On 18 June, some 130 members gathered in Cardiff for UNA-UK's 65th Policy Conference, held in the beautiful settingof the Temple of Peace – the home of UNA Wales.
UNA branches submitted over 40 policy motions on issues for discussion at the event, ranging from the "Arab awakening" to ecocide. Peace and security matters were considered in plenary, along with issues related to international and sustainable development. Human rights and UN reform were discussed in concurrent policy commissions. During the conference, members also submitted urgency motions on developments such as a proposed Palestinian bid for UN membership.
With skillful chairing by Kate Grady and Andrew Boakes, Conference Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, participants debated, amended and adopted the majority of the motions.
One of the most enjoyable events took place the day before the conference, when nearly 90 members joined UNA-UK staff, interns and Board members for a buffet dinner and the ever-popular UN quiz, as well as two workshop.This conference was the first to be held since Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Phil Mulligan took up their posts as Chairman and Executive Director of UNA-UK, and they presented a draft of the organisation's new strategic plan. The policy content of the plan was debated and formally adopted by the conference, while other elements – on membership, fundraising, governance and policymaking – were also discussed.
The draft plan has since been revised and now includes proposals to retain regular policy conferences and improve their format (in consultation with Andrew Boakes, who was elected by members to chair the next policy conference). UNA-UK Board is currently seeking feedback on the revised plan.
First impressions of Policy Conference
Tessa Darley is a student who was funded to attend Policy Conference through the Algar Reed Bursary administered by UNA Southern Counties. She sent us this report.
The UNA-UK Policy Conference was centred on 40 plus motions, debated on the floor by members of UNA branches from around the UK. It was interesting to see how motions were passed, and to hear the different opinions of UNA members – some of whom felt that the time limit for speaking wasn’t long enough!
Issues addressed included the Middle East uprisings and a Nuclear Weapons Convention. The motion on Sri Lanka was discussed with particular passion. Sri Lanka has been in turmoil for quite some time, with nearly 30 years of civil war ending brutally in May 2009. Both the Sri Lankan army and the rebels have been accused of human rights abuses and of killing an estimated 40,000 people during the final months of the war.
The Sri Lankan government reportedly denied access to organisations such as the UN and Red Cross that were trying to reach those trapped by fighting. More than 300,000 people were displaced and housed in camps with poor conditions. UNA-UK passed a motion calling on the UK government to push for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by both sides, and to ensure that ethnic minorities’ rights are respected and rehabilitation efforts are sustainable.
This motion was debated during the session on human rights and humanitarian action – the section of the conference that most interested me. Hearing speakers voice their personal experiences was thought-provoking. For example, one member spoke of her friend being involved in human trafficking during a discussion on the rise in trafficking during sporting events.
Witnessing how passionate UNA members are fuelled my enthusiasm for one day becoming a diplomat.