Alistair Burt – 2018 Speech at UK-Lebanon Business and Investment Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, at the UK-Lebanon Business and Investment Forum held in London on 12 December 2018.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am delighted to welcome you to London and to the opening of this Business and Investment Forum.

Last month I had the honour of speaking at Lebanon’s National Day, where among other things we celebrated your 75th anniversary of independence. Prime Minister, the UK was among the first to recognise your country’s independence three quarters of a century ago, and we remain a staunch supporter of Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The relationship between our two countries has never been stronger – UK support to Lebanon is now worth around $200 million per year. We are proud of the work we have undertaken together, which, along with the continued efforts of the Lebanese people, and the support of your many friends in the international community, has helped Lebanon to remain a comparative beacon of calm in a troubled region.

Our growing security partnership has played its part. This includes our support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which has helped to secure Lebanon’s border with Syria for the first time in Lebanon’s history.

Thanks in part to our security cooperation, Lebanon is still the only country – and the LAF the only army – to have successfully repelled an invasion by Daesh.

We remain committed to an enduring security partnership with Lebanon, in the interests of its long term stability and security.

There is no question that the security situation in Lebanon has improved in the last few years. And as security has improved, so too have the opportunities for tourism – as our official Foreign Office travel advice shows.

This week we have lifted our advice against travel to some parts of the country, which means that British tourists are now free to visit such sites as the magnificent Roman ruins of Baalbeck, which I myself was fortunate to see earlier this year. I hope that our revised travel advice will enable many more British visitors to experience the warmth of Lebanese hospitality as I have done a number of times.

The improved security situation also has clear implications for enhancing our mutual prosperity through boosting British tourism in Lebanon, as well as greater business investment, and we have already started to focus more closely on this area. My colleague George Hollingbery, who has just met with HE the Prime Minister, has spoken recently about the impressive cooperation going on right now between British and Lebanese businesses and entrepreneurs, so allow me to focus on the future opportunities.

First, we have just appointed Her Majesty’s first Trade Commissioner for the Middle East, Simon Penney, who made his first successful visit to Lebanon last month. Simon shares my view that there is significant scope and appetite for greater investment in Lebanon.

It’s a view reinforced by the $300 million trade deal being signed between Rolls Royce and Middle East Airlines today.

Lebanon represents a new frontier for investors in search of yield. Last April the Lebanese Government published its Capital Investment Programme, which received great support from the international community at the CEDRE Conference in Paris. Power-generation, Public Transport, Water supply and other projects from the $22bn Programme all offer hefty potential returns for investors.

I very much hope to see UK firms bidding for and winning contracts under this plan in the years ahead.

Lebanon needs to do important things before these investment promises can be fully realised. It has to fulfil its commitments to economic reform, and for that to happen it needs to have a government in place quickly, and one which will be able to swiftly enact crucial confidence-building measures on transparency, fiscal discipline and the ease of doing business. We very much welcome Prime Minister designate Hariri’s efforts in this regard.

I hope that the new administration will be one that is committed to strengthening Lebanese sovereignty and stability, in addition to implementing those important reforms to help boost Lebanon’s economy.

Lebanon’s economy has shown remarkable resilience through external crises, supported by the Central Bank and sophisticated banking sector as a pillar of stability throughout.

And whenever I visit Lebanon, I am impressed by the wealth of talented entrepreneurs whom I meet. Not to mention the mighty successful Lebanese diaspora. I don’t need to tell this audience here that Lebanon’s entrepreneurs have a reputation for being some of the most dynamic and determined in the world. Lebanon’s private sector has always been a resilient engine for growth in Lebanon through thick and thin.

Lebanon has unique features unlike any other. It benefits from a large and resilient remittance base, a large and profitable banking sector and a dynamic private sector that excels in Tourism, Architecture and Construction as well as Wholesale and Retail Trade, and increasingly in pharmacology and technology. Meanwhile the art, design and fashion scene is making an ever more impressive mark; putting Lebanon on the map for all the right reasons.

Now, to capitalise on these strong foundations, in order to address the external and internal economic challenges, the new government must set a roadmap and embark on implementation of the reform commitments set out at the CEDRE conference.

I’m pleased to announce today a new £30million programme to deliver on the UK’s CEDRE pledge. Our programme will provide technical assistance to support the government’s reform vision and will prepare infrastructure projects for the future. Sufficient momentum on these reforms will unlock grant funding for infrastructure, helping to further client investment. Together with the $11 billion pledged by the international community at CEDRE, it will unlock the investment potential in Lebanon’s economy.

As we look to strengthen our trade and investment ties with Lebanon, we are also determined to ensure the continuity of existing trade after the UK leaves the European Union. This means replicating the existing EU-Lebanon Association Agreement, as well as ensuring a smooth transition to new bilateral trading agreements.

This will mean that Lebanese companies can continue to import and export from the UK without disruption, and UK companies can continue to invest in Lebanon. We are working closely and productively with the Lebanese Government to achieve this goal.

Lebanon is a byword for tolerance, resilience and democracy, and the UK is very proud to be her partner. We want Lebanon to flourish long into the future and will remain by her side, supporting her every step of the way.

With an ever-improving security situation and with economic reforms being undertaken under a new government, there will be increasing opportunities for investment in Lebanon. A number of British firms are already seizing those opportunities.

For those of you in the audience who have yet to do so, I would invite you to give Lebanon your very close consideration – and as a personal tip: the wine is very good!

Alistair Burt – 2018 Comments on Ukraine

Below is the text of the comments made by Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 27 November 2018.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stated yesterday, we condemn Russia’s aggression against the Ukrainian vessels that sought to enter the sea of Azov on 25 November. We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of the Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia and call for their release urgently. Russia has again shown its willingness to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, following the illegal annexation of Crimea and the construction of the Kerch bridge.

The United Kingdom remains committed to upholding the rules-based international system, which Russia continues to flout. Our position is clear: Russia’s actions are not in conformity with the United Nations convention on the law of the sea or the 2003 Russia-Ukraine bilateral agreement, which provides free passage in the sea of Azov, including for military ships. The United Kingdom ambassador reiterated that position at emergency meetings held yesterday at NATO, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the UN Security Council.

In response to Russian aggression, the Ukrainian Parliament agreed to impose martial law in 10 Ukrainian regions for 30 days, commencing at 09:00 local time on 28 November. We welcome President Poroshenko’s reassurances that martial law will not be used to restrict the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens, and that full mobilisation will be considered only in the case of further Russian aggression. We also welcome the Ukrainian Parliament’s resolution confirming that presidential elections will go ahead on 31 March 2019.

Alistair Burt – 2017 Speech on Yemen

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the Minister of State for International Development and Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 20 November 2017.

With permission, Mr Speaker I would like to make a statement to the House on the humanitarian and political situation in Yemen and the implications of the conflict for regional security.

Her Majesty’s Government remains deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen and the impact recent restrictions are having on what was already the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and largest ever cholera outbreak.

We recognise the risk of a severe deterioration of the humanitarian situation, if restrictions are not quickly removed and call on all parties to ensure immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies through all Yemen’s land, air and sea ports.

But we should be clear about the reality of the conflict in Yemen. The Saudi-led Coalition launched a military intervention after a rebel insurgency took the capital by force and overthrew the legitimate Government of Yemen as recognised by the UN Security Council. Ungoverned spaces in Yemen are being used by non-state actors and terrorist groups to launch attacks against regional countries, international shipping lanes and the Yemeni people.

As my Rt Hon friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, we strongly condemn the attempted missile attack against Riyadh on 4 November. This attack, which has been claimed by the Houthis, deliberately targeted a civilian area and was intercepted over an international airport.

The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting Saudi Arabia to address its legitimate security needs.

We are therefore deeply concerned by reports that Iran has provided the Houthis with ballistic missiles. This is contrary to the arms embargo established by UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and serves to threaten regional security and prolong the conflict.

I understand that a UN team is currently visiting Riyadh to investigate these reports. It is essential that the UN conducts a thorough investigation. The UK stands ready to share its expertise to support this process.

But Mr Speaker, we recognise that those who suffer most from this conflict are the people of Yemen.

We understand why the Saudi-led Coalition felt obliged to temporarily close Yemen’s ports and airports in order to strengthen enforcement of the UN mandated arms embargo. It is critical that international efforts to disrupt illicit weapons flows are strengthened.

At the same time, it is vital that commercial and humanitarian supplies of food, fuel and medicine are able to reach vulnerable Yemeni people, particularly in the north – where 70% of those in need live.

Even before the current restrictions, 21 million were already in need of humanitarian assistance and 7 million were only a single step away from famine. 90% of food in Yemen is imported and three quarters of that comes via the ports of Hodeidah and Salif. No other ports in Yemen have the capacity to make up that shortfall.

Our NGO partners in Yemen are already reporting that water and sewerage systems in major cities have stopped operating because of a lack of fuel. This means that millions no longer have access to clean water and sanitation, in a country already suffering from the worst cholera outbreak in modern times.

The current restrictions on access for both commercial and humanitarian shipments risk making an already dire situation immeasurably worse for the Yemeni people. We have heard the UN’s stark warnings about the risk of famine.

We call on all parties to ensure immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies to avert the threat of starvation and disease faced by millions of civilians.

We also call for the immediate reopening of Hodeidah port and the resumption of UN flights into Sana’a and Aden airports, as the Foreign Office statement on 15 November made clear. Restrictions on humanitarian flights are causing problems for humanitarian workers, including British nationals, who wish to enter or exit the country.

We have been urgently and proactively seeking a resolution of this situation. Our Ambassador in Riyadh has been in frequent contact with the Saudi Foreign Minister. My Rt Hon friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed the situation in Yemen with the Crown Prince, with whom we have emphasised the urgency of addressing the worsening humanitarian crisis. My Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has spoken to both the UN Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs since about the situation in Yemen since her appointment on 9 November.

We are also continuing to work closely with other regional and international partners, including the UN. On 18 November, my Rt Hon friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the UN Secretary-General. Central to this discussion was how the security concerns of Saudi Arabia can be addressed to enable these restrictions to be lifted. It is vitally important that the UN and Saudi Arabia enter a meaningful and constructive dialogue.

More broadly, we will continue to support the people of Yemen through the provision of lifesaving humanitarian supplies. The UK is the fourth largest humanitarian donor to Yemen, and the second largest to the UN appeal – committing £155 million to Yemen for 2017/18. UKaid has already provided food to almost two million people and clean water to over one million more.

Mr Speaker, the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen is through a political solution. That is why peace talks remain the top priority. The Houthis must abandon pre-conditions and engage with the UN Special Envoy’s proposals.

The UK has played, and continues to play, a leading role in diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution. This includes bringing together key international actors – including the US, Saudi, Emirati and Omani allies – through the Quad and Quint process. We intend to convene another such meeting shortly. It is vital that we work together to refocus the political track.

The UK will also continue to play a leading role on Yemen through the UN. In June, we proposed and supported the UN Security Council Presidential Statement which expressed deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The statement called for an end to the fighting, a return to UN-led peace talks and stressed the importance of unhindered humanitarian access. It is vital that the words of the text are converted into action. The international community’s unified and clear demands must be respected.

I commend this statement to the House.

Alistair Burt – 2017 Speech to UN Security Council on Daesh

Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt to the UN Security Council on 22 September 2017.

Thank you, Mr President. I wanted to begin by thanking Prime Minister Abadi for his statement, and his courage. We know that Iraq and its forces have borne the brunt of the fight against Daesh.

I also want to thank him and his officials for the work they have done with the UK to make this resolution a reality. Mr President, your excellencies I’m delighted to have cast the United Kingdom’s vote in favour of this Resolution and I’m grateful to Council members for their unanimous support for this UK-drafted text.

One year after we gathered on the margins of the last UN General Assembly and promised to do all we could to bring Daesh to justice, this Resolution is a vital step towards achieving that profoundly necessary goal.

And as we vote in this chamber, we think of the people who have suffered so grievously at the hands of Daesh – of the innocents whose homelands were overrun, millions who were forced to flee, suffering inflicted on those who stayed, many of whom were massacred or enslaved, civilians who died in terrorist attacks in Europe and around the world, and of the great cities that were occupied and pillaged and subjected to rule by terror.

There can never be adequate recompense for those who were forced to endure the wanton brutality of Daesh, and the dead will not be brought back, but this Resolution means that the international community is united in our belief that there should, at least, be accountability for those who perpetrated such wicked acts.

The United Nations will now help to gather and preserve evidence of Daesh’s crimes in Iraq. I can announce that Britain will provide £1 million to establish the UN investigative team that will lead these efforts – and I would respectfully encourage other countries to contribute.

Bringing Daesh to justice is only possible because Iraq’s courageous armed forces have liberated one city after another, including Mosul, advancing with the support of many nations, including my own, who have sent their warplanes into action against the terrorists, breaking Daesh’s grip on about three quarters of the Iraqi territory they once occupied.

Wherever Daesh have been driven back in Iraq, the painstaking process of gathering evidence of their crimes can now proceed under the auspices of the UN.

As the United Kingdom Commissioner for the International Commission of Missing Persons, set up after the conflict in former Yugoslavia, it is my hope that some of this evidence will help Iraqi families find out the fate and, even the remains, of their loved ones. Especially in the terrible mass graves which dot the lands which Daesh occupied.

Britain has worked closely with the government of Iraq to bring forward this resolution. And we will continue work alongside the government of Iraq and our partners to implement this Resolution, ensuring that the UN does everything possible to support domestic and international efforts to hold Daesh to account.

And by striving for justice, we shall also be seeking to heal the sectarian divides that Daesh has exploited and inflamed.

The defeat of Daesh as a territorial entity is now within sight, but their downfall will not in itself create peace and stability. Lasting peace will only be secured once we’ve helped Iraq to overcome sectarian division and achieve the national unity that its people deserve.

And justice is an essential requirement for reaching that goal, for it’s justice that leads to reconciliation. And reconciliation is the only way to protect a society, any society, against extremists who would sow hatred and division.

This is why we must help Iraq strengthen its justice system, to ensure all those who commit atrocities in the conflict are brought to justice. In the meantime, we know that bringing Daesh to justice will take time, demanding patience and resolve from us all.

But we owe it to those who have suffered to press ahead, however long the road might be, remembering that many offenders have been prosecuted years after they committed their crimes, as those in Srebrenica will remember.

I will close by reminding the Council of an old phrase: “The millstones of justice turn exceeding slow, but they grind exceeding fine.” Those millstones have begun moving today.

I want to thank my friend the Foreign Minister and the Government of Iraq for our work together in making this resolution a reality. Let us make the consequences of the resolution a reality and bring some justice to those who have suffered for too long.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Alistair Burt – 2016 Speech on Mental Health Services for Young People


Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the Minister for Community and Social Care, on 16 March 2016.

I want to offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone in the audience today.

When I first came to the Department of Health, I wanted my priority to focus on the steady improvement of children’s mental health care, support the sector and bring in new and innovative ways of working – to improve care, to improve the way we work. It is down to your creativity, passion and drive that this priority was not only met but exceeded. So thank you.

Today, we’re at one of our most recognised sporting landmarks, one of the homes of English cricket. I would say ‘the home’ of English cricket, but I think my local club – Blunham Cricket Club – might snatch that title, holding the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous game of cricket; 105 hours, day and night. More impressive than 171 years of cricket play, I’m sure you’ll agree.

But the Oval is also home to one of Historic England’s newest Grade 2 buildings – the Victorian gasworks which overlooks the playing ground. It’s over 160 years old and will now stay intact – a part of the London skyline.

It’s worth thinking about what life was like for a child when the gasworks was built in 1847. Child labour was the norm – children as young as 10 would be sent up chimneys and sent down mines. Put simply, they were denied a childhood. It was only just before the 1900s that children’s mental health was considered a priority by society; young people’s mental health had always existed but it was a 20th century ‘invention’.

Fast forward to 2015: now children have access to education, they are protected from labour, they have their health needs met – children have a childhood. And yet their services still continue to improve.

Almost to the day, we saw the publication of ‘Future in Mind’. It called for a fundamental shift in culture for children and young people’s services, a whole system approach focusing on preventing mental ill health, early intervention and recovery.

You are a large part of this – perhaps the largest part of the solution. You make sure that, if a young person feels insecure, anxious, depressed or feels like they have nowhere to turn, they have a system that they can access, one that gives them the emotional support and mental wellbeing to get through their problems in the right place and the right time.

You’re all enthusiastic, dedicated and passionate people. This enthusiasm has been so important, because even with all of our advancements in care, your job has, often, not been the easiest.

Traditionally, you have been underfunded, under resourced, undervalued. There has been a huge data gap. You have had to deal with old prevalence data and, what’s more, there was no uniform detailed data about services. And the service has been difficult to improve – out of the 1 in 10 young people who have a diagnosable mental health condition, previous estimates state that only 1 in 4 are receiving treatment. Just more of the same is not an option available to us.

We are radically improving all of these aspects of your work, which is what I’m here to talk about today. Since ‘Future in Mind’, we’ve had the all-age Mental Health Taskforce report, which brought this image in to further focus.

It showed us that care needs to be more widely available and people struggle to get the help they need at the right time. Also, despite all our efforts, stigma still is a stain we cannot yet wash off; many people still experience discrimination for the mental ill-health they experience through no fault of their own.

The recent Taskforce’s report put in place, for the first time, a national strategy designed in partnership across the health arm’s length bodies, for work across the system. This wasn’t a case of government deciding among itself what is best then setting the report loose among the sector. Not only does it draw on the experiences of sector leaders, it also focuses on the experiences of over 20,000 people who described the changes they wanted to see, so they could fulfil their ambitions and take their place as equal citizens in society.

And, of course, a huge part of this improvement lies in how we treat children’s mental health. When I met with the Youth Parliament’s Select Committee, they were concerned about this, too. They consulted hundreds of young people across the country and made 17 recommendations on how we could improve care. They wanted doctors to engage more with them and they also wanted to be a part of the solution.

I’m pleased that we have involved children and young people throughout our plans – they need to be included in the development of policy. And in many of the local transformation plans you delivered at the end of last year, it is clear that young people are being involved more than ever before.

Through the plans, every area has committed to working collaboratively to make radical improvements in children and young people’s mental health. Like in Lambeth, they are helping young people with eating disorders. They’re teaching young children about healthy lifestyles as they enter secondary school, they are giving parents more support to understand what their child with an eating disorder might be going through and they’re putting more support in schools, with specially trained nurses to help young people cope.

In Airedale, they are helping young women explain their experience in self-harming to the service through a theatre group. It helps the young people to share their experience in an empowering way, it helps often isolated young women to build friendships and it helps the local service improve the support they offer.

And in North Lincolnshire, they are helping some of the most marginalised children in society get the support they need. There is a unique service helping children in care, working alongside social workers and foster care, to make sure that they get access to the high-quality mental health care they had previously missed. Now, almost two-thirds of children in care have support from CAMHS.

This is exceptional, and shows not only the flexibility and ingenuity of the service but, also, that we continue to progress and improve care.

I am committed to making sure children and young people are given the opportunity to participate at every stage of the transformation programme and, of course, in every aspect of their own individual care. What I am concerned with is making sure that we continue that stride towards progress and we need to approach this in 2 distinct ways. We need to support the workforce and we need to support young people.

So, first, the workforce. Like I said, it’s no secret to anyone in this room that we have a high quality workforce. Through Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Programme, we have spread the use of evidence-based practice.

However, despite the evident skills of each member of staff, young people are sometimes slow to come and seek you out. There are lots of reasons for this, but a large part of the trepidation comes from young people feeling like their needs won’t be understood. Perhaps they see the clinical setting at odds with their world, which is so focused on current culture and technology.

Increasingly, the world they live in is a digital one. On average, young people spend 27 hours a week online – a full extra day – so they are as much a part of their digital world as they are the physical one. Increasingly, their concerns are founded in this digital world – online bullying, self-confidence issues, feelings of isolation. Some of you may have seen the story recently of a boy of 14 who sent an indecent photo of himself to a girl over Snapchat. He was added to a police database and was warned that the information might be disclosed when he applies for jobs.

Even though that image only exists for a few second on the app, it will stay with him for a long time and there is no telling how this action would affect his mental health. Anyone admitting to something like this to their parents would be difficult, but admitting how that makes you feel to a relative stranger may fill him with great anxiety.

The opposite would be true, though. Many practitioners are well versed in popular culture and current technology. But we need to make sure that all staff have the right tools to keep up to date with young people.

Last year, I announced we were developing an expansion to the MindEd online learning resources, exploring the effect of the digital world on young people’s mental health. This was important to young people, as well as a main concern of the Youth Parliament and the Health Select Committee from 2014, who told us professionals do not always understand their digital world and that is was something we really need to do something about.

Today, we are launching that MindEd module. It includes information about digital risks to mental health, such as the effect of cyberbullying, online gaming, and the creation of online identities. It also helps professionals build digital resilience, by referring to relevant services and helping young people identify where the digital world ends and the real world begins. It’s designed – by the MindEd consortium and by Xenzone – for people who work with children.

But we also want to make sure that the service stays creative and cutting-edge. And how do we do this aside from new investment and improved training? We have said that just more of the same is not enough – and how do we get there?

We get there through innovation, which is why we worked with Health Education England to set up an innovation fund especially for the children and young people’s workforce. We were overwhelmed by both the number and quality of applications and are investing over £3 million in over 30 exciting projects that have local, regional or national reach.

The projects vary in size – but they are all unified by the fact they all will have an impact on young people’s lives. Like the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust in Reading, which supports young people with depression and their families. The award they received will help them increase its service to local schools, and provide early intervention and support for young people with mental health issues.

Or the Hearing Services department of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, who will use the award to transform early intervention for mental health and wellbeing for children and young people with difficulties such as hearing loss. Or the Hampshire Children and Adult Mental Health Services, who will launch a new campaign called ‘Mind Your Head’, which involves taking health services out into the community, providing easy access for young people via a mobile health clinic.

These are impressive innovations, and I look forward to seeing how they impact people’s lives. But I also want to make the very mechanics of your job easier. There are still large parts of mental health care that, if explained to the general public, would shock them – of very basic things you need but are managing to work around.

Data is, perhaps, one of the biggest issues. I find it astonishing that you are able to do the good work you do with mental health prevalence data from a time before Facebook. So much in our society has changed since 2004.

But the lack of this basic information means that most planning you do around the level of need of your services is, at best, guess work. I want to put a stop to that, and make sure you have the data you need to work effectively.

We have commissioned a new national prevalence survey of children and young people’s mental health, the first since 2004. It will address that information gap extending to cover conditions and issues that have become more prominent since 2004, like eating disorders, self-harm and the impact of social media and cyberbullying.

The new survey will deliver much-needed information about children and young people’s current mental health – and about their need for mental health services – by summer 2018.

Which brings me on to my second and final point: giving more support directly to children and young people.

It’s been clear to me ever since starting this role, talking to more and more children and young people about their care, is that they want to be involved but, also, they want more control. I am pleased to say that we are now giving them that control.

Through a new online platform, called CO-OP, backed by £1 million of government funding, young people will be able to tell their story about their mental health history and host notes from the clinicians they encounter. This will mean that whenever they meet a new health professional, young people can give them individual access to their mental health history and the professional will be able to continue that person’s care in the most effective way.

Young people will be in control of their data at every stage, and can agree exactly what to share, and with whom. Not only will young people give information to the platform, they will also have access to information about local mental health services and useful self-help apps.

This is an important point – about being in control of their story. When I met with the Youth Select Committee, they wanted to feel more supported to tell their story, a way of making young people more comfortable to be open and honest.

In light of this, the British Youth Council, the Association for Young People’s Health and Youth in Focus are working with us, PHE and NHS England to review the ‘You’re Welcome’ accreditation process and improve the standards. This was also something that the Youth Select Committee made clear to me, too, so we know it means a lot to young people.

Our review is seeking the views of young people and professionals about how services can best support conversations about mental health and other health concerns. I would encourage you all to be a part of this review – your opinions on this matter greatly.

By making our services more accessible and more friendly, we will go some way to tackling one of the biggest problems facing young people’s mental health – stigma.

All of us are striving towards a society where mental health disorders are understood and people can live without stigma. But, in spite of the 91,000 people who have signed up, through Time to Change, to end mental health stigma, it is still far too common.

We, too, are doing our best to tackle this. Last November we funded the largest ever anti stigma campaign for teenagers and the first for parents. Our initial evaluation indicated that the campaign exceeded reach targets and delivered evidence of intended and actual behaviour change.

Teenagers were more likely to talk to their friends about mental health and these attitudes improvements were seen in young men too – who are perhaps the hardest group to reach. This is really encouraging.

Parents, too, said they were more likely to talk to their children about mental health, especially dads. Winning this battle is so important; it is the biggest battle of them all.

We hope that we can continue this important work to change attitudes in a younger age group, so that for the next generation, the taboo of mental ill health is removed.

And, of course, all of you are a huge part of this fight. I have seen the value of your work, not only as a health minister, but as a local MP, too. You have achieved great things through the wide range of services you all represent in a relatively short space of time.

The future of our children and young people’s mental health service is down to you – your work, your dedication, your ingenuity and, of course, your passion for the job, for helping people.

I look forward to working alongside you to not only improve services for young people, to not only bring new and innovative ways of improving children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, but to also make generations of young people secure and happy.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech to the 4th Abu Dhabi Investment Forum


Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, on 17 October 2012.

Your Excellency Sultan Al Mansouri, Your Excellency Nasser Ahmed Alsowaidi, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure to join you for the fourth Abu Dhabi Investment Forum. I am pleased to see such a great turnout for today’s event.

Since being appointed Minister with responsibility for the Middle East over two years ago, I have been fortunate enough to have visited the Emirate of Abu Dhabi four times. Along the way, I have forged some very strong friendships, including with my Emirati counterpart, Dr Anwar Gargash, and I was fortunate to host Nasser Al Sowaidi and the UAE-UK Business Council last May. I would also like to congratulate Nasser Al Sowaidi and Samir Brikho on the great start they have made in the first year of the Business Council.

I have seen firsthand, for example, the huge number of opportunities for British companies in the region. These visits have not only developed relationships, but enabled me to make a serious analysis of our respective opportunities from our enhanced friendships.

Bilateral trade

I will talk about specific sectoral opportunities shortly, but I would first like to outline some of the key trade statistics. Much of this will be familiar to many of you, but these numbers are impressive enough to bear repeating:

Last year the UAE was Britain’s 16th largest export market, and it has been the 13th largest for the first half of this year. Our exports to the UAE were £4.7 billion in 2011, up 21% on 2010. Take into account the size of the UAE’s population – nearly 8 million, which the World Bank ranks as 94th largest in the world – and you get a real sense of how impressive these statistics are.

More than 4,000 British companies are already active in the UAE – from small SMEs to large global multinationals – across a wide range of industry sectors, so you will be in good company if you choose to invest in Abu Dhabi.

The value of bilateral trade between Britain and the GCC countries is worth £20 billion annually – and the UAE accounts for over 50% of that figure, including companies based in Free Zones.

And by the end of this year we estimate that the value of bilateral trade between the UK and the UAE will be around £10.5 billion. We are well on course to meet our ambitious target of increasing the value of trade to £12 billion by 2015, from £7.5 billion in 2009. With its impressive programme of expansion on major infrastructure projects such as healthcare facilities and social housing, Abu Dhabi accounts, and will continue to account, for an increasing share of that sum.

Why invest in Abu Dhabi?

The trend, then, is clear. But why are companies choosing to invest in Abu Dhabi?

A key factor in my mind is the proximity between global markets in the East and West and the very favourable transport links, both across the Gulf and further afield. This, plus the readily available supply of commercial space, well-qualified staff and excellent education system means Abu Dhabi is the ideal place for companies whose longer-term objectives are to expand into other markets.

In short, the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, offers an ideal hub for expansion, in much the same way as we see investment in the UK as also a launch pad for the EU. And we are seeing more and more British companies partner with Emirati ones in third countries such as Korea and Iraq. And I should also make clear the deep relationship between our two governments, our belief in the UAE as a progressive, vibrant, well governed state, a close ally whose society and systems we support, is a further reason for our endorsement of greater trade links between us.

Key sectors

So that is the big picture. But which are the sectors that offer the most potential for UK businesses?

Infrastructure is an obvious focus. As the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, moves away from reliance on oil and gas revenues, we will see a continued drive to develop as a global player in tourism and culture.

Among the most impressive of the current projects in Abu Dhabi is the development of Saadiyat Island into a leading cultural centre. When completed, Saadiyat will be home to a branch of the Guggenheim Museum, The Louvre and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum – the latter in collaboration with the British Museum and designed by Norman Foster. With further plans to develop nine five-star hotels, Saadiyat offers a wealth of opportunities to construction and engineering companies, as well as firms in the creative industries sector. We are working hard to help British companies make the most of these opportunities.

The second area I wanted to highlight is Education. Education is vital for national success, and is one of Britain’s greatest strengths. It is also one of the growth businesses of the future.

The educational links between Britain and UAE are already strong. British institutions like Heriot Watt University, Middlesex University and the London Business School have established campuses. I was delighted to visit the British University of Dubai when I was in the UAE in September, and honoured to address students at the impressive new Sheikh Zayed University campus in Abu Dhabi last October. Both of these experiences convinced me of the enormous potential in this area, and I believe we can do more.

We should pool our assets and advantages for our mutual benefit: that means more Emirati students in the UK; more British students in the UAE; more collaboration between our universities and science parks; and more British companies helping to deliver education on the ground in the UAE.

The final sector I want to highlight is energy. With almost 10% of global supply, a hundred years of known reserves and production of 2.7 million barrels per day, it is clear that the UAE will remain a major player in the oil industry for the foreseeable future.

But the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, is also a leader in the development of alternative energy. The Emerati government has embarked on one of the most ambitious programmes in the world to build a sustainable city. Designed by British architects Foster and Partners, Masdar is being designed and built using the latest technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. And it is home to several companies and research institutes that are pioneering new alternatives to carbon-based fuels.

Britain is well-placed to work with Emirati partners to continue to develop this sector, bearing in mind our notable strengths across all energy industries, including oil and gas, renewables, nuclear and thermal power generation.

These are just a few of the sectors of opportunity in Abu Dhabi – there are plenty more, not least in Financial & Professional Services, Healthcare and the Creative Industries.

How we can help

This government is committed to helping our companies win business overseas. We are absolutely clear that identifying and exploiting business opportunities in overseas markets will help to ensure and quicken the pace of Britain’s economic recovery. If we can show more ambition and create more global companies with British origins, we will cement our position as one of the great global trading nations.

Abu Dhabi can play an important role in this respect, and we are ready to provide assistance. The UK Trade & Investment team at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi is a mix of UK-based and locally-engaged officers, all of whom have a wealth of experience and contacts across the Emirate. So, whether you are looking for advice regarding a market entry strategy, or you need assistance arranging a visit programme when you visit the market, the team will be able to provide you with a tailor-made service.

There are many more expert speakers to follow, so I will wrap things up; but, if I could leave you with one thought, it is that it is important, I think, to remember that the relationship between our two great nations goes back 200 years. The strength of our commercial relations, which has been my focus today, has parallels across the bilateral spectrum – from our political relations to our thriving cultural ties.

I have no doubt that we will continue to strengthen our relationship during the next 200 years.

Thank you and Shukran.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the UK and Israel


Below is the text of the speech made by Alistair Burt, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, at Bar Ilan University in Israel on 10 January 2012.

As Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa my duty requires me to see Israel in rounder terms, not solely for itself, but where it stands in the world and the region.

I want to tell you that the UK believes that Israel has a vital role to play in its region and its world, and that Israel’s well-being matters deeply to us.

We need Israel’s acumen and intelligence; its ability to work at the highest intellectual and technological level to help the world solve its problems, from the economy to climate and environmental change – and its readiness to use its gifts in higher education and intellectual property to help the world progress. Everyone knows that Israeli R&D is world-beating. Israeli inventions are helping to drive the global economy.

Israel’s strength is a regional bulwark for good opposing the threats to itself and its neighbours. Iran does not just threaten Israel. It threatens those who would be Israel’s allies in the Gulf, and in the Arab world who need Israel as part of a common cause against a regime dangerously loose. So we need to be clear – Israel’s strength is not a regional threat, but an anchor of regional stability.

And the world needs Israel’s values, of tolerance and justice, those values clear and strong and rejecting all challenges to them, and those who would corrode them. Because it is more than anything the strength of these values that is the best guarantee of Israel’s place in the world. And any corrosion of these values that would weaken Israel’s place in the world. Do not doubt that the flame and the values of Israel’s foundation lit up hearts and minds many thousands of miles away. It is essential that this land, these gifts, these contributions are used to full effect in the world.

So be in no doubt, as we enter the turbulent waters of 2012 that your values are our values, your strength is our strength, your well-being is our well-being.

And let me also say this Israel has lived with uncertainty and instability since the very beginning and suffered too much from terrorism. We’re dedicating this speech to the memory of the former Israeli ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov, who was victim to a heinous terrorist attack right in the heart of London.

As Jonathan has mentioned, Argov has been described as ‘the perfect diplomat’ with an amazing ability to get on even with those who disagreed with him, always armed with a good sense of humour.

Just a few hours ago, I met with the parents of Daniel Viflic, the Israeli-British teenager who died following a missile attack on a schoolbus in southern Israel in April.

I am in no doubt what insecurity means to the people of Israel.

We’re just 10 days into 2012. The big question on many of our minds is ‘what will this year bring, following the turmoil of 2011?’ An essential aspect of this must be the search for peace with the Palestinians. As Chaim Weizmann once said, miracles sometimes occur, but one has to work terribly hard for them.

The talks that took place in Jordan last week finally ended a protracted impasse. By continuing the process that these talks started, Israel has the opportunity to show political leadership, courage and determination to make real progress towards a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Both sides need to look ahead and identify how we can best bring about the formation of a stable and viable Palestinian state, alongside a safe and secure Israel with internationally-recognised borders. As the Foreign Secretary has said, Israel’s security and the realisation of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary, Israel will be safer when a viable Palestinian state has been achieved. We continue to call for both sides to negotiate an agreement on borders, based on June 4, 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps. This must include security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty but protect Israeli security and prevent the resurgence of terrorism. There must be a just and fair solution for refugees; and agreement on Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. As a friend of Israel, we will continue to urge a return to meaningful negotiations on this basis.

We know it will not be easy. But it is not just Israel that will pay the price if we do not make progress towards peace. The occupation has a daily human cost for the Palestinians of the West Bank. The continuing restrictions have a daily toll on the people of Gaza.

In the West Bank, yesterday, I visited the Qalandiya checkpoint first thing in the morning to see the processes that Palestinians have to go through in order to cross into Israel for work, travel or medical care.

I also made a return trip to Nabi Saleh where the effects of the barrier and the nearby settlement construction are having a detrimental effect on the lives of the villagers.

It must be clear to the leaders on both sides that the current situation is unsustainable – that the status quo cannot continue, or else it will leave an indelible mark two great peoples with enormous potential.

I know that some of you may think that Britain no longer has a right to get involved in this region, after all, the Mandate ended almost 64 years ago.

But Israel-Palestine matters to us. It is the topic that consistently prompts the most heated debates in Parliament. My office is inundated on a daily basis with letters from concerned British citizens who criticise our policy for being too pro-Palestinian, and from just as many who think we’re far too pro-Israeli.

Well, we’re neither. Yes, our interest in this region is partly linked to a sense of historic responsibility. But the reason why we watch everything that happens here so closely is because it matters so much. We care about Israel and Israel’s future too much not to take an interest.

Jerusalem is at the heart of three great religions, and everything that goes on there, no matter how small, has the potential of making an enormous impact. We understand Israel’s bond with Jerusalem as its capital, it is the home of the holiest and most important structures in the Jewish religion.

If a peaceful solution to this conflict that has gone on for too long and already claimed too many lives is to endure, an understanding on Jerusalem will have to be part of the solution.

It is because of these sensitivities that we urge the sides not to take steps that could upset the status quo, and make agreeing a peace even harder. This is why we believe that building beyond the Green Line is not just illegal but counter-productive.

The more settlements that would have to be moved if there was a peace deal, the more families that would have to be uprooted, the harder it becomes to agree that deal.

And the harder it becomes even conduct negotiations with the other side in good faith, because building more and more houses across the Green Line does not show that Israel is absolutely committed to finding a just and lasting solution. It risks sending exactly the opposite signal.

I have to tell you that the absence of progress towards peace, together with the almost weekly announcements of this tender or that planning permission for new building, has a real effect on how the world sees Israel.

There’s a lot of talk of delegitimisation in Britain and elsewhere. And it’s true that there are some people who are implacably opposed to Israel – to Israel’s very existence. There have been since the first days of Zionism, and since Israel’s creation in 1948, and I fear there always will be. There are some of my Parliamentary colleagues who will stand up condemn Israel at any opportunity. But these are not the ones you need to worry about.

The ones you need to worry about are the ones in the mainstream, the centre ground. The ones who used to stand up and support Israel, but now stay silent. Or the ones who used to be silent, but are now critical.

Because opinion is shifting – among my colleagues in Parliament, among the British public, and more widely. It’s not yet catastrophic, and it’s not quick. But it is happening, and you should care, just as I care as someone who has for decades counted himself as an ardent friend of Israel.

We can argue for hours about who is to blame for the failure to make peace. It won’t get us very far, and if you go back far enough some of you might say it’s the fault of the British anyway.

But stepping aside from the blame game, some 25 years in the British Parliament have made me realise that for as long as there is no progress towards peace, and for as long as Israel continues to build across the Green Line, Israel risks losing friends.

There are some areas of disagreement between Britain and Israel. There are also many of major agreement, and close cooperation. A major issue at the top of our shared agenda is of course Iran.

In 2012, we will step up our efforts to stop the Iranian attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. The UK is a leading force in the international campaign to stop the Iranian regime acquiring a nuclear weapon – and arresting a progress which is clearly not intended for purely peaceful purposes. We work closely with Israel on this issue, and it is an extremely important aspect of our bilateral relationship.

No option is being taken off the table, as we pursue our dual-track approach of increasingly tough economic sanctions while remaining open to dialogue with Tehran.

A few weeks ago the British government imposed tough new financial restrictions against Iran. These new sanctions make it illegal for any financial institution in the UK to have any dealings with any institution in Iran, including the Central Bank of Iran. They are the toughest of their kind. And we will build on them, getting others to follow suit. We are working with the EU on sanctions against Iranian oil.

These sanctions are having an impact. The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on oil income; yet production is going down. And Iran is having difficulty refining crude oil and is not getting technology it needs to maintain and develop production. As the pressure continues to rise, the Iranian regime will face the prospect of a choice between its nuclear programme and maintaining its oil income.

There are no guarantees, and I can give no cast iron assurance of success. But I believe sanctions can work, and I know they are for now the best tool we have to achieve our shared goal.

We share Israel’s determination to prevent Iranian proliferation. Israel is not facing the threat of a nuclear Iran alone, and so its efforts must support those of the international community. We will work together to ensure that 2012 is not the year in which Iran realises its nuclear ambitions.

More so than anywhere else in the world in 2011, this region has seen sweeping changes and upheaval on an unprecedented level. Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria. The demand to be heard, the demand for democratic rights and proper representation left the region reeling.

The process that began a year ago in Tunisia, is far from over. It brings risk as well as great opportunity and hope for many people of the countries involved. Though few expected the path to democracy to be smooth, the ongoing struggle for democratic rights in Syria has been harsh and bloody. The demands of the Syrian people for democracy and freedom have been met by brutal reprisals and violent repression by the Assad regime.

This ruthless aggression continued last week even when Arab League observers arrived in the country in an attempt to report independently on the situation. Peaceful and courageous demonstrators are being mowed down by a cruel and brutal regime that refuses to accept the legitimate aspirations of its own people.

Bashar Assad long ago lost whatever remaining legitimacy he may have had. He should step down immediately in the best interest of Syria and the unity of its people.

I know that people here are concerned about what all these changes mean for Israel, for this country’s place among neighbours all of whom have several times been at war with Israel, and tried to destroy Israel even from its earliest days.

I know that as the world has praised the wave of change sweeping across the region, Israel has wondered if the world has succumbed to optimism.

I know that Israelis have watched the Tunisian and Egyptian elections and been concerned that the old regimes would be replaced not by liberal democrats interested in peace, but by hard-line regimes interested in Israel’s destruction.

Israelis have told me that they are asking themselves difficult questions. What will all this mean for borders that have been quiet for so many years? Were they better off having peace deals with leaders who did not represent their own peoples? Is peace even possible now that the new leaders of Israel’s neighbours must reflect the views of their people? Israel is right to ask itself these questions.

Many will argue that because of these regional events, now is not the time to make bold gestures when it comes to making peace with the Palestinians. It is a natural reaction at times of change, particularly change that may be threatening, to take the minimum risks.

But I believe that response would be the wrong one for Israel. If the new political order settles around it at a time of minimum hope in the peace process, then it may well lead to the political leadership of those countries being maximally hostile to Israel.

My advice would be: if you want stability, if you want security, if you want peace with your neighbours, and the best relations with the rest of the world, then making a peace deal with the Palestinians is urgent.

I want to turn now to the broader relationship between the UK and Israel. Last year was a key year for our bilateral relationship.

Legislation was passed that ended the anomaly that allowed people to abuse our court system to get politically-motivated arrest warrants against Israeli officials and military officers for alleged war crimes. The amendment, which was signed into law by the Queen in September, ensures that people cannot be detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution, while ensuring that we continue to honour our international obligations.

We remain committed to ensuring that those guilty of war crimes are brought to justice. The Director of Public Prosecutions must now consent to the issuing of an arrest warrant for crimes of universal jurisdiction, putting an end to requests for warrants where there is no realistic chance of prosecution. This cloud that hung heavily over our bilateral relationship for too long has finally been lifted.

2011 was also a key year for trade and business between our two countries. When the final figures for trade and services for the year come in, we expect them to show a 25% increase on last year, and should reach 7 billion US dollars. We’re breaking records every year, and I am sure that this will continue.

One key development in 2011 was the start of a partnership between Britain and Israel in tech. We believe it is a partnership that could help both sides – the amazing quality of Israeli R&D can help British growth; the strengths of the British economy can help Israeli innovation go global, building using our skills in business development, capital, global reach, scientific prowess, and market access.

Both governments are committed to this partnership, and we have established in the British Embassy a new Tech Hub, a dedicated team tasked with creating lasting partnerships between UK and Israel in areas such as cleantech, biomed and digital technologies.

We have already had a stream of my Ministerial colleagues here leading delegations and demonstrating our support for this partnership. In 2012 there will be many more.

As students, you may well have come across negative reports about the UK’s attitude towards Israel, where universities are portrayed as hotbeds for delegitimisation and boycotts and sanctions against Israel. I know there is an image out there of British universities being hostile to Israel.

One of the reasons I wanted to come here today to talk to you, is to reassure you that this simply isn’t the case. There may be a small, marginal and yes very noisy group who attract a lot of attention every time they suggest boycotting Israeli academics, but in fact, there isn’t a single university in the UK with a policy of boycotting Israel.

When we look behind the sensational headlines and take a look at what is actually going on between our academics – there are groundbreaking projects and collaborations between UK and Israeli researchers, and real warmth and friendship between our universities.

This was evident in November when 60 British academics and researchers from over 20 universities came to Israel for the first UK-Israel conference on regenerative medicine. The conference brought together 250 leading lights from the UK and Israel to discuss this innovative area of medicine in which our countries are at the very cutting-edge of research, and to build connections for future collaborations.

Under the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative, £10 million will be awarded over the next five years to joint research projects bringing together British and Israeli scientists. The scheme gives generous support to joint high quality and ground-breaking UK-Israel research projects, which will have a significant impact on global health, enhance joint research between British and Israeli academic institutions and invest in early stage collaboration between researchers.

But yes, there are a handful of campuses where you have to be confident if you’re going to stand up and defend Israel – but this happens at a small fraction of our institutes of higher learning. The reality is that the vast majority of Jewish and Israeli students who study in the UK have an amazing time.

And so my message to you today is that if you’re thinking of continuing your studies overseas, think UK. Get in touch with the British Council here in Ramat Gan who will help you find the right university, the right course and explain what funding options are open to you.

I can guarantee you that you will have a fantastic experience. We have four of the top ten universities in the world and research facilities that have helped us win more than 80 Nobel prizes for science and technology alone. The UK, like Israel, has a disproportionate number of Nobel prize winners.

We want to see a significant increase in the number of Israeli students studying in the UK over the next year.

Now, before you have the chance to ask me some questions, I want to ask you some. How many of you have been to the UK before? How many of you would like to visit? Well, 2012 is the year to come to the UK. This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II – 60 years of extraordinary service. There will be celebrations throughout the UK this summer to celebrate the Queen’s reign, and the sense of strength and stability that she symbolises, particularly given all the changes that we have seen in this time.

And of course, we’re getting ready to host the greatest show on earth as London becomes home to the Olympic Games for the third time. With just under 200 days to go, the stadiums are ready, the tickets are sold and we’re getting ready to welcome the world.

We look forward to welcoming the Israeli teams to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer and hope that they manage to at least match – but hopefully even improve – on their performance at the Beijing games four years ago.

Whatever else, 2012 is guaranteed to be an historic year for us. Come and discover the many things that have made the UK a great place to live, work, study and visit.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism


The below speech was made by the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, on the 1st November 2012 in London.

Thank you Professor Clary for your kind introduction. And my thanks to the co-chairs of the Global Initiative and our partners in this event, notably Atomic Weapons Establishment, the Ministry of Defence and our colleagues from the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in the United States.

I would first like to extend my appreciation to everyone here for taking the time from your busy schedules join us at Lancaster House to discuss one of the most important issues of our time: nuclear terrorism.

My portfolio as Minister in the Foreign Office covers 32 countries, ranging from the Middle East and North Africa to parts of South Asia. I have responsibility for our Counter-Proliferation, Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Piracy efforts. In the past year I have seen the continuous evolution of security challenges facing the UK; both conventional and non-conventional, domestic and international.

Regional conflict and instability have potential implications for wider peace and stability, which is why the UK’s National Security Strategy identified nuclear terrorism as a primary danger to Britain.

Nuclear terrorism is a real and global threat. A successful attack, no matter where in the world it came, would be catastrophic. Catastrophic for the immediate devastation and terrible loss of life, and for the far-reaching consequences – psychological, economic, political, and environmental.

Such an attack was unthinkable just a generation ago. But it is now a possibility we need to confront with the utmost vigilance.

Nuclear material is becoming more available – partly because more countries are deciding to adopt the benefits of nuclear energy. That is a sovereign right and a positive choice, and one which the UK will continue to support. We also recognise that some countries have chosen not to go down the path of nuclear energy. But this all means that we need together to ensure that, as nuclear materials and technology spread, we keep our people safe and secure.

And in today’s world of modern communication, information is spreading faster. Like nuclear energy, this brings huge benefits, but it also brings significant risks. There is more information about nuclear weapons on the internet than there ever has been.

As is the case in cyberspace, the danger is stateless in geographical space. It is impossible for any national government or police force, no matter how advanced, to contain on its own. Global smuggling networks are thriving. Criminal cells operate across borders and across continents.

So we are here today to renew our drive for the global response we need. We must prevent access to nuclear devices, materials and expertise by those who would seek to do us harm, while not impeding legitimate peaceful uses. Together we can agree and enforce the rules, secure the cooperation, and develop the capabilities and practices, to ensure that a nuclear terror attack never happens.

Our determination to tackle this issue head on is the reason why, at the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Plenary in South Korea last year, we announced that we would host this symposium. It is a clear demonstration of the UK’s commitment to this most important of issues, and our commitment to implementing the founding principles of the Global Initiative.

Six years ago the UK joined the Global Initiative, along with 12 other countries.  We were brought together through the strong leadership of the United States and Russia. Today the Global Initiative membership counts more than 85 nations and four official observers – all committed to strengthening the global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.  Gathered at this symposium are some of the world’s leading experts on non-proliferation, counter proliferation and counterterrorism.
The more I have read about the fight against nuclear material trafficking, the more I have appreciated the real difficulties you are working to address. Detecting the radioactive signature of heavy elements in nuclear contraband is challenging, to say the least.

Your fight against nuclear terrorism has introduced me to a fascinating – and, I must admit, mysterious – world filled with Muons, Cosmic-rays, and Large Hadron Colliders.

The technology has come a long way. From its beginning in 1960s, when the Nobel prize winning physicist, Luis Alvarez, set up Muon detectors in a chamber beneath the second pyramid of Chephron in Egypt to look for hidden chambers.  To the development of Drift Tubes at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and on to the creation of the gas electron multipliers.  Now nuclear detection systems are being developed that only take up a cubic meter of space and can produce three-dimensional images. I do not pretend to understand fully the physics behind these technologies. And indeed, when a Muon was explained to me as a “heavy electron” I recall thinking that I did not find that description particularly illuminating!

But the serious point is that you here turn what sounds to the layperson like science fiction into tangible technologies that will help to prevent nuclear terrorism. Since the issue of illicit trafficking of nuclear material was first recognised the UK has been at the forefront of trying to combat this threat.  And, of course, it was an issue very much at the forefront of our security preparations for our hosting of a successful London Olympics this summer. You will hear more about this, and about the UK’s border monitoring system, Cyclamen, later in this symposium.

Only six months ago I would not have been able to openly discuss Britain’s work on detection as I am doing with you now. But building on the UK’s commitment to openness in this area and the work that we first revealed at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March, I am especially pleased that I can publicly commend and promote the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, or AWE as they are known, for their work in this area. This is a rare opportunity to publically acknowledge that their work has been central to the defence of the United Kingdom for over 50 years.

For example, the creation of a broad programme that covers passive detection, active detection and Muon-based detectors is being led by AWE in partnership with the UK’s world-leading academics.

The programme is delivering a range of prototypes in each area that will allow us to advance our research on this challenging problem. A particular success is the production of a Muon-based detector using novel technologies, providing both a test bed for advanced detection methods and also arms control verification tools. Again, I know you will hear more on this later in the symposium.

In the nuclear forensics domain we have built on AWE’s excellent resources and created a dedicated world-class nuclear forensics analytical capability that will allow the UK to investigate criminal acts involving nuclear materials.

This includes the recently-opened Conventional Forensic Analysis Capability, which allows us, for the first time in Britain, to examine traditional forensic evidence, DNA, Fingerprints, and more, that is contaminated with Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive material.

Let me repeat again that it is a pleasure to be here today. I have learnt a lot in the short time I have had to discuss these fascinating issues.

Ultimately, we are here to help strengthen, widen and deepen the co-operation between our countries to stop nuclear material trafficking.

This symposium is an important contribution to this ambition. It is important not only for the security of our nations, but for the partnership that we are forging across the board to make the world a more prosperous, stable and secure place.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Arab Partnership


The below speech was made by the Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, on the 6th November 2012 at the Foreign Office in London.

Ladies and gentlemen, how nice to see everybody here to celebrate where we are to date with the Arab Partnership and to see so many friends from around the region; Excellencies, colleagues and friends to celebrate with us and I’m delighted to be joined by Alan [Duncan] as  part of it and of course you’ve got the very special speaker [Nesryn Bouziane] in between who speaks with even greater authority than, than Ministers.

I want to say that we feel as Ministers we have the privilege of calling many people in this room partners, those from international and local civil society organisations, think tanks, the media, the private sector as well as colleagues from an array of British Government departments. We’re here because the work we’re doing through the Arab Partnership and Conflict Pool is of vital importance.

The Arab Spring is the beginning of unprecedented change in the Middle East and North African region towards the more open and accountable societies its people so emphatically demand. It’s also of great importance to the United Kingdom. Our security and prosperity on this island are closely linked to the region’s long-term stability but we have never thought that this long-term stability would appear overnight. I don’t agree with those who say the Arab Spring has become a winter. There are challenges: the economic troubles facing some countries in the region, the terrible ongoing violence in Syria – these must be overcome but they’re not the destination of the Arab Spring.

In Egypt under the former President Mubarak could any of us have conceived of a President elected democratically by popular consent? Could we have imagined, just a short time ago the political debate now common in Tunisia under the former President? And without the Arab Spring would Morocco be in the position of having a Prime Minister selected by Parliament? The answer to each of these questions is of course no.

We must take heart in these achievements, not minimise them, but remember that strong institutions like an independent judiciary, a vibrant civil society are the building blocks of democracy. They take generations to build and require constant vigilance to maintain. We must have the strategic patience to partner with the region over the long term to build the institutions needed for the long term stability that will benefit us all.

In the United Kingdom, we’ve stood by reformers in the region from the outset. Two years ago this week, before the Arab Spring began, we established the Arab Human Development Team, now the Arab Partnership Department, to analyse the drivers of discontent in the region. With this analysis in hand in Kuwait in January 2011 our Prime Minister, David Cameron, stepped out ahead of the international community. He pledged to support reformers as they led the momentous changes in their countries.

We can be rightly proud that his blueprint for engagement with the region based on our values and our interests, coupled with the sensitivity to the unique context of each country in the region, has been adopted by leaders worldwide. A clear sign of United Kingdom influencing is in multilateral fora such as the G8 and EU and Alan [Duncan] will speak a little further about that.

In 2011 we committed to add to the United Kingdom Government funds already being spent on conflict prevention in the region, a further one hundred and ten million pounds of Arab Partnership funding over four years to support political and economic reform. I don’t need to make claims about the success of our interventions so far, our partners in the region are already telling us this.

A leading Tunisian newspaper described an Arab Partnership funded project encouraging political debate on Tunisian TV as, I quote, “a possible solution to save a media that was worn out by dictatorship”. An officer in the Lebanese Army paid tribute to training provided through the Conflict Pool for helping save civilian lives and reducing casualties in recent flash points. And, the Moroccan Minister for Youth and Sports described, unprompted, the Arab Partnership as a wonderful opportunity for Arab youth to voice their opinions.

So let’s celebrate success but let’s also prepare for the work there is still to do. Our support cannot and will not stand still. In July, I visited an ongoing Arab Partnership funded project training producers and journalists of Algerian TV, and as we speak BBC veteran, Tim Sebastian, is hosting a televised debate in Cairo on the progress of democracy in Egypt as part of the new Arab debates’ series.

These are just a few examples. Around the room there are those who can speak of many more. We have colleagues from Parliament who are engaged in this work. I see many Ambassadors from the countries with whom we have a close relationship who have been keen partners in this project, who emphasise the way in which this is tailor made to the needs of their own states because that is what we are trying to do.

I am confident that those in the Department and those we partner with have that sensitivity in mind. We hope this will be a further opportunity for continuing progress in the time to come. We’re confident about the building blocks we’ve laid but most of all I’m confident about all the people we work with, their commitment to a region we all love so much, and to a future in which I’m sure so many of us have a perfect stake.

Alistair Burt – 2012 Speech on the Economy of the Maghreb


Below is the text of the speech made by the Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, on 11th July 2012 at Wilton Park.

Thank you Richard for your kind introduction. I am delighted to be back at Wilton Park in support of an initiative in which I hold a strong personal interest. So let me extend my gratitude to the sponsors of this event, Unilever and Shell, whose support and participation are greatly appreciated. Both are major investors in the region and therefore also have a strong interest in its economic development.

At previous conferences, I have been whisked away immediately after having spoken to return to business in London. For this one, I insisted that my diary was kept clear and I am delighted to join you for the whole afternoon and dinner this evening.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the Maghreb on several occasions – most recently a week ago. Before going on trips –usually on the plane journey – I swot up both on the current issues and the historical issues. Reading about the lack of trade within the region today alongside the history of North African cities which acted as a trading hub between Africa and Europe was perplexing.

Every modern day state in the region has an illustrious history of trade and openness, and great cities that act as reminders of this time: Carthage, Casablanca, Misrata, Nouadhibou, and Tlemcen.

From these thriving organs of trade came the tolerant civilisation of Muslim Spain and the great centres of learning in Fez, Tunis and elsewhere. In the 14th century whilst Europe was still in the Dark Ages, the historian Ibn Khaldun and the great traveller Ibn Battuta personify the intermingling of knowledge and commerce where people freely traded and travelled.

We live in very different times. But I am convinced that the region, which we now call the Maghreb, can be one of openness, tolerance, trade and prosperity. And that is why we are here today.

The Big Picture

This conference takes place in the context of momentous economic change. The world is still reeling from the aftershocks of the 2007 Financial Crisis – the ‘Credit Crunch’.

In the Eurozone, anxiety about the scale of national debts is plaguing the markets and shaking the very foundations of the European Monetary Union. This is having a chilling affect well beyond Europe, as previously booming economies are slowing down.

However, there is a much deeper and more profound trend at large: the shift of economic power from established – predominantly Western – economies, to rapidly-developing economies outside the G8.

These emerging markets are extremely diverse but all have in common one ingredient of success: free trade and investment. They have managed to harness the opportunities of globalisation to catch up with the developed economies. They have imported knowledge, expertise and ideas and have exported manufactured goods, services, and natural resources.

People talk of the ‘BRICS’, but the phenomenon is far wider than this small grouping. Ethiopia grew at 7.5% last year despite the global economic troubles. Turkey grew at 8.5%. Mongolia at 11.5%. Ghana: 13.5%.

As wealth becomes more evenly spread across the world, the global balance of power shifts. In my lifetime, I have witnessed the transition from the bipolarity of the Cold War to the unipolarity of the turn of the millennium. And now, we are all witnessing a new transition taking place to a more multipolar world order.

Different regions are taking these responsibilities on themselves, and are doing so with increasing success. The EU is taking increasing responsibility for stabilisation in the Balkans. The African Union is taking increasing responsibility for stabilisation in Sudan and Somalia. The Arab League has taken the lead in trying to bring stability to Libya and Syria and the GCC has brokered a deal in Yemen. ASEAN has built a prosperous and peaceful community of states in a historically troubled region.

But regional cooperation has not been limited to security. Having stable environments has presented neighbouring countries with opportunities to exploit their geographic proximity for economic gain through trade and investment.

There are the obvious examples of the European Single Market, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the ASEAN Free Trade Area – to name only a few.

But all over the world, there are examples of countries lowering tariffs between one another, and encouraging flows of goods and capital; from South Korea and Singapore, through India and Sri Lanka, to Mexico and Colombia.

And economic links, in turn, reinforce stability among trading partners. This virtuous circle is a means of transcending the first trend that I mentioned – of current global economic stagnation – and amplifying the second trend – of high growth in emerging markets.

Curiously, there is one conspicuous exception – one region that has not yet opened up to the opportunities of regional trade, investment, and coordination. That is why we are all here today.

Government’s approach to the wider region

When this government came to power over two years ago now, our central foreign policy commitment was that we would engage more with the emerging powers and high-potential regions of the world. We wanted to take advantage of the shifts in economic and political power to build new, productive trading partnerships and more diverse political alliances.

It is in this context that our attention turned to our southern neighbourhood. We assessed that the Middle East and North Africa had huge economic and political potential.

So in the autumn of 2010 – before the death of Mohammed Bouazizi – we set up a new team in the Foreign Office to plan and implement strategy of re-engagement with the region. Its objective was to work with governments in the region to develop the building blocks of more open, free societies, underpinned by vibrant economies.

I won’t claim that we predicted the Arab Spring. But in many ways, the movements for political change that erupted at the beginning of 2011 vindicated our approach and caused us to accelerate our engagement.

Soon after, the British government committed £110 million over four years through our Arab Partnership initiative to support reform in the wider region. This has already underwritten projects to increase political participation, and to equip young people with the skills that they need to get good jobs and contribute to their countries’ development.

We pushed last year for a more ambitious EU offer to the region. The EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy Review now offers unprecedented access to the Single Market for the best performers across the Middle East and North Africa through Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. This could provide a powerful economic boost. I know that groundwork is already being done with Tunisia and Morocco. And we sincerely hope that their neighbours will not be far behind.

We also inherit the G8 presidency next year. We are already developing ideas to ensure that the Deauville Partnership, and the separate G8-BMENA process, to work together to encouraging more open and inclusive societies in the region, with greater prosperity and economic growth.

Rationale for our support

Let me be very clear; our political and financial support is not philanthropy. Our own interests are intertwined with those of the region, especially the Maghreb. It is on the doorstep of Europe, with which it shares intimate ties.

European security depends on the security and stability of its neighbourhood. The security and stability of its neighbourhood depends on that neighbourhood’s economic prospects.

But we also have an economic interest ourselves. As I have explained, trade is not a zero sum game. Globalisation means that growth in one region can be shared in other regions. The trend of interconnectedness which I described earlier will only intensify over time.

Europe’s own growth depends on trading with other fast-growing markets. It is in our interests to have dynamic and developing economies on our doorstep – especially if we already have close cultural and social links to them.

We see huge potential for success in your region. And we want to support and share that success.

It is already a region of diverse strengths: some of its countries have an abundance of natural resources, others have an abundance of skilled labour; some have rapidly developing financial and services sectors, others have strong manufacturing bases; some have significant tracts of arable land, and others have significant tracts of land ripe for solar energy generation. All have ambitious and capable youth.

But it is not just the endowments of the region that are impressive; it is the abundance of opportunities to exploit those endowments further. Some bemoan the fact that that the Maghreb is the least economically integrated region in the world. It is true that trade within the region accounts for less than 4% of the region’s total trade, which is amazingly low.

But this low base shows just how much potential there is for development. Increased integration would help each country to concentrate on its own areas of strength while benefitting from the strengths of its neighbours in other areas.

Consumers, producers and providers of services could all benefit. Greater integration would enlarge companies’ markets, allow them to take advantage of economies of scale, and encourage them to become more competitive.

And I have spoken to companies here in Britain who would be extremely keen to invest in the region if those investments gave them access to a wider market.

Political reforms have provided the impetus and opportunity for deep and meaningful economic change. And political engagement over the last few months between leaders in the region is encouraging. In particular, the discussions in February between Foreign Ministers at the first Arab Maghreb Union meeting in sixteen years were an important step. As, I am sure, has the meeting held on Monday. The Heads of State summit in October will be a momentous occasion and a real signal of intent.

The UK and the Maghreb Economy

I hope that this conference will convince the leaders taking part in the summit that they have the full support of the UK, Europe and the wider international community. I hope too that you all will be able to develop a common understanding of which measures are possible, which are desirable, and how those measures can be implemented.

This will also be an opportunity for our friends of the Maghreb to explain their region to a wider and more global audience than is often the case. And this is to my knowledge the first time that the British government has held an event on this subject and your region.

We are here to provide an open-minded and creative environment to discuss the challenges that you wish to discuss. Our hope is that this setting will encourage you to think big; to put issues on the table; to fly kites and see where the wind takes them.

In keeping with this, I have temporarily given my blog page on the Foreign Office website to Professor Boutheina Cheriet (SHER-I-YE) from the National Graduate School for Political Science, in Algiers, who has written very thought provokingly about some of the themes of this conference.

I encourage you to read his piece and offer your thoughts and impressions both on the issues being discussed and on the conference more widely – there are copies here as well on the website. I will also be contributing a blog after the event, and am keen to continue our conversation online.

Your stability and economic success directly affects our security and prosperity. We want to see your young men and women in our universities, we want to see your goods in our shops and we want your entrepreneurs to set up the European headquarters of their companies in our cities.

And I feel we have a lot to offer. London is the prime world meeting place for global investors. And given our position on the governing bodies of almost all relevant international institutions, we have the power to convene.

We want to learn: learn about your aspirations; learn about your problems; learn about how we can most effectively support you.

The Wilton Park Conference

So, I feel that this conference has some immensely important questions to answer:

Is everyone agreed that a more integrated approach to the economy of the Maghreb is urgent?

What steps need to be taken in order to capitalise on current momentum and increase the flow of goods, people and ideas between countries in the region?

Where might the international community best be able to provide assistance?


Integration and cooperation can only be achieved through consultation and dialogue. I am delighted that significant leaders in businesses and politics are here today to stimulate the debate.

We share a stake in your future. It is a real honour for us to support you as you tell us your hopes and plans.

I hope that this conference will help to develop shared understandings of the opportunities and challenges of the region. We need a shared vision for the Maghreb.