Conference '17 took place on Saturday 20 May and saw over 100 UNA-UK members and supporters from across the country explore how to put foreign policy at the heart of the upcoming General Election.
Organised by UNA-UK's Conference Committee, this year’s event focused on igniting a more meaningful debate about global issues in local communities ahead of the Election.
With the help of policy experts and professional campaigners, participants worked in groups to share experiences of good community engagement. In the afternoon, groups discussed how to capture the attention of their local candidates and get them thinking about how global issues relate to their constituency.
The day was outcome-focused with attendees putting together practical campaign plans for local action.
During the day
The event featured presentations from participants and keynote speeches from Lord Wood of Anfield, UNA-UK's Chairman, Ben Donaldson, UNA-UK's Head of Campaigns, grassroots activist expert Peter Gilheany, and Laurel Hart, UNA-UK's Outreach Assistant.
Lord Wood of Anfield opened Conference by expressing that 'there's never been a time when international issues are so important but so poorly understood, we have to be champions of reform for our international institutions'.
To introduce the focus of the day, Ben Donaldson stressed that 'we need to work to convince candidates, parties and voters that foreign policy matters' and highlighted the importance of recognising that 'the global is just as important as the domestic'. He pointed to UNA-UK's manifesto on putting foreign policy at the centre of this election and UNA-UK's General Election hub for ways to bring international issues to the fore.
Peter Gilheany explained what it takes to be a successful activist, emphasising the need to 'put people at the heart of what you communicate'. He argued that the way to make people listen is to have an authentic voice and to 'make foreign affairs, my affair'.
Laurel Hart reminded participants that support for UNA-UK is vital at a time when 'the line between local and global interests is blurring'. She drew attention to the need to 'mobilise people on the ground, to raise awareness of the vital work of the UN, and remind people that we can impact change, not just on a local level, but on a global level too'.
Conference committee elections
During the event, the following UNA-UK members were elected to the Conference Committee: Andrew Boakes (Chair), Tim Jarman (Vice-Chair); and Committee members Sally Glendinning, Enid Lodge and Clare Everett. The Committee will be responsible for organising the next Conference.
Conference came to a close with remarks from Tim Jarman, Chair of Conference '17 and Lord Wood of Anfield, UNA-UK’s Chairman.