Jeremy Browne – 2012 Speech on Business and Human Rights

jeremybrowne

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Browne, the then Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on 6 July 2012.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and for such a generous breakfast!

I am absolutely thrilled to be back in Hong Kong and, in particular, to be speaking again at an event organised by the British Chamber of Commerce.

This is my third visit to Hong Kong as a Foreign Office Minister. It is no accident that I am such a regular visitor: today, Britain is looking East like never before. As I mentioned last time I was here, we are setting our country firmly on a path to far closer ties with countries across Asia over the next twenty years. We want Britain to be a leading partner with Asia in developing a prosperous future, in trade and commerce, in culture, education and development and in foreign policy and security.

And we are serious about this, which is why we are adding sixty new jobs to our diplomatic network in China, and targeting a 40% increase in the number of Chinese speakers in the Foreign Office by 2015. I think there is a real opportunity this year, as we inherit the Olympic Baton, to drive forward the UK’s relationship with China. We look forward not only to welcoming Chinese athletes to the UK, but also Chinese businesses and spectators. We will also host a special event at the British Business Embassy during the London Games focused specifically on China – one of only two such events. China’s economic development will see more demand for the advanced services the UK is well-placed to provide. In return, there are significant opportunities for Chinese companies to invest in the UK.

So China remains a top priority for Britain. And Hong Kong is a uniquely important partner for us – as a place where we enjoy such special connections, and such strong ties in business, education and culture. It is particularly exciting to be here during the first week of the new Administration under Chief Executive C Y Leung. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have congratulated him on his appointment. And there is clearly lots we can work on together. I am looking forward to discussing this with the new Secretary for the Administration when I see her later today.

When I was here last year, I spoke about Britain’s relationship with China and how Hong Kong fitted into this, particularly in terms of our business links.

But I thought we could take a slightly different approach this time around. I want us to talk this morning about how my Government is aligning its commitments to business and human rights. So I hope over the next fifteen minutes or so to answer the following questions: do human rights matter to business?; and, if you agree with me that they do, what does that mean for businesses?

Business and human rights

There is, I will not deny, a lot of scepticism around the commitment of governments and businesses to human rights. I understand that scepticism. But I don’t buy it. Simply put, respecting human rights, and promoting respect for human rights, is a win-win-win. It’s good for people, it’s good for business, and it’s good for governments.

Let me first consider the perspective of my own Government. Why have we put values like human rights at the heart of our foreign policy? There’s the obvious moral argument – that it is the Right Thing To Do. As the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said: “The belief in political and economic freedom, in human rights and in the rule of law, are part of our national DNA.”

But it’s also in Britain’s national interest. In the long run, states that respect human rights are more stable, less prone to conflict. In the long run, states with transparency and the rule of law are likely to be more prosperous; to provide more innovative, entrepreneurial markets for us to operate in. So it helps our security, and our prosperity. Just take North and South Korea as an example: the North is a security threat to the region and offers few trade prospects; the South is stable, and an important global trading partner with states all around the globe, not least the UK. We would rather inhabit a world of South Koreas than North Koreas.

This analogy works for business too. There is, first and foremost, a clear moral imperative that businesses feel as much as states do. But it is also a question of what is in your interests: in which world would you prefer to work? Surely it is easier and less risky for you to operate in countries with transparent regulation, freedom of expression, the rule of law and good governance.

And it is precisely those qualities that make Hong Kong such a good place to do business. Stability and freedom increase the chances of dispute resolution and protection for capital and intellectual assets. They breed creative, free-thinking individuals that can grow businesses – the sort of people that many of you here today will work alongside, or strive to work alongside. It is in the interest of businesses to have more liberal markets in which to operate.

That may seem to some of you to be a rather long-term argument. So let us consider too some of the more immediate benefits for companies that take human rights seriously.

For one, consumers – your customers – increasingly expect it. I believe we are seeing a shift towards a more ethically aware and discerning consumer, a shift we have seen over the past two decades or so on environmental policy. And no-one knows better than you how important human rights issues are to the people of Hong Kong.

This is one of the reasons why many companies in the clothing industry, for instance, have modified their supply chains to guard against the use of child labour. Reputational damage is a real risk in the modern market of ethically discerning consumers, and companies have been slammed in the past by allegations of complicity in human rights abuses (Nestle, Nike, Gap, Primark).

Nor is it just consumers. Institutional investors such as pension funds and mutual wealth funds are increasingly taking companies’ ethical standards into account when making investment decisions. The same can be said of shareholders. Employees are more likely to be motivated to work for ethical companies. And by taking a human rights-conscious approach to business, you are reducing the risk of costly and damaging litigation.

All of this is more relevant than ever. In a world of Facebooks, YouTubes and Googles – of social media and 24 hour news – companies are under the spotlight as never before. Just think of executive pay, which has been in the UK headlines – and which has led to the resignation of leaders of some of our biggest businesses, in the face of moral outcry over the size of salaries and bonuses.

So it makes sense, then, for governments and businesses to work together not only to respect human rights and ethical ideals, but to also spread respect for human rights.

And I think I can say with some confidence that, actually, business wants to do this. Today, there are countless examples of good practice across the business spectrum – half of the companies in the FTSE 100 already have human rights policies in place. And I know that your own Chamber is taking a growing interest in these issues.

The Guiding Principles

Indeed, it would surprise some if I were to tell them that businesses have been asking, like civil society, for guidance on where and how human rights fit in with the work they do.

This is why the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in June last year is so important. Some of you may have heard of these already – but for the benefit of those who haven’t, the Guiding Principles have created a new common standard for business activity.

They help you to raise human rights standards in the countries you operate in – which benefits all of us. They provide guidance so you can demonstrate to consumers and investors that you are behaving in an ethical way. They remind you of your legal obligations as businesses, to help mitigate litigation and reputational risks. And by complying – and showing that you are complying – with recognised standards, they help you to attract and retain good staff, increase their motivation, and limit staff turnover and sickness absence.

So this is not about clogging up or constraining businesses, which are central to our prosperity. It is about levelling the playing field for businesses; mitigating against companies undercutting others by using unethical practices. It is about helping businesses to be aware of their legal obligations; helping them to demonstrate their ethical standards, to their reputational benefit.

What the UK is doing to help

The Guiding Principles are here to stay. They will be widely accepted, implemented and maintained. With that in mind, we are about to introduce a Government strategy on business and human rights – in part to ensure that we can more effectively examine our own record. And through working with other like-minded countries, including our EU partners, we are pushing for the wider international community to do more. It is important that we encourage other states to do what we are doing. It is, after all, ultimately for states to protect the human rights of people within their territory. This is not just an initiative that puts the onus only on businesses.

That being said, we are also doing what we can to support British companies like yours to ensure that you are aware of the Principles and understand what they mean for you.

As a first step, we are ensuring that our staff across the globe – including Andrew’s team here at the Consulate-General in Hong Kong – will be able to provide you with the guidance you need. We are updating our Overseas Business Risk Service, the joint FCO-UK Trade and Investment website that some of you may already be familiar with. And we are improving the way we signpost businesses to other resources.

I am confident that in taking these steps we will do our part – and help you do yours – to mainstream the Guiding Principles.

So it’s clear, I think, that respect for human rights is as crucial in the business world as it is outside of it. I believe that we are seeing a new trend emerging globally, with greater expectations of businesses on human rights. It may seem a long way off in some parts of the world, including in China. But if we can work together – as governments, businesses and indeed civil society – we can create a better environment that benefits all of us.

I have explained to you this morning why I think all of this is important, and what the British Government is doing about it. But now over to you: I’m interested in hearing your own views on the opportunities to take forward this agenda here in Hong Kong.

Jeremy Browne – 2013 Speech on Female Genital Mutilation

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Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Browne on 6th February 2013 on the subject of female genital mutilation.

In my lifetime, the role of women and girls in British society has been transformed. There has been an emancipation revolution.

Many of these changes have been legal. It seems remarkable today to reflect that, until 1975, women were not allowed to buy a house without financial guarantees being provided by a man, typically their father or husband.

Other changes have been cultural. It is extraordinary, for example, that until 1972 a female diplomat in the foreign office was required to resign if she got married.

As each of these barriers to female attainment has been removed, women have capitalised on the opportunities that equality has afforded them. In virtually every walk of life now it is wholly unremarkable to see women in positions of high responsibility.

Indeed, in many informal respects, women have moved beyond parity and are succeeding in greater numbers than men. In a complete reversal from a generation ago, for example, girls now outperform boys at school.

This is the emancipation revolution. After thousands of years of female disadvantage, this virtuous upheaval in our society has happened in just a few decades.

It is exhilarating for all true liberals who believe, as I do, that every person should have the freedom to be who they are, and the opportunity to be everything they could be.

That is the liberal society

But it is not, if we are honest and blunt, the reality for every woman and girl in Britain. The emancipation revolution should apply universally. It should benefit everyone. But it does not.

There are thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of women and girls in Britain who do not enjoy the benefits of living in our liberal society.

That is not because of some accident or oversight. It is much worse than that. It is because of a deliberate rejection of the emancipation revolution and the equal opportunities now afforded to women and girls.

I am standing before you this evening to say, unequivocally, that this situation is wrong.

It is unacceptable for the individual women and girls whose freedom and opportunities are stifled. And it is wrong for our society. There cannot be a pick-and-mix approach to living in a benign liberal country. The benefits must be universal, without exceptions or exemptions.

I do not believe that cultural relativism provides an excuse to opt-out of our shared liberal social settlement. Everyone should enjoy the freedom to make their own choices, without the fear of social coercion.

Let me spell out some examples of what I mean. Forced marriage has no place in our benign liberal society. The victims are overwhelmingly young women and girls. Like everyone else they should be free to marry who they wish. Or not to marry at all. That is their decision. And that is why we will be criminalising forced marriage.

We should also make clear our collective repulsion about so called ‘honour crimes’. The victims are also nearly always vulnerable young women and girls. What possible honour can there be in murder, rape or kidnap? None, and it has no place in our society.

And that takes me to the subject that brings us together this evening: female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation is abhorrent

Sewing up a young girls’ vagina or cutting a five year-old’s clitoris is just plain barbaric.

Looked at in these simple, stark terms, I would hope and believe that when front-line professionals came across such a brutal process – particularly when such violence is practiced against children – they would do everything in their power to first and foremost protect the victim and then help bring the perpetrator to justice.

And yet……

According to a study based on census data, there are around 20,000 girls in Britain who are at risk of female genital mutilation. One hospital in North London alone has recorded 450 cases of female genital mutilation in the last three years. But despite female genital mutilation being illegal for 25 years, there has still not been a single prosecution.

Something does not add up

I can only conclude that there is nervousness amongst some professionals to confront the practice of female genital mutilation head on. That it is viewed as an exotic or unusual custom practiced by a culture they should not intrude upon. That there is a cultural relativism that leads them to excuse what is being done to other people’s daughters when they would never allow it to be done to their own.

That those professionals are somehow not seeing female genital mutilation for what it really is. Because what it is, categorically and unequivocally, is child abuse.

It can never be excused or ignored and it should be treated in the same way as any other form of child abuse.

I want to urge anyone who has real concerns that a girl may be at risk of female genital mutilation to report it – just as they would report their concerns about a child at risk of any other form of child abuse. To do so is not cultural persecution; it is not racial or religious intolerance; it is about promoting child protection.

That is my message to frontline professionals – in hospitals, in schools, in social services departments – report your concerns to the police. All the safeguarding guidelines and legal frameworks that exist to tackle child abuse apply to tackling female genital mutilation. The law is on your side.

If we overcome misplaced cultural sensitivities; if guidelines are followed and if the law is enforced then we will finally see a prosecution of this heinous crime. A prosecution will send a vital and strong message to perpetrators that we will not tolerate this abuse, and if the law is ignored then there will be legal consequences.

But enforcing the law is only one way of protecting the health and well being of future generations. Fundamentally we also need to change values and beliefs. We need to ceaselessly work to encourage everyone to appreciate and embrace the basic principle that women and girls have an equal stake in our society to men and boys.

There is no opt-out clause when it comes to equality for women and girls in a liberal society. Customs and traditions can no longer be used as an excuse or a shield for people who are shunning the values that the rest of our society have embraced.

The emancipation revolution is universal, and women and girls, regardless of their background or culture, are entitled to exactly the same protections, freedoms and privileges as their fathers and brothers.

Jeremy Browne – 2012 Speech in Hong Kong

jeremybrown

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Browne in Hong Kong on 6th July 2012.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and for such a generous breakfast!

I am absolutely thrilled to be back in Hong Kong and, in particular, to be speaking again at an event organised by the British Chamber of Commerce.

This is my third visit to Hong Kong as a Foreign Office Minister. It is no accident that I am such a regular visitor: today, Britain is looking East like never before. As I mentioned last time I was here, we are setting our country firmly on a path to far closer ties with countries across Asia over the next twenty years. We want Britain to be a leading partner with Asia in developing a prosperous future, in trade and commerce, in culture, education and development and in foreign policy and security.

And we are serious about this, which is why we are adding sixty new jobs to our diplomatic network in China, and targeting a 40% increase in the number of Chinese speakers in the Foreign Office by 2015. I think there is a real opportunity this year, as we inherit the Olympic Baton, to drive forward the UK’s relationship with China. We look forward not only to welcoming Chinese athletes to the UK, but also Chinese businesses and spectators. We will also host a special event at the British Business Embassy during the London Games focused specifically on China – one of only two such events. China’s economic development will see more demand for the advanced services the UK is well-placed to provide. In return, there are significant opportunities for Chinese companies to invest in the UK.

So China remains a top priority for Britain. And Hong Kong is a uniquely important partner for us – as a place where we enjoy such special connections, and such strong ties in business, education and culture. It is particularly exciting to be here during the first week of the new Administration under Chief Executive C Y Leung. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have congratulated him on his appointment. And there is clearly lots we can work on together. I am looking forward to discussing this with the new Secretary for the Administration when I see her later today.

When I was here last year, I spoke about Britain’s relationship with China and how Hong Kong fitted into this, particularly in terms of our business links.

But I thought we could take a slightly different approach this time around. I want us to talk this morning about how my Government is aligning its commitments to business and human rights. So I hope over the next fifteen minutes or so to answer the following questions: do human rights matter to business?; and, if you agree with me that they do, what does that mean for businesses?

Business and human rights

There is, I will not deny, a lot of scepticism around the commitment of governments and businesses to human rights. I understand that scepticism. But I don’t buy it. Simply put, respecting human rights, and promoting respect for human rights, is a win-win-win. It’s good for people, it’s good for business, and it’s good for governments.

Let me first consider the perspective of my own Government. Why have we put values like human rights at the heart of our foreign policy? There’s the obvious moral argument – that it is the Right Thing To Do. As the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said: “The belief in political and economic freedom, in human rights and in the rule of law, are part of our national DNA.”

But it’s also in Britain’s national interest. In the long run, states that respect human rights are more stable, less prone to conflict. In the long run, states with transparency and the rule of law are likely to be more prosperous; to provide more innovative, entrepreneurial markets for us to operate in. So it helps our security, and our prosperity. Just take North and South Korea as an example: the North is a security threat to the region and offers few trade prospects; the South is stable, and an important global trading partner with states all around the globe, not least the UK. We would rather inhabit a world of South Koreas than North Koreas.

This analogy works for business too. There is, first and foremost, a clear moral imperative that businesses feel as much as states do. But it is also a question of what is in your interests: in which world would you prefer to work? Surely it is easier and less risky for you to operate in countries with transparent regulation, freedom of expression, the rule of law and good governance.

And it is precisely those qualities that make Hong Kong such a good place to do business. Stability and freedom increase the chances of dispute resolution and protection for capital and intellectual assets. They breed creative, free-thinking individuals that can grow businesses – the sort of people that many of you here today will work alongside, or strive to work alongside. It is in the interest of businesses to have more liberal markets in which to operate.

That may seem to some of you to be a rather long-term argument. So let us consider too some of the more immediate benefits for companies that take human rights seriously.

For one, consumers – your customers – increasingly expect it. I believe we are seeing a shift towards a more ethically aware and discerning consumer, a shift we have seen over the past two decades or so on environmental policy. And no-one knows better than you how important human rights issues are to the people of Hong Kong.

This is one of the reasons why many companies in the clothing industry, for instance, have modified their supply chains to guard against the use of child labour. Reputational damage is a real risk in the modern market of ethically discerning consumers, and companies have been slammed in the past by allegations of complicity in human rights abuses (Nestle, Nike, Gap, Primark).

Nor is it just consumers. Institutional investors such as pension funds and mutual wealth funds are increasingly taking companies’ ethical standards into account when making investment decisions. The same can be said of shareholders. Employees are more likely to be motivated to work for ethical companies. And by taking a human rights-conscious approach to business, you are reducing the risk of costly and damaging litigation.

All of this is more relevant than ever. In a world of Facebooks, YouTubes and Googles – of social media and 24 hour news – companies are under the spotlight as never before. Just think of executive pay, which has been in the UK headlines – and which has led to the resignation of leaders of some of our biggest businesses, in the face of moral outcry over the size of salaries and bonuses.

So it makes sense, then, for governments and businesses to work together not only to respect human rights and ethical ideals, but to also spread respect for human rights.

And I think I can say with some confidence that, actually, business wants to do this. Today, there are countless examples of good practice across the business spectrum – half of the companies in the FTSE 100 already have human rights policies in place. And I know that your own Chamber is taking a growing interest in these issues.

The Guiding Principles

Indeed, it would surprise some if I were to tell them that businesses have been asking, like civil society, for guidance on where and how human rights fit in with the work they do.

This is why the adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in June last year is so important. Some of you may have heard of these already – but for the benefit of those who haven’t, the Guiding Principles have created a new common standard for business activity.

They help you to raise human rights standards in the countries you operate in – which benefits all of us. They provide guidance so you can demonstrate to consumers and investors that you are behaving in an ethical way. They remind you of your legal obligations as businesses, to help mitigate litigation and reputational risks. And by complying – and showing that you are complying – with recognised standards, they help you to attract and retain good staff, increase their motivation, and limit staff turnover and sickness absence.

So this is not about clogging up or constraining businesses, which are central to our prosperity. It is about levelling the playing field for businesses; mitigating against companies undercutting others by using unethical practices. It is about helping businesses to be aware of their legal obligations; helping them to demonstrate their ethical standards, to their reputational benefit.

What the UK is doing to help

The Guiding Principles are here to stay. They will be widely accepted, implemented and maintained. With that in mind, we are about to introduce a Government strategy on business and human rights – in part to ensure that we can more effectively examine our own record. And through working with other like-minded countries, including our EU partners, we are pushing for the wider international community to do more. It is important that we encourage other states to do what we are doing. It is, after all, ultimately for states to protect the human rights of people within their territory. This is not just an initiative that puts the onus only on businesses.

That being said, we are also doing what we can to support British companies like yours to ensure that you are aware of the Principles and understand what they mean for you.

As a first step, we are ensuring that our staff across the globe – including Andrew’s team here at the Consulate-General in Hong Kong – will be able to provide you with the guidance you need. We are updating our Overseas Business Risk Service, the joint FCO-UK Trade and Investment website that some of you may already be familiar with. And we are improving the way we signpost businesses to other resources.

I am confident that in taking these steps we will do our part – and help you do yours – to mainstream the Guiding Principles.

So it’s clear, I think, that respect for human rights is as crucial in the business world as it is outside of it. I believe that we are seeing a new trend emerging globally, with greater expectations of businesses on human rights. It may seem a long way off in some parts of the world, including in China. But if we can work together – as governments, businesses and indeed civil society – we can create a better environment that benefits all of us.

I have explained to you this morning why I think all of this is important, and what the British Government is doing about it. But now over to you: I’m interested in hearing your own views on the opportunities to take forward this agenda here in Hong Kong.

Jeremy Browne – 2012 Speech on Human Rights and the Olympics

jeremybrown

Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office Minister, in London on 29th August 2012.

I would like to welcome you all to this event today.

I should welcome in particular our keynote speaker, Tara Flood, Chief Executive of the Alliance for Inclusive Education, and gold medallist in the 50-metre breaststroke at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona. As well as an outstanding Paralympic athlete, Tara is a tireless campaigner for disability rights, so it is a privilege to have her with us today.

I am also pleased to welcome the Brazilian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr Roberto Jaguaribe; the Vice Minister of Culture from Korea, Mr KIM Yong-hwan; and the Federal Ombudsman (also President of the National Paralympic Committee) from Russia, Mr Vladimir Lukin.

We are gathered here in the Durbar Court to announce a Joint Communique agreed by the United Kingdom, Brazil, Russia and South Korea. The Communique commits each of us to harness the vast potential of sport, through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to promote respect for human rights internationally.

Sport can be a hugely effective driver for change. It promotes inclusivity, bringing people together to interact, co-operate and strive to achieve common goals. It can reach out to a diverse cross-section of society and connect and integrate people, regardless of background.

Just think of how football has changed attitudes towards race in Britain over the last few decades. Talented players from black and other ethnic communities, and work by football authorities, clubs and campaigns like ‘Kick It Out’ and ‘Show Racism the Red Card’, have made a huge contribution to tackling discrimination. Think of how the Paralympic Games have showcased to a global audience the achievements of disabled people – demonstrating that we should all be judged not by what we cannot do, but what we can.

Sport can transform the lives of girls and women. It can encourage women’s equal participation in society, build strong leadership and decision-making skills and help to change social attitudes.

These Games have been the first Olympics at which women from all participating countries had the opportunity to take part. It was truly inspiring to see Sarah Attar being cheered home in the 800 metres, the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in Olympic track and field. And we will never forget Nicola Adams of Team GB, who became the first woman to win Olympic gold in boxing – from which women had been excluded previously.

But sport can do even more. It can help to revitalise disadvantaged areas. It helps foster development and education for young people. It promotes good health.

And, of course, sport encourages the principles of fair play, teamwork and hard work. It creates role models. Think of Mo Farah crossing the finish line in the 5,000 metres final, surely one of the most enduring images of London 2012. After completing his double gold victory, the Somali-born athlete said: “Anything is possible – it’s just hard work and grafting”.

It is in all our interests to take advantage of these powerful traits, which the Olympics only intensify. So we are working hard to achieve a global legacy for the London Games.

Our International Inspiration programme is enriching the lives of millions of young people across the world by providing access to high-quality physical education, sport and play. The programme not only engages children in sport itself. It also targets lasting change by working with governments on school curricula and national policies, and by training tens of thousands of Young Leaders, teachers and coaches in inclusive sport.

The amount of work we have done on the Olympic Truce has been unprecedented, delivering a UN Resolution co-sponsored by all 193 UN Members and an array of projects overseas to promote conflict resolution and peace.

We have sought to make London 2012 the most accessible Games ever to disabled people, including through improving transport facilities.

And with almost all 2.5 million tickets sold, we are setting a new global standard for the Paralympics.

But this work does not end when the curtain falls on the Paralympics on 9 September. There is more to do.

So we have joined forces with future host nations – with Brazil, hosts of Rio 2016, and with Russia and South Korea, hosts of the Winter Games in 2014 and 2018 – in a pledge to use the Games to promote and embed respect for human rights across the world.

The Communique we are announcing today commits us to promote awareness and the application of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It states that we will seek to educate people to respect diversity; to empower girls and women through sport; and to promote the rights and freedoms of disabled people

And it is apt that we are making this commitment during a London Games. Because it was the year the Games were last held here – 1948 – that saw the origins of the Paralympics and the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Britain’s aim, as hosts of the 2012 Olympiad, is to “inspire a generation”. 205 countries took part this year, and around four billion people – more than half the global population – had their eyes on London. So we have an unrivalled opportunity to reach out to the world. To show them this fantastic celebration of sport, and the principles of non-discrimination, equality and mutual understanding under which it was founded.

This is not just about creating the Jessica Ennises of tomorrow. It is about inspiring people all over the world to experience the joy of participation in sport, and – even more than that – to work hard in pursuit of their ambitions, to work with people of different backgrounds and beliefs, and to respect the diversity of humankind.

Jeremy Browne – 2010 Speech in China

jeremybrown

The below speech was made by the Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, on 15th September 2010 at the University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus in China.

Introduction

I am delighted to be the first Minister in the new British Government to visit the city of Ningbo, one of main engines for economic and broader development of Zhejiang province and wider region.

I am no less delighted to be here at the University of Nottingham campus. I may never have been to Ningbo before, but as a former student of Nottingham University, it is in some ways a return to familiar territory, albeit in a way I would never have imagined then.

That such a development could happen in the space of less than two decades since I graduated is testament to the Ningbo government’s far-sighted vision in developing foreign ties and international relationships (as well of course that of my university in responding to that vision).

Nearly 10 years ago, the city of Ningbo set about ambitious plans to transform its economy and the skills and knowledge of its citizens. In doing so, the City sought to partner with the best of international knowledge and ideas. The opening of this campus in 2004, as the very first Sino-Foreign University in China with approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education, laid the ground for others to follow.

That this could happen is also testament to the dramatic and unprecedented changes that are reshaping the world in which we live and which are opening up possibilities and opportunities for you, as students, undreamt of in my student days.

In my speech today, I want to talk about how these changes – globalisation and the new G20 world order – will reshape this century, how we are responding to them, and why education and the people-to-people exchanges that this campus symbolises are so important in ensuring that globalisation is to our mutual benefit.

New Global Order: Opportunity, not Threat

I simply cannot understate the significance of this changing order. We have all been accustomed to a G8 world for many years. Best summed up by images of summits, 9 people if we include the EC President, of which 8 were westerners plus Japan. This largely symbolised how most of us in the West viewed the world when I was an NU student.

But it is no longer relevant. In less than a decade, we have moved from a G8 to a G20 world. A world in which major powers such as China are catching up rapidly with the existing long-established economic powers.

According to some predictions, today’s emerging economies will be 50% larger than the economies of the current G7 by 2050. In 2010 China’s Q2 GDP growth was 10.3% and the most recent quarterly total GDP put China ahead of Japan as the second largest economy after the US.

What makes this change in the world order arguably even more significant than previous ones is that it is not just a shuffling of the seats at the top table, a new Group of 7 or Group of 8. It’s not just that the characters have changed, but the architecture has too.

The significance of the transition from a G8 to a G20 world is that the grouping at the top table, economically and politically, is much more representative of the globalised, ‘networked’ world of which the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken.

UK Government Response

As I said in my first Ministerial speech in Parliament in June, these are not changes we should fear, and certainly not something we should resist. It is in fact something we should welcome as a great opportunity.

First and foremost, there is an opportunity to expand our financial and trading ties as the people of these emerging economies become wealthier.

The World Bank estimates that the global middle class is likely to have grown from 430 million in 1999 to over a billion by 2030 – an increase in middle class consumers equal to the total population of the EU.

But it is also an opportunity politically and diplomatically to find new ways to harness international action to deliver the changes we will need to safeguard our collective security.

The new world order will be a more multilateral one, politically as well as economically. In one sense that will be a more complex world and managing complexity will be a key challenge for all of us. Which is why closer cooperation between governments, and understanding between peoples, will be all the more important.

It is increasingly the case that the prosperity of any one country today – whether big or small – is dependent on what happens in other countries.

In a similar way, many of the problems faced by countries today are global rather than local – whether that’s climate change, immigration, security, crime or any number of other issues that are blind to international boundaries.

That is why strengthening our relations with these fast growing economies and powers is one of the key foreign policy objectives of the UK’s new government. We recognise the importance to us of our close and historic relationships with Europe and North America – but also realise where the new opportunities increasingly lie.

For you – as Chinese students or students of Chinese – these changes are going to be particularly significant. Which brings me to why education, and people such as you, are so important to this emerging new world order.

People-to-People Exchanges: Globalising education

In a speech during his visit to Japan and China in July, William Hague set out four distinctive ways for UK to pursue its foreign policy. These included intensifying our engagement with the emerging economies of the world and also, and perhaps most important for my speech to you today, engaging with people and their aspirations. By seeking engagement with other countries beyond the constraints of traditional and diplomatic ties, by building engagement among people across different cultures and boundaries.

He argued that if our foreign policy is to be effective in a networked world we must extend opportunity to others as well as striving for the best for Britain, upholding our own values and influencing others by being an inspiring example of our own values.

In the process of forging these people-to people links, education, particularly higher education, has a pivotal role. That is why I am glad to see the world’s leading universities increasingly put internationalisation at the heart of their mission, and that Britain, and British universities, are at the forefront of this dynamic.

Britain is fortunate to have more than 340,000 students from 239 different countries pursuing education opportunities in UK, second only to USA as a destination for international students. More than 20% of academic staff in UK universities come from outside UK. A 2008 study found that 75% of UK universities funded international research collaboration, with nearly 90% having international research links.

Around 200,000 students, just like you, are currently taking UK qualifications from more than 100 higher education institutions around the world.

As students, your choice is now immeasurably different to that even of my generation. Now the choice is not simply which university should I go to, it is which country should I study in. Should I start my degree in my own country and complete it in another, picking up along the way the vital cultural insights that studying in another country provides. Which institution, wherever it is in the world, will best meet my needs and priorities?

The institutions which will rise to the challenge of internationalisation most effectively will be those which are prepared to develop international strategic partnerships with universities in other countries across a range of activities, including research and knowledge transfer. These deeper, broader partnerships will complement the array of international links which exist between individual researchers and academics.

There is clearly an economic incentive here. International education provides the UK with a dynamic, high-skill and sustainable export industry that has been estimated to be worth more than £10bn.

But it is much more than merely an export industry. It enriches our society in many ways by deepening our awareness and understanding of other cultures, and likewise deepening others’ awareness and understanding of our own. The relationships that we develop can last forever and often provide the potential for greater educational, cultural and scientific exchange, as well as greater trade, investment, and political dialogue.

By internationalising its education provision, the UK is able to attract intellectual capital – making a vital contribution to its capacity for research, technological growth and innovation; it is able to sustain programmes which might not otherwise be viable, ensuring a wider range and greater quality of internationally-focused courses are available for other students, including those from the UK.

In short, international education is at the centre of the UK’s knowledge economy and the long-term wealth and prosperity that delivers.

China-UK Education Partnership

We know that UK education is held in high regard by both government and the education sector in China. The closeness of bilateral co-operation in this field is a good indicator of the positive regard within which the UK is held in China, especially when considering that many countries seek to develop such co-operation with China, and China is in the fortunate position of choosing from the best of the world’s education systems.

Bilateral co-operation in education is very strong overall; a Framework Agreement on Educational Co-operation Partnership has guided that co-operation over the last decade, and annual education summits take forward the joint priority areas for both countries. We hope that the next summit will take place before the end of the year.

Cooperation between the UK and China is particularly strong on higher education. We have well established links, such as a 13 year strategic higher education collaboration project between the Ministry of Education and the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the British Council.

In 2008/9 there were 85,000 Chinese students in the UK, We have the same proportion of our own population studying in China, some 3,000 students, as mainland China has in the UK, although of course we are seeking to increase this number. As an example, every summer some 200 students from across Britain come to China for one month on a government-supported programme of language and contemporary studies.

Now there are more than 105 joint programmes and some 15,000 Chinese students following UK qualifications here in China.

New education models from the UK such as this university/campus are testimony to the high level of confidence that the Ministry of Education has traditionally had in our higher education systems.

Conclusion

This engagement and co-operation between our two education systems is delivering deeper and broader ties between our two countries and responding to the need to deepen our understanding of each other as much as our dependence on each other grows. The latter without the former could be a point of weakness. Together, they represent a source of strength and establish solid foundations for the cooperation we will need to have in an increasingly networked world.

Broader engagement between people needs to be built upon foundations of mutual understanding and trust, and needs to be carried out by the many diverse organisations working to further international collaboration in fields such as education, science, culture and international relations.

This campus and the networks of knowledge and learning it represents are a prime example of that, and illustrate clearly:

First, that the flow of ideas and information around the world is now as much the preserve of students, of academics, of business people and of ordinary citizens as it is of governments.

And second, that that flow and dialogue between individuals is critical to our collective future security and prosperity.

So before you have the chance to turn the tables and address me, let me take this opportunity, not just as former Nottingham student myself, but also as a British Government Minister, to say how delighted I am to have had this opportunity to come here, and to congratulate you on the work you are doing, and the model for future cooperation you represent.