11 January - UNA Westminster meeting on UN Disability Convention airs widespread criticism of UK efforts to fulfil obligations to implement changes
UNA Westminster meeting on UN Disability Convention airs widespread criticism of UK efforts to fulfil obligations to implement changes
The UNA meeting held on 5 December in the House of Lords titled “The UN, the UK and people with disabilities: who's listening?” attracted a large audience comprising Disabled People’s Organisations, activists and UNA members. A verbatim report of the meeting can be read here.
In introducing the meeting, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton recalled when the UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2009, it did so with very good cross party support. Despite widespread opinion that the government has not made the progress expected of it and in 2017, its submission to the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was poorly received, it will host a global summit next year on the issue and thus its credibility will rest on its recent past record and its claimed reputation as a beacon of best practice.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive, Equality & Human Rights Commission, outlined some of the many recommendations made by the UN Committee, principally that the Convention should be incorporated into UK law so that there would be domestic remedies available for enforcement when rights are breached, that disabled people and their organisations should be fully engaged including around designing strategic action plans. Further, implementing the Convention shouldn't be done without consulting them; that protection for equality and non-discrimination should be brought into force, including parts of the Equality Act 2010 that have not yet been implemented. The recommendations talk about raising awareness campaign, tackling prejudice and stereotypes and about identifying gaps in accessibility for disabled people including housing, transport, and provision of information.
In his address, Kamran Mallick, Chief Executive Officer, Disability Rights UK, chose to drill down into a single feature of the Convention, Article 19 which refers to living independently and being included in the community. The Convention recognises the equal right of all disabled people to live in the community with choices equal to others and commits Government to taking effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by disabled people and their full inclusion and participation in the community including ensuring that disabled people have the opportunities to choose where and with whom they live on equal basis with others and are not obliged to live within a particular living arrangement. This means disabled people have access to the range of in home residential and other community support services including personal assistants necessary to support for them to live and feel included in the community and to prevent isolation and segregation. As example, the plight of Laki, a single 28 year old, was discussed.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, referred to the ‘disability employment gap’ stubbornly staying at about 30%, that is, no real change on top of which the 2016 Welfare Reform Act has added to that gap. Cuts around the Employment Support allowance (ESA) for work related activity groups have led to a loss of £1,500 a year.
“We have tragically seen people take their own lives; we have seen more punitive work capability assessments and if you look at it in the round is anyone surprised that the UN committee came up with their assessment that there have been grave systematic violations against disabled people?” She referred to cuts to local authority health and social care totalling £6 billion, all having direct impact on disabled people. In the Health Service, specialist nurses are in short supply and continued “if we think about our public transport system, only one in 5 stations is fully accessible.”
There followed a lengthy series of questions from the audience, covering the punishing impact of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) changes disabled people; claims that schools argue they cannot meet disabled students’ needs, hiding their wish to hold on to their position in the league tables; the incorrect treatment of prisoners who are dyslexic and dyspraxic; employers who claim to follow regulations but change their stance “as soon as they see you walk in and they hear you communicate. The prejudice that you are less capable of doing the job kicks in.”
On a more positive note, Rachel Haughey, Director of the Youth Production Network, introduced Even Ground, its new programme for disabled young people wishing to start a career in event production.
In closing the meeting, David Wardrop, UNA Westminster Chair, recalled that he had attended the inaugural meeting in the UK to mark the UN International Year for Disabled Persons in 1981. He felt all at that event would have been greatly disappointed if they had known so little progress had been made in the UK in the interim.
13 March - Westminster Young Professionals inaugurate ‘Meet the Ambassador’ programme
Westminster Young Professionals inaugurate ‘Meet the Ambassador’ programme
Westminster Young Professionals have inaugurated their ‘Meet the Ambassador’ programme, intending to host ambassadors and high commissioners throughout the year, learning about their work and the political challenges facing their countries.
The well-attended meeting was chaired by Harry Wright, Co-Vice-Chair of UNA Westminster Young Professionals (left) and hosted by the law firm Ashfords LLP in New Fetter Lane. The invited ambassador for the inaugural meeting was to have been HE Mr Khaled Al-Duwaisan, ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. However, suffering a bout of ‘flu, Mr Nawaf Bushaibah, Consular Affairs Officer (right), took his place. Mr Bushaibah reviewed the ambassador’s special responsibilities as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and then turned to Kuwait’s current political initiatives, in the Middle East and as currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
He then told his audience that, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI, Britain had taken responsibility for the region covering Kuwait and its neighbours. After gaining independence from Britain in 1961, British soldiers were soon back to defend it against threatened Iraqi aggression, evidence of the strong ties between Kuwait and the UK. Today, he stated, Kuwait has good relations with Iraq and also, in its capacity as chair of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it continues to mediate in searching for a regional solution following the breakdown of relations between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Separately, it has offered to mediate in the protracted war in Yemen.
He stated that Kuwait, a member of the UN Security Council (to 2019), served as its President for February 2018. To mark the 27th anniversary of its liberation in 1991, it organised a briefing intended to show how the collective security machinery outlined in the UN Charter was used to address a breach of the peace. Also, in tandem with Sweden, it drafted the resolution aimed to bring about the cease-fire in Syria, to mixed reports.
The Q and A period covered many subjects before Harry Wright, Young Professionals Co-Vice-Chair who had chaired the meeting, called it to a close. After thanking Ashfords LLP for their hospitality, he led the way to The Draft House nearby where discussion continued.
28 May - It’s time to reignite the Responsibility to Protect principle within UK policy debate, say UNA Westminster Young Professionals
It’s time to reignite the Responsibility to Protect principle within UK policy debate, say UNA Westminster Young Professionals
Young Professionals have now published the Report of their project, initiated jointly with Liberal International in September 2016, which set out to reignite the Responsibility to Protect debate in the United Kingdom. In the Report, they urge UN Member States, and especially the United Kingdom, to reassess their policies regarding R2P. In particular, they urge the British government to initiate parliamentary debate on how R2P can be best implanted into British foreign policy. Click here for the Report
6 June - Westminster Young Professionals meet the Croatia ambassador
Westminster Young Professionals meet the Croatia ambassador
For the second ‘Meet the Ambassador’ meeting, Harry Wright, Chair, welcomed HE Mr Igor Pokaz, ambassador of Croatia, to address members of the Young Professionals and UNA Westminster.
In his wide-ranging address, Mr Pokaz, recently arrived from Moscow where he served as ambassador, spoke about his earlier service with his country’s mission to the United Nations in New York and serving with the UN in the field. He referred to Croatia’s recent history, leading to its successful applications for membership of the European Union and NATO. These alliances were important for a small country, he stated, referring also to that week's election results in Croatia's neighbour Slovenia where efforts to form a new government around an anti-immigration policy was being watched closely in Croatia. Also he spoke about news from Serbia where President Vucic had restated his opposition to NATO membership. Croatia’s President and Prime Minister were confident however of its chosen course, seeking new opportunities for trade with new partners. In passing, he surprised his audience with the news that the electric-powered Jaguar E Type which Prince Harry drove his new bride to the wedding party had been built in Croatia by Rimac, the leading developer of advanced electric traction systems which works with such companies as Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, and Renault, as well as Siemens and Magna Steyr.
Following his address, Mr Pokaz invited questions which covered a range of topics. Following the meeting, Harry Wright thanked Mr Pokaz and his colleague Mr Domagoj Rogulj who was instrumental in setting up the event. Later, all repaired to the Draft House for a thirsty networking session. The next ‘Meet the Ambassador’ will be in September.
HE Igor Pokaz and the Young Professionals Committee
20 March 2017 - Young Professionals screen Before the Flood at L’ Escargot restaurant
Young Professionals screen Before the Flood at L’ Escargot restaurant
UNA Westminster Young Professionals screened the Fisher Stevens documentary Before the Flood featuring Leonardo DiCaprio before a capacity audience at the L’ Escargot restaurant on London’s Soho.
Following the screening, Harry Wright, Co-Vice-Chair of the Young Professionals moderated a Q and A session with Paula Owen, founder and CEO of Green Gumption ; Joanna Haigh CBE: Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College; and Georgina Shiplee, Sustainability Consultant at Corporate Citizenship.
22 July 2017 -UNA Westminster hosts launch of book on Angola’s role on UN Security Council
UNA Westminster hosts launch of book on Angola’s role on UN Security Council
UNA Westminster hosted a meeting for the launch of the first of two volumes of ‘Angola in the Security Council 2015/2016: Resolutions and Experiences in World Governance’ written and compiled by Dr António Luvualu de Carvalho, Roving Ambassador of the President of Angola.
David Wardrop, UNA Westminster Chair, welcomed the opportunity to host the meeting, referencing former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld’s famous riposte to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, ‘It is not the Soviet Union or indeed any other big Powers who need the United Nations for their protection. It is all the others.’ He asserted that the voices of smaller states such as Angola, both in the UN General Assembly and on the Security Council, must be both heard and listened to and that this event offered just such an opportunity.
Dr Carvalho was joined by Lt-Colonel Luīs Bernardino from the Portuguese Military Academy in offering valuable overviews on previous conflicts in Angola and on the current situation, noting the presidential elections due in August. Following their statements, they answered a series of questions on a range of subjects.
In welcoming HE Mr Miguel Neto, ambassador of the Republic of Angola, Mr Wardrop presented an overview of the pioneering role played by the late Dame Margaret Anstee, the first women to be appointed to the post of UN Under-Secretary-General and who later led the unsuccessful UN election supervision mission (UNAVEM 2) in Angola (1992) and the UN peacekeeping mission there. He referred to his meeting with Dr Carvalho at the memorial service for Dame Margaret which had led to Angola’s generous support for the 2017 UN Peacekeepers’ Day conference and ceremony.
Mr Wardrop referred to the paper ‘Gender Equality and women’s empowerment in the United Nations system and its Member States’ which sets out the rationale for setting up an annual lecture and travel bursary programme for young women to visit and report on the UN’s progress in its field operations towards the goal of gender equality. Comments and suggestions for strengthening the proposed programme were then invited from the large audience. There were many of these and in closing the meeting, David Wardrop thanked all present for contributing to such a lively and interesting meeting. The event was made possible through the generosity of the Consulate-General of the Embassy of Angola. All enjoyed the reception which concluded the evening held at the Naval & Military Club in St James’s Square.
6 September 2017 - Joe Baxer, President of UNA Connecticut, reflects on his recent visit to Arab Gulf states
Joe Baxer, President of UNA Connecticut, reflects on his recent visit to Arab Gulf states
Since becoming involved with the UNA for the past 15 years, building bridges of understanding has become primary focus of my life. Each year, my wife Barbara and I seek to visit areas of global concern, engage with locals, professionals, academics and service personnel. Our hope is to make local connections, seek to connect in a significant way with UNAs where extant, help organize and participate in seminars when possible and deepen our immersion experience within a culture different from our own. Upon return, our commitment is to search for ways to share this experience.
This spring we were privileged to spend time in the Persian Gulf area with extended visits to the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah along with Qatar and Oman. Previous visits in the Middle East, beginning in 1972, have included Syria, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Georgia, Armenia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Most welcoming in terms of people, culture and religion, Iran; least welcoming Saudi Arabia. Clearly this is a volatile geographic region, grossly disproportionate to its size and population. There are only 450 million people in the Middle East, (6 % of the world’s population) and it contains only 16 of the world’s 193 nation states. Although primarily Islamic in religious practice, the numbers are minuscule in comparison with Indonesia and areas of Africa. It is, however, the heart of the Arab world and at the same time the centre of the holy Shrines of Islam, Mecca and Medina, sacred also to Turks and Iranians. Mosques are everywhere; Imams, Sheikhs, and Ayatollahs have determined that everyone should be able to walk to one within five minutes.
The Middle East has a young population, approximately 30-70% are under the age of 30. Exposed to the West through the internet, influenced by Al Jazeera, a provocative Arab version of CNN, significantly unemployed and underemployed, dejected by the failed promise of the Arab Spring, the youths of the Middle East are restless. The dramatic decrease in oil revenue has predictably caused unaccustomed or intensified economic pain. In addition, the Shite-Sunni religious rivalries reveal both spiritual and nationalistic competition. A narrow, religious educational standard promoted for boys by the Madrassas especially in Saudi Arabia (focused on the memorization and interpretation of the Koran), intensify this unease and discontent. Only in Iran did we find a significant number of educated women who worked in professional careers.
One question that I carried with me: Is it possible to be Arab and a global citizen? Is it possible for the Middle Eastern countries to take their equitable place at the table of nations, apart from their gas and oil reserves? Much of the news coverage of the Middle East during the last few decades has been laden with conflict. From the 1917 British Balfour Declaration to the 1967 war to the present moment, the Jewish and Palestinian populations have been unable to find a shared land/political solution. With the demise of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the end of WWI and the failure of the League of Nations, France and England maneuvered artificial land borders. This strategy enormously skewed oil profits away from local populations, formalized their control of puppet autocrats, neglected the historic tribal landscape and left the Kurds without a homeland. No doubt the map of the Middle East will be redrawn after the tragedy of Syria is finally stabilized. I expect a home for the 30-40 million Kurds, a Kurdistan to emerge, but not without intense upheaval. Israeli and Palestinian populations will no doubt finally become exhausted and borders established. Someday, Islam will experience an enlightenment that moves beyond the Sunni-Shite division and finds a peaceful reconciliation with modernity. Ultimately, the citizens of the Middle East will come to grips with a pan Middle East that includes Arabs, Turks, Persians and Kurds, welcoming Christians. My dream!
Is there a meaningful strategy forthcoming, encouraging a future that is both Arab, Persian, Turkish and global? The desire of the Sheikhs, Emirs and Sultans, at least on the Western side of the Gulf seems to be emerging. Perhaps stifled now in this effort by the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, nevertheless, there are some positive elements. First, I highlight the United Arab Emirates and the branch of New York University in Abu Dhabi, sponsored and paid for by Sheikh Kalifa. His goal is to eventually attain a 15% Arab student population interwoven with students from more than 100 nations, preparing these students for global Arab cooperative leadership. It was very impressive to be immersed in this endeavour, if only for a day. A second positive element are the new museums built or under construction; In Doha, the Museum of Islamic Art; in Sharjah, the Museum of Islamic Civilization. In Abu Dhabi, both the Guggenheim and the Louvre have construction ongoing. These are in addition to the world renowned museums in Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Museums inspire, engage, educate and enlighten.
Personally, I am not inclined to want to live in Dubai with its incredible skyscrapers or in the Middle East. I will always cherish moments spent, often enhanced by human kindness …. be it the Western Wall and Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or visiting the pyramids outside of Cairo or listening to poetry at Hafez’s tomb in Shiraz or enjoying 3 am coffee with Bedouins at a desert camel market or walking the Street called Straight in Damascus. Nevertheless, the heat, the intense traffic congestion with its accompanying pollution, the sandstorms which turn day into night, the separation of the sexes, men in white thobe tunics and women in black abaya gowns, the fact that a majority of the servant class of individuals (up to 90% in some countries) is imported from around the globe to sustain the wealthy citizens of countries sustained through petrochemicals … all of these are challenging to encounter. Nevertheless, I did appreciate so many people on the ground, welcoming us; hosting us with kindness; seeking to honour their cultural heritage, creating magnificent, stunningly beautiful mosques and the many who actualize the Arab proverb:
لا تمشي ورائي .أنا لا أقود .لا تمشي أمامي .أنا لا أتبع .امشي بجانبي وكن صديقي - .ألبرت كامو
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
With warmest wishes, Joe
(Joe Baxer is President of the Connecticut Chapter of UNA-USA which is twinned with UNA Westminster. This happy union came about through the energy and enthusiasm of the late Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen, a former Chapter President. In her memory, we have given her name to our annual International Law Lecture, held each spring in association with the Bar Council of England and Wales and the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy in the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University.)
2016Annual Report 2016.pdf
Still shortcomings in UK race strategy, say human rights experts .pdf
UNA Westminster marks UN International Day of Peace .pdf
UNA Westminster joins other London groups to support the new London Declaration .pdf
The UN's drugs policy; right at last or so, so wrong?.pdf
UNA Westminster co-hosts seminar ‘A Solemn Duty’: Dag Hammarskjold and Conflict in the Congo’ held at the School of Advanced Study, University of London .pdf
UNA Westminster joins service to mark 70th anniversary of the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in London in 1946.pdf
2015Annual Report 2014.pdf
Annual Report 2015.pdf
6 December 2015
Celebrating the UN at 70 and Austria’s membership at 60 .pdf
10 October 2015
Report on Study Tour visit to Vienna, 5-9 October 2015 .pdf
17 September 2015
Bar Council marks UN70 with diplomatic reception in Inner Temple .pdf
16 July 2015
“Sowing the Whirlwind: Nuclear Politics and the Historical Record” conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki .pdf
Video Dr Akiko Mikamo
Video Professor Matthew Jones
Video Professor Peter Kuznick
Video Andreas Persbo
Video Bruce Kent
2014Annual Report .pdf
28 July 2014
UNA Westminster briefs diplomats on Hammarskjöld Commission Report.pdf
26 September 2014
Flights for Peace.pdf
Branch Meeting: ‘Does the UK have a credible race equality strategy or is a new vision required?.pdf
23 January 2013
Annual General Meeting .pdf
Annual Report .pdf
29 January 2013
Sport for Peace project launch .pdf
Sport for Peace proposal .pdf
Antarctic photo exhibition .pdf
02 June 2013
Where next for nuclear disarmament? .pdf
02 July 2013
Fred Eckhard on Kofi Annan .pdf
22 September 2013
UN International Day of Peace event .pdf
Additional ReportsChristian Muslim Forum
Faith-based Regeneration Network
London Boroughs Faiths Network
Muslim Council of Britain
10 July 2013
Submission of Olympic Truce evidence to House of Lords Committee .pdf
Supplementary written submission .pdf
Lords Committee on Olympic and Paralympic Legacy
Compilation of all written submissions .pdf
LOCOG/FCO Report on Olympic Truce Legacy .pdf
Human Rights for Sexual Minorities .pdf
Report: Bay Area Reporter
Report: Intersex Network
The Olympic Truce, historic and universal; for all the peoples .pdf
Marking the Olympic Truce .pdf
Is Equality Lite the new Human Rights Standard Notice .pdf
Prof Hepple’s memorandum on Clause 56 .pdf
Lords debate on Enterprise and Regulatory Reform .pdf
Somalia: Open for Business Conference programme .pdf
Press release .pdf
9 January 2013
House of Lords debate
Clause 56: Commission for Equality and Human Rights, Amendment 27
Greenland Theatre Evening National Theatre
Human Rights Film Season Regents College
UN Veterans Association Inaugural meeting Victory Services Club, London .pdf
So how will we feed the bottom billion? Food Security Meeting, House of Lords .pdf
Remembering Dag Hammarskjold Reception, Swedish Ambassador's residence
Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations and the End of Empire, 50th anniversary conference
5th We The Peoples Film Festival
Time to alter the established order of our Human Rights - or to defend it? House of Lords .pdf
Annual General Meeting .pdf
Annual Report .pdf
MDG6: targets, policies and where now? .pdf
The UN at war: FDR's global UN Day 1942 Lessons for a stronger UN today Dr Dan Plesch .pdf
Article, History Today, June 2010
Who deserves to stay on the UN Human Rights Council? The record on women's rights .pdf
Welcome to Thebes, New production at the Royal National Theatre .pdf
Annual General Meeting .pdf
Annual Report .pdf
Islam, Democracy and Human Rights .pdf
Global Monitoring Checklist on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325) .pdf
Somalia: can its diaspora in Europe help the UN find a workable plan? Launch of G18 group and Joint Statement .pdf
The Attack on World Poverty Lecture and Book Launch .pdf
Annual Report .pdf
Women, Peace and Security .pdf
A Tea Party to mark her past and continuing work for the United Nations Association .pdf
Photographs from the party
The Ahtisaari proposal for Kosovo: a path to integration or stalemate? .pdf
"New Challenges for the United Nations and its Member States" .pdf
HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal
Annual General Meeting .pdf
Annual Report .pdf
When the Security Council fails to act .pdf
Professor Francoise Hampson, University of Essex, Mr Zvi Rav-Ner, Minister, Embassy of Israel, Mr Alexander Sternik,
Senior Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation
"The new Human Rights Council: is the UN reform programme on course?"
Professor Peter Willetts, Professor of Global Politics, City University
Liberia: Nation Building in a troubled region .pdf
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Liberia
Time for common sense in the UN's drugs policy: but will the UN and its member states dare to listen? .pdf
Professor Cindy Fazey, Grantley Haines
Stories from the Field - UN Film Festival .pdf
Annual Report 2006 .pdf
Service to mark 60th anniversary of the United Nations, St Paul's Cathedral 24th October 2005
The Cathedral, filled to its 2400 capacity with people from many faiths, hosted the service led by Her Majesty the Queen accompanied by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke of Edinburgh and Tony Blair, Prime Minister, read the lessons. Lord (Paddy) Ashdown gave the address. The Bishop of London preached the sermon.
A Ray of Hope, the choir from six schools in Belfast sang the Gaelic Prayer. Before the service, Tony Blair and other leading politicians met the thirty five pupils comprising A Ray of Hope posing with them for photographs. Later, the Westminster and the Blackheath & Greenwich Branches invited 250 guests to the Reception in the Crypt, located under the Cathedral. Music was provided by Sherrifo from Gambia who was touring the UK at the time. Also A Ray of Hope sang two further songs.
Members of the Westminster branch secured funding for and planned the Service and provided the majority of logistic support for it and the Reception in the Crypt which followed.
Address: The Rt Hon Lord Ashdown, KBE
St Paul's Service, photos
Annual Report 2005 .pdf