Everybody in the UK benefits from the international system – from laws that govern trade and protect our rights, to institutions that deal with shared challenges. Over the past 70 years, this system has brought stability and prosperity to many of us.
But the proceeds of globalisation have not been evenly distributed. Many perceive a Britain that is more ‘global’ as more dangerous, more foreign, and more ‘other’.
This is not a purely British phenomenon. Across the world, insularity is on the rise and outlooks are narrowing. In some countries, embracing this trend has led to electoral advantage, at least in the short-term. But this is not a strategy for the future.
Britain’s long-term interests require a different approach. Increasingly, our prosperity and security depend on factors that we cannot control alone. From employment to energy, Port Talbot to Hinkley Point, the things we care about increasingly have a global dimension. Climate change, conflict, financial instability, pandemics, extremism – what happens in other countries matters to our own lives.
UNA-UK believes the national response should be to look outwards, not inwards. Now, more than ever, Britain’s national interest and the UN Charter’s vision of a peaceful and more just world are one and the same.
Britain’s foreign policy needs to acknowledge this new reality by investing in the international order with the United Nations at its heart. By doing so, the UK can support the “rules-based international system” which successive British governments have considered fundamental to delivering positive outcomes for UK citizens.
Our campaign highlights the need for the UK to develop a comprehensive strategy for investing in the health of the UN and urges an increased awareness of how Britain’s own conduct, both domestically and on the world stage, affects the well-being of the international system.
UNA-UK's report, "Keeping Britain Global" is available here. The headline reccomendations are as follows.
The UK should:
- Develop a cross-departmental strategy for strengthening the UN and the rules-based international system that it serves, with a current focus on supporting the new Secretary-General – including by championing UN effectiveness through merit-based senior appointments, and on seeking to keep British allies engaged, active and coordinated at the Organisation
- Acknowledge the extent to which Britain’s own conduct affects the health of the international system and the standing of international law. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and senior civil servants should take responsibility across Government for ensuring that statements and policies that could undermine the international system are prevented, including by ensuring spokespeople refrain from inflammatory, anti-internationalist rhetoric
- Deepen public and civil society engagement on foreign policy issues, including by enhancing the Global Britain Fund, to support educational and outreach programmes that demonstrate the value of international organisations to UK citizens
- Recognise the central role that must be played by UK diplomatic networks if Britain is to sustain or expand its influence on the world stage. This should include maintaining its 0.7 per cent GNI on Official Development Assistance, and increasing funding to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with an emphasis on operations that support work at the UN-level as the UK seeks to justify its continued place on the Security Council and operate outside of the European Union
UNA-UK has also made reccomendations across five key areas where we believe the UK can make a useful contribution at a global level, and where we feel Britain’s willingness to take action will provide a fair and appropriate test of Britain’s support for the rules-based international order. You can read about these in the pages below.