UNA-UK has written to all major UK political parties asking them: what would your Party’s priorities be at the UN and how will you inspire the UK electorate on this agenda?
By shedding light on the approaches taken by different parties we hope to contribute to an informed national conversation on foreign policy, and help raise awareness of the ways in which the international system delivers benefits to British citizens.
The Scottish National Party's priorities at the UN and how they will inspire the UK electorate on this agenda:
"We live in a world that faces a number of challenges and conflicts. The SNP in Westminster has sought to be robust and consistent in drawing matters of humanitarian concern to the attention of the House, and to scrutinise the actions taken by the UK government to address these issues. In responding to your request to prioritise these issues, this is often closely linked to what means we have, in Scotland and in the UK as a whole, to act to bring about meaningful responses to serious issues.
Many issues require global responses; highest on the list of issues that necessitates universal action as a matter of existential urgency must certainly be climate change, but other vital priorities such as women’s rights must also be addressed at the highest level. Other issues, such as the conflict in Syria, requires both an international coalition and local responses to bring about an enduring agreement on which a sustainable peace can be built. In laying out the SNP’s priorities in the UN, we necessarily must acknowledge this scope for what we can meaningfully affect within the context of a UK system in which we are a minority party.
There are clear and tangible things that we have consistently called out the UK government on; a standout example is the UK’s arms export policy with respect to Saudi Arabia. The War in Yemen is the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, for which Saudi Arabia is at least partly responsible; over 80% of the country is in need of humanitarian aid and tens of thousands of people have been killed. The UN itself has said that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and has called for all countries to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Despite this, the UK government shamelessly continued to export weapons to Saudi Arabia on top of the near £5 billion worth of sales already authorised.
In short, this not only brings into question the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia but its arms export regime, and indeed the arms trade internationally more broadly. The government called its arms export regime the most robust in the world - it did this while enabling the devastation of a country and the deaths of thousands of civilians. Despite a court ruling that called the government out on its export policy, the government still authorised licences in contravention of the law. The SNP believes that this exposes a moral and administrative failure at the heart of UK foreign policy, and that this is something that the UK could tangibly address. The UK should seek to show leadership on transforming international rules governing the exports and regulation of weapons and must place human rights and an obligation to protect at the heart of such a regime.
The SNP is absolutely committed to an international effort to tackle climate change. Climate change is already having an effect on our planet, with developing countries already suffering from droughts and flooding. Pressuring the UK government to ensure that it pushes an ambitious climate agenda to tackle this emergency at the UN will be a clear, if not central, priority for the SNP. The government must always emphasise the climate issue in its international deliberations - leaving the EU, among many things, is a departure from a useful and powerful coalition for tackling climate change, and it is a clear worry that the government has courted a trade deal with Donald Trump: a man who has scrapped environmental standards, and who has dragged the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
There are countless other challenges that we face that the SNP remains alive to, but we hope that this overview of the issues of climate change and the War in Yemen gives an impression of the values that we have within the context of Westminster issues. The public response to these issues, and the clear steps that we can take, has already elicited a public outcry from all levels of UK society to get politicians to tackle with these issues.
As a society we are at a crossroads not just in the context of the Brexit debate, but more broadly in the responsibilities that we individually and collectively take for the problems that we all face. Going forward the SNP will continue to make the case for a principled foreign policy; one that puts the future of our planet first, and that ends the profits-before-peace approach that sees the UK walk by on the other side while supporting regimes that perpetuate conflict and suppression."