• Research Briefing

    In brief: the controversy over the November 2013 Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka

    In November 2009, the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) agreed that its 2013 meeting should be held in Sri Lanka. This decision has faced persistent criticism since then, with organisations including Human Rights Watch arguing that the Sri Lankan Government’s human rights record is so poor that the Commonwealth should relocate the Summit elsewhere. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, has rejected such calls. So far, Canada is the only Commonwealth member state to say that it will definitely not be attending the Summit. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, have confirmed that they will both be attending the Summit on behalf of the British Government (Prince Charles will represent the Queen). The official British position is that they will use their presence to raise concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

  • Research Briefing

    Leaving the EU

    The Treaty on European Union provides for a Member State to leave the EU, either on the basis of a negotiated withdrawal agreement or without one. If the UK were to leave the EU following a referendum, it is likely that the Government would negotiate an agreement with the EU, which would probably contain transitional arrangements as well as provide for the UK’s long-term future relations with the EU. There is no precedent for such an agreement, but it would in all likelihood come at the end of complex and lengthy negotiations.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: Kenya after the March 2013 elections

    The 4 March presidential elections saw Jubilee Alliance candidate Uhuru Kenyatta win a narrow victory in the first round. , Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are both due to be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. The victory of Kenyatta and Ruto has presented Western governments with a dilemma. While Western rhetorical support for the ICC remains strong, many in Kenya and beyond believe that pressure is being exerted on it ‘behind the scenes’ to soften its position so that the cases do not excessively impede Western cooperation with the new Government.

  • Research Briefing

    Disputes over the British Indian Ocean Territory: a survey

    Between 1968 and 1973 the British Government cleared the entire Chagos Archipelago of its inhabitants, opening the way for a US military base on the biggest island, Diego Garcia. The Archipelago was made a British overseas territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Two main disputes have arisen from these events. One has been between the Chagos Islanders and the British Government over the legality of the former’s removal and whether they have a right to return. The other has been between the UK and Mauritius about sovereignty over the BIOT. The UK has said that it will cede sovereignty to Mauritius once the BIOT is no longer required for defence purposes.

  • Research Briefing

    Burundi: recent political and security developments

    Since 2010 President Jean-Pierre Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD government have been at loggerheads with the main opposition parties. The stand-off has raised concerns that Burundi’s status as a ‘post-conflict’ country might be in jeopardy. These concerns have been compounded by occasional armed skirmishes between the security forces and remaining rebel groups. However, with the next elections due in 2015, in recent months there has been some progress in terms of promoting political dialogue.

  • Research Briefing

    Rwanda: recent political and security developments

    Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front remain in a dominant position domestically, with parliamentary elections due in September 2013 and presidential elections set for 2017. President Kagame has indicated that he may step down then. But criticism continues of the government's intolerance of open dissent. Rwanda's role in in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo remains controversial too and there is virtually complete consensus across the international community that it has been providing support to rebel groups, including most recently M23.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: the Commonwealth Charter

    On 11 March 2013 in London the Queen signed the Commonwealth Charter. However, while the UK Government has welcomed it, there has been considerable criticism of the Charter on the grounds that it is not legally binding and cannot be effectively enforced. In September 2012 three Commonwealth Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka had said that a weak and ineffective Charter should not be endorsed. LGBT rights campaigners have also been vocal in signalling disappointment with the final text.

  • Research Briefing

    The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands: tension between Japan and China in the East China Sea

    Tensions between Japan and China in connection with long-standing rival claims to sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea have deepened since September 2012, with nationalist sentiment being stirred up in both countries. Taiwan also claims the islands. Japan, which administers the islands, does not accept that there is a dispute to be resolved. China insists that there is. This note briefly summarizes the competing claims and reviews developments over the last six months or so.