Rob Fenn

Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

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22nd March 2017 London, UK

Rob Fenn

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

If you seek his monument, look around you

I seem to have reached an age when there will be funerals. My father’s last year was bittersweet, after a life so fully lived. A similar mixture of grief and celebration permeated the funeral last month of Sir Nigel Rodley, the most distinguished British human rights expert of his generation. In these personal reflections I […]

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24th January 2017 London, UK

Sue Breeze

Head of Human Rights for a Stable World Team

The Holocaust: Why is it still relevant today?

Introduction by Rob Fenn, Head of Human Rights & Democracy Department: By any standards, 2016 was a dramatic year. Finding myself in interesting times, my personal reaction has been to read history. My phone is now crammed with adventure novels set in an equally tumultuous period for the UK, the mid 17th Century – and […]

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10th December 2016 London, UK

Rob Fenn

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

Human Rights Day 2016

Box-ticking, or changing the real world? That was a question posed at our Minister’s event to mark Human Rights Day. Most people I talk to are ready to agree that the UK government tries to do the right thing. But many wonder whether we are getting past the level of generic reassurances, from other governments […]

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6th October 2015 London, UK

Dominic Rhodes

Human Rights and Democracy Department Communications Officer

FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme: Promoting Ethno-Religious Harmony in Sri Lanka

Slowly but increasingly surely, Sri Lanka is becoming a human rights success story. This is primarily due to the determination of its people and the courage of its recently elected leaders (see the British High Commission’s blog). But the international community, responding to our Prime Minister’s lead, has played a significant role, including through the […]

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5th August 2015 London, UK

Rob Fenn

by Rob Fenn

Head of Human Rights and Democracy Department, FCO

FCO Human Rights Work: A New Way Forward (leaving no priorities behind)

A change of government is a golden opportunity to look at things afresh, even in an area – like human rights – where our national interest and reputation both argue for continuity, if not for doing more. The new government’s manifesto commitment to supporting universal human rights was an invitation to raise our game, not […]

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28th April 2015 London, UK

Rob Fenn

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

Rob Fenn

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

Rob Fenn

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

Rob Fenn

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

Rob Fenn

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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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…

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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