UNA-UK’s Executive Director, Natalie Samarasinghe, took part in BBC Radio 4’s programme the Moral Maze.
Yesterday’s show centred on the relevance of the United Nations following a visit to the UK by UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston. Professor Alston’s report highlighted shortfalls in UK policies and has been praised by anti-poverty campaigners, yet government representatives have accused Mr Alston of advancing a political agenda. The Moral Maze panel considered the appropriateness of the report before quizzing Ms Samarasinghe on the wider question of the purpose of the UN.
Asked to respond to a long list of failures attributed to the UN, Ms Samarasinghe stated that, while it is important to focus on the UN’s failures as it should be delivering on the goals it was set up to achieve, we must also “remember the enormous amount of good that it does” and that theses failures should not “negate the work that the UN does” in or outside the UK.
She went on to highlight the importance of the UN’s work in the provision of “life saving assistance to millions of people around the world and protection of civilians in some of the worst conflict zones”. She also stressed that the UN sets international standards on “everything from pollution to aviation and human rights”, provides a “platform for countries to come together and solve their differences" and addresses "issues that are of deep concern to people in this country such as extremism and the refugee crisis”.
Ms Samarasinghe also stressed that the UN is a great “boost to Britain’s role and power in the world” and that there is “an enormous amount of influence the UK derives from being at the UN”.
Both Ms Samarasinghe and the previous witness, Carne Ross of Independent Diplomat, were asked about how the UN needs to improve. Both indicated that the organisation would be more effective if it was opened up to non-state actors such as civil society and the public; involving them in decisionmaking and delegating work to them where possible. Our Together First campaign seeks to achieve this change.
You can listen to the full podcast here.