UNA-UK has signed a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asking for information on the planned 'refresh' of the UK’s 2020-21 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.
The open letter, co-ordinated by Rethinking Security, raises concerns at the lack of public information on the ‘refresh’ so far. Plans to update the Integrated Review, published in March 2021, were first announced in September by then Prime Minister Liz Truss. While it has been confirmed Mr Sunak intends to continue with this, so far there has been no confirmation around the timeline and terms, and whether there are plans to carry out a consultation.
This follows criticism that the Integrated Review - as well as the preceding strategic defence and security review (SDSR) processes conducted in 2010 and 2015 - did not provide meaningful opportunities for civil society organisations and citizens to engage with the process. A joint briefing from UNA-UK and Rethinking Security on the extent to which external consultation informed the 2021 Review found that, despite taking 13 months to complete, external consultations were “inadequate and inconsistent with the government’s own guidelines” and also “conducted in bad faith.”
UNA-UK has made the case for many years that a strategic and integrated foreign, security and defence policy is essential - and that the public and experts should have an opportunity to provide input. It is not only a moral matter, but a practical one. An informed and engaged public is a vital element of national security that can strengthen community resilience and help determine what the UK’s priorities should be. A lack of public buy-in for the vision and policies set out risks general apathy, or even polarisation and disaffection. Furthermore, no strategy can hope to be effective without the perspectives of those facing insecurity and injustice.
The ‘refresh’ therefore is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to ensure transparency and active participation from the public. We are encouraged that the Foreign Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into this, and in the meantime hope Mr Sunak will clarify the following:
- What are the terms of reference and the current timeline for the ‘refresh’?
- What is the government’s plan to engage with and consult civil society on the updating of the Integrated Review?
- How will the government ensure that the perspectives of those most marginalised and insecure, at home and overseas, are included?
- How will the results of external consultations be fed into the updated Integrated Review, and what assurances of transparent use of evidence does the government make?
- By what mechanism may organisations and individuals not actively consulted by the government make submissions to the ‘refresh’?
- Click here to read UNA-UK on the Integrated Review
- Read UNA-UK and Rethinking Security’s joint briefing assessing how external consultation informed the Integrated Review
- See Rethinking Security’s civil society-led review of the UK’s approach to security: the Alternative Security Review
Photo: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General for a bilateral meeting in 10 Downing Street. Credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street / Flickr