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Government must focus on identity-based violence prevention

UK parties must do more to tackle all forms of identity-based violence, according to a detailed analysis of the general election manifestos by a University of East Anglia (UEA) expert in human rights.

Dr Kate Ferguson, a research and impact associate in UEA’s School of History, is the author of the report, ‘Protecting Populations from Identity-Based Violence: a review of 2017 General Election Manifestos’. Published today, the report reviews the manifesto pledges of the major UK political parties with regard to combatting identity-based violence, both at home and abroad. It offers insight into the kinds of policies the parties can be expected to enact if they are to form a government following the election. The full report can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/manifestoreview2017 

Dr Ferguson, who works on mass atrocity prevention and human rights, is also the director of research and policy at Protection Approaches, which published the report. Protection Approaches is a London-based human rights charity that works to end identity-based violence in the UK and around the world. 

Dr Ferguson said: “At a time when divisions across UK society are growing, commitments to protecting and promoting our social cohesion should be redoubled.

“In every region of the world rising identity-based politics are fanning flames of exclusion, marginalisation and identity-based violence. The next UK government will have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to lead by example in protecting all people within its borders but also in contributing to the protection of populations abroad.”

According to the report, the Liberal Democrats provide the most comprehensive domestic and international set of commitments, while UKIP fails to include basic of provisions to protect communities from identity-based violence.

The report findings conclude:

  • Across the political spectrum, the UK’s mainstream political parties are embracing a more coherent approach to fighting domestic discrimination promoting social cohesion
  • Most manifesto commitments are made in response to pressure from civil society rather than from a shared responsibility to protect all victims of discrimination and identity-based violence
  • UKIP is alone in using the language of social cohesion and gender equality to promote an exclusionary vision of British culture and society
  • Only the Liberal Democrats have explicitly acknowledge the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing and other mass atrocities
  • There is a growing commitment from several parties to halting arms sales to human rights-violating regimes but UK’s obligations to protect civilians go beyond our export policy
  • Only the Liberal Democrats identify the UK’s responsibility to protect populations from these crimes as a party priority
  • All parties except UKIP underline the need for the UK to tackle certain forms of identity-based violence abroad, however many other identity groups and minorities are inevitably being excluded as no lens of identity-based violence prevention is being applied by any of the parties in the formation of their foreign and international development policies
  • All parties save UKIP commit to protecting the 0.7 per cent GNI spend on international development, with UKIP advocating a reduction to 0.2 per cent and closing the Department for International Development

Dr Ferguson said: “The principle taken by many parties against ‘aggressive wars of intervention’ maybe popular but we are concerned by how all parties would protect civilians from the threat of mass atrocities.

“We would have liked to see more commitment to the sense of responsibility to protect all populations – whether here in the UK or overseas – from all forms of identity-based violence. Until this challenge can be viewed holistically, certain victim groups will fall through the gaps.

“We are pleased to see a commitment to social cohesion and the protection of vulnerable groups across the party manifestos. It is absolutely critical that the next UK government put this rhetoric into practice to promote a more unified society in light of the uncertain landscape ahead.”

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