2017 Elections to the UN Commission on the Status of Women - Saudi Arabia

John Roberts made this Freedom of Information request to Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

I refer to the recent elections to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) which were held by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, I would like to ask for access to the decision on the vote cast by the United Kingdom in ECOSOC regarding the candidature of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to CSW.

Given the salience of the candidature, I assume a decision was taken either at ministerial or at senior official level and instructions were then communicated to the UK Mission in New York. If the decision itself is not recorded in written form (e.g. by endorsement of a submission), I would instead ask for a copy of the instructions sent to the UK Mission.

Yours faithfully,

John Roberts

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Roberts,

 

Thank you for your email to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

 

We would like to inform you that the Government Equalities Office (GEO)
lead on this issue, however to be aware it is HMG policy not to reveal
our voting intentions and the vote is made by secret ballot,  and
therefore suggest directing any request to the GEO, details below.

 

[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Freedom of Information (FoI) requests

Government Equalities Office
Department for Education
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester

[2]Contact form

Yours sincerely,

 

FOI and DPA Team

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

thank you for your message. I have taken note of the fact that the Government Equalities Office leads on this matter.

However, as you know, the Freedom of Information Act refers to whether information is 'held' by an authority, not whether a particular authority has the lead on a particular policy.

I note that you have not claimed in your response that the FCO does not hold either the decision on how to case the vote which - even if formally taken by the Government Equalities Office - would certainly have been shared with the FCO or that the FCO does not hold the instructions which were sent to UK Mission New York. Of course, UK Mission New York being part of the FCO, you would certainly hold any information sent to it.

Thus, I'm afraid I will have to insist on you looking into what information on the above is held by the FCO. If you maintain that the FCO does not hold this information, please explain why this would be so.

Yours faithfully,

John Roberts

John Roberts left an annotation ()

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Roberts,

 

Thank you for your reply, your FOI request has been accepted under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. It has been assigned a unique reference
number (above) and has been passed to the relevant section within the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with. They will be in touch with
you should your request need clarification.

 

We received your request on 27 April 2017 and will aim to respond within
20 working days, following date of receipt.

 

Yours sincerely

 

FOI and DPA Team

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Anne Jenkins (Sensitive) would like to recall the message, "FOI request - response ".

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.gov.uk/fco
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

Dear Foreign and Commonwealth Office,

thank you for your response dated 22 May 2017, your ref FOI 0416-17

First of all, may I point out a slight anomaly: you write, after confirming that the FCO holds information relevant to my request, that "some of the information" has been withheld. However, given that your response does not disclose any information whatsoever, it is unclear to me what the "non-withheld" information would be? I am thus treating your message as withholding "all of the information" requested.

Secondly, I would like to ask you for an Internal Review of your handling of the request.

You have not actually supplied evidence for your claim that the relationship between the UK and the KSA or other members states or indeed the UN itself would be seriously undermined by this particular disclosure. The relevant test of s27(1) FOIA is that disclosure (at least) "would be likely to prejudice relations". Even in your own response, you only asserted that "the release of information relating to the UK’s voting on UN business could harm (...)". However, "ould harm" does not meet the test of "would be likely to prejudice" and thus s27(1) is not even engaged from the outset.

Even if you do assert that the release of information would be "likely to prejudice" and that the exemption is engaged, I do not believe that the public interest test has been applied correctly. An important factor not mentioned in your PIT is that not only would the release improve "public knowledge about our relations with other member states of the UN and Saudi Arabia" but it would also allow for a proper assessment of the government's stance on equality and women's rights. As you will no doubt appreciate, we are not talking about a minor uncontroversial election here but about the election to CSW of a country known for its structural and systemic violation of women's rights across its legislation and policy framework. Thus, the question of how the UK (a country which proclaims to take women's rights seriously in its foreign and domestic policy) is quite a crucial one, outweighing the other bilateral interests mentioned.

Yours faithfully,

John Roberts

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Roberts,

Thank you for your request for an Internal Review of our response to your FOI Request Ref 0416-17. It has been passed to the relevant department within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deal with and they will respond to you with the outcome of the review.

We received your request on 30 May 2017 and will aim to respond within 20 working days.

Yours sincerely

FOI and DPA Team
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Dear Mr Roberts,

 

Thank you for your email of 30 May 2017.

You requested an internal review of the decision, conveyed to you in our
letter of 22 May 2017 in response to your email of 25 April 2017.

The review is not yet complete. I estimate that it will take up to an
additional 20 working days to complete. I will write again no later than
24 July 2017 to inform you of the final result of the review.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

International Organisations Department

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

(issued by FOI and DPA Team)

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Roberts,

Please find attached our reply to your Internal Review request.

Yours sincerely,

International Organisation Department
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(issued by FOI and DPA Team)

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

 

 

Dear Mr Roberts,

 

I am writing to you about the internal review of FOI 0673-17, on our
handling of your request. I would like to apologise for the length of time
it has taken for us to reply to the request.

 

Please be assured that we are doing what we can to reply to your request
in a timely manner. We have located the documents you have requested, but
it is taking longer than anticipated to prepare the information for
release. The difficulty we have is that some of the content is sensitive
and so we may be limited in how much of it we can release.  

 

I have attached a PIT letter, but we hope to be able to give you the final
substantive response shortly.

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI and DPA Team

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.gov.uk/fco
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

John Roberts left an annotation ()

NB, this was actually meant for the following request thread and was mistakenly sent here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/d...

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1 Attachment

 

 

Dear Mr Roberts,

 

 

Please find attached reply to your request 0673-17

 

 

Regards

 

 

FOI and DPA Team

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.gov.uk/fco
2. http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/

John Roberts left an annotation ()

NB: this last email was, also, meant for a parallel request:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/d...