Speech

"I’m proud to say that the United Kingdom is signing up to the ACT Code of Conduct."

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN at the ACT Group Event on the Code of Conduct

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Thank you, Madame President.

Let me begin by thanking the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency group for convening this event. The ACT has had a great UNGA week with your various initiatives. Baroness Anelay, the United Kingdom’s minister for the United Nations, is unfortunately unable to be here today but has asked me to pass on her congratulations for your initiative. I also wanted to thank civil society for being so involved in this set of reform issues, and also like to thank others that have put forward initiatives in this area, notably France and Mexico, for their leadership.

I’m proud to say that the United Kingdom is signing up to the ACT Code of Conduct. I hope that all current and prospective members of the Security Council will join us. Indeed, I’d be interested to know what reason they give if they are unable to do so.

There has been a lot of talk about the last 70 years, but if we look ahead to the next 70 years the UN needs to ensure that it remains agile and flexible enough to tackle the variety of challenges that are going to be ahead of us. We need to remain efficient and effective and get more so, and we need to look at the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Security Council in particular.

The track record in recent years has fallen short of where we would like it to be. I think our collective failure on Syria is a stain on our conscience. It has consequences for the standing of the Security Council and indeed the United Nations as a whole. We just cannot allow the narrow self interests of some to stand in the way of peace and progress for many.

For those permanent members that use the veto to block credible united action, they bear a heavy moral responsibility for the chaos and the situation that follows. And I very much hope that as we address the scourge of indiscriminate bombing, the barrel bombing, in the future that there are no vetoes or threats of vetoes there.

So I think that the ACT code is an important step forward. It emphasises the central role of all Security Council members in confronting threats to peace and security. It focuses minds and increases the political cost to those who do use their veto to block the way. I’m glad to say that the UK has not used our veto since 1989. I am proud to say today that we will never vote against credible Security Council action to stop mass atrocities and crimes against humanity.

Just very briefly, Madam President, there’s a wider range of reform initiatives which this is an important part of. There’s the selection of the next Secretary-General. The British government is championing reforms to make the selection process more transparent, structured and fair. Of course, it’s high time for a woman.

Secondly, there’s Security Council reform – the UK supports my Jamaican colleague’s excellent work. We welcome the decision to rollover discussions to the next session of the General Assembly.

And thirdly, there’s the Council’s working methods – and in our Presidency of the Security Council next month I look forward to following the lead of New Zealand in championing transparency and efficiency.

So I think, working together in all of these areas, we can help make the anniversary a moment for reform and renewal. I think the ACT group has done a fantastic job, with a powerful declaration of intent with this code.

Thank you.

Published 1 October 2015