You are here: Incoming UK Ambassador to the UN discusses UN's packed agenda

13 March 2015

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting of the UN All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), incoming UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, made the case for the UK playing a leading role on the world stage. 

UN APPG Chair Lord Hannay recognised that Mr Rycroft’s appointment had come at a “testing time” for the Organization, pointing to current challenges including the Security Council's inability to take decisive action in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, securing agreement on the new set of sustainable goals and the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General.

Mr Rycroft began by acknowledging that with the UK's privileged position at the UN comes the responsibility to lead by example and support action at the global level. To illustrate this, he cited the UK's overseas development assistance bill, which “gives us a strong platform to be a leading member in the debates on a successor to the Millennium Development Goals.”

UNA-UK’s Executive Director, Natalie Samarasinghe, raised the issue of the UK's role in improving the appointment process for the UN Secretary-General, a process currently blighted by a lack of transparency and engagement with the wider UN membership. In his reply, Mr Rycroft reinforced several principles central to 1 for 7 Billion - a global campaign led by UNA-UK and others to improve the selection process:

“It’s such an important job at a time of huge challenge to the international community. We need to make sure we get the best person for the job, and I do think that some more transparency in that would help with that process. And that it would be a good thing for the UK to be in favour of that and to be pursuing that, for wider reasons.”

Mr Rycroft added that the appointment process could benefit from applying established recruitment practices - applications and interviews for example - in order to “measure candidates against an objective standard”.

On peacekeeping, UNA-UK welcomes Mr Rycroft's recognition of the scope for greater UK engagement:

"I think there are very significant benefits to UN peacekeeping that could come from an increased UK presence, and there could be some benefits to UK peacekeepers themselves... so I’m very interested in pursuing that.”

UNA-UK has consistently called for the UK to contribute more practical expertise and logistical support to UN peacekeeping.

The humanitarian challenges facing the international community were emphasised by Stephen O'Brien MP, who joined the meeting to speak about his new role as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Observing that 2014 constituted "a record year for humanitarian need" with over 17 billion dollars spent on assistance, Mr O'Brien noted the importance of a multilateral approach which incorporates global partners. He pointed to next year's World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul as a key opportunity to re-energise the humanitarian system and make it "fit for purpose". 

Convened in association with UNA-UK, the meeting was well-attended by parliamentarians, representatives from UN agencies, NGO experts and former diplomats.

Photo: (from left to right) Incoming UK Permanent Representative to the UN Matthew Rycroft, UN APPG Chair Lord Hannay, incoming Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien. Copyright: UNA-UK