United Nations General Assembly 2018: IRC Report

Thursday 6th September 2018

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Question for Short Debate

Asked by

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Report from the International Relations Committee The United Nations General Assembly 2018 (4th Report, HL Paper 156).

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con)
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My Lords, this is the second report on the United Nations and its affairs from your Lordships’ International Relations Committee, the first being at the time of the appointment of the new Secretary-General 22 months ago. It may not have been a bestseller but I am glad to say that Senhor Guterres and his advisers were reported to have found it useful. One of our members even spied it on the Secretary-General’s desk, so it may be that our work was not in vain. Anyway, this is the second one and it marks the annual opening meeting of the General Assembly of the UN later this month. I am very grateful to all those involved that we have the chance, even in a brief debate, to comment before the UN General Assembly meetings take place in the last week in September.

I have no direct interest to declare, except that I hope to attend this event in New York as part of the so-called High-Level Group on Governance of the Commonwealth and its reform, and that all the world’s expanding networks in the digital age—the modern Commonwealth being one among them—are of rapidly increasing relevance to the successful operation of the UN as a whole. That its operational mode should work and succeed in bringing peoples and nations together to address global issues was never more important than in this puzzling and directionless new world we have entered, driven paradoxically by connectivity of amazing power yet also by fragmentation of almost equal power. Yet that the UN institution is under the most severe challenges for many years past cannot be doubted either. Not only is its central structure still related to a past age, that of the post-war world, and suffering from the same paralysing consequences at Security Council level as way back in the Cold War years but, as power is redistributed through the web and the communications revolution, the task for the UN of keeping in effective and co-ordinated contact with all the new regional groupings, non-governmental agencies and centres of power, such as the communications giants that now dominate the globe—and with multiple new networks and civil society—becomes increasingly difficult and urgent.

Our brief report, for which I warmly thank my colleagues and our excellent support staff, who were as usual extremely helpful, seeks to address some new challenges but it cannot possibly touch on them all. At the heart of the problem lies the clash between the democracies and the autocracies, notably Russia and to a lesser extent China, about how the UN should perform its tasks—a clash which hobbles the influence of the permanent five in the Security Council and leaves many of its agencies in a deep dilemma. How can a UN-authorised force keep the peace when there is no peace to keep, or when the very nature of conflict is changing fast or it is not even clear who the conflicting and warring parties are? How can UN agencies concerned with development and poverty eradication succeed when not only are different models and views competing in the development field but the very nature of the problem has altered? How can it cope when American support is wavering under President Trump—the American view seems to blow hot and cold on the UN and its future—and the rules-based order of the past 70 years is openly flouted, or when disarmament momentum has stalled, or when the real roots of climate concern are ignored despite what was promised so hopefully in the Paris agreement?

Those are the negative questions but the scene is not all negative—I would not like to give that impression —especially when one focuses on the excellent work of many UN agencies, as we sought to do in our committee. According to official UN figures, while 20 years ago 35% of the world was living in poverty by its definition of $1.90 a day, the figure in 2013 was down to 10.4% and by some estimates is now down to 6%. Of course, for those in that percentage who are trapped in that world, the situation is still appalling and completely unacceptable. But the old picture of a planet divided in two like an orange between rich and poor countries—developed and developing countries—has been completely overtaken by modern events.

I was frankly a bit disappointed to hear the Secretary-General talk the other day about development as though it was still a “we and they” world with a yawning gap between donors and recipients. The reality today is different. Most people in most nations are in that gap, moving into conditions that would have been described a few years ago as developed. Gigantic new middle-class middle-income consumer markets are emerging in what used to be called the developing worlds of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Inside some countries, especially in the West, wider inequalities may have emerged or been perceived, creating dangerous political tensions and instability—although the measures are far from reliable. I gather we are shortly to have a visit from UN officials to survey the position here in our own United Kingdom. But in the world as a whole, inequality has been substantially reduced. That can be chalked up as a triumph and a major success for the UN agencies, among others.

The great world tragedies, and the focus points for the UN, have now shifted. The prime, truly global tasks now are to bring peace instead of war; to bring humanitarian relief where the ashes of peace have left horrific deprivation and the need to rebuild from the rubble, as in Syria; to co-ordinate moves against terrorism and the roots of terrorism; to begin bringing some principles of behaviour to the Wild West of cyberspace, which is full of dangers for us all; and to push ahead with the new proposals for addressing migration and defining more clearly the distinction between refugees and economic migrants, now disrupting the entire world, and certainly the whole of Europe, on an unprecedented scale.

In those tasks the UN will need the support and co-operation of all the powers, the non-governmental organisations and the regional networks and alliances that now weave the world together. If it cannot command that support and focus on those tasks, then other regional and bilateral alliances and coalitions of the willing will simply take its place, and in some cases I am afraid they are already doing so. If it cannot speak for the democracies and the true upholders of human rights, others will do so. Our report today points to some of the steps that the UN must take in establishing the new and stronger role that is now needed, but none of us can guarantee that these steps will be taken or that they will prove to be enough.

The pattern of international relations has changed, and the distribution of global power has shifted, beyond recognition. To retain and deploy the power and authority that the UN ought to have as a truly effective global institution, it too will have to change considerably—indeed, some would say “beyond recognition”—or be left behind as the digital world moves on into entirely new territory.

I trust that our comments on our hearings and our report will allow your Lordships some useful opportunity to think about the forthcoming UN General Assembly and the way in which Britain can play an effective role in an institution that must survive for the peace of the world.

Lord Stone of Blackheath Portrait Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab)
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My Lords, in the report Mr Hochschild draws attention to areas of particular concern. He specifically mentions Israel-Palestine, where the peace process is “suffering a major setback”. Much of my work is in the Middle East and from 50 years’ experience I can see now that, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, unity work must be conducted vertically at three levels of relationships: at country level, between communities, and then between individuals within communities. Without progress and cohesion at all three levels, we will remain stuck in the paradigm whereby we are repeating the same old processes that we have seen since the 1990s.

I would like to share some examples of initiatives and projects covering these three levels that I visited last month, and which need to be aligned with the work of a reformed UN. Starting at country level, the Alliance for Middle East Peace—ALLMEP—is the largest and fastest-growing network of Israeli and Palestinian peace and co-operation groups. Its campaign is to create an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace, using the same plan as the transformative fund for Ireland set up 10 years before the Irish peace process took bite. It takes a generational approach. It is creating a $200-million-a-year fund, endorsed by the UK earlier this year, and $50 million has already been pledged by the US Senate. It will scale investment in peace, focusing on international actors, through a single mechanism so that we can shape generations on each side of the green line who in the short term have become resilient to the violence and extremism, but who over the longer term deserve support towards genuine peace between both peoples.

After 1945, Her Majesty’s Government played an integral part in establishing the UN to prevent wars between countries. This system and organisation is now stretched in dealing with the modern crisis that is wars within nations such as Syria and other Middle East countries, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.

Search for Common Ground is a great organisation which I came across in Israel and which is helping to resolve conflicts there. During the last year, in the DRC, old grievances boiled over in the Tanganyika province between Pygmies from an ethnic Twa group and the Luba, a Bantu group. Villages were burned. Women and children were tortured and more than half a million people fled their homes. It remains one of the most underreported crises yet, as negotiations broke down and the United Nations struggled to keep peace, Pygmy and Bantu youth stepped forward, with Search for Common Ground’s help. Village by village, they are setting up committees, with members from both ethnic groups, meeting with the militia commanders and local leaders to prevent attacks and clearing a way for displaced people to return home.

In the crisis in Yemen, Search for Common Ground is fanning out throughout the country, helping humanitarian workers negotiate access to communities in need. As Her Majesty’s Government crafts their position at the UN, they should ensure that these reforms help widen and deepen partnerships with these international and local non-governmental peacebuilding organisations.

However, all this work should start with individuals. Here, I mention the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. On the Parliamentary Estate, there are now 400 individuals—Lords, MPs and staff—who have completed an eight-week course on mindfulness. Mindfulness techniques are, with our help, now in another 13 Parliaments across the world. There are many testaments as to how mindfulness has allowed people in Parliament to work with greater compassion, understanding and patience. Compassionate mindfulness allows me, in fraught situations in the Middle East, to listen to others who have completely different histories and cultures and to understand and accept that their narrative is their truth, so that we can develop together projects with win-win solutions.

Last week, Ben Avrahami, an adviser to the Mayor of Jerusalem, took me on a visit to show how, despite media reports to the contrary, Palestinians and Israelis, Muslims, Jews and Christians in east Jerusalem are working together for a better future. I met people on the street in different neighbourhoods who felt they were benefiting from co-operating together. I was impressed by the quality and commitment of Ramadan Dawash, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, who will stand at the election next month for a seat on the municipality of Jerusalem. I hope the city will benefit from the perspective and input of him and others like him. In Ariel, Israel Twito, the founder of a settlement factory called Twitoplast, is employing Palestinians, Israelis and Russian immigrants. He is providing them with good pay and conditions, health services and education at all levels, and everyone is thriving. All employees are encouraged to progress according to their merit without being obstructed by their nationality. This could become a win-win situation as it was at SodaStream and PepsiCo.

Listening mindfully to each of the people I met on these visits allowed me to see how people with mutual respect could find ways to help each other. Perhaps Her Majesty’s Government would like to offer our experience in facilitating mindfulness techniques and skills to people in the UN.

The world is more interconnected than ever—vertically by individual, community and country, and horizontally across the globe. The UN should, therefore, continue to reform itself. It should incorporate mindfulness and compassion in its training of its people, work in communities with the best NGOs, such as Search for Common Ground, and build alliances with organisations such as the Alliance for Middle East Peace across countries. We in the United Kingdom have a long experience of such techniques and organisations. Her Majesty’s Government would do well to influence the UN in its reform to move towards a greater vertical synergy to achieve its objectives.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD)
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My Lords, it feels a bit like a question of: follow that! I was not expecting to follow a speech about mindfulness. I am tempted to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Stone, not recommend that the UK advocate mindfulness to the UN but rather that he brief the Cabinet about mindfulness, because it might assist in some of its deliberations about some of the other issues on the agenda, notably—dare I mention it?—Brexit.

Clearly, I do not intend to make a speech about Brexit any more than about mindfulness, but one implication of Brexit will emerge in my speech shortly. I am one of those who has the honour of serving on the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I would like to make a disclaimer. There are quite a lot of Smiths in your Lordships’ House—I think there are eight of us: three Baronesses and five Lords. However, someone in the printing process has created a new Baroness Smith so, according to the paper, we have a new Baroness Smith of Cardowan, which seems to be an amalgamation of me and the noble Lord, Lord Reid. I just say that it is definitely me who sits on the committee, and I do not in any way attempt to hide my identity as Lady Smith of Newnham.

Having disclaimed that and said that I really was on the committee, I turn to the evidence that the committee took, which has been referred to by previous speakers. Fabrizio Hochschild talked in part about the UK’s contribution to the UN. In particular, he stressed that the UK is second only to the United States in our financial contribution to the UN and also makes the third largest contribution in personnel. In the light of the United States’ approach to the UN under President Trump, it is highly possible that the United Kingdom could become the largest contributor to the UN, so it clearly has a major role to play.

I want to divide my comments into two areas: first, on the general approach that the UK takes to the UN and how we see our role in the context of the post-Brexit world; and, secondly, on the two specific issues of human rights and the compact for migration. There is a clear question about how the United Kingdom can influence debate and decisions in the United Nations. When the International Relations Committee was producing our first report, giving guidance to the Secretary-General and taking general ad hoc evidence, it was made very clear to us that, at the moment, the United Kingdom caucuses with the other EU member states in our deliberations in the UN. Obviously, in the context of Brexit, the United Kingdom remains a member of the UN and of the P5, but it will lose one of the fora for networking and caucusing ahead of decisions.

Have her Majesty’s Government thought about how they will prepare for UNGA and future UNGAs post Brexit? Will there be fora for talking to the EU 27 member states, just as we might want to network with the Commonwealth and other UN member states once we leave? As the Secretary-General has pointed out, there are multiple centres of power in the post-Cold War world, and the United Kingdom has been part of a centre of power in the European Union. What role does it see for itself post Brexit?

I turn to the specifics that the United Nations will examine at the General Assembly, and particularly human rights. Her Majesty’s Government pride themselves on their support for human rights, but can the Minister tell us what work will be done behind the scenes—obviously not in detail—and what preparations might be made for conversations about Iran and the situation for two people: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose name frequently hits the headlines, and Kamal Foroughi, whose son talked to some of us at the International Relations Committee after a previous hearing? Do the Government intend to raise those issues in informal conversations with the Iranian Government? Do they intend to raise the issue of Myanmar and the case of the Rohingya? Are they willing to accept that this is, or should at least be considered as, a case of genocide?

Finally, I turn to migration, which the European Union has been focused on for years. We have been looking at regional solutions but, arguably, there is a much greater case for global solutions. A global compact for migration has been suggested at the highest levels. Your Lordships’ International Relations Committee believed that this was a useful way forward and that a compact could offer rules of the road. It agreed with Mr Hochschild that the existing approach of dealing with migration challenges at a bilateral regional level and outside the UN system is now inadequate because of the proportion and trends of the challenge. Do the Government agree? Are they willing to support the idea of a global compact for migration? Are we likely to see some positive British statements at the forthcoming General Assembly?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Portrait Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Howell on setting out so clearly the background to our debate today on our committee’s short report, and indeed on securing time for the debate before the meeting of the 73rd UN General Assembly later this month.

I value the opportunities that I had to attend UNGA. I often heard it described as speed-dating for leaders and Ministers. I shall not comment on my meetings on that basis. It is certainly a cost-effective way of discussing sensitive issues with the widest range of country representatives in one city in one week or so. It is attended by thousands of politicians, NGO representatives and their staff. There are hundreds of official and unofficial public events which take place around New York City, as well as the events in the UN building and the hundreds of ministerial meetings arranged by the country delegations.

I record my thanks to all those who work so tirelessly at the UK office in New York. I visited the UN six times as a Minister, twice for UNGA, and was always impressed by the high regard in which their expertise is held by other country delegations. Last month was hectic for our UN team because the UK presided over the Security Council. Now they prepare for the influx of Ministers to UNGA. Will my noble friend the Minister confirm which Ministers will be attending?

The theme of the high-level general debate this year is “Making the UN Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”. It gives the UK the opportunity to continue to champion multilateralism and to be at the forefront of efforts to make the UN more effective in dealing with international challenges. To do that, the UN needs enough funding. The battle to negotiate the end-of-year budget agreement is a legendary marathon. What preparatory discussions have the Government had, for example, with the United States in preparation for that marathon? After all, it has been reported that the US is looking at making overall cuts to its contributions to the UN, including to peacekeeping. Can the Minister update the House on the current position?

Peacekeeping is core to the reputation of the United Nations and the credibility of the value of multilateral co-operation. Its reputation has taken a knock over the past couple of years, with revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some members of the forces of some troop-contributing countries. In paragraph 52 of our report, we welcome the commitment of the Secretary-General to improve the UN’s response to sexual abuse by peacekeepers, but we make it clear that much more needs to be done. What are the Government’s plans to advocate for more effective action in this respect?

I was impressed by the views expressed by UNA-UK in its letter to our UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, on this matter. Like the committee, UNA-UK believes that the Secretary-General’s efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse will not bear fruit without robust support and further action by TCCs and the Security Council. UNA-UK makes the point, with which I agree, that sexual violence—a crime in international law—is conduct that should always be treated as criminal, and not as a disciplinary offence. Surely, if uniformed personnel commit such acts, their home country should be willing and able to prosecute them for it. It is true that the Secretary-General can take disciplinary action, such as repatriation, and is empowered, through UNSC Resolution 2272, to ask that member states take action. But if the state does nothing, the Secretary-General has a sticky wicket to protect. If he proceeds to ban the country from peacekeeping operations as a whole, it could spark political arguments and, in the real world, where troops are in short supply for UN missions, a Secretary-General might consider that there are pragmatic reasons for not taking action against TCCs. What is the current position of the UK Government on this matter? Do they consider the powers in Resolution 2272 sufficient to eradicate SEA among peacekeepers? Have they explored what other measures can be taken by the UN to ensure that peacekeepers cannot be deployed until there are processes in place to ensure that they are held to account? What have the Government concluded?

As penholder at the UN on peacekeeping reform, the UK is well-placed to take forward further measures. UNGA gives us an opportunity to do so; I hope that the Government seize it.

Lord Judd Portrait Lord Judd (Lab)
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My Lords, not for the first time, I find myself wanting warmly to congratulate the noble Lord and his team for having produced this excellent report. I always find them interesting reading and they have established quite a standard and reputation of their own.

It is particularly telling that, on this occasion, the noble Lord has re-emphasised the basic theme that we live in a totally interdependent world and have to find ways of working with that, fulfilling the opportunities that it presents and strengthening the international machinery for meeting the challenges.

It is also important that, in the report, the committee emphasises the importance of multilateralism. I have believed, for most of my life, that multilateralism is the most effective way of helping to build a better world. It would be very unfortunate if we drifted into a situation where we had competitive approaches coming from individual states.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, because I totally endorse her plea for a world approach to migration. There is simply no way that we are going to sort this out in the long run unless we have a rational, global approach. I hope that the House will take that plea of hers seriously and that the Minister will respond to it.

As somebody deeply involved in UNA, I also say how much I appreciate the remarks by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. It is good to hear her, with her experience, saying and recognising those things. The work that UNA has done on issues such as sexual abuse has been very important indeed.

If we are talking about interdependence and multilateralism, I think that we can accept that, broadly speaking, the UK’s statements to the UN General Assembly have been positive and strong in support of these principles. Unfortunately, the UK’s conduct has, perhaps increasingly, failed to live up to the rhetoric through, for example, the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the appalling suffering in Yemen and the UK’s dismissive tone—I find it so distasteful—when it comes to the majority of states that support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We may disagree, but we talk still in patronising, dismissive terms, which does not help at all.

One of the points which needs to be stressed is that the UN is not something separate from us; we are the UN, together with the other members. There has been a tendency, under successive Governments—I plead guilty to having been part of that myself in the past—to talk about the UN as though it were somehow a separate institution. It is our institution, it belongs to us, and when things are not going well—and sometimes they do not—it behoves us first to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “What are we doing about the failures to try to put things right?” That comes across as a concept that is very much behind what this report is arguing.

There is also a tremendous need to involve the wider public in understanding the UN and their role in the UN system. After all, the charter speaks of,

“We the peoples of the United Nations”,

and we need to do more to make that a reality. It is therefore good that the present Secretary-General has himself emphasised this, and it becomes important as we approach the 75th anniversary celebrations of the UN. A good starting point—I know this is something believed within the UNA—would be to have a specific centre in the UN on which non-governmental organisations and others could focus in bringing their views and their invaluable experience into play in the deliberation of policy.

Above all, I thank the noble Lord and his team for the first-class work which they have done on behalf of this House.

Baroness Coussins Portrait Baroness Coussins (CB)
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My Lords, as a member of the International Relations Committee and as someone who started her career working for the United Nations Association in the UK, I was pleased to have been part in producing this short report and to have had the opportunity to hear from Mr Hochschild, whose oral evidence to the committee was extremely valuable. As ever, thanks are also due to our excellent clerks and policy analyst.

I will briefly flag up four issues which I hope Her Majesty’s Government will agree to champion at this month’s UN General Assembly. Before doing so, I also wish to pay tribute to the late Kofi Annan, a superb and stand-out Secretary-General, many of whose initiatives are exactly the ones we would like to see more vigorously pursued and implemented now. I also welcome the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and look forward to debating at a future date what I hope and trust will be her achievements in that role.

In the light of her appointment, it would certainly be timely for the next General Assembly to recommit in the strongest possible terms to the UN human rights agenda and, as our report recommends, for Her Majesty’s Government to take a clear leadership position in advocating this. It was disturbing to hear from Mr Hochschild in his evidence to the committee that there had been a,

“global pushback against human rights”.

His view was that many parts of the world have seen a retreat from the protection and promotion of human rights in the face of threats of terrorism and the assertion of sovereignty. He observed that conflict is driven by exclusion, and so the links between terrorism and human rights must be acknowledged and acted upon.

The second issue on which the UK should assert some strong leadership is the reputation, authority and credibility of the UN, which Mr Hochschild described as being a “major problem”. This goes to the heart of needing to sustain and constantly articulate the case for multilateralism, which must surely be the only effective way to handle and counter the global challenges of the 21st century—I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Judd—including terrorism, climate change, unprecedented population movement and cybercrime. One important aspect of leadership in this regard will be to maintain and improve levels of funding and to persuade other member states to do likewise.

The third issue I want to raise, and which itself has a bearing on the resilience of the UN’s budget, is the view shared by Mr Hochschild and the current Secretary General that the private sector should be mobilised to play a greater part in the implementation of the sustainable development goals. This must be right, and there are already many examples of successful partnerships, for example in anti-malaria programmes and in private sector funding for translation and interpreting facilities. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government envisage a greater role for the private sector might be developed, what this would look like and what the UK will advocate at the General Assembly to support it.

Finally, I ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will seek to strengthen the text of the global compact on refugees, which is being put to the General Assembly, specifically in respect of language issues—and I declare an interest as vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The draft global compact acknowledges the importance of language education for integration but would be significantly strengthened if it provided explicitly for the right of refugees to information in a language they speak and understand so that they can access relevant protection and assistance. This right would need to be backed up by systematic data collection on language and improved resourcing for interpreting and translation, so that help for refugees can be better targeted and more effective.

I am grateful to the splendid organisation Translators without Borders for alerting me to these issues. I hope the Minister will be willing to see that they are raised at the General Assembly later this month, along with the issues flagged up in the Select Committee’s report.

Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone Portrait Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone (Con)
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My Lords, great appreciation is due to my noble friend Lord Howell for his dedication and expertise. In another place, he served as an enlightened chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He continues to add tremendous insight, eloquence and authority as chair of the International Relations Select Committee in this House. We are all in his debt.

I fear I may have tested your Lordships’ patience today, but I need to declare my personal interest in that my grandfather, Maxwell Garnett, was Secretary of the League of Nations Union from 1920 until 1938. It was his life’s work and we were all brought up on the work of the League of Nations Union. He worked extremely closely with the father of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. We used to hear a great deal about “Judd”; we had no idea who he was, but he was a subject of conversation throughout our childhood.

In these troubling and difficult times, I wanted to make a contribution. We see a world assailed almost daily by terrorist attacks—thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced by sustained conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. We see insidious nationalism and xenophobia rising up across Europe and elsewhere. Fear and anger manifest themselves in a pervasive backlash against human rights. Our technological triumphs come twinned with malicious and disturbingly opaque aggression, from cybercrime to election-hacking. Liberal democracy is being undermined by persistent backsliding. The Freedom House research institute considers the world to be in its 12th consecutive year of democratic decline. The dangers of climate change carry unprecedented urgency.

The words of Dag Hammarskjöld echo in our ears: “The UN was not created to send mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”. Let us consider the UN Human Rights Council, for example, which rightly attracts controversy over the anti-Israel bias of permanent agenda item 7. The inclusion of countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia can be questioned. Their records on political inclusion and civil liberties leave a great deal to be desired but, nevertheless, many regret seeing the United States turn its back on the UNHRC. As recognised by the United Nations Association UK, during its participation in the UNHRC, the United States positively influenced effective steps towards reducing bias against Israel. Its departure may compromise this progress.

The array of threats and challenges makes international co-operation and multilateral action all the more essential. With an “America First” United States shunning the long-held mantle of global leadership, with Britain potentially weakening ties with our European neighbours, and with the world feeling the growing pains of a shift towards a multipolar system, the UN represents a crucial platform for dialogue and co-ordination. Its agencies can create indispensable opportunities to manage change and to tackle the challenges of the world. I was pleased to hear my noble friend describe the work of many of the agencies as absolutely excellent.

Clearly, the UN can benefit from review and criticism. For the UN to continue to flourish, it is essential that criticisms are sought, considered and acted upon. I am delighted that the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination is already introducing a number of steps, promising management restructuring, the elimination of duplication, increased structural efficiency, greater transparency and, splendidly, an increase in the number of women in the UN Secretariat and its agencies. Over 50% of the senior management group and the 50 most senior individuals in the UN are now women for the first time in its history—a significant accomplishment.

I particularly applaud our first female ambassador to the UN, Dame Karen Pierce. She is a formidable diplomat, evidently thriving in her role. She uses the UK’s position as a permanent member of the Security Council and as a substantial financial contributor to push for collaboration in tackling the security, stability, development and prosperity challenges of today. I also applaud the Secretary-General’s proactive and explicit commitment to gender equality.

The horrific revelations of peacekeeper misconduct have already been mentioned. It is critical to abolish an intolerable culture of apparent impunity demonstrated by some UN operatives.

I am proud that the UK continues to be placed among the top financial contributors. It contributes more to multilateral institutions than any country other than the US, and our contributions are more than double those of the US in per capita terms. This is an unequivocal demonstration of our commitment to supporting the rules-based international order through which we work in concert with other countries to promote security and liberal values across the world. I have great confidence in our new Foreign Secretary, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt—my successor in my former constituency. I know that he sincerely and deeply holds to the values and importance of the UN and the rules-based international order.

We should take pride also that we were the first major economy to meet the UN’s 0.7% target on foreign aid and expenditure. Just this week, there was a welcome announcement from Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, in support of the UN Relief and Works Agency to help ensure that vulnerable Palestinians can access vital healthcare and education services. The additional aid will help keep schools open for 500,000 children and provide medical care for 3.5 million refugees.

The legitimacy of the UN is inextricably connected to its effectiveness in preserving peace and resolving conflicts. I fully support the Select Committee in urging the Government to discourage strongly the use of vetoes, especially when such behaviour hinders responsiveness to humanitarian crises. Of course, we have not used the veto at the Security Council since the 1980s, but that is not the case for other members, and we have seen the veto used more commonly over the past 12 months than at any time since the Cold War.

I conclude by echoing the noble Baroness’s comments about former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who died last month after an extraordinary life of dedication to building a fairer and more peaceful world. Around the turn of the century, Secretary-General Annan said that,

“if the United Nations does not attempt to chart a course for the world’s people in … the new millennium, who will?”

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank both the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the International Relations Committee for producing their report and therefore for prompting this debate this evening in advance of the UN General Assembly. The report is timely and the debate will, I hope, be a positive contribution to the impact that the UK can have at the General Assembly and at the associated events over the next month.

I want briefly to reference Kofi Annan. He was probably the nicest, most diplomatic but almost the most determined international figure that I had the experience of meeting in my ministerial life and since. His death is a real loss to the international community, but his impact lives on in the agreement of the millennium development goals, the endorsement of the original concept of responsibility to protect and a whole number of other areas. He moved the United Nations into a new century with real leadership and he is sadly missed.

I refer to my register of interest, in particular my position as vice-president of UNICEF, which no doubt will be launching many new initiatives over the next three weeks.

I will focus on the issues identified in the report. The report is strong because it has at its heart the issue of human rights, which are in so much danger these days in so many different parts of the world. The report also identifies the complexity of the current challenges facing the United Nations and the international community. It identifies the importance of the sustainable development goals and rightly identifies the great work being done by the current Secretary-General and others to initiate and deliver reform inside the United Nations system.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has said, we live in a world that is increasingly interdependent, where the solution to problems has to be complex, as the problems themselves are increasingly complex. In a world where conflicts may in most cases be internal within countries but have impacts far and wide across the globe; in a world where climate is changing and the response to that is so inadequate; and in a world where international finance and the resultant impact on technology, poverty and job creation across the world is so complex for individual countries to handle, the role of the United Nations and other international organisations becomes much more important. Their reform, to make sure that they are efficient, deliver for people and have the trust of people, is essential.

As these international organisations are facing so many challenges and the rules-based system is being challenged by so many leaders, either by their actions or their words, I would like this Chamber to hold a specific debate in which we could discuss the wider issues of that rules-based international system—not just the United Nations but other organisations, including the World Trade Organization, which is perhaps going to play a more prominent role in our future over the coming years. I would like to see a proper debate on that in this Chamber over the coming months.

I will address migration in the context of the sustainable development goals. When I was in New York last year, the Secretary-General made the valid point that in a place such as the Sahel in Africa, the complexity of the challenges that lead to mass migration—poverty and economic challenges, conflict or climate, or all three—lead us to one conclusion: that the sustainable development goals are the answer. The comprehensive nature of those goals is the answer to these complex challenges. The pace of delivery on the SDGs in 2018, three years into a 15-year programme, is just not good enough.

What will the UK do at this year’s UN General Assembly and in the Security Council and the other meetings that take place? One year in advance of our voluntary national review next September at the United Nations, what will the UK be doing to up the pace of delivery of the SDGs? What will we be doing to make sure that the data is available and that countries are producing honest strategies and measuring themselves against the goals they have set? What will we be doing to make sure that the whole UN system, in every agency and every arm, is focused on delivering the goals?

In particular, what will we be doing to make sure that goal 16 is not relegated to the bottom of the pile and ignored, because peace, justice and strong institutions are vital for the delivery of all the other goals? Will we be supporting the UN’s role in peace building—not just peacekeeping—to make sure that the conflict prevention work identified by the Secretary-General as his top priority gets the support it deserves from us and from others?

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the co-chair of the All-Party Group on the UN and the former chair of the UN Association. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in paying tribute to the work done by the UN Association, which is quite outstanding considering its minuscule resources.

The report by your Lordships’ International Relations Committee that we are debating, and which has been so excellently introduced by our chair, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, reaches one overriding conclusion: that the rules-based international order, to the sustaining and development of which the Government—quite rightly, in my view—attaches the greatest importance, is facing greater threats and more stress than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The UN, which has primacy among the institutions underpinning that order, is under considerable strain, to put it rather mildly. Our debate, which should perhaps have come in full time in this Chamber, is both topical and relevant.

Many of the strains at the UN relate to the malfunction of its Security Council, the permanent membership of which is frequently referred to by Ministers as a jewel in the crown of our foreign policy, but which is in fact not much use if the institution we are talking about is not functioning terribly well. We need to be deeply concerned about the way that the Security Council has, in recent years, been paralysed by vetoes such as those used—abused, I would say myself—by Russia and China on Syria and by the United States on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Improving the functioning of the Security Council, and in particular preventing it being frustrated by these sorts of vetoes when gross violations of international humanitarian law are taking place, should be a high priority for any British Government. I hope the noble Baroness is able to confirm that it is.

We will, unfortunately, get little help at the UN from our principal ally, the United States. Its lamentable withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, from the agreement with Iran and from UNESCO, its flouting of Security Council resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, its cutting of funding to UNRWA, and its refusal to participate in the negotiations of a global compact for migration are all heavy blows, and there are probably more to come. Neither President Trump nor his national security adviser, John Bolton, has any time at all for the United Nations. Let us not kid ourselves about that: they are on the record saying so.

If we are to sustain this organisation through these difficult times, we need to try to group around the UN what is often in New York called “friends of the UN”. In my view, we should be principal among these friends, along with our EU partners, whose policies at the UN so closely match our own.

Two important areas of policy at the UN are surely deserving of our full support, and I hope that the Minister will be able to say something on both of them: migration and cybersecurity. In those cases, the best—that is to say, legally binding international treaties or laws—is probably beyond our reach at the moment, and it could well be the enemy of the good. It is quite right to look in terms of international rules of the road rather than binding treaties for both these. I hope we will endorse the global compact when it is put to the members of the United Nations later in the autumn. There is a real need to inject a little humanity and a little bit of respect for human rights into the handling of this extraordinarily vexed and sensitive subject. Secondly, there is surely a need to avoid drifting—as I believe we are—towards what I would call mutually assured damage, which currently characterises the cybersecurity scene. I hope that we will lend our support to efforts to mitigate that.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said, resources are always important and they are certainly important at the UN. Our 0.7% gross national income commitment remains a crucial support for the achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to the committee’s recommendation that we make a clear multi-year commitment at the General Assembly this month to the UN Secretary-General’s resources for conflict prevention and peacebuilding, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. The UN Secretary-General needs more resource and help in those fields.

In return, we should look to a reinforced effort to stamp out sexual abuse by UN staff, whether peacekeepers or civilians, and I join totally with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in what she had to say on that subject. She made a notable contribution when she was on the Front Bench. We should also ask of the UN that we make progress in breaking down some of those silos in which policy-making there is so burdened—as one sometimes discovers it is in this capital too. It is a heavy agenda, perhaps, but one that is really important. It is in troublesome moments like this at the UN when you really know who your friends are. I hope we will be among them.

Finally, I join in the tributes to Kofi Annan. He was a personal friend but he was also a great Secretary-General. He made a massive contribution throughout his life to the work of the organisation. He was hugely respected and achieved a lot. I hope that his memory will inspire us to continue to support the UN to the fullest of our ability.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, we can all endorse the final remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.

In her clear and effective speech the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, outlined the title of the 73rd General Assembly: “Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”. One might think that not much has been left out from that description, but the first part—“Making the United Nations Relevant to All People”—is perhaps the critical aspect. Making it relevant in a world where the system of norms and practices developed over more than two generations has been upended in many regards over the last year needs to be the overriding priority, not only of the Secretary-General but of all those committed to a rules-based international order such as the United Kingdom.

That priority seems hard to deliver—as the chairman said—not only in a more complex world but in one where, as many noble Lords have said, one of the founding fathers of the United Nations, the USA, is currently undermining so much of its work and that of its agencies. Alternative transactional approaches seem to be gaining some kind of support in some countries. That is clearly against our interests—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd: we are the United Nations.

Prior to the General Assembly, a political declaration on peace in the name of Nelson Mandela is being sought. I want to focus my short remarks on this and simply phrase it as investing for peacebuilding. In that regard, I endorse the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Stone, on the search for common ground. He and I were both at the awards ceremony earlier in the summer and I pay tribute to its work around the world.

If this is to be successful in this multi-conflict and tense world, we need to focus more on upstream resilience to violent radicalisation in individuals and communities. Territorial boundaries are often irrelevant to this; often, they are the cause. The General Assembly needs to focus its efforts now on channelling more investment into young people in the future.

Over the summer break, I was in the Middle East and North Africa twice. In that region, 8 million children are now entering the new school year overcoming significant challenges such as displacement, poverty, child labour, poor school transportation, overcrowding, a lack of teachers and facilities and low-quality education. One in five children across the region live in conflict-afflicted countries. Those children not only deserve our admiration, but consideration of the role that the United Kingdom can play, and what we can lever through the General Assembly to allow them to have more stable and prosperous regions where they can realise their ambitions.

Only a tiny proportion of those young people may become violent as a result of radicalisation, but their violent behaviour has an impact on the wider age group. If peacebuilding in the name of Nelson Mandela is to be served by anything, it is an almost exclusive focus on young people. Nearly a third of the region’s population is aged between 15 and 29, with a further third aged below that. This demographic momentum will therefore last for at least two decades and the phenomenon of some young people using violence as an extension of their extreme views may also now be a long-term issue that will require long-term solutions.

The demographic challenge, including those such as migration mentioned by my noble friend Lady Smith, is most acute in this conflict-afflicted region. It is clearly present in Africa and some parts of Asia, where tensions matched with economic inactivity are a threat. Research by UNICEF shows that in 11 League of Arab States countries the under-18 population stands at approximately 118 million or 6% of the world’s child population. If the General Assembly is to chart a new course for relevance, it needs to make sure for the youngest generation in the world that we have policies and funding that supports their work.

This is my second point. Sources of support and the trend for funding now need, as the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, says, to take a step-change up. The OECD expects the world’s economy to strengthen in 2018 and 2019, with most G20 countries expected to experience improvement. As countries recover from the global financial crisis, it is time to rethink how our commitments to address the development financing made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the European Consensus on Development might be met. It is not just about overall totals, but about where the support is directed to. Humanitarian aid has risen by two-thirds in real terms in the last decade, reflecting conflict and disasters, and in-donor refugee costs rose by 300% in real terms.

By contrast, the growth in ODA for bilateral development projects, with its longer-term type of investment, both in economic opportunities and in supporting education and upstream activities, programmes and technical co-operation, was only 4%. That is the area we need to focus on in UNGA. I absolutely support the increased role of the private sector in levering the growth in philanthropic support. With the UK’s leadership, it could make a significant impact.

Overall, the strengthening global economy is not yet translating into increased percentages of incomes supporting ODA from some of our closest allies. Indeed, in Australia, the Netherlands and, most recently, Germany it has dropped, as it has in Austria, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain. The United Arab Emirates and some other new members of the OECD are turning around that trend but, nevertheless, the United Kingdom, having given a commitment to long-term stable investment into ODA, including into technical assistance and development support, is a world leader.

Therefore, I would like the Minister to confirm that, on each of our bilaterals, British Ministers will show leadership in working with our closest allies, not just the United Nations but in Europe and around the world. If they meet their long-standing commitments as we have met ours, working with the private sector and philanthropists, providing leadership and support for long-term investment in young people across the Middle East, North Africa and around the world, this United Nations General Assembly will be a great success—and not only for the family of nations in this more complex world. It will also become more relevant to young people around the world, and it will be the United Kingdom supporting the United Nations that will provide that relevance.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for his introduction and his committee’s second report on the UN. There is consensus across the Chamber over the committee’s conclusions that the UN is under considerable strain and that the General Assembly represents an opportunity for the United Kingdom to continue to champion multilateralism—a point made by my noble friend Lord Judd.

Like noble Lords, in the other place today my right honourable friend Emily Thornberry paid tribute to Kofi Annan, who sadly passed away three weeks ago. She referred to his 2007 speech to Parliament, marking the abolition of the British slave trade. His words then resonate just as strongly today. Of the men and women who fought to abolish the slave trade, he said that they,

“represented a moral truth that seemed remote from the ways of the world, a moral passion that must at first have seemed utterly impracticable. Yet by persistence, by resolve, by eloquence, and by imagination, they changed history. They showed that moral persuasion could prevail over narrow self-interest”.

It is the same challenge today. We are living through a period where the world order and the international rules that are supposed to underpin it are under greater threat than at any time since the 1930s. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, acknowledged this in April at the high-level meeting of the UNGA when welcoming the Secretary-General’s vision for building and sustaining peace, particularly the renewed focus on conflict prevention. As said by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in an earlier debate on the UN Secretary-General, the UN—for all its weaknesses—remains an essential global institution and the linchpin of a rules-based international order, which it is in Britain’s interest to support.

However, a real concern raised by Mr Hochschild to the committee is that some world leaders have signalled that they may not be willing to support the United Nations to the same degree as previously. That is putting it mildly, especially as the Administration in Washington, seem ready to disregard their international obligations—as highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—on refugees and on paying the UN’s assessed contributions for regular and peacekeeping budgets. Sadly, whatever Trump has done, the Government’s hand has remained outstretched in the hope of some mythical free trade deal to solve the mess they are making of Brexit. If we are to have the international security and stability that we seek, diplomacy, development and defence have to go together.

Rather than those three Ds, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, summarised the Government’s approach as four Ds: diversification of the tools deployed by the UN to promote and sustain peace; development, with more effective interventions to address the drivers of conflict; diplomacy, to de-escalate crises and create the political conditions for long-term peace; and finally, perhaps most importantly, delivery in efficient partnerships with others. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was making this point. Can the Minister tell us what form this approach will take at the forthcoming General Assembly? How will we work with our partners to deliver this strategy? On development, the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development, a network of more than 1,000 organisations, suggests that the UK is performing poorly on three-quarters of the SDGs. How will the Government use the General Assembly to engage with other member states on their respective strategies for meeting the 2030 agenda? On delivery, the problem we face comes down to countries ignoring the rules that should govern our world. It is incumbent on all of us to stand up for the world order, to stand up for human rights and international treaties and to insist on working, through the United Nations, for peace.

If we want a world order based on international rules, then we must apply the same rules equally to every country, whether they are military allies or not, whether we trade with them or not, and whether Donald Trump wants us to or not. This is the only way we will restore what Kofi Annan called moral truth, moral passion and moral persuasion to our country’s foreign policy.

Baroness Goldie Portrait Baroness Goldie (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell for tabling this timely debate and for his lucid and analytical speech, as I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions. The Government welcome the International Relations Committee’s report on the forthcoming 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. The report identifies a number of interrelated issues facing the UN, and I shall refer to these as I respond to noble Lords’ points.

It goes without saying that, as a founder member of the United Nations, its third largest financial donor, a permanent member of the Security Council and a growing contributor to UN peacekeeping, the UK plays a significant role in the organisation and will continue to do so in the period ahead. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, made a pertinent observation when he said that the United Nations is not some abstract organisation. He is quite right: it is our United Nations, as it is the United Nations of all the other member states.

The UK takes its responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council extremely seriously. As noble Lords will be aware, we have just completed our latest month as rotating president of the council and, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Ahmad, we focused the council’s attention on the importance of mediation in the UN’s conflict prevention and resolution work, particularly the vital role of women mediators. We were fortunate to benefit in that debate from the participation and experience of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.

My noble friend also chaired a Security Council briefing on the situation in Burma and the plight of the Rohingya people. It is the Government’s intention to maintain a spotlight on the Rakhine crisis until such time as the Rohingya people are able to return home in peace and with dignity. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, who specifically raised the matter of Burma, that the United Nations fact-finding mission’s report reaffirmed the appalling human rights violations that so many in Burma have suffered. As Ministers have stated in the UK Parliament, this has been ethnic cleansing and may be genocide. I assure her that that there cannot and must not be impunity for such acts.

I turn to the UK’s engagement with other protracted conflicts. The Government actively support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to bring the parties together and to work towards a political agreement. Similarly, in Syria we continue to support the Geneva-based political process led by the UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura. In both cases, the complexity of the conflict is such that only an inclusive political solution will enable those countries to emerge from conflict and rebuild.

The noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, raised a number of issues, including the Alliance for Middle East Peace. The UK believes in the work that ALLMEP conducts and we support its objectives. ALLMEP’s work in developing an international fund for Israeli-Palestinian peace is a concept that the UK supports. He also raised issues in Tanganyika and across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We share his concerns there: as well as supporting the work of the UN stabilisation mission in the DRC, we supported a resolution at the 38th session of the Human Rights Council in June this year that mandated an investigation into human rights abuses across the DRC.

The noble Lord raised a very important and cogent point about mindfulness, while the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, was a little less charitable in her reaction to that. It is a technique that raises awareness of one’s thoughts and their effects on behaviour towards oneself and others. Perhaps we might want to think about it in this House. It is encouraged in government departments and we can see how it might be useful to apply it in the context to which the noble Lord referred.

A number of noble Lords referred to terrorism—not least the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and my noble friend Lady Bottomley. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary noted in his recent speech in Washington, Islamist-inspired terrorism continues to be a challenge to the global order, and we welcome the UN’s recently refreshed global counterterrorism strategy. In this 73rd session we will work with the United Nations’ new Office of Counter-Terrorism and with the General Assembly membership to strengthen counterterrorism policies and programmes, including those on aviation security and preventing terrorists’ use of the internet.

Not surprisingly, a number of noble Lords mentioned the issue of human rights: the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and my noble friend Lady Bottomley. The UK has played a key role in United Nations human rights fora since their inception, and we remain committed to promoting and safeguarding universal human rights, both because they are important in themselves and because defending them is in the national interest: human rights violations lead to less stable, less prosperous and less democratic societies. We warmly congratulate Michelle Bachelet on her appointment as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UK will remain a strong advocate of the UN Human Rights Council and the tools and mechanisms at its disposal for strengthening human rights protection.

On migration, which was referred to by a number of noble Lords, unmanaged migration continues to pose a significant challenge across Europe, and it is clear that bilateral and regional efforts to address this challenge are by themselves insufficient. A number of noble Lords also asked about the global compact for migration. The UK recognises the value of safe, orderly and properly managed migration, and the Government welcome that global compact, which was agreed in New York in July, as an international framework towards achieving a more orderly and managed process. We look forward to its implementation. In this context, I also noticed a very interesting observation by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, in her point about language and translation, which will be noted.

On sustainable development goals, on which, understandably, a number of noble Lords focused, my noble friend Lord Howell identified positive progress. The committee’s report rightly highlights delivery of the sustainable development goals as a priority—indeed the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, underlined that. The UK remains firmly committed to delivering the goals, both at home and abroad, and next year at the United Nations we will be presenting a voluntary national review of progress towards these goals.

I think the noble Lord asked specifically about sustainable development goal 16, which is concerned with peace, justice and strong institutions. We continue to work to meet these indicators. For example, we are contributing to reducing conflict and violence through our conflict prevention work, as set out in our strategic defence and security review of 2015.

We are leading in the Security Council on protecting children and women in armed conflict, and on peace and security. Indeed—this is related but not directly connected to that issue—the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, gave a very interesting account of his recent visits to Africa and an illustration of progress in education on that continent. On the broader issue of sustainable development, it is important that the Government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on development remains steadfast.

A number of noble Lords’ contributions covered peacekeeping, as well as increasing our own participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations. We continue to work closely with the UN and other member states to support peacekeeping reform. We remain focused on three priority areas: better mission planning; more pledges of quality equipment and personnel; and stronger performance and accountability. We also fully support the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse.

My noble friend Lady Anelay, in a characteristically informed contribution, raised some important questions which I want to try to deal with. She asked about ministerial attendance at UNGA. There will be a stellar cast: the Prime Minister; the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; the Secretary of State for International Development; the Minister for Women and Equalities; our colleague my noble friend Lord Ahmad; and the three other Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers Alistair Burt, Harriett Baldwin and Mark Field. I would also pick out Karen Pierce, who my noble friend Lady Bottomley very rightly referred to and who is regarded as a most influential presence in the forum.

My noble friend Lady Anelay also asked about UK discussions with the US regarding the funding of peacekeeping. Our Government have had a number of discussions with the US in relation to peacekeeping finances. The allocations for individual missions were agreed at the fifth committee of the General Assembly in late June for the current peacekeeping financial year, which runs from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019.

My noble friend also raised the important matter of sexual exploitation. I reassure her that we have strengthened language on the protection of women and girls, participation in peace processes and mainstreaming on gender perspectives in all peacekeeping mission mandates over the last 12 years. I think she specifically raised Resolution 2272; we remain committed to the full implementation of that resolution.

In connection with peacekeeping roles, the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, also raised the greater role for the private sector. Let me reassure her that the Prime Minister will chair an event during the UNGA ministerial week, designed to bring together state actors, NGOs and the private sector to stimulate employment and enterprise, particularly in Africa to harness the huge potential of its youth. That is an indication of our strong support for bringing the private sector into play.

My noble friend Lord Young is reminding me that we are rapidly running out of time. There are points I wanted to cover, as some very good issues were raised. I undertake to write to Members if I have not managed to respond to them specifically in the context of this debate.

Reform is an important issue, raised by a number of contributors. I thought that my noble friend Lord Howell spoke eloquently on that. Secretary-General Guterres’ work on UN reform has made solid progress during the 72nd session, but there is more to do. Let me assure your Lordships that the UK will play its part in assisting the Secretary-General to secure and implement the reforms needed to enable the UN to meet future challenges.

We also noted that the report referred to the significance of cybersecurity as a priority for the Government. We agree and think that UNGA 73 presents an opportunity to be ambitious and develop common understandings about that issue.

In his recent speech in Washington, the Foreign Secretary reminded us that to address successfully the range of challenges facing the global order, we must restore confidence in our multilateral institutions. The UN is pre-eminent among these.

In conclusion, it is perhaps fitting that I make this comment. I was struck by the number of contributors who specifically singled out Kofi Annan for favourable and positive comment. He was arguably one of the most successful holders of the office of Secretary-General, and I thank all those who acknowledged and paid tribute to him. We must seize his legacy and work to transform the UN into an institution ready to take on the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. As the 73rd session of the General Assembly approaches, the Government will do their part in delivering that legacy for the benefit of the UK and the international community.

House adjourned at 7.19 pm.