• In Focus

    Israel-Palestine conflict: Recent developments and statements

    The Israel-Palestine conflict has seen increased violence in 2023. Despite a joint Israeli-Palestinian commitment announced on 26 February 2023 to work towards ending the violence, concerns have been raised about the feasibility of the commitment. This article looks at recent developments in the region and statements, including from the UK and international community, focused on ending the conflict.

  • In Focus

    UK–Iran relations

    The UK and Iran have long had a complex and difficult relationship. There have been long-standing tensions over Iran’s nuclear activity, its destabilising activities in the Middle East and the arbitrary detention of dual nationals. But these have been exacerbated in recent months by widespread human rights abuses as the regime in Tehran looks to quell unrest at home, supplies drones to Russia for use in Ukraine and plans extraterritorial abductions and killings abroad, including within the UK.

  • In Focus

    The situation in Ukraine

    24 February 2023 will mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This article considers the current state of the conflict and its impact on Ukraine, the role of the UK and other allies supporting Ukraine, and how the situation might develop.

  • In Focus

    UK-Rwanda asylum agreement: Why is it a memorandum of understanding and not a treaty?

    The UK government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government of Rwanda to establish an asylum transfer scheme. Unlike treaties, MoUs are not required to be laid before Parliament prior to being ratified. In October 2022, the House of Lords International Agreements Committee published a report which criticised the government for using an MoU for the agreement. The subject is due to be debated in the House of Lords on 6 February 2023.

  • In Focus

    Resilience of the UK armed forces

    The government published both its integrated review of foreign, defence, security and international development policy and a defence command paper in March 2021. Alongside a list of new capabilities set to be introduced and existing equipment due to be retired, the second document set a target of reducing the size of the regular army. The government maintains that capabilities, rather than troop numbers, are of primary importance in confronting the defence and security challenges facing the UK.

  • In Focus

    Horn of Africa: Projections of a famine in 2023

    The Horn of Africa is experiencing its longest drought in 40 years. Compounded by high food prices and political instability, this has led to 36.4 million people suffering from hunger across the region, and 21.7 million requiring food assistance. Although a famine has yet to be officially declared, it is projected to occur in 2023. Humanitarian aid, including from the UK, has already been provided but there are appeals for increased support.

  • In Focus

    UK and India collaboration: Roadmap to 2030

    The UK government’s foreign and defence policies include a ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific region. This includes developing closer collaboration with India across a range of areas. UK and India relations are framed by a mutually agreed roadmap to deepen bilateral ties by 2030 with the aim of developing a comprehensive strategic partnership.

  • In Focus

    The Commonwealth: Zimbabwe’s return?

    In 2003, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth following a suspension for human rights violations. In 2018, the country began the process of rejoining the organisation. This process is ongoing. However, it has been argued that Zimbabwe should not be allowed to rejoin as it does not meet the required standards in respect of its human rights record, democratic processes and institutions and rule of law.

  • In Focus

    UK trade and investment with Central America

    Since the UK left the EU, trade between the UK and Central America has been governed by a bilateral trade agreement. The UK also signed a joint financing agreement with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration in August 2021 to build upon the bilateral agreement. This article considers these agreements, as well as other trade negotiations that the UK is currently participating in with countries across the world.

  • In Focus

    UK aid spending: Statistics and recent developments

    UK aid spending reduced by £3bn, or 21%, from 2020 to 2021. This article looks at statistics on aid spending and how it is being spent. It also includes a summary of the government’s current international development strategy and commentary on some of the issues affecting UK aid spending. The House of Lords will hold a debate on the subject on 15 December 2022.

  • In Focus

    War in Ukraine: Could Russia use nuclear weapons?

    This article summarises recent developments in the war between Russia and Ukraine and assessments of whether Russia could use tactical nuclear weapons in the conflict. Tactical nuclear weapons are designed for use on the battlefield, and they have lower explosive yields than ‘strategic’ nuclear weapons. Commentators have argued that the risk of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons is low, but it could rise if Russia faced defeat in Ukraine.

  • In Focus

    BBC World Service: Soft power and funding challenges

    The BBC World Service delivers news in over 40 languages through TV, radio and digital services. It has a weekly reach of 365 million people and is principally funded by the BBC licence fee, with some grants from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. In September 2022, the BBC announced plans to “accelerate its digital offering” which, it said, would lead to around 382 job losses and more language services being digital only. It said “tough choices” were necessary to make savings.

  • In Focus

    Human rights in the Gulf states

    The six countries that together comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long been criticised for their human rights records. The UK’s engagement with GCC members, whether bilaterally or collectively through recent trade negotiations, has drawn criticism as a result. Critics of continued engagement suggest it could risk the UK being seen to condone continuing human rights abuses, although the UK government maintains that it regularly raises human rights concerns with GCC partners.

  • In Focus

    Human rights in India

    International governments and non-governmental organisations have raised concerns about the human rights situation in India. Recent allegations have been disputed by the Indian government, which has reiterated its commitment to human rights. This article focuses on some of the concerns raised, including in relation to Kashmir, and outlines the UK government’s response.