UN General Assembly September 2023

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the outcomes of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly held in September 2023.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, high-level week was a critical collective moment to tackle the growing interconnected challenges that we face by listening to the concerns of our partners, particularly in the developing world. We saw important progress made to accelerate delivery of the sustainable development goals. Importantly, the world also heard President Zelensky make the case for a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine, and the UK Government, alongside partners, led in broadening the vital international conversation on artificial intelligence.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord the Minister for his Answer and I look forward to the publication of the White Paper, which I understand is planned for November, on the sustainable development goals. Can I ask more widely? This is perhaps directly related to the non-attendance of our own Prime Minister but also a number of other national leaders around the world—indicating, I think, a feeling of impotence at the moment on the ability of the United Nations to influence the conflicts that we see, and the persecution and violence against individuals in so many countries. Given the failure of the international community to protect civilians in Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Ukraine and most recently, of course, Israel and Gaza over recent years, does the UK now recognise that there is a need for fundamental reform of an institution that is still built around the outcome of the Second World War and is not fit for the challenges and conflicts of the 21st century? Will the Government set out at some point their intentions to take a lead in that debate?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the question of attendance, there was high-level attendance from the United Kingdom, led by the Deputy Prime Minister. As the noble Lord may well be aware, it is not the first time that has happened and it is not uncommon. The Deputy Prime Minister led the delegations in 2010 and 2013, and the Foreign Secretary did so between 2001 and 2004 and in 2006 and 2007.

The important element was the discussions and some of the outcomes. The noble Lord is right that conflicts persist around the world. I argue that we are seeing a record number of conflicts around the world, certainly in my time as a Minister. There is a need for early intervention and prevention but also engagement and conflict mediation. The structures are there but they need reform, and the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of that, including supporting Secretary-General Guterres’s common agenda for the future. It is important that we get the sustainable development goals back on track, because they are important to deliver. When you see progress being made there, it needs not just the focus of one country or two countries but a collective unity to ensure that we meet the challenges we currently face.