Laura Davies » Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Laura Davies

Former Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Sri Lanka

4th February 2016 Colombo, Sri Lanka

Democracy at Home and Abroad

Earlier this week in Colombo, we gathered together a group of civil society and human rights organisations.  For different reasons, Sri Lanka and Maldives are priorities for human rights for the UK.  That gives the High Commission access to the Magna Carta Fund, a strategic programme fund dedicated to tackling the root causes of human rights violations overseas.  Successful projects will uphold democratic values and the rule of law, support an effective rules-based international order and promote a more stable world by upholding universal rights in tackling conflict and extremism.

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BHC Second Secretary Tom Soper speaking to a civil society representative on Tuesday

We gathered all these potential partners together to increase our and their ability to bid successfully into the Fund, supporting our work with the Government of Sri Lanka to address long-standing human rights issues here, and with civil society in Maldives to protect a space which is under increasing threat.  The bidding window is open until 8 February, and we look forward to some really strong bids this year, particularly on freedom of expression, preventing sexual and gender-based violence, torture prevention and building the capacity of women and women’s organisations to contribute to post-conflict processes.

Planning the election observation
BHC funded election observers

Democracy is of course an essential building block for a secure and prosperous society.  Regular readers may remember that last year, the British High Commission in Colombo spent almost 750 million Sri Lankan rupees (around £350,000) enabling more informed and additional observation, and better and more widespread voter education for Sri Lanka’s Presidential and General elections.  Read my An Election Observed blog for more details.

Like charity, education begins at home.  Elections are important wherever and whenever they take place.  And you don’t always have to be resident in your own country to vote.  The UK Electoral Commission is keen to increase the participation of overseas voters in British elections, and has designated today Overseas Voter Registration Day.  It’s a good opportunity for all of the UK’s estimated 5.5 million citizens living overseas to register online to ensure they don’t miss out on their chance take part in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Only 106,000 overseas electors registered to vote at the 2015 General Election: three times the number on the register ahead of the 2010 election, but still only a tiny fraction of those eligible.

9513780861_a475b606b5_zThe date of referendum is not yet known, but it’s worth all UK expats registering sooner rather than later. Expats can now register online to vote in just a few minutes at If you can’t or don’t want to register online, you can still download and post back paper forms. But remember to return your completed form as far in advance of the deadline as possible. The actual deadlines for registering to vote and applying for an absent vote will be set once the date of the referendum is known. Once you’ve registered, you can choose how you wish to vote. You can vote by post, by proxy, or even in person at your polling station.

To register as an overseas elector you must have been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years. You will also need to know your National Insurance number and date of birth, and have your passport to hand if you have one. If you don’t have a National Insurance number you can still register, but you may have to supply more information to show who you are.

Circumstances and countries may differ, but all over the world, Elections Commissions have very similar mandates: supporting and enabling well-run elections that reflect the will of the people.  The British Government supports that at home and abroad.

For more information on bidding for the Magna Carta Fund click here

1 comment on “Democracy at Home and Abroad

  1. We had a fantastic response to our Magna Carta bidding round, receiving over 75 project applications. Thank you very much to everyone involved: it’s really heartening to see so much enthusiasm to consolidate and extend the recent improvements in human rights in Sri Lanka. We will be in touch with organisations shortly to let them know whether their bids will be going through to the next round.

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