Magazine edition: 3-2014

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Richard Nelmes on making the UN an election issue through united action

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Richard Nelmes on making the UN an election issue through united action

UNA-UK’s networks are strikingly diverse. As members and supporters we live all over the UK. Some call this country home and others are just passing through. At our events, young people,  who are just starting out rub shoulders with those whose memories stretch back to the founding of the UN itself.

As individuals, our motivations for getting involved are equally varied.  Every new member and supporter is driven to join in by a unique mix of global passions and interests. Our collective campaigns see the cutting edge work of social media activists complementing that of letter-writing stalwarts. I, for one, am proud to be part of a group of people known as much for our wide range of passions and concerns as for our  famous blue logo.

Given the host of different causes that we bring to the Association, what is it that draws us to UNA-UK instead of a single-issue charity, lobby group or NGO? Perhaps it’s the sense that the UN can give a voice to our individual areas of interest. Maybe there’s an element of being part of a bigger community; a camaraderie gained through swapping stories, information and advice at our forums and conferences. It could be that we simply see the UN as valuable in itself and wish to support its work and values. Undoubtedly, there is truth in all of the above, but I think the real answer is much more profound.

What unites us is the shared recognition that a strong United Nations is the essential ingredient in solving the issues closest to our heart, no matter what those issues are. We understand that every issue is related and that a global perspective is needed. We refuse to daydream about a better tomorrow. Instead, we invest our time, energy and resources in the UN knowing that it’s the only organisation that can solve the problems we face today, problems that are some of the most complex and deep-rooted in human history.

Are we, people who think and act like this, a minority? Well … yes. Are we a minority that has influence? Also, yes. Over the coming months, UNA-UK will use this influence and the backdrop of the general election to drive home the importance of the UN in the national debate, and I want all of us to participate.

Our 'foreign policy manifesto' is both a starting point and anchor for this work.  This document takes forward ideas generated at UN Forum 2014 and focuses on 10 areas of national and international significance.

The manifesto is just the start. In early 2015 we will be launching an election hustings pack, so get ready to organise a local event to quiz your candidates on international issues. Every month we will email our members and supporters with a different campaign to take part in - please make sure you’re receiving these emails and ready to take action. We’ve also relaunched our local UNA outreach grants for projects that involve communities on these issues, so if you’re part of a local UNA, do consider what projects you would like to develop.

There is hard work ahead – national and local issues dominate general elections at the expense of foreign policy – but the prize of mobilising and energising communities across the country and engaging them with the UN is too big to ignore. We, your UNA-UK team, are ready for the challenge, but we need the backing of every single one of our 14,000 members and supporters. Are you willing to join us?

Make sure you receive our updates at and tell me what you think via Twitter: @nelmes or email:

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