Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

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28th April 2015 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Guest blog by Shahida Khan, Business and Human Rights Policy Officer, on business efficient flexible working

The FCO is a strong supporter of business efficient flexible working, and extends this right to all its employees. Flexible working takes many forms – compressed hours, flexible hours, job shares and remote working are a few of the more common examples. The Human Rights and Democracy Department (HRDD) is widely recognised as one part of […]

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17th March 2015 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Guest blog by Kirstie Smith, Business and Conflict Desk Officer, Conflict Department, on the UK’s Chairmanship of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights

I’m delighted to host this blog from Kirstie Smith, and grateful to her for approaching me with the suggestion. The Voluntary Principles (VPs) – and the UK’s support for them – are a good example of the UK’s pursuit of fairness. That can sound lofty, especially when we talk about how human rights, prosperity and […]

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3rd December 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

What is civil society?

Last Friday I met members of the FCO’s “Youth Inspiration Group” – nine young people, between 18 and 25, from diverse backgrounds. With a combined network of over 3,000 (via the youth organisations and individual contacts they have) this group lends their time to the FCO, as a sounding board for our ideas. To help […]

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5th November 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

New York and the Human Rights 'Third Committee' at the United Nations

I have grounds to be nostalgic about New York, where I cut my teeth on human rights work more than twenty years ago. But I never thought I could be made to feel nostalgic about its “smoke filled rooms” (the root cause of the beige decor at UN HQ). But my colleague, Rhian Checkland, has […]

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16th October 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Malala and a Big Tent in Cheltenham

I drove to Cheltenham on Saturday – a four hour round trip worth every mile – to hear a former Archbishop of Canterbury deliver a lecture at the Literature Festival. I was there to support a friend, whose organisation – COEXIST – was staging the event. But in the big tent I was as spellbound […]

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19th May 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Remembrance on the way to the coffee shop (what connects IHRA and R2P?)

My department moved offices last week – from rooms “in need of modernisation” on the third floor of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, down to freshly refurbished accommodation on the grand first floor. We’re more densely packed down there (“warm-desking”), but morale is high and the coffee shop closer. My new route to mid-morning latte […]

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11th April 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Human Rights, DNA and the Higgs Boson?

Yesterday, when launching the FCO’s Annual Human Rights Report, the Foreign Secretary said: “Human rights are part of the lifeblood of the Foreign Office because they are part of our national DNA – our character as a people – and because they are vital to our national interest”. This formulation of our Ministers’ view that […]

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2nd April 2014 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Week One in Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO, London

Start as you mean to go on, they say. Not easy, given the climactic nature of my first full week in charge of the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Department. Truth be told, this was the climax of my predecessor’s tenure – plans laid by her and my new colleagues, months ago, coming to fruition […]

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3rd July 2013 London, UK

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Breaking the Sound Barrier with BEDB

First of all I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to the British High Commission to Brunei Darussalam for giving me the opportunity to post an article on the British High Commissions’ blog regarding my view on the Innovation Forum: UK-Southeast Asia Innovation, Design and Technology Forum which was held on Friday, 7th June 2013 in Singapore.

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About Rob Fenn

Rob Fenn has been Head of the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Department
since March 2014. His last formal responsibility for human rights was in
the mid 1990s, when he served as UK Delegate on the Third Committee of
the General Assembly in New York (with annual excursions to what was
then the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva). Recent celebrations of
the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the post of UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights – a resolution he helped pilot through the
GA – came a shock. The intervening 20 years have flown: in Rome
(EU/Economics), in London (Southern European Department), in Nicosia
(Deputy High Commissioner) and latterly in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Rob,
Julia and their two sons loved Brunei, where British High Commissioners
are made especially welcome. The family’s activities included regular
walks in the pristine rainforest, expeditions upriver to help conserve
the Sultanate’s stunning biodiversity, and home movie making (in Brunei
it is almost impossible to take a bad photograph).
After
all those saturated colours, Rob worried that the move back to Britain
might feel like a shift into black and white. But the reunion with
family, friends and colleagues, and the boys’ brave reintegration into a
North London school, have been ample compensation. Julia’s main regret
is that, now she walks on Hampstead Heath, she no longer has an excuse
to carry a machete (“parang”).
Rob’s
problem is summed up in two types of reaction from friends outside the
office. On hearing that he is “in charge of human rights and democracy
at the FCO”, some think it sounds like a vast job: what else is there?
Others think it sounds wishy-washy: not in the national interest. Rob’s
mission is to take the Foreign Secretary’s dictum that “our values are
our interests”, and help his colleagues translate it into action in a
world so varied it can contain both Brunei’s clouded leopard and the
civil war in Syria.

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