Category Archives: News

Speech: Progress Towards Peace In Colombia

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council Briefings on Colombia

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Thank you, Mr President, and thank you to our briefers. And in respect of the briefing, I think it’s a very good thing that we’ve gotten Ms Salamanca here because it’s an important reminder of the role that women’s organisations have played in the peace process.

I think what we’ve heard today from the Special Representative shows that the peace accords continue to set a positive example to the rest of the world. The commitment of the government is very welcome, as are the steps taken towards reintegration of former fighters, rural development, crop substitution. And the government is clearly trying very hard to find a national consensus on issues that are deeply polarizing.

Of the three areas we would like to highlight that we believe deserve the government’s urgent attention, the first one is a transitional justice system. We agree with the Secretary-General that the special jurisdiction for peace discussion has become more polarized. We hope now that the SJP will get legal and political support to build on the progress it’s made. And we also hope there might be a stronger legal footing for it in order to boost public confidence in the peace process and bring about the national consensus that President Duque is rightly committed to.

Secondly, I’d like to echo concerns about human rights defenders and social leaders. The fact that they continue to face killings and threats at the hands of armed criminal groups competing for territory – and this is something the Council has been interested in before – the recent regional sessions of the National Commission on Security guarantees are a positive step forward. But I think we need to see more concrete actions to improve security on the ground. And this might include – and I might be interested in the SRSG’s views – on a stronger state presence in rural areas.

Thirdly, we welcome the initial successes of the territorially focused development plans and crop substitution initiative. But I think our overall point is that the pace of implementation of the peace process, we’d like to see that increase across the country. There have been some delays, as set out in the SG report. And I think where everyone is very well aware that the sustainability of peace depends on transforming the Colombian countryside and meeting citizens needs for viable and legal livelihoods. But it’s also important that the international community support Colombian efforts.

And finally, I’d like to take the opportunity to commend the SRSG because the areas of progress identified in the Colombian peace process is a very important part of how we view these regular sessions.

For the British government’s part, we recognise the progress the government has made and we’re fully committed to working alongside the government as they build the sustainable peace. We will continue to support them. The Foreign Minister was here a few weeks ago and we talked about the recent objections that the President had put down. And I know that there have been developments on that that I am sure His Excellency will update the Council on.

Thank you.

River Thames Scheme Outline Design

During 2018, the outline design for River Thames Scheme was developed - The final outline design is now complete

River Thames Scheme

River Thames Scheme

Over the last 4 years the Environment Agency have been developing the design of The River Thames Scheme, reducing flood risk to 15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses in communicates along the Thames between Datchet and Teddington.

The Environment Agency and their partner organisations have used environmental data collected from their programme of surveys to design a scheme that meets requirements set out in legislation as well as delivering the scheme’s vision. They talked to communities who shared ideas on the design of the proposed channel, deciding what it will look like and how it could be used.

The final outline design is now complete, together with proposals for landscape enhancement, recreation opportunities and habitat creation.

Flood Channel Route

As part of the design phase, several changes were made to the original alignment set out in the Lower Thames Flood Risk Management Strategy in 2009, including shortening the channel to just under 15km.

View maps of the channel route.

New public green spaces

The landscape vision for the scheme was developed to visually connect the new flood channel with existing heritage sites and key landscape features through the creation of 4 new country parks and a wetlands centre.

These country parks feature new hills with viewpoints across the landscape from the top. During construction, materials dug out to create the flood channel will be used to create the country parks, which will avoid the need for thousands of additional lorries on local roads.

The creation of these new public open spaces will bring health benefits for communities and opportunities for tourism, recreation and leisure.

There is a lot of work to do to make this vision a reality. The team will continue to talk to partners, statutory bodies and communities to develop the design for these areas in the next phase of design work leading up to the submission of the River Thames Scheme planning application.


In order to improve the current network for pedestrians and cyclists, the area around the flood channel will provide new footpaths and cycle paths that have been designed to connect to the existing network. New footbridges connecting footpaths will be built across the flood channel. The four raised viewpoints will become park areas with public access. The flood channel itself will provide opportunities for fishing, boating and canoeing on some sections.

Habitat Creation

The scheme is committed to minimise disruption to habitat and the environment as much as possible during the construction phase of the new flood channel. This will be achieved through the creation of two new habitats at Abbey Meads and Desborough Island and over 100 hectares (roughly 150 football pitches) of new habitat will be created. This will ensure the project does not cause a net loss in biodiversity.

Next Steps

Preparations for the planning application and next phase of design work are underway. The planning application will include the opportunity for communities to discuss the proposals and details of how to get involved will be published later this year.

For more information about the River Thames Scheme please visit the information page.

Cambridge Centre For Alternative Finance Launches Collaboration Network In Chile

Fintech collaboration network will carry out joint work with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean

HMA Jamie Bowden with speakers of the Seminar organised to mark the collaboration network launched in Chile

HMA Jamie Bowden with speakers of the Seminar organised to mark the collaboration network launched in Chile

A group of UK experts visited Santiago in March 2019 to inaugurate a fintech collaboration network with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC). This was an outcome of an intense agenda of activities carried out in Chile last October by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF). This network is the third one launched by the centre outside the UK after China and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The collaboration network will enable research and policy support for regulators throughout Latin America, in particular in Pacific Alliance countries, which already have guidelines to harmonise fintech policies. This initiative has been supported by HMG as an observer country of this group.

The British Embassy organised a seminar on 25 March where UNECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Barcena, delivered some opening words about this landmark partnership. The Governor of the Central Bank of Chile, Mario Marcel, also participated delivering remarks praising this initiative, and about what it means for developing fintech friendly policies, both in Chile and Latin America.

A discussion ensued between Kevin Cowan, Commissioner for Financial Markets, and 2 Chilean companies that have opened branches in the UK, Capitaria and Genesis Ventures, about the challenges to regulate and foster financial innovation.

GREAT Campaign

The activities of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance in Chile have received support from the GREAT campaign, a cross-government initiative aimed to showcase the best of the UK and encourage people to visit, do business, invest and study in the UK. It is the government’s most ambitious international promotional campaign ever, uniting the efforts of the private and public sectors to generate jobs and growth for Britain.

British Instruments Reveal Secrets Of Martian Sky

The first results from the ExoMars mission supported by the UK Space Agency reveal the effects of a massive, global dust storm on the Red Planet

Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Over the last year the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) spacecraft followed the onset of the storm and monitored how the increase in dust affected the water vapour in the atmosphere – important for understanding the history of water on Mars.

It did not observe the presence of methane, further adding to the mystery of why other missions like the NASA Curiosity rover reported localised concentrations, which could indicate life.

ExoMars is a two-part mission. The Trace Gas Orbiter will be joined by the UK-built Rosalind Franklin rover, which will roam the surface of the planet in 2021.

Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration, UK Space Agency said:

ExoMars embodies the best of UK and European space science and I’m delighted that Britain is one of the biggest supporters.

This data release is the first of many on our mission to unearth the mysteries of the Red Planet. The results both answer, and raise new questions, paving the way for more exciting discoveries from the Rosalind Franklin rover which is due to launch next year.

The UK Space Agency has invested €287 million to the overall ExoMars mission and €14 million to the instruments over 13 years, making it the second largest European contributor after Italy. A further £370,000 has been committed on the spacecraft’s instrument operations and over £2.5 million on data analysis.

The UK space industry provided the spacecraft’s batteries, ultra-high frequency (UHF) transceiver and aerodynamic analysis. Dr Manish Patel at the Open University led the UK design input for the spectrometer system which will look at atmospheric composition and is playing a key role in the instrument operations and data analysis. The UK Space Agency is also supporting 18 researchers in 5 British institutions to analyse data received on the Martian atmosphere.

Dr Manish Patel, Open University, and Co-Principal Investigator of the NOMAD instrument on TGO, said:

The measurements we have made are very surprising. The methane previously detected by ground-based telescopes, the ESA Mars Express spacecraft and the NASA Curiosity rover seems to have disappeared.

Mars continues to confound us – the only way these results make sense with previous observations is if there is a new mechanism in the atmosphere, removing the methane at a rate far faster than thought possible. As always, Mars provides us with another mystery to solve.

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter is studying Martian atmospheric trace gases and their sources in unprecedented detail. It will help us understand the source of the methane in Mars’ atmosphere and whether it is from a geological or biological source and provide a data connection to the Rosalind Franklin rover, currently under construction by Airbus in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

The Trace Gas Orbiter arrived in orbit 400 km above the Red Planet in April 2018, just a couple of months before the start of the massive dust storm that would eventually lead to the demise of NASA’s Opportunity rover after 15 years roving the Martian surface.

The ExoMars rover was named after UK scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA Rosalind Franklin in February 2018, following a competition to which almost 36,000 people responded.

The Trace Gas Orbiter results were presented this morning at a press conference for the European Geosciences Union (EGU) general assembly in Vienna.

Funding Awarded To Support Vulnerable EU Citizens Apply For Settled Status

57 organisations throughout the UK have been awarded funding from £9 million available, supporting an estimated 200,000 vulnerable or hard to reach EU citizens



Home Secretary Sajid Javid has today (Wednesday 10 April 2019) announced that 57 organisations across the UK will receive funding to provide practical support to vulnerable or at-risk people applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The Home Office has made up to £9 million available in funding which will be used to help organisations both inform vulnerable individuals about the need to apply for settled status and support them to complete their applications to protect their status as the UK exits the EU.

The successful organisations, including disability and homeless charities and a wide-range of community organisations will provide support to an estimated 200,000 people, who may be marginalised or in need of extra help.

The funding comes as the Home Office confirmed it had now received more than 400,000 applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

EU citizens have contributed so much to this country and we want them all to stay. That’s why we have made the EU Settlement Scheme free and simple to use.

It’s vital no one is left behind and we support vulnerable people who may have difficulties applying.

This £9million of funding will help do that.

Those who may require additional support include victims of human trafficking or domestic abuse, those with severe mental health conditions, those without a permanent address, and those who are elderly and isolated.

Over the last year, officials have met with experts from more than 200 community groups, voluntary sector bodies and businesses nationwide that have strong local links with vulnerable EU citizens to inform them about the EU Settlement Scheme and to make sure that we reach everyone.

Additional support is also available to those EU citizens in the UK who do not have the appropriate access, skills or confidence to apply. This includes over 200 assisted digital locations across the UK where applicants can be supported through their application.

The EU Settlement Scheme is designed to make it straightforward for EU citizens and their family members to stay after the UK leaves the EU.

They only need to complete 3 key steps – prove their identity, show that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions. Deal or no deal, EU citizens will have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply.

Full details of all the organisations receiving funding will be published on GOV.UK in due course.

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