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THE Foreign Office has quietly cut its human rights budget by half, sparking fears that this could open the door to more abuses abroad.
According to official statistics from the department, now known in full as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the overall human rights budget was reduced last year from £52.4 million to £27.9m.
The FCDO international programmes and Conflict, Security and Stability Fund, a peace-building programme that also seeks to tackle extreme poverty, were the worst hit.
The department said that the reductions were made to release funding to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.
Amnesty International foreign affairs adviser Polly Truscott said that she was “deeply worried” about the cuts, warning that they would “certainly result in more human rights violations abroad, undermining some of Britain’s achievements to date.
“These reductions come at a time when rights holders need more international support than ever, with many leaders exploiting the global pandemic to launch fresh attacks on human rights and activists.”
News of the cut to the human rights budget came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced this week that the government was slashing aid to Syria.
A donation of £205m has been pledged this year, a drop of almost half compared with 2020, when £400m in aid was delivered.
The cuts were made despite a direct appeal by the United Nations not to slash aid, with the UN warning that a reduction in funds to help refugees would negatively impact Britain later.
The government is also expected to slash aid to Yemen.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said that the pandemic was forcing “difficult decisions,” adding: “Promoting human rights and defending democracy is a crucial part of our work as a force for good in the world.”
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