William Hague’s assertion that human rights should constitute the “irreducible core” of foreign policy under the new UK coalition government may seem a radical departure for the new Foreign Secretary. Hague is, after all, a leading figure in the British Conservative Party, which in its recent election manifesto called for the repeal of the UK’s Human Rights Act that incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Given this profound ambivalence over the substantive value of human rights at home, the new UK government is not likely to adopt more assertive human rights policies abroad. Human rights advocates may lament Hague’s lack of policy details with regards to human rights, but the UK government is likely to continue to pledge allegiance to the lofty ideals of human rights, while resisting providing specific policy details on what role human rights will and should play in the government’s foreign policy. Clearly, it is the role of organizations such as Human Rights Watch to push governments to convert rhetoric into practice. While this endeavour is never uncomplicated, human rights organizations lobbying the UK government are currently facing an increasingly steep uphill struggle.

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