News story

Promoting British interests at the UN General Assembly

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague led the UK delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The gathering of world leaders in the UN General Assembly is a unique forum for the international community to address global issues. The sixty-fifth session opened in New York on 14 September 2010. The UK delegation, led by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague, were active throughout the Assembly, meeting key counterparts and advancing UK foreign policy across the board.


The UN Summit on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) on 20 - 22 September reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the MDGs and set out a concrete action agenda for achieving the Goals by 2015.

The Deputy Prime Minister told world leaders to “step up to the plate” and deliver on promises to boost aid for the developing world. He announced that the UK would double the number of maternal, newborn and children’s lives saved by 2015.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on 24 September, the Deputy Prime Minister said that nations and institutions need to reform and adapt to the challenges of a ‘profoundly altered’ world. He urged stronger action on international peacebuilding, climate change and development and the promotion liberal values and human rights.

Climate change

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on 27 September, the Foreign Secretary said that an effective response to climate change “underpins our security and prosperity”:

“A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met.”

“We need to shift investment urgently from high carbon business as usual to the low carbon economy - this means building an essentially decarbonised global economy by mid century. At the same time we must ensure development is climate resilient: otherwise the changes in climate that are already unavoidable will block the path for hundreds of millions of people from poverty to prosperity.”


When speaking to the UN Security Council on 27 September, the Foreign Secretary said that the “threat from terrorism is evolving” and called for the international community’s response to evolve with it.

“We must stand together on the successful cooperation of the past to protect our own citizens and assist those of other regions where terrorism has found a foothold”

He called for all UN countries to respect the Security Council resolution 1904, adopted last December which explicitly confirmed that it is illegal to pay ransoms to those who the council has sanctioned because of their connections with Al Qaeda or the Taliban:

“…it is dangerous to regard ransom as a ‘necessary evil’ or as a legitimate tool for resolving kidnaps. They encourage more kidnaps and fund murder. Major attacks can be mounted for only tens of thousands of dollars, so million dollar ransoms can mean dozens of attacks.”

Middle East Peace Process

While in New York, the Foreign Secretary called for the Israeli government to extend the moratorium on settlement construction, saying it was clear that there is widespread international concern at the impact of the issue on the direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He stressed this point when he met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on 27 September.


A key issue discussed during the week was Iran. The Foreign Secretary represented the UK at a meeting of the E3+3 (UK, US, China, France, Germany and Russia) where it was made clear that the international community was united in calling for Iran to adhere to its international obligations and return to talks.

Speaking after the meeting, the Foreign Secretary said:

“This is the world saying this to Iran… Iran should not underestimate the strength of feeling in the international community or the determination to deal with this issue. But nor should they underestimate our readiness to have the dialogue about it, to have talks provided they’re really meaningful about the whole nuclear programme. So it’s a twin track approach - sanctions which put Iran under pressure, but also the offer of negotiations which mean we can sort out this problem in the interests of the peace of the whole world”.

The Foreign Secretary raised this when he met the Iranian Foreign Minister. The Foreign Secretary stressed the unity of the E3+3 countries around the twin track process of pressure and a good faith offer of talks about Iran’s nuclear programme and urged Iran to enter into negotiations with the E3+3 on all aspects of its nuclear programme.

The UK was among the 30 countries who walked out during an offensive speech by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he told the UN that the 9/11 attacks were staged by America. Commenting on the speech the Deputy Prime Minister said: “Once again, an issue of grave global concern has been overshadowed by the bizarre, offensive and attention-grabbing pronouncements by President Ahmedinejad… His remarks were intended to distract attention from Iran’s obligations and to generate media headlines. They deserve to do neither.”


The Foreign Secretary also co-chaired the meeting of “Friends of Yemen” on 24 September, assessing progress made since January’s meeting in London. The meeting agreed a course of action for future support to Yemeni reform and set a date for the next meeting in Riyadh. The Friends, welcomed Yemeni commitment to the implementation of the recently agreed International Monetary Fund programme, to a lasting peace settlement in Sa’dah, and to an inclusive Yemeni-owned national dialogue process.


Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham attended the high-level meeting on Sudan on 24 September, chaired by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, which looked at international co-ordination ahead of the referenda on self-determination for Southern Sudan and on the status of Abeyi. Henry Bellingham re-iterated the UK’s support for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and warned against losing sight of the situation in Darfur.

Bilateral meetings

In the margins of the General Assembly, the Foreign Secretary held 35 formal bilateral meetings, where he discussed the Middle East, Pakistan aid and Afghanistan among other issues. The 35 meetings included US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Pakistan Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Full list of the Foreign Secretary’s formal bilateral meetings:

Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Iran, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Yemen, India, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bahrain, Japan, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Jordan Kuwait, Serbia, Brazil, Egypt and US envoy to the Middle East, EU High Representative, US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Secretary General of League of Arab States, UN Secretary General.

Your questions on UNGA

The Foreign Secretary answered your questions on Twitter on the subject of “Global Challenges”. He discussed a range of subjects, including climate change, UN & UK aid and Iran.

Updates to this page

Published 30 September 2010