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14 December 2020

On 7 - 8 December 2020, UNA-UK held its annual membership conference. In light of the pandemic the conference took place virtually, with over 200 attendees joining us across two days.

UNA-UK Chairman Lord Wood of Anfield opened the first session on a note of optimism, noting “Despite the turn of populism and nationalism that we all see, international cooperation and collaboration remains a source of huge hope.” 

Lord Wood reminded us that despite the challenges of 2020, there have been moments of hope, such as the Covid-19 vaccine, the popular movement to bring attention to catastrophic climate change, and the ongoing vital work of international organisations such as the UN. 

He set out the agenda for the first session, which featured a keynote address from Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB and former Secretary-General of CIVICUS, and a presentation by Pew Research Center’s James E Bell, on attitudes to international cooperation.

Dr Sriskandarajah discussed the risks we face in 2020, including global health, growing inequalities, and climate change. He underlined:

“There is no shortage of risks, much like when the United Nations was founded. This is an opportunity for the UK to take a new role on the global stage.”

Sharing insight from his work both locally and internationally, he stressed that in the face of global challenges, progressive internationalist values are needed more than ever. 

Following this Mr. Bell gave a detailed overview of Pew Research Center’s public opinion survey conducted in 14 top UN donor countries, exploring: The world today is multipolar, but is it multilateral? He discussed the extent to which people across the globe recognise and value the UN’s mission to promote peace, human rights, and sustainable development. The UN used this research as part of their global consultation - which you can learn more about in the UN75 report.

Natalie Samarasinghe then moderated a Q&A session with Mr. Bell, in which the audience raised questions on issues around the reliability of polling and how to bridge the digital divide. 

Session Two of the conference followed up on UNA-UK’s membership consultation, breaking down the results of membership surveys sent out in October 2020. The session also provided an update on the progress made by the recently formed Membership Working Group - made up of five UNA-UK members, representing a variety of UNA groups (student, local, regional, and issue-based) from across the UK, to review the results of these consultative surveys. 

Additionally, UNA members and supporters were given an overview of activities carried out in 2020, with a staff panel on the highlights of UNA-UK’s work in the last year. 

These include:

Watch Day 1 of the conference here.

Read Oxfam GB’s Latest strategy paper here.

Learn more about Pew Research Center’s findings on international cooperation.

Read the UN75 report: The Future We Want, The UN We Need.