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UNA-UK’s highlights in 2023

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We're very proud of what UNA-UK has achieved in the last 12 months - together with our partners, members and UNA Groups. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to look back at UNA-UK’s work in 2023. Our highlights include:

  1. Sounding the alarm with our Blue Smoke campaign for more transparent, inclusive UN senior appointments.

In February 2023 UNA-UK was proud to launch the Blue Smoke campaign together with Plataforma CIPÓ and Strategy for Humanity, funded by the Open Society Foundations. This initiative seeks to shine a light on senior UN appointments and elections with the aim of ensuring appointments to senior, political, and public roles at the UN that are inclusive, merit-based and transparent. We published incisive reports on the UN’s climate leadership, the World Bank Group, and the damaging practice of ringfencing jobs for powerful countries. 

Our monthly newsletter, published in partnership with PassBlue, has ruffled a few feathers but become essential reading for anyone interested in the too often murky business of UN senior appointments, and our website is so far the only dedicated site bringing together all the publicly available information on these appointments. We’re also building a constituency of civil society with more than 40 civil society organisations supporting our Statement of Principles shared with the UN Secretary-General and all UN member states. We’ve got big things planned in 2024, so watch this space and subscribe to Blue Smoke to follow along. 

  1. Hosting and facilitating events throughout the year - on climate change, security, the SDGs and more.

In partnership with UN-APPG officers, UNA-UK facilitated a series of APPG sessions, including vital discussions on international development and the Sustainable Development Goals. These events brought international perspectives to UK parliamentarians, offering deeper insights into global issues and helping them hold the Government to account. We were also delighted to mark UN Peacekeepers Day with our annual conference and memorial ceremony co-hosted by RUSI and UNA Westminster, and to co-host the Closing the Gap Summit, underscoring the need for global action as we pass the halfway point to the 2030 deadline. 

UNA-UK’s office space in Whitehall Court is now available to rent as an event venue. Learn more about hosting your 2024 event with us here.

  1. Calling on the UK to address the harm caused by its nuclear weapons testing in Kiribati.

As part of UNA-UK’s work campaigning to address the legacy of harm associated with the UK’s nuclear testing, UNA-UK was proud to launch a blog series with Dr Becky Alexis-Martin on her research in Kiritimati. UNA-UK also coordinated an open letter together with the Kiribati community to the UK Government urging it to listen to and engage with the community affected by the UK’s legacy of nuclear testing. UNA-UK raised the alarm when the UK voted against the landmark resolution on addressing the legacy of nuclear testing and providing victim assistance - and joined our friends at Spoiler Alert to scrutinise the UK’s disappointing response to calls to adequately recognize the lasting impacts and suffering caused by nuclear testing on Kiribati. 

We are not stopping here - UNA-UK will continue to campaign for justice in the new year. Watch this space for more! 

  1. Our thematic and regional UNA Groups thrived. 

UNA-UK has a vibrant network of regional and thematic UNA Groups across the UK that engage on a wide variety of issues. There were a total of 200+ events throughout the year, and the UNA-UK board welcomed new groups UNA Medway, UNA Language, and UNA South London. 

Learn more about starting your own group in 2024 here.

  1. Presenting the Sir Brian Urquhart Award to UNA alum Dr. Comfort Ero, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

At this year’s UN Day reception, co-hosted with the Swiss Embassy, UNA-UK was delighted to present the Sir Brian Urquhart Award for Distinguished Service to the UN to Dr. Comfort Ero, for her dedicated work on peace and security issues. In her keynote speech, Dr. Ero shared her perspective on the challenges we face today - and her experience at UNA-UK, where she began her now illustrious career! We were thrilled to welcome her back. You can read about our UN Day event, and see Dr. Ero’s remarks here.

  1. Joining the international community in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

We are proud to have contributed timely analysis and advocacy calling on the UK to back a ceasefire in Gaza, to stop arms exports to Israel, and to stand with the international community in its efforts to reduce violence. 

Read our briefings on the UN Emergency Special Session on Ukraine and on the outcomes of the Human Rights Council Urgent Debate. We wrote several statements calling on the UK to back a ceasefire in Gaza and halt arms exports to Israel. We will continue to call on the UK to stand up for international law and be a champion of human rights. 

  1. Continuing to stand out as a trusted source of independent and values-based expertise and analysis. 

This year UNA-UK continued to be a leading voice on a range of issues, including UN reform, development, and nuclear weapons. Our Head of Policy, Enyseh Teimory shared insight on the need to bring transparency and gender balance to UN leadership at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York with Devex. Our CEO Marissa Conway presented a feminist analysis of the UN Secretary-General’s “Our Common Agenda” on International Women’s Day, and our former Head of Campaigns Ben Donaldson provided insight on Kiribati’s call for reparations from the UK.

  1. Progressing the campaign for a preemptive ban on lethal autonomous weapons. 

This year UNA-UK continued to campaign for a ban on Killer Robots. As part of the UK Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, we provided oral and written evidence to the UK House of Lords AI in Weapons Systems Committee and called for action together with the global campaign, which culminated in a landmark resolution at the UN.

  1. Holding the UK to account on a wide range of issues, including human rights and the climate

UNA-UK also continued to call for a fairer, safer and more sustainable world - which begins at home. This includes our calls for the UK Government to bring its asylum policies in line with international law, to protect women and LGBTQ+ refugees, for the UK to prioritise people and the planet.

  1. Advocacy efforts saw progress in improving SG selection process

This year - following years of advocacy by the 1 for 8 Billion Campaign - the UN adopted a significant package of reforms, representing progress towards much-needed reform to senior appointments, including: transparent campaign financing, calls for a woman UN Chief, a more structured process and greater transparency across senior appointments.

You can read about the importance of these reforms - and why now is the time for a woman to lead the UN - in our report on UN Secretary-General selection and senior appointments.

  1. Welcoming seven new trustees to UNA-UK’s board.

Over the summer UNA-UK was pleased to announce the appointment of seven new trustees to its Board of Directors. We welcomed Dr Amna Nazir, Colombe Cahen-Salvador, Dr Christina Bache, Dali Lalit Ten Hove, Oluwatobi Aigbogun, Pam Shearing, and Dr Arash Nassouri as new trustees. 

  1. Launching UNA-UK’s 2023 magazine, just in time for some holiday reading! 

Hear from activists and individuals who dedicate their skills, time, and energy to shaping a world characterised by compassion and justice. This issue, entitled Voices on the Frontline, celebrates these agents of change and shines a light on the many amongst us who use their voices to demand a brighter future. 

Thank you again for your support - we look forward to continuing this work in the new year.