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Brexit will have a significant impact on the UK's role within the UN, says lords report

Brexit will require the UK to reconsider its alliances and demonstrate its value at the UN, a Lords Committee has found.

The Lords International Relations Committee has been investigating the priorities, from the UK's interests, for the new Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres. In its report out today, The UK and the UN: Priorities for the new Secretary-General, the Committee finds that, in light of Brexit, the UK will have to build fresh alliances with European states, and demonstrate its continued value as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The report is also critical of the UN's peacekeeping role, urging the new Secretary-General to overhaul current practices and reassess failing missions.

The Committee also notes that the incumbent UN Secretary-General will have to use the convening power of the UN to keep attention focussed on the issue of refugees and economic migrants and ensure an equitable, global consensus is forged.

Commenting on the report, Chairman of the Committee, Lord Howell of Guildford, said:

“The United Nations is today more than ever the indispensable forum for addressing, and where possible ameliorating and resolving, the great global issues of our times. However, in a world transformed by a revolution in communications and connectivity, filled with unprecedented threats and disfigured by violence and human suffering on an intolerable scale, a new injection of organisational vigour and leadership is needed to meet these formidable challenges.

"Given the new status that the UK will have outside of the EU, our Committee feels strongly that the UN will be an increasingly important arena in which to promote our foreign policy objectives. We will need to reinvigorate both old ties and build new strong alliances where possible.

"In our report we consider that the incoming Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, should focus on forming a new global consensus in response to the unprecedented flow of refugees and economic migrants, especially those who have been displaced through environmental disaster. His previous role as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees means that he is uniquely qualified to do this. He should also pursue the institutional reforms which we see necessary to overcome the fragmentation and incoherence of the past and position the whole UN structure for facing new world conditions.

"Our report also found that he should encourage the upgrading of UN peace-keeping operations, including their preparation and resourcing. We urge Mr Guterres to review those missions that are not performing, instigate pre-deployment training and implement a rigorous appointment process for leadership positions. He should also drive forward the commitments on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

"We recognise that a new Secretary-General alone cannot possibly achieve change on the scale required, and some aspects of reform remain clearly outside his powers, such as the continuing anomaly of the Security Council permanent membership. But he can both identify the priorities, invigorate the agents of change and set the overall tone and vision.”

Key Messages:

Role of the UN
The UN must be made fit for purpose in a world transformed by technological developments, and evolving global threats. The legitimacy of the UN has been undermined because of strained relations among the permanent members.

Priorities should be to strengthen conflict prevention, and eradicate UN peacekeeper sexual exploitation and abuse. The report urges the incumbent Secretary-General to treat peacekeeping reform as a priority, where he should also consider scrapping failing missions

Refugees and migration
The UN must do more to respond to growing number of refugees and migrants displaced because of climate change and environmental disasters. The new Secretary-General must make it a priority to raise awareness of this.

A lack of an international agreement on the long-term policy on refugee resettlement, and a lack of system of burden sharing, needs to be addressed.

UK role
Leaving the EU would have a significant impact on the UK's influence at the UN. We urge the Government to forge close relationships with the EU at the UN, and use the Brexit negotiations to this end.
We recommend that, as the UN becomes more important to UK foreign policy, the UK dedicates itself to working closer with the UN.

We recommend that, as the UN becomes more important to UK foreign policy, the UK dedicates itself to working closer with the UN.

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