TONY Blair’s think tank is being paid to advise countries with poor human rights records, it has been revealed.

The ex-PM’s Institute for Global Change (TBI) is being paid by the authoritarian governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain as it continues to expand as an advisory service for overseas leaders.

It has also emerged the organisation was being paid to advise the UAE while shaping policy around COP28 as the country was hosting it.

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The TBI – at which Blair is an unpaid executive chairman - began working with the Bahraini leadership over the past 12 months on a modernisation programme despite concerns about human rights abuses.

Last year, it emerged that the TBI continued to carry out paid work for Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Blair’s staff have helped to craft the gulf kingdom’s Vision 2030, a modernisation programme led by Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In recent months, the TBI has co-hosted events with Bahraini authorities. During a roundtable event in London in October, Dr Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla al Khalifa, Bahrain’s deputy foreign minister, outlined the country’s desire to strengthen ties with Blair’s organisation.

In December, it emerged Blair was providing support to the COP28 leadership team while other staff were also deployed to offer advice.

The event’s president was Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who is also chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, and Blair was among those who hailed his appointment.

A briefing document prepared for al-Jaber before a meeting with Blair in September outlined both Blair and the TBI’s work around the conference.

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The note, obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting, referenced the TBI’s “ongoing support in the CPD [COP president-designate] office on finance, tech and innovation”.

Under a section outlining “key objectives” for the meeting, the document noted a desire to “seek support” from Blair to “rally attendance” at COP28 from countries where the TBI is engaged.

It further outlined al-Jaber’s intention to ask Blair about how to “build the media narrative” before COP28.

An official list of participants at the summit held in Dubai states that four senior TBI staff were guests of the UAE, saying that they were there in an “unpaid advisory capacity”.

The TBI – created in 2016 - said it was not paid for its work on COP28 and “did not ask for nor receive remuneration for our support”. A spokesman said that while it carries out paid work for the UAE, it has not done so around climate issues.

According to accounts published in October, the TBI had turnover of $111 million in 2022 for government advisory work, compared with $75 million the previous year, making up the vast majority of income.

Blair launched the institute as a "new policy platform to refill the wide open space in the middle of politics" aimed at combating a "frightening authoritarian populism" that he said was undermining the West's belief in democracy. 

A TBI spokesman said: “We work with the government of Bahrain, where, like our work elsewhere, we are supporting a modernisation programme in which we strongly believe.

“On COP28, TBI is committed to helping countries which are exposed and vulnerable to adverse climate impacts to create a more resilient future and pursue net zero at an achievable pace. That is why we offered strategic and policy insight (to) support COP28, entirely pro bono, because we want to help drive meaningful change. We did not ask for nor receive remuneration for our support.”