David Moran, British Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

David Moran

Former British Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Switzerland

15th June 2015

Celebrating Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is 800 years old on 15 June 2015. It is impressive that such an old document should continue to inspire individuals and societies around the world. The principles it enshrines – equality before the law, limits to the arbitrary exercise of power, due and fair process for citizens – are timeless and remain utterly relevant today.

The Magna Carta has influenced many subsequent national and international documents, including the 1689 English Bill of Rights, the 1776 US Declaration of Independence, the 1791 US Bill of Rights, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights. The core principles were prominent in the minds of those of us who were negotiating the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights in 1998-2000. Basic human rights have served to reinforce the rule of law and democracy, promoting prosperity and general quality of life, and strengthening what Prime Minister David Cameron has called the “golden thread” of good governance and effective, transparent and accountable institutions.

Human Rights are universal, as the UDHR makes clear. They are there for all of us and should be valued and defended. King John reluctantly signed the charter in Runnymede meadow. It was swiftly annulled. The noblemen themselves were hardly democrats as we would understand the word. But despite these inauspicious beginnings, the Magna Carta was revived and has become a hugely significant document. Most clauses are no longer on the statute book, but the principles behind the ones that do remain have been global game changers.

The Magna Carta will be celebrated this year in the UK and in British Embassies around the world. Local communities such as Barnes in southwest London have made it a recurrent theme of events throughout 2015. Last month I visited the excellent Magna Carta exhibition in the British Library, which includes two of the four surviving original manuscripts. I bought two souvenir copies, which will have pride of place at this week’s Queen’s Birthday Party in Berne where the theme is “British Values, British Excellence”. A decade ago I presented my previous copy to an Uzbek human rights defender, who understood far better than most its continuing significance. Like many British Ambassadors I have been showcasing the Magna Carta in speeches, most recently in Locarno last weekend, and will be co-hosting a UK-Swiss event later in the year with leading legal experts from both countries. (I have even dusted off drafts of a novel set in 1215 which I have been writing since 2006 – but please don’t hold your breath!) I hope that people from Britain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and many other countries will take part in the many activities commemorating a remarkable document, and the crucial values that it has promoted.

About David Moran

David Moran was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein from 2014 to 2017. David was born in Munich and studied at Stoke Brunswick and Tonbridge Schools. He has a…

David Moran was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Switzerland
and Liechtenstein from 2014 to 2017. David was born in Munich and
studied at Stoke Brunswick and Tonbridge Schools. He has a BA in Soviet
Studies from Willamette University in Oregon, and an MA in International
Relations from the University of Sussex. He is married to Carol
David has previously served as Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
and (non-resident) the Kyrgyz Republic. He has also been posted to
Nairobi, Moscow, Paris and Tbilisi, in the latter case as Chargé
d’Affaires. In the early 1990s he designed an elephant conservation and
rural development project in Ruaha, Tanzania. In London he was
responsible for the 1998-2000 EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
Prior to joining the Foreign Office in 1985, David spent 2½ years
working for the Oregon State Government. He was also a professional
blues pianist and keeps up his interest in music, including through a
live performance at the 2010 Almaty Beatles Festival. He posts on this
site on British-Swiss relations; foreign policy, human rights and
development issues; wildlife conservation; and playing the blues around
the world.