Call for Welsh Government to reconsider offices in UAE and Qatar over human rights conditions
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called on the Welsh Labour Government to reconsider its presence in the middle eastern states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar due to concerns over the human rights conditions in the two nations.
The Welsh Government currently has offices in 12 countries, including in Dubai, the UAE and Doha, Qatar. The Welsh Lib Dems said that they should be moved to countries with better records on human rights and democracy as part of an “ethical trade policy for Wales”.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s World Democracy Index, Qatar ranks 126/167 nations for human rights while the UAE ranks 145/167 making both countries “authoritarian regimes”.
The countries also perform poorly on woman’s rights, with a male guardianship system still in place that means most women still need the permission of a male guardian to carry out everyday tasks, the Liberal Democrats said.
Both Qatar and the UAE have also hit headlines in recent years over their alleged use of foreign migrants for slave labour, including in the construction of stadiums for the World Cup in Qatar, which was billed by Amnesty International as a form of “modern serfdom”.
Commenting, Welsh Lib Dem Leader and Senedd Member (MS) Jane Dodds said that given the “appalling human rights record of both Qatar and the UAE” they were calling on the Welsh Government to consider whether the offices should remain open.
“We are strongly in favour of Wales having a strong international footprint to promote our outstanding businesses and exports across the globe, but we also want to make sure Wales has an ethical trade policy that does not just consider raw profit, but also human rights and democracy,” she said.
“I am not comfortable that the limited resources of Trade and Invest Wales are being used to promote trade in these two authoritarian nations where being part of the LGBT+ community can still be punished by execution and women’s rights a treated such little regard.
“Furthermore, the UAE has been heavily involved in the War in Yemen, a conflict that has caused over 233,000 deaths and displaced over 3 million people. Meanwhile, Qatar has been routinely accused of financing various extremist organisations.
“I want Wales to be a confident and outward-looking nation, but I also want to see Wales stand up strongly for human rights, democracy and liberty. I would urge First Minister Mark Drakeford, as Portfolio Holder for International Relations and Trade, to urgently reconsider the viability of these offices.
“If the Government is to keep the offices open, they should publish any work that they are carrying out in order to promote better human rights and democracy.”
Asked whether Welsh cultural organisations such as the Welsh National Opera, who are currently taking part in Expo 2020 Dubai, should also pull out, Jane Dodds said she was focused on the Welsh Government.
“While the consistent publicity efforts by the UAE to gloss over its human rights record are always a concern to me, I do not feel it is my place to comment on the decisions made by cultural organisations,” she said.
“But I will continue to hold the Welsh Government to account on decisions it makes as a public body directly accountable to the people of Wales.”