fraud very seriously and is committed to combating it. We recognise victims can suffer both serious financial and emotional harm.
The City of London Police, the lead force for Tackling Economic Crime, has partnered with law enforcement and industry to combat call centre fraud from India and other jurisdictions. In partnership with the National Crime Agency the City of London Police have sought to align the interests of the United Kingdom with those of the United States, Canada and a number of European Countries.
Individual cases are an operational matter for the police and the Government of India. The UK authorities work with their Indian counterparts on a case-by-case basis to target fraudsters responsible for duping members of the public and businesses.
The UK was saddened to hear that the UN Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, resigned for health reasons. We thank him for his tireless efforts to bring peace and stability to Libya. The UK continues to support the UN's work to secure a lasting ceasefire and facilitate a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process, as set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2510, drafted by the UK. We will continue to work closely with UNSMIL following Salamé's departure to maintain the momentum of political and military talks. We look forward to working with his successor, once appointed.
The UK has a longstanding close relationship with the UAE, based on historically strong people, historic and economic links. We cooperate on a number of issues from trade, defence and regional security issues to cultural cooperation, climate change and girls' education.
The UK's deployment to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is part of our strategic approach to the increasing instability in the Sahel region, which brings together our development, diplomacy and defence expertise to help tackle the underlying causes of poverty and conflict in the region. Our objectives are fully aligned with the UN mission's mandate. UK troops will deliver a long-range reconnaissance capability. This will provide greater awareness of possible threats, contributing primarily to the protection of civilians but also supporting the safety and security of UN peacekeepers. UK personnel will be thoroughly prepared and given the right training and equipment to conduct their tasks.
The UK continues to make representations to the Government of Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees. In a statement on 23 January 2020, the former Minister for Asia and the Pacific encouraged the Government of Myanmar to abide by the International Court of Justice's provisional measures and implement the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Enquiry in order to protect the Rohingya and to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. The British Ambassador to Myanmar reinforced these points with the Myanmar Minister for International Co-operation, Kyaw Tin and continues to raise this through engagement with the government.
The review is being coordinated by a team of civil servants in the Cabinet Office, originally recruited through fair and open competition. A team in No10 comprises individuals with a range of expertise including a Special Adviser and, where appropriate, contractors.
The UK and Saudi Arabia have a longstanding bilateral relationship, based on a number of pillars including trade, investment, defence, security, energy and shared concerns about regional issues.
The Foreign Secretary will raise and discuss human rights concerns in his first official visit to the region.
We have been clear that Mr Khashoggi's killing was a terrible crime, and that his family deserve to see justice done. Saudi Arabia must hold all those responsible to account and ensure such an atrocity can never happen again. We have consistently set out our grave concerns - both publicly and privately - and will continue to do so.
The UK is deeply concerned by the scale of violence in Burkina Faso. In recent months we have seen a number of horrific attacks with tragic consequences for people in the region. More than 700,000 people were registered as displaced in February 2020. The UK condemns these attacks and is committed to working with all partners, including the G5 Sahel countries, to tackle the long-term drivers of instability in the region.
The UK is committed to working with the G5 Sahel countries, including the Burkinabe government, to help address instability in the region. Last week, James Duddridge (Minister for Africa) attended the first meeting of the Sahel Alliance General Assembly and G5 Leaders' Summit, where he reaffirmed the UK's commitment to improved security and increased development in the Sahel. The UK is currently supporting Burkina Faso by providing emergency life-saving assistance to those affected by the conflict crisis. The UK is also providing non-combat assistance to the French-led counter terror mission Operation BARKHANE in the form of three CH47 chinook helicopters; this includes support to operations in Burkina Faso.
We are actively pressing for an immediate and lasting ceasefire to the crisis in Idlib. The Foreign Secretary discussed Idlib with the US Secretary of State Pompeo on 1 March and travelled to Turkey on 3-4 March to support Turkish efforts to achieve a cessation of hostilities. We have repeatedly raised the issue at the UN Security Council and called for an emergency Council session to discuss the urgent situation in Idlib on 28 February. We have also made clear the urgent need for a ceasefire in our contacts with the Russian Government.
The 2020 Annual Meetings of the World Economic Forum took place from 21 to 24 January in Davos. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was the only UK minister to attend this year. He was accompanied by two special advisers and two officials. The Prime Minister's Chief Strategic Adviser and the Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Trade also attended. The FCO-DFID Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa led the UK delegation to the 2020 Munich Security Conference. Senior UK officials present included the Cabinet Secretary, the MOD Director-General for Strategy and International, the FCO Political Director and the UK Ambassador to NATO.