Thank you Mr President.
Ever since my distant predecessor Gladwyn Jebb served as acting Secretary-General of the embryonic UN 70 years ago, Britain has been proud to play a leading role in the multilateral system.
Together, we’ve spent 70 years striving for peace, 70 years helping the poorest and most vulnerable, and I’m pleased to say, 70 years co-operating, whatever our differences.
So looking back, there is so much to celebrate. In the last seven decades, we have helped negotiate countless peace agreements, supported by over 60 peacekeeper and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots. We’ve built on that peace, providing elections assistance to over 100 countries. The UN remains rightly an ambitious organisation; as the agreement of the sustainable development goals shows.
Today, the UN provides food to 90 million people in 80 countries, vaccinates 58 per cent of the world’s children, saving 3 million lives a year. It assists 39 million refugees and keeps the peace with over 120,000 peacekeepers in 16 operations on 4 continents.
But in looking back, we cannot lose sight of the challenges ahead; climate change, violent extremism, and issues like anti-microbial resistance which still lie below the radar. These are all issues where global action is the only solution, where the UN needs to show leadership.
To tackle these, and more, the UN needs to adapt and reform. Organisations that stand still quickly lose relevance. The UK supports modernisation of the UN. We want to bring greater diversity to the authority of the Security Council, by expanding its membership to include Germany, Japan, Brazil and India, as well as more African representation.
And we also want to see a strong leader in the next Secretary-General, who can help deliver these ambitious reforms, who is selected through a transparent, equal and fair process. And with all other things being equal, the UK believes that the UN’s next leader should be a woman.
So this year will be a seminal one in the UN’s history. It is a time for the multilateral system to demonstrate how effective it can be in delivering positive change – be it in a deal to tackle climate change, or in a plan to end the crisis in Syria. The best way to mark our 70th anniversary would be for progress to be made on all these fronts.