§ Debate resumed.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I warmly thank and congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for the signal service which he has performed in raising this issue for debate this afternoon. However, it is only one of the many services which he has given to the United Nations and the United Nations Asociation, because he preached a sermon at a very special service at St. Paul's Cathedral on Sunday, for which I am not only personally grateful, but also grateful on behalf of the United Nations Association, of which I must say that I am only the chairman. I must make that point clear, because both of my presidents are here today. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, and the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, are not only here, but they are to speak. I should hate them to think that I was trying to usurp the rights of a president over a very modest chairman!
In January, 1946 I was able, as a disabled serving officer, to obtain a ticket as an observer for one day to see the first sesson of the General Assembly in Central Hall, Westminster. I must say that at that stage I did not for one moment imagine that I would ever have the honour of standing in your Lordships' House speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who, of course, was present on that occasion. The United Nations General Assembly is very different today from what it was then. At that time it comprised 51 countries which had mainly white-faced delegates. Now it comprises 159 countries representing virtually the whole of the world. I submit that the dramatic change in both the membership and the nature and composition of the United Nations, explains many of the difficulties which have transpired in fulfilling the terms of a charter which was drafted while the war was still taking place and while there was a military alliance, at least, between the great powers.
We must recognise that many of the early hopes have not, and could not, have been fulfilled in a world which is deeply divided. On 10th and 11th January, 1986 we shall see youngsters from schools throughout the country representing 159 countries. I guess that they will be as deeply divided in the presentation of their case as is the situation in the United Nations. It is worth reminding ourselves of the fact, as we were reminded by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, that (to use his words) the United Nations:is the servant of the sovereign states which compose it".The same point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. To put it another way, the United Nations can do no more than its member states permit it to do; it has no inherent power as if it were some super power or some super international power. It is no miracle worker.
Sometimes when looking at problems of peace and war, I compare the role and the machinery of the United Nations with that of ACAS which deals with industrial disputes in our own country. It follows the disputes, it watches and considers what it could do if it 1493 were called upon; it is ready to arbitrate or to mediate; and it is ready to offer its good offices privately or publicly. However, until it is asked, it cannot act. That is the situation of the United Nations. I think that we have to accept that far too many of the wars which have occurred in the past 40 years have been because the states involved did not go to the United Nations until war had virtually or had actually broken out. Therefore, we must recognise that the strength and the weakness of the United Nations lies in the strength and the weakness of the member states.
I should like to give an example of one or two matters which took place for its 40th anniversary. On October 24th the Prime Minister spoke at the United Nations General Assembly and I felt proud she did so. But the guns were firing in Beirut, in Iraq and in Iran; France chose that date to explode a nuclear device, and President Reagan spoke of the importance he attached to the strategic defence initiative. But one thing that pleased me personally was that President Zia of Pakistan announced there would be the return of a quarter of a million Biharis from Bangladesh to Pakistan and they would be resettled. This is a cause with which I have been associated for the last 14 years.
On that same day, an all-Party committee emphasised the downward trend, in a sense of percentage, of our spending on overseas aid as a percentage of gross national product, and showed the very serious extent to which it had slipped, and the fact that it was going to slip still further at a time of the greatest famine that mankind has known.
In spite of the immense difficulties which have faced the United Nations, I believe, as was clearly indicated by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the United Nations have many achievements to their credit. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, referred to minor achievements. I think that is a little modest when one looks at some of the things the United Nations have done. Some things have been minor, but some have been major. I would almost say that to have survived 40 years and to have enabled the world to avoid a world war for 40 years of itself is no mean achievement. But I think what I admire most about the United Nations is the flexibility they have shown. Because of the divisions of the world, so many provisions of the charter cannot be carried out—Military Staffs Committee, and all. The UN have, however, enabled tasks to be done which had not been thought of in the charter.
My Lords, reference was made by the most reverend Primate to peace-keeping forces. I think he will be interested to know, as a distinguished ex-serviceman himself, that for the first time ever in the Armistice Day parade in Whitehall, there will be a small contingent of men and women wearing pale blue berets. They will be there because they have served in the United Nations peace-keeping forces in different parts of the world.
Secondly, the United Nations have set standards—standards in human rights, standards in the prevention of torture, standards concerning terrorism, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, standards of rights of women, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the rights of children and, indeed, of the disabled. The very fact 1494 that so many of those standards tragically have been broken by many of the member states does not mean they do not have to account for their behaviour before the United Nations General Assembly or the Human Rights Commission, or the Economic and Social Council, or what-have-you. One of the great things about the United Nations is that no country can take action, however witless it may be, without having to account to world-wide opion for what it has done. I do not believe that the Soviet Union or any other country in the world is totally immune to the pressures of public opinion. When the noble Lord, Lord Home, referred to a safety valve he was thinking in terms similar to those to which I am referring.
The United Nations have also negotiated many agreements of world-wide importance, such as the treaty on the Law of the Sea. I have a particular interest in this because at one stage, as the Minister at the Foreign Office, I led the British delegation in Caracus to the negotiations to bring about what eventually was the treaty. I most earnestly plead with the noble Baroness the Minister that she will recognise, and that the Government will recognise, that nothing is perfect, but that this is an agreement, a treaty, which is immensely in Britain's interest. It is in her economic and her defence interest, in the interests of pollution, the environment, and in so many other ways. It would be a tragedy if Her Majesty's Government continued to stand out with very few other countries in not signing that treaty
My Lords, remarkable things have been achieved through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. I refer to it because it is not one of the specialised agencies, but I have seen much of its work with refugees from Afghanistan, in Pakistan, Thailand and in the Sudan. The work of the United Nations High Commission is quite magnificent, as is the work of UNICEF. I had the privilege of being a member of their secretariat at one stage earlier in my life.
One of the things in this, together with the other specialised agencies about which I will not go into detail for reasons of time—is that in the United Nations we have achieved universality as we never did achieve it in the League of Nations. I say, "We never did achieve", because I was a member of the League of Nations Union and felt intensely involved 50 years ago. We have now achieved universality. Switzerland will have a referendum to decide whether after 40 years perhaps it should come into the United Nations, and then we will have 150 members. It would be sad if that universality were to be broken.
I will refer just for a moment to the position of the Government in relation to UNESCO. I do not wish to be too critical. I believe there were some important changes to be made in UNESCO, as was said by the noble Baroness; some important changes in priorities and administration. I believe that the Government have made some important proposals. I am glad that they have been so significantly followed up. I hope the conference now taking place in Sofia will enable the British Government to decide to remain within UNESCO, a body which we played such an important part in bringing into existence.
My Lords, 40 years have passed, and we must look forward, especially in the sphere of peace and war as, 1495 indeed, this Motion does. We must improve methods of anticipating and seeking by diplomacy to prevent localised conflicts. I agree this is not always done in the open and in public and with mediators. From my own experience as a Minister, I know how much is done in the corridors of power, or in the bars most likely, of the United Nations, or perhaps in private rooms where delegates from countries in deep conflict with each other are able to come to agreement such as might prevent a situation going from bad to worse.
The most reverend Primate referred to Brian Urquhart, as did my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. Brian Urquhart is an outstanding international civil servant. I do not want to say more about him because I think his greatness speaks for itself.
I believe there is a great need to build up a core of senior members of the United Nations secretariat whose commitment is to the United Nations and its charter only, and in no way due to the nationality of those concerned. I am thinking of men of the calibre of Dag Hammarskjöld, U Thant, Bunche and the present Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar. Far too often because of the requirements of the balance of nationality, we have people who come and go in the secretariat. There needs to be a core of dedicated men of integrity and principle who can stand up for and fulfil the important tasks of mediation.
My Lords, in conclusion, I said that power lies with governments—and that is right. But in most countries, unhappily not in some, power ultimately lies with the people. The importance of public opinion, of public education as well, should not be underestimated. I know that the Government do not underestimate it. When 20,000 people gathered, as they did just a week ago today, coming from all parts of the country—from the Churches, from branches of the United Nations Association, the World Development Movement, Oxfam and the rest—to plead with the Government to do more and set more of a lead in terms of the battle against poverty, they were expressing their deep convictions. That is a healthy thing to do, and the Government ought to listen to what they have to say.
I find, and I think it would be found among those 20,000, a growing concern among young people. It is only among us older folk—many of us having been in at the beginning of the UN—that there was this great vision, and we have now allowed ourselves to become pessimistic about it. The young generation are looking at the next 40 years—not the last 40 years—of the United Nations.
There is for Britain a special responsibility. The United Nations was founded here, and we should be proud of that fact. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, played a vital and crucial role. We are permanent members of the Security Council, and that should not be just an historic anachronism. If we started the United Nations today it might be that Britain would not automatically be picked out as one of the five great nations of the world. I do not think that anyone would doubt what I am saying. But we are because of history, and because of the charter, and we have a special position.
1496 If we have that special position, then we have a special obligation. It gives us a position, which I hope we shall practise, of moral leadership and influence for the next 40 years. I have confidence that we will learn many of the lessons of the past, and that with the sort of leadership which has been given by the most reverend Primate and by my noble presidents—to whom I must pay my tribute before I sit down—the next 40 years may be more productive. For the human race 40 years is a short period of time, but we may be able to learn from the lessons of the first 40 years and build on them in the next 40 years.
§ 5.53 p.m.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am glad to find myself following the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. He and I have followed United Nations and United Nations Association affairs over the years since 1946, as he has mentioned. I should like respectfully to congratulate the most reverend Primate on his speech. I think I agreed completely with every comment and sentiment that he expressed. I am venturing to take part in this debate on the 40th anniversary because I worked at the United Nations in its early years and I feel I might help by recalling some of the atmosphere of those days.
I first went there in 1948, two years after it had established itself in New York. I was a member of the permanent British mission there for three years from 1949 to 1952. I assisted, and sat behind, our first permanent representative, Sir Alexander Cadogan, for a year, and then for two years his successor, my noble kinsman, Lord Gladwyn. I am probably the first Member of this House to have lived and worked at the United Nations after its headquarters was established in New York, of course in a junior capacity as a British diplomatist. Others who have spoken, or will speak, in the debate were there later in much more important capacities.
At the time of the General Assemblies I was assisting and sitting behind the Ministers of State. My job was primarily in the Security Council, but I found myself sitting behind Hector MacNeil, Kenneth Younger, and then, with a change of Government, Selwyn Lloyd, whom many noble Lords will remember.
Mention has been made of the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. I attended that first hurried emergency meeting on a Sunday morning at Lake Success. We were summoned in the early hours of the morning. I was part of the British delegation. I cannot remember whether there were two of us or three of us, but it was a vital meeting. The North Koreans had attacked the South, following the example of Mussolini, on a Saturday evening, but the Security Council was hurriedly meeting at 11 o'clock on the following morning.
It had also slightly caught the British delegation because Sir Alexander Cadogan had departed on retirement and his successor designate, Lord Gladwyn, had not yet arrived. As has been mentioned in the debate, the resolutions went through that day and at subsequent meetings without a veto because the Soviet Union was absent from the meetings right the way through July. The Soviet Union did not come back 1497 until August, and the attack had occurred on 25th June. Therefore, those resolutions went through.
There are two points which even from these early experiences I should like to make. First, I think that the eventual success of the United Nations forces in the Korean episode had the effect of deterring a great number of possible aggressors later on from trying to chance their arm. The existence of the United Nations and the Security Council has, over the years, prevented aggressions—perhaps minor ones—where neighbours were tempted to attack and take over another country or piece of territory.
The other point I should like to make is on the veto. Had the Korean question involved the really vital interests of the Soviet Union, I am sure that the Soviet representative would have been there and using the veto. I think that the veto is essential. It has sometimes been criticised but I am sure it had to be in the charter. If it were not there one could face a head-on collision between one of the major powers and the rest of the United Nations which could cause the kind of world war which it was the primary aim of the United Nations to prevent.
In those years when I was in the permanent Mission of the United Kingdom we were trying to apply sections of the charter for the first time. During that period, or part of it, I knew the charter by heart.
Lord Campbell of Croy
I am glad to say that my former boss is apparently able to confirm that. I could certainly recite any article, as required, and we were determined to try to make it work.
My noble friend Lord Home has already referred to the article, which again was an essential part of the Charter, precluding intervention in internal affairs. That was Article 2, subsection 7. It is essential to have such a provision in the charter, but it is sometimes difficult to draw the line, because what is going on internally in one country can cause a great deal of trouble and even outbreaks of fighting in another.
There is part of the charter which has never been put into operation. While I was there, the five main powers, as they were then, were trying to get Articles 43 to 47 put into effect. Those are the articles which would set up the military staff committee and also required countries to earmark forces to be available to the Security Council for use when required to stop fighting. During that period the Soviet delegation simply did not co-operate. What had happened was that the Russians had agreed to this part of the charter at the preparatory conference at San Francisco and had apparently changed their mind since then.
The military staff committee was set up in embryo, but they were simply the military representatives of the five major countries. However, they could never get any further at their meetings than confirming the minutes of the last meeting and then trying to adopt the agenda, and of course that simply ran into the sand. Because that part of the charter has never come into force, peace-keeping arrangements have come about instead. They had been brought into being to meet particular situations. Now they have been formalised as a method available to the United 1498 Nations, and I suggest that that has been a useful development.
Another role which the United Nations has played successfully is in discussions behind the scenes on major problems. The United Nations has been a meeting place for ministers and diplomatists of the countries involved and I do not think we should underestimate the work that has gone on in the corridors in starting to settle some of the most difficult problems, particularly those affecting the Soviet Union and the West.
Here I come to one of the weaknesses that I do not think anyone has yet mentioned. There has been a temptation at the United Nations for the smaller countries to indulge in what is known as horse trading. A small country not interested in some particular subject affecting another part of the world is prepared to trade its vote. Perhaps I may give an example of something that happened during that early period when I was there, because it well illustrates this. Some Latin American countries came to a pact behind the scenes (but we all knew about it) whereby they would support the Arab argument in the problem of the Middle East which was before the Assembly at the time. In return, the Arab States would support another proposal which was put forward at that time—that Spanish should become an official language of the United Nations. That had absolutely nothing to do with the subject. Of course there is a temptation to indulge in that kind of horse trading. A small country has one vote equal to the single vote of the United States, Britain or France and it is an asset which at times it no doubt feels it should use. But it means that some questions are not necessarily decided on their merits.
I was not around at the time of the anniversary we are celebrating. In October 1945 I was still flat on my back in hospital and I did not emerge until the following summer, but I had been successful in the Foreign Office exam before I could walk again. Later I had to take a medical and fortunately those concerned got me onto my pins in time. I think it was a "stretched medical" that was used for people like me after the war.
I should particularly like to applaud the speech of the most reverend Primate in what he said about the past and his assessment of the present and prospects for the future. I hope he will not mind my saying so, but one reason is that we are in the same age group. I must confess to being a few months older than him which meant that I was in the army a day or two before the war and found myself later commanding a field battery in a Scottish division. He will remember that it was in that way that we first came across each other in the closing stages of the war, when for two years I was operating with the squadron of tanks in which he served and which was commanded by my noble friend Lord Cathcart.
Some of our particular age group were imbued after the war with a determination to do what we could to prevent a conflict of that kind ever happening again and to try to take part in the reconstruction of the world. That was so in my case. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, is not here now, but I should like to address that remark to him because he was speaking of some who were cynical and critical of the United Nations. It 1499 was not just idealism. There was some idealism but it was strongly laced with realism. We found in New York at the United Nations that on the whole the American public were over-optimistic and starry-eyed about the United Nations. At that time they thought it would do far more than the charter could ever have enabled it to do. That changed later, because that kind of opinion was disappointed when weaknesses emerged.
I remember again, in about 1950, the delegate of a small country with whom I was talking saying, quite frankly, that the 51 nations who were then members—when I went there were 51, and when I left there were 60—were mainly concerned with peace and trying to prevent happening again the kind of war which we had just been through. Of course those member states were virtually the countries that had been on the Allies' side during the war. He said something which certainly registered with me at the time because it mattered later: "You must remember that some of us think that the most important role of the United Nations is to eliminate colonialism." It was important that one realised early on that not all the countries of the world thought that peace was the main object. It was an important object but others had other aims in mind too.
The United Nations is needed as a meeting place for all the countries of the world. It has to be there for that purpose. It is needed also as a forum for voicing views and drawing attention to dangerous situations. Of course this can be abused: it can be used simply for propaganda, but I suspect there are few national parliaments who could rebut that kind of criticism. Above all, the United Nations is needed because the Security Council can immediately be convened to consider outbreaks of hostilities or threats to peace. Its authority is still an effective way of influencing the plans of governments tempted to resort to violence.
I am sure that Britain will continue to play a full part and will help to strengthen the organisation and especially its peace-keeping role.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Bottomley
My Lords, it is a pleasure for me to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. When he was in the diplomatic service he assisted me as the Minister in concluding a successful trade agreement with Yugoslavia, following which the Russians and the Yugoslavs parted company. This is also an opportunity for me to tell the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury how much I admire him and to thank him particularly for raising this subject for discussion today.
In 1946, 1947 and 1949 it was my privilege to be a member of the British delegation to the United Nations. The team was led by the great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. My joy and excitement at being present at that august assembly was, I regret to say, short-lived. The bullying tactics of the United States towards the Latin American countries and the way in which the Soviet Union treated the East European countries made me cast-down and miserable. No wonder that, when we met at Lake Success, some cynics called it "Fake Success".
1500 However, I was proud to be a member of the British delegation. That delegation behaved with dignity and decorum. The United Kingdom was responsible for ensuring that the dependent territories and colonies, who were at the assembly as observers, were kept fully informed and were consulted. Indeed, as a result of the meetings that we continually had we laid the foundations for the commonwealth of nations as we know it today.
Ever since the inception of the United Nations it has been maligned and vilified. With wars occurring in many parts of the world it is not surprising that people should be cynical and sceptical, for the United Nations came into being to create a peaceful world and to stop wars. Unfortunately the United Nations is not a world government and can only do what its members permit it to do. Power politics enter into the procedures, and that takes advantage of the power politics where national interests are put first and co-operation is forgotten. However, as has already been said by many noble Lords, successful things have been done.
In spite of all its restrictions and difficulties, the nearest the United States and the Soviet Union ever came to confrontation which could have led to war was at the time of the Cuba missile situation. The Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, with whom I worked in connection with Burmese independence, took an active role. It was because of that that the Soviet Union and the United States came together,and indeed both sent a letter to the Secretary General thanking him for what he had done to help prevent a third world war.
The General Assembly of course enables foreign leaders of other nations to come together in an informal way and discuss matters. Often very successful things are accomplished in those informal meetings. As has already been said, the United Nations is also concerned with the promotion of high living standards, with all that implies: better food, better health, better education and better working conditions.
The special agencies, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation do admirable work. In my past capacity as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs and Minister for Overseas Development, I had the opportunity of playing a part in the work of these agencies. I have seen at first hand many of the excellent results that have been achieved. The United Nations special agencies do work which is really worthwhile in terms of development and improvement of the circumstances of many people worldwide. It was just possible that there might have been another agency, the world trade organisation. I led the British delegation to the Havana Conference. The Poles and the Czechs came to that meeting; the Russians stayed away. In due course the Russians put the pressure on Poland and Czechoslovakia to withdraw. It was unfortunate. The economies of the world might have been in better shape if that trade agency had come into being.
However, one thing arose from that conference. It was the creation of the general agreement on tariffs and trade, in the creation of which my noble friend Lord Wilson played a most active part. The reason the 1501 United Nations Organisation is not as effective as it should be is that the nations of the world are not yet prepared to work through it and give it all the support possible. The will for peace must come from the hearts and minds of people throughout the world as a whole.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, first I should like to apologise for having arrived a little late for this debate. I had a long-standing speaking engagement at lunchtime in Kent. For that reason, I was most sorry to have missed the speeches of the right reverend Primate and the noble Baroness. I very much look forward to reading them in Hansard tomorrow.
I am delighted to speak after so many noble Lords who took such an active part both in establishing and building up the United Nations. For that reason, I am very proud to follow my noble friend Lord Bottomley, with all the experience he has had and the contribution that he has made. However, the reason I particularly wanted to take only a brief part in this debate today was that in my capacity as President of the United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF, I should like to say a few words about the work of that vitally important agency. I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have already paid tribute to its work, notably my noble friends Lord Ennals and Lord Gladwyn.
Generally speaking, I do not think that either governments or indeed the public recognise or give enough credit to the humanitarian, social and very practical achievements of many of the specialist agencies in the field of human and children's rights. For example, there is the work of UNESCO in rescuing and restoring cultural treasures on every continent. There is the UNHCR's assistance to those driven from their homes by conflict or disaster, in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Uganda and throughout the Sahel. There is UNICEF, with its work for the welfare of the world's children. The United Nations is the sole vehicle through which the world's concern for so many issues, so many families and so many individuals can be expressed.
Next year is the 40th birthday of UNICEF. Perhaps no better way could be found to celebrate those 40 years than to grasp that opportunity to make this already most effective arm of the United Nations still more effective—effective in saving the lives of thousands of children who currently die each day. What is needed is not a transformation or a restructuring in the case of UNICEF because it has built a system which seems to have worked very well, but rather the provision of more funds. As your Lordships know, UNICEF, unlike the rest of the United Nations, is dependent entirely on voluntary contributions from governments and peoples and its resources do not match its needs. Like its children, UNICEF is suffering from a kind of malnutrition, a financial malnutrition, with all the consequences of that.
I think there is little doubt that the public is doing its bit. I have visited branches of UNICEF in the poorest areas of the United Kingdom, where people are already feeling the pinch. It is always heartwarming to see their interest and devotion to helping the people in other countries who are more hard up than they are themselves. However, I do not feel that the 1502 Government have followed the lead given by the public. There have been all kinds of examples of how the public are deeply concerned with helping the developing world. Indeed, compared with other countries in Western Europe, I do not feel that our Government come out very well in the way that they contribute to these all-important agencies.
The right reverend Primate's debate is about the need to increase the effectiveness of the United Nations. I should like to point out one or two of the areas of effectiveness in the work of the United Nations Children's Fund. First, there is its work in the area of peace. It achieved the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965. It was present in besieged Beirut on both sides of the green line in 1983. It brought about three separate days of ceasefire between government and guerrillas to achieve the immunisation of children in El Salvador. There is its work in the field of water and sanitation, where its achievements have been extraordinary. In the area of the all-important gift that any country can be given, which is that of water, UNICEF is currently supplying clean, safe water to no fewer than 97 countries in the world.
Its very radical child-survival revolution ideas, which have caught the imagination of various world leaders, are bringing about a peaceful revolution in the quality of children's lives all over the world. There is also its work in nutrition, emergency relief, and its efforts to improve female education and opportunities in training, and so on, throughout the world.
I have seen how effective that work is when visiting the Sudan and I saw all the different areas of the United Nations Children's Fund working with programmes concerning health, the provision of dean water and the education of mothers to try to enable them to bring up their own children in a better way. Many governments are showing the way and in some cases they are mobilising entire populations behind this campaign. In Colombia, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan and China we have seen this, and India has committed itself to a national immunisation campaign as a memorial to Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Italy at present has pledged most generously 100 million dollars in similar campaigns in Africa.
If developing countries with all their economic, social and often natural problems show so much will, together with other wealthier countries, it seems both hypocritical and churlish for us to protest that we cannot afford to help more than we help at present. We must do more to assist the practical development programmes which really benefit the poorest of the poor. Support for this particular arm of the United Nations, which has proved that it can bring the kind of lasting assistance which so many of the poor countries so badly need, would strengthen the whole apparatus of the United Nations. The Times last Thursday in its leader stated:The best way to celebrate today is to look to the future of the UN, not its past—and begin the refining process which it needs to press on towards the hopes and ideals that are still high in the clouds above".But many of these hopes and ideals, as I have just indicated, are not so high above us. There is an opportunity for a tangible increase in effectiveness right before us.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, I should like to express my thanks to the most reverend Primate for inaugurating this debate, which I found extremely interesting. I have listened to all the speeches and there is no doubt at all that we have in our Lordships' House people who have made a tremendous contribution to what is really the greatest thing that has happened since the war. My mind goes back, because I am now of considerable age, far more than 40 years, to the early 1920s—in fact, to 1922 when the League of Nations union was formed and we all joined in enthusiastically, hoping that this would see a new era after we had lived through the First World War. But of course we know, rather sadly, that those efforts did not succeed. However, we were not deterred by that, and the next effort that was made—and which we are discussing today—had the great advantage and great importance that it brought both North America and South America into the world picture.
Looking back on the League of Nations, I remember going to a meeting in Geneva in 1937 with my husband. Little did we realise how imminent was another World War. That was 47 years ago. I remain firmly of the opinion—as I was then, though, alas! it did not then succeed—that an organisation such as the United Nations is the only way we can avoid another world war. In fact, that has been proved more than once in 40 years, because the United Nations has prevented a world war breaking out. Unfortunately it cannot prevent nations from quarrelling with each other, arguing with each other in what one might almost term a guerrilla struggle; but it has prevented the outbreak of a major conflict, which is the main reason we should all support it today.
We hear continually of its weaknesses and not enough of its strengths and achievements. Other noble Lords have spoken of the great international organisations which have started through the United Nations. I will not go into them in detail because they have been mentioned: the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNICEF, the refugee organisations. All these have in different ways done marvellous work. There is much more to be done. The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, has pointed out that UNICEF is developing all the time; that WHO has prevented the spread of many diseases and is stronger today than ever. I think that FAO (as the noble Lord, Lord Home, has suggested) could be more effective, given more financial support from the World Bank, in the terrible problems of starvation, drought and misery brought about by the climatic difficulties in the Middle East.
I remember taking an active part in one of the very successful efforts of the United Nations in 1961, at the time of the World Refugee year, when I was chairman of a committee and raised millions of pounds. In this country £10½ million was raised; I think it was the biggest response ever achieved in a single year for a great cause like that. We all hoped that this would lead to the permanent resettlement of refugees in the camps, the influx of refugees created as a result of the war. The refugee year enabled the resettlement from camps of all refugees. What we did not realise was that there would still be in the world appalling conditions which would produce more refugees.
1504 Today that challenge is still there, and I am sure that it is one of the challenges the United Nations can tackle with the support of all the other nations. I shall not go closely into the question of UNESCO because it is controversial; but my own feeling is that one can do more to change an organisation if one is inside it and working in it than if one is outside. I hope very much that we may be able—this Government particularly—to alter some of the organisations of UNESCO so that we do not need to leave but can put right some of the things which definitely are wrong.
Without the United Nations, none of these organisations would function. It is a long time—not quite so long as in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley; but it is a long time—since I was a delegate from the United Kingdom to the United Nations. It was in the years 1954, 1956 and 1957.I was a member of the third committee, the committee that deals with social services, social work, refugees and so on. Through that work, I learnt a tremendous amount of the problems which arise. It was by no means plain sailing. The arguments put forward were, "Let there be all talking and no shooting", and, as Winston Churchill once said, "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war".
It fell to me on one of these occasions (I think it was in 1956) to make the leading speech for the United Kingdom when the Russians invaded Hungary. It was on a Saturday morning. I can remember it well, because the other delegates had to go back to the House of Commons since there was a crisis going on here. I found myself on the rostrum attacking the Russians for this really monstrous invasion of Hungary. I shall never forget it. It was an event in which, alas! the United Nations failed, but at least the protests are recorded; and although the Iron Curtain has not lifted, the Hungarians know that some day (we hope) they will be free again. But today, with 159 member countries, the problems of agreement are far different and more difficult than ever. However, the discussion goes on, as it must do.
The United Kingdom, as has been pointed out by other speakers, is a permanent member of the Security Council. This is a vital matter and one which is of enormous importance to us and to the rest of the world. The United Nations must and does carry on. None of those things would exist if it were not for the United Nations.
The United Nations Association, of which the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, and I are joint presidents, is the organisation in this country which we must support in every way we possibly can, because the criticisms one often hears could so easily be answered by the United Nations Association's membership and by its meetings throughout the country. I feel very strongly indeed that we must stick to this principle of being an active and very important member of the United Nations and that we must do everything we possibly can to preserve world peace and to prevent another war breaking out.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Lord Caradon
My Lords, I think everyone in this House will wish to express gratitude to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop for coming himself to take part in this debate and giving us such a 1505 magnificent lead. I, on behalf of everyone here, would wish to express to him our gratitude and our admiration.
The thought I should like to put to your Lordships is this. It is the members who matter. When I read the press or listen to some of the speeches, I am depressed by people speaking as though it is the United Nations which has failed or succeeded. Not at all: it is the members, of course. The United Nations provides a system, a method, an organisation and a leadership too, and I have in mind the very fine Secretary General we have at this time. They provide the means, but the leadership and the initiative must surely come from the members, and particularly from the five permanent members of the Security Council. It would be a very great mistake to imagine that there is a body there which must take responsibility for the failures or claim an occasional success. That is not so: it is we ourselves who can play a vital part in working for peace, and it is the other members who share that responsibility with us. It is useless and wrong to speak of the United Nations having succeeded or failed in any particular sphere. It is we who have taken a lead or who have failed to do so.
Having said that, I would wish to go on and say that I do not think the general impression of all being well should be allowed to pass tonight. I would take one particular example which I remember very well from my own experience, where a tiny country in the United Nations came to the General Assembly. The representative of the island of Malta came at the last moment before we entered the General Assembly that year. He said he had a new subject. Everybody was very irritated that this tiny country should come and hold up the work of the world organisation. What was it he wanted to say? The ambassador for Malta said he wished to raise the question of the deep sea. There was further consternation. Why should Malta want to hold up the whole work of the United Nations to deal with the deep sea? What did he want to say about the deep sea? The Maltese ambassador said he understood there were riches in the deep sea and he wanted to propose at that stage, before anything was done about it, that the riches of the deep sea should be the common heritage of mankind.
It appeared to be a rather ridiculous proposition, but something would have to be done about it and a little time was allotted later in the session for the subject to be raised. By that time Malta had raised a good deal of excitement and support. I do not forget the day when we took a vote on the Maltese resolution that the riches of the deep sea bed should be the common heritage of mankind. It was passed by 99 votes to nil. I remember that a sort of gasp went up, and I wondered whether this might turn out to be an important time in the history of the world when the great assets of the sea were declared to be the common heritage of mankind.
I remember what happened after the session was over and after that favourable vote. Members went into committee and worked, led by the ambassadors of some of the smallest countries in the world. I remember that when the Maltese ambassador handed over the detailed work of the committee on this issue, he handed it over to the ambassador for Sri Lanka, and when he died the representative of Singapore took 1506 over. These three representatives of small Commonwealth countries led the world and they convinced the world. They got to a stage when they drew up a treaty dealing with all the main issues: pollution, fish and the rights of the countries bordering on the sea. Everything was dealt with in agreement. That could be looked upon as one of the most remarkable achievements of international negotiation: a brilliant result. There was the summoning of the main conference in Montego Bay in Jamaica, where all the countries of the world were to come together in the expectation of signing a treaty which would alter in these respects the future of the whole world. And nearly everyone voted in favour.
The United States during the last few days, unhappily, sent word to say that they would not sign the agreement, and I am sorry and ashamed to say that the United Kingdom consequently abstained on this great issue on which they had previously worked so hard with the others and with the Americans too. That is a very serious result, is it not? It indicates that even when there is agreement and even if there is international advantage, the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western powers are not to participate in the general world effort. That is a bad outlook.
I think it is worth remembering that now when we see the actions of the United States in the United Nations we must show serious concern about the future; and if we follow in the footsteps of the United States in these matters in attacks on the institutions and organisations of the United Nations, it is a very bad outlook for our country and for the United Nations. I think it is well that these things should be said now rather than that there should be a general euphoria which would be unjustified. It is of tremendous consequence that we should use our influence. We have great influence and tremendous experience; we are widely respected. It is important that we should use our position and our history to work for the advancement of the idea of the United Nations authority.
Of course it can work; and having given a depressing example, perhaps I might be permitted to turn to the example which was quoted earlier this evening of when we voted unanimously on a subject which is not easy to agree upon: the whole question of the Middle East. I do not forget the time when the Soviet representative took me aside and said, "I want two more days; I beg you to get me two more days; I am personally asking you for two days." I was somewhat reluctant and uncertain, but I agreed, and we left the matter to the following Wednesday. I do not forget that moment of time when there was a cheer, and I turned to my right and there was the Soviet representative voting for the British resolution, making it unanimous. Yes, my Lords, it was an important day, because it showed that it can be done. I hesitate for a moment to say this to your Lordships, but it was done in a spirit of friendship and cheerful understanding.
I think that I am the only permanent representative at the United Nations who ever spoke in verse, but I took the opportunity shortly afterwards of asking permission to speak in verse. My little verse was this:When prospects are dark and hopes are dim,We know that we must turn to him.1507When storms and tempests fill the sky,'Bring on Kuznetsov' is the cry.He comes like a dove from the Soviet ark,And light appears where all was dark.His coming quickly turns the tide,Propaganda floods subside.And now that he has changed the weather,Lion and lamb can vote together.God bless the Russian delegation.I waive consecutive translation.That was my little contribution at that time. It was misquoted in The Times a day or two ago, to my annoyance, when they said that the rhyme had been used in connection with the Cuban crisis. I had no connection with the Cuban crisis.
It was to give some little satisfaction to my friend Kuznetsov who, incidentally, has several times in subsequent years sent me word personally to say that our resolution is still doing well. It can be done; it must be done. We must work in a spirit of cheerful friendship in dealing with the issues of the world and it can give results.
I should like to tell one other personal story with which I was associated. I was at that time Governor of Cyprus and they were going to have yet another debate in the General Assembly on Cyprus. The Greek side and the Turkish side were to be adequately represented and our representative, our ambassador at that time, worked to get the maximum votes for the resolution which we supported, and he obtained them.
He got into his car to go down to the United Nations for yet another debate on Cyprus. It is not very far from the British Mission headquarters to the United Nations—not more than 10 minutes. He told me late that night by telegram—because I was in Nicosia, Cyprus—what happened on that momentous day. He said that as he went down to the United Nations he told himself: what we really want today is not a victory, but a success. He thought that it was a rather silly phrase, but when he arrived at the United Nations it was still in his mind—not a victory, but a success.
So he did not go into the General Assembly, which was waiting for the vote, but went instead to an upper room and asked the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey to go and see him. Mr. Zorlu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, came first. He inquired what was in his mind and the ambassador asked, "Couldn't we at this last moment work for some progress, some advance—not for victory, but for success?" Mr. Zorlu replied, "Too late. They are all down below and they are waiting to vote. They have promised their votes for two days."
Where was Mr. Averof, the Foreign Minister of Greece? He had gone to meet the then Queen of Greece. He was reached on the telephone and asked whether he would come as quickly as he could. He said, "Yes, I will come". And the three men in the upper room, with all the Assembly waiting below, earnestly looked again at the whole problem, looking not for a victory but for a success. At the end of that time, Mr. Zorlu of Turkey shook hands with Mr. Averof of Greece, and each pledged their personal honour to work as rapidly as possible for a final settlement in Cyprus.
1508 The question was: what to do now? There was no time to get anything in type. They scribbled out a new resolution, which did not mean very much, but neither side was scoring a victory over the other. Who could propose it? The rule of the Assembly was that when you had backed one resolution you could not propose another. They went through the list of all the other members. Was there anyone there who had not backed one of the existing resolutions? They found Mexico. They put out a call on the loudspeakers for the ambassador of Mexico to come, and he came hurriedly from his position in the General Assembly. He was asked: would he move a resolution on Cyprus? He wanted to see what it was, so they explained it to him. He understood and agreed.
Then the angry Assembly, who had been waiting so long below, were amazed to see the Foreign Ministers of both Greece and Turkey, who were practically at war up to that point, coming in together with the ambassadors of Mexico and the United Kingdom. Later, to their further astonishment, the ambassador of Mexico rose to propose a resolution which they had never heard of, although almost every member of that great Assembly had previously promised his vote to one side or the other. But, to their amazement, the Mexican resolution was immediately supported by the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey and by the ambassador of the United Kingdom. In an atmosphere of further amazement, the Mexican resolution was passed that day without opposition, and in effect unanimously.
Within about three months of that time we had a settlement in Cyprus, largely on the basis of proposals put forward by the two Foreign Ministers and I, as Governor, was able to leave the island shaking hands with Archbishop Makarios and with Dr. Kutchuk of the Turks in agreement. Subsequent events are another matter; but I like to remember that as something which can happen. There can be people working not for victory but for success,and it can be that they can succeed.
So I put that thought to your Lordships, that it is for the members to play their full part and we are not at the moment. It is essential that we should exercise every influence we have in our own country, in regard to our own delegation, to make sure that we are not misled by the Americans. We are going to take a line of our own. We are going to work for the things that we believe in. We have done it before and we can do it again. So I put this thought to your Lordships: we in this country have a greater responsibility than any other country in the world to work unsparingly for success, not for victory. It is with that in mind that I welcome so warmly this debate, and greatly hope that we may be increasingly determined, first, to understand and, secondly, to use our maximum influence in the world in order to make the United Nations a success.
§ 6.49 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, it is almost an impertinence for me to follow the moving speech that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, with the unique and distinguished contribution that he has made to the United Nations for the whole of its 40 years. Perhaps I may say that for 1509 those of us who were born during the First World War and who lived through the second, this 40th anniversary of the United Nations is a milestone on a longer journey. I feel sure that we would have been reminded of this by the late Lord Noel-Baker, had he still been with us.
Robert Rhodes James, from his wide experience, has said that the United Nations was born not in 1945 but in the darkest months of 1916, when the small League of Nations society began to be taken seriously. By the time I was a schoolboy, the League of Nations Union had fired the imagination of the between-the-wars generation; and I recall that the first public speech I ever made was somewhat precociously in its support in 1929.
The failure of the league to stop another world war must not be allowed to overshadow its pioneer work in many fields, which undoubtedly prepared the way for a second attempt in 1945 to provide the means not only of preventing conflict but also of promoting co operation on practical projects of mutual advantage. We do well to recall the wide public support that the League of Nations had at its zenith, for I believe that if we are to make the United Nations more effective we need, before all else, to capture the enthusiasm and the imagination of a generation that has had no personal experience of war, either on the battlefield or on the home front.
Forty years ago, on the eve of the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, King George VI entertained the delegates at St. James's Palace. Characteristically, the founder of the Duke of York's camps said to them:The outstanding feature of membership of the United Nations is service—not a selfish defence of mere national interest, but service to the whole community of nations. Here is the prime motive power which must inspire all its actions and enable the approach to every difficulty to be made in the spirit of co-operation, understanding and goodwill".It is that same motive power which has characterised the specialised agencies of the United Nations to whom the Prime Minister paid a handsome tribute in her speech in New York last week. She said:They have concentrated on their appointed task, eliminating disease, caring for the needs of children, feeding and sheltering refugees. They and the men and women who serve them deserve all our thanks".The perspective from which each of the agencies does its work is a supra-national one. In a complex and contracting world, they are helping to pull the globe together. The agencies transcend national boundaries and enable the smaller and poorer countries to co operate internationally in dealing with problems that they could never begin to tackle on their own. The most reverend Primate referred to the International Maritime Organisation, whose offices are on the other side of Lambeth Bridge. I should like to refer to the United Nations environmental programme because this programme is probably one of the major achievements of the last 40 years. Changes in population, in wealth, in speed and mobility and in learning have made it essential that the world community should gradually develop a global environmental system. The United Nations has challenged governments and public everywhere to examine their collective responsibilities for the care and maintenance of what someone has called this small planet that humanity 1510 calls home. So a global agenda of environmental issues has emerged, including the management of air resources, the phenomenon of acid rain, the pollution of water and the destruction of forests. The importance of this agenda is obvious: it is a developing responsibility of the United Nations, and if the United Nations did not exist the nations would have to create a body to handle this 20th century environmental revolution.
The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, referred appreciatively to the work of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It is insufficiently realised that since 1951 the High Commission has helped 30 million people. But there are today 10 million refugees in the world and the maintenance of refugees, either in camps until they can return home or in sending them to a new country, is a costly business. This work, done in the name of the United Nations, is financed completely by voluntary contributions. The high spending during the last year on Africa is putting a great strain on work in other areas. Many of the senior staff of the High Commission are British and take pride in running an efficient and cost-effective organisation. Africa is not the only emergency situation in the world. There are those silent emergencies—refugee areas which are no longer in the news because of what has been called compassion fatigue, due to it all having gone on for so long.
It is a matter of great urgency that such work is not starved of funds. I should like to ask the Minister to tell the House when she replies what plans Her Majesty's Government have for increasing their contribution to this humane and caring work for individuals. I know that I do not need to remind her that the dignity of the individual is fundamental to this work for refugees. Support for it inevitably falls on those countries who value the role of the individual in society and who do not take a collectivist view. The Prime Minister said last week:We cannot do without the United Nations, but we can do a lot more with it".She clearly sees the need for still further agencies to end the international drugs trade and to deal with international terrorism. This underlines the importance of seeing the work of the specialised agencies as part of the peace-making process about which the mover of the Motion has spoken so forcefully. The work of the agencies and the work of peace-making belong together.
Several of those who have prophesied in recent days about the future of the United Nations have seen the opportunity which the United Nations gives for the newly emergent nations of the world to play a larger role on the international scene as its major possibility for development. The things that concern them, as Mr. Ivor Richard has pointed out in his article in this week's splendid edition of the House Magazine, are:on the whole pacific and sensible—disarmament, world development, food production and distribution, and a new international economic order. These items are hardly the original intentions of the founding fathers, but they perhaps amount to an agenda which is relevant, helpful and stimulating".I believe that one of the ways in which we can all help the United Nations to be more effective is by being constructive in our own attitude towards it, appreciative of its achievements as well as of its 1511 failures since 1945, and hopeful about its future. As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, suggested, the young today increasingly see themselves as part of one world. They increasingly take a global view, as the large and cheerful lobby last week showed. Young people look to the Government to be as ready as many of them are to support those working for the maintenance of peace and for the elimination of poverty.
The United Nations is a vast, worldwide operation with a huge multinational staff, but some of its best work is done by individuals for individuals. Behind the great international structures are dedicated individuals who have deliberately chosen to serve all the nations and not just one nation. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, is one of those sponsoring a memorial award to one such dedicated worker. He was a young man who died at the age of 41 after giving the whole of his short working life to Oxfam, the United Nations Association and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. At his death he was secretary of World Food Day and was deeply involved in the problems of rural development and social change. David Moore's life symbolises the devotion and dedication of countless men and women of every nation who together make the work of the United Nations not only effective but also memorable.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, in a sense, and inevitably, this Chamber has this afternoon been haunted by the ghosts of our own youth. Each one in our turn has taken down the faded pictures of what we saw ourselves to be 40 years ago. We have sought the inspiration that took us into the United Nations Association. We have talked about the roles which we have played, and that is proper, and about the anniversary. As we have talked, it has become increasingly obvious to me at any rate that an institution of which we are still a part has fallen short of the proud hopes that we had. Even those who associated themselves so formidably with the association and with its development internationally know in their hearts this afternoon that the organisation itself did not come to fulfil their youthful bright hopes.
Such is inevitable. It had to be, because the world was a rapidly changing world. Speaking shortly after the most reverend Primate, the Minister referred to the smaller nations using the forum of the United Nations to put their specific cases. She spoke also of the larger nations inevitably using its rostrum for their own specious politics. The noble Baroness too was referring to an inevitability, because any organisation that is created by man records the follies as much as the hopes of man. In the United Nations, we have shown ourselves, both as people and as members of our individual nations, to be as prone to folly as we are to hope.
However, because we are recognising an anniversary, and because the most reverend Primate carefully set his Motion in the future of the organisation, we are being asked what we can do in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations. The most reverend Primate mentioned in particular the pacifying agencies of the United Nations caught between the ambitions of great and small nations and 1512 between points of human conflict in history. The most reverend Primate asked the House what we could do to strengthen those agencies.
My noble friend Lord Cledwyn said that the United Nations no longer seemed to interest very many people. It is meant as no disloyalty to our distinguished and busy colleagues to point out that during the course of this afternoon, interest during this debate has risen twice. It was raised on matters of contention introduced as political Statements by the Ministers concerned when they intervened in our debate about the future of the United Nations. The Chamber was full twice during the course of this debate—but not for the debate on the future of the United Nations itself.
Also, there has been no mention during this debate—unless one was made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, when my attention was distracted for a moment—of the work of Bob Geldof.
§ Lord Parry
I apologise, my Lords; I am so glad that there was and I withdraw my comment. It does not detract from the seriousness of the point I am hoping to make. The agencies which we represent and for which we speak in this place were the formative agencies of those very emotions that rise in us; the ambitions that some of us had between the wars, some of us during the wars, and some of us afterwards. Those agencies—the Church, the schools, the groups which we joined in our small communities and in our larger cities, our colleges and universities—were at that time, in what seems now to have been an innocent world, consenting to some broad ideals as to the direction in which society should move.
As a young trainee teacher in West Wales, I remember being impressed by the argument that, being in loco parentis, I stood in for the parent in helping to determine the direction in which society should develop. The various agencies we went on to join and the political parties with which we came to be identified were a part of our growth process.
I have conferred with those who had great experience of the United Nations, not only as founding personalities but also as great supporters of the United Nations Association. I may be wrong, but I believe that the great international organisations that signed the initial charter agreed also that they would teach in the schools of the individual nations the principles of the United Nations, rehearse the preamble to the charter of the United Nations, and almost daily instruct their children as to the freedoms which the United Nations was set up to enshrine. Because of our folly, because of our politics and because of our national identification in arguments—which is natural—the organisation became more and more concerned with border disputes and with political arguments in a way that perhaps made it difficult for people to see that the United Nations was concerned properly with the foundation freedoms and with those great energies which we thought it was releasing.
I am not saying that the United Nations has been a failure. I think it has been a roaring success. I agree with all noble Lords who have said that it has provided 1513 hope for mankind and has at great moments focused the better ambitions of mankind. However, we have failed to educate a new generation, and that new generation has sought its inspiration, and found it, elsewhere. All that clanging noise that came out of a stadium in London one Saturday afternoon taught me, anyway, as an old communicator and as an old teacher of youth—and as an old preacher, even if not one under the discipline of the right reverend Primate—that young people have ideals and enthusiasm, and that it is only the organisation and education processes which are letting them down.
I hope that the message will go out from this important and timely debate that it is possible for an older generation to communicate adequately with a younger generation—just as it has been amazingly possible for that unkempt and haunted young man to represent the ambitions and hopes of his generation and to get politicians moving under differing disciplines and opposing ideologies. What better triumph could there be for the 40th anniversary of the United Nations, in this convoluted way, than the convoy of lorries we saw going across the desert, defying local politics and local politicians, and getting the food into the hungry bellies of the poor? We need to fire again our own enthusiasm with the practical enthusiasm of the generation that is in the streets, taking up the inspiration that we perhaps thought was lost.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, as the first speaker below the line I am able to vary slightly the congratulations which are being paid to the most reverend Primate for having initiated this debate, because we are now able to look back and see what a good and satisfying debate it has been in many ways.
We have heard from a number of speakers with immense experience of work in, with and through the United Nations. If I may pick out in particular any part of it, I think possibly we may have not talked quite enough about the role of the United Nations Association. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has spoken to us and he represents it, and there have been other people, ex-leaders of the United Nations Association here; I saw Mr. Thorpe, who is an ex-president, listening to our debate. But perhaps above all it is the ordinary man and woman who is a member of the association throughout the country who needs a great deal of thanks from those of us who still believe in the United Nations. It is not a glamorous thing to be a member of your local United Nations Association. It has no so-called "political sex appeal". It is low down in the list of contestants for your guineas. It does not appear to evoke as immediate a response as helping the hungry or sending subscriptions to appeals in brochures with pictures of cripples. Nevertheless, the United Nations Association is a most valuable organisation and one that it is important to keep going.
The state of the United Nations on its 40th birthday is a matter neither for congratulation nor reproach, though it is true that a case could be made out for either of those views. For instance, it would not be inappropriate to regard with some awe this mighty organisation, which represents for the first time in the history of the world all the nations on earth, and to 1514 reflect that our grandfathers would have regarded the prospect of such a phenomenon at best as a poetic and visionary dream, a distant and almost unattainable step on the path toward that dayWhen the war drum throbs no longer and the battle flags are furled In the parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.On the other hand, it is not out of keeping with the facts to view the United Nations as a mere talking shop, corrupt, ineffectual, expensive, with built-in factors which make it almost incapable of reform. But neither picture is at all helpful, nor is either really a true picture, though each one has a sufficient element of truth to make it tenable.
Surely the most constructive picture from which to start is the portrait of an institution which exists, which has to exist at this moment of history, and which has arrived at this moment furnished with all the flaws which are entailed by its and our past. If we start from this point, we may find that we are not tempted to apportion blame for what is wrong nor to make too much of what is right, but to take the United Nations as it actually is and to consider what best to do with it now.
To take this stance is to be a believer both in predestination and in free will with equal logic. We can say on the one hand that two world wars, the invention of the A-bomb and the H-bomb and the development of virtually instantaneous world-wide communication were bound to throw up some such organisation and that it was bound to have faults; on the other hand, we can say that each moment we are dealing with a new situation in which we can change the future for good or ill.
Just as the collapse of the international tin market over the last few days gives an opportunity to the world's commodity markets, which they may or may not take, to profit from its lessons to build up better commodity agreements for the good of all, so, on a larger scale, the failures of the UN are merely opportunities to try better. The terrible temptation is to be so overcome by the complexity of the machinery, the magnitude of the task and the length of the time-scale that we give up trying. It seems to me that that is what practically every nation has done.
Foreign affairs has for centuries—perhaps for ever—been the hunting ground of the cynical. A distinguished Member of your Lordships' House, an ex-head of the Foreign Service, once said on television that he had only once heard a Foreign Secretary mention the "good of mankind" when working on the framing of policy. That of course is the basic trouble. Decent men of all nationalities, who would act unselfishly in their private lives, who even in domestic politics take it for granted that the electorate at large wants them, as our representatives, to exercise humanity and generosity, take it for granted that in the field of foreign policy, self-interest is all and that they are failing in their duty if they do not squeeze the orange till the pips squeak.
As a result, with few exceptions who are often sneered at for their pains, that is how countries behave. And I do not deny that that is how a very large number of countries will go on behaving. But the moment has surely come for some countries to try and reverse the process and it would not be inappropriate if this effort 1515 started in the heartland of Christendom. I hope that such a suggestion is in line with the speech and the thought of the most reverend Primate.
Mr. Ian Bradley, in his recent stimulating book The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Britain, has said:The United Nations badly needs one country to take the lead in building a coalition of member states across the world which will make it their business to implement the charter and use and improve its machinery for international peacekeeping and co-operation".It is quite clear that Britain could be that country. Our key position in Europe and the Commonwealth gives us an unparalleled chance to exercise leverage. It is true that at the moment we are not only wasting the opportunity but also literally wasting it away. The present Government's attitude to Europe seems to be that it is a cockpit in which the weakest go to the wall and that all efforts at progress are of little importance beside our efforts to see that we get our dues. As for the Commonwealth, many of us could have wept with shame at the appalling performance put up last month by the mother country, where we alone lagged behind in an important moral initiative of immense psychological importance.
The task of giving a lead could be done and should be done and with a government of another complexion, from any party, including the party on the Bench opposite, let us pray God that it will be done. What is needed is first of all a modest but definite list of aims to be achieved, and for that I commend those listed in Evan Luard's excellent book on the United Nations, some of which, I was delighted to see, were adopted and quoted by the noble Baroness speaking for the Government. I have one or two reservations on individual points, but on the whole they will do admirably.
But much more important than any particular structural reform is the necessity to build up an unspoken code of practice among any countries that will dare to say that they put the establishment of such a code above their own special interests and are prepared to lose a trick or two knowing that they are not engaged in a zero sum game but in one where, played rightly, all the players equally may be the winners. The need is to build up an uncorrupt tradition in exactly the same way as an uncorrupt civil service is built up in those countries which have known only a corrupt one—and that, let us remind ourselves, is every country, including our own, at some time in its history. It is an extremely difficult task, but it is not an impossible one.
To lead in this effort we need a country with political skills—a lobbyer, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a broker. It could be this country. We have those skills. Indeed, I think those skills are one of the reasons why France always used to regard us as hypocritical—Albion perfide. We have lost that strangely honourable title, which meant at least that vice was paying the necessary tribute to virtue and that we exercised skills in making friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness. Instead we seem to have joined France in the tradition of the bare-faced bourgeois nation, scheming to drive the hardest bargain and to hold on to everything that we have with tooth and claw.
1516 It is not a pretty sight. Let us strive for something different. It was Dean Acheson—was it not?—who said that Britain had lost an empire and not yet found a role. That could be our role if only we had leaders with the vision to see it; and a very honourable role it would be, too.
§ 7.22 p.m.
My Lords, I join most readily and most warmly with those who have thanked the most reverend Primate for introducing this subject and giving us the opportunity to review the work of the United Nations over 40 years. During the review that we have had in this debate it is understandable that the main theme of most speeches has been the role of the United Nations in the prevention of war. But, while acknowledging that that is the main purpose set before the United Nations, most speakers have also drawn attention to other equally important functions, particularly those in the economic and social spheres.
I think I am right in saying that Articles 55, 56 and 57 set out those economic and social purposes. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, can recite those articles verbatim, but I believe that he will confirm that those other purposes are set out in the charter.
I think that it can be argued that success in providing food, health and basic amenities for the populations of the world is a necessary base for the maintenance of peace. One is perhaps tempted to make a comparison with the current problem of riots in the inner cities. It is argued with some justification that violence arises from social deprivation. I make it clear in drawing that comparison that the causes of war are very much more complex than economic and social deprivation. But I believe that there is little doubt that a stable peace will continue to elude us as long as poverty, hunger and disease are the common lot of millions of the inhabitants of the globe.
Many speakers in the debate today have paid tribute to the work of one or other of the specialised agencies. I want mainly to confine my remarks to them. There has been quite a lot of memory seeking in the debate. I think we should recall that Britain played a most important part in the setting up of two of the specialised agencies. I recall the work of Sir Julian Huxley in relation to UNESCO and of Lord Boyd-Orr in relation to the Food and Agriculture Organization. When we try to weigh up, as we have been weighing up today, a balance sheet of successes and failures of the United Nations, I think that the work of such men in its early days needs to be part of the bookkeeping in which we engage.
Today there is much heart-searching about the cost-effectiveness of many of the United Nations specialised agencies, but I suggest that it is all too easy to find grounds for criticism and to forget the areas of success. That is largely because the successes are slow and often undramatic over the years. They do not hit the headlines but they are successes none the less. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, mentioned one of the great successes. I have in mind the World Health Organization having eliminated almost entirely from the earth the scourge of smallpox. I suggest that that achievement is immeasurable in statistical or human terms. It is something which we should remember just 1517 as in other specialised agencies there are other great triumphs.
Although there is still too much hunger in the world, bad though the situation is, how much worse would it have been had the Food and Agriculture Organization, together with many research institutions, not brought about the green revolution? We see famine and hunger in Africa, but the green revolution prevented them in the southern continent of Asia. In my judgment the FAO has been well to the fore in helping to deal with the grave shortages of food in the African continent as well. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, pointed to the important role that the FAO can play, and I would say has played, in the famine in Africa. I shall mention later other organisations in this field which are not being enabled to do the work that they would wish because of the depletion of their funds.
UNESCO has been mentioned particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot. It is currently under a dark cloud of criticism. I have no doubt that some of that criticism is justified. On the other hand, in debating the issue of UNESCO, as we no doubt shall in the weeks to come, let us remember that it has a record of promoting equality in educational facilities, combating illiteracy, improving the status of women, promoting human rights, controlling drug abuse and fostering international scientific collaboration. That work, I believe, is lasting work and should not be easily abandoned. There is some danger that it may be.
Turning to the International Labour Organisation, that, over the years, has been a powerful force for raising and maintaining the living standards of workers around the world, through its conventions and recommendations. It also operates a number of programmes on aid to developing countries. Those that I have mentioned—FAO, UNESCO and ILO—are the organisations which, to some extent, are recognised in the public mind. But, as other speakers have said, there are other specialised agencies less noticed, less in the public mind. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn listed a number of the initials of those institutions. I would ask your Lordships to bear with me while I read out their names, not just their initials, for their names are descriptive of the vital work that they do. The right reverend Prelate referred to his neighbour on the other side of the river, the International Maritime Organisation. That is a similar organisation in a technical sense to the others that I have in mind—the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Universal Postal Union, the International Telecommunications Union, the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Narcotics Control Board.
Those words in those names, I suggest, represent a most important field of international activity. And the Governments which subscribe to them get enormous benefit from the work of those agencies. Indeed, civilised life could not continue without that sort of work under the auspices of the United Nations. Moreover, the United Nations network is of very great importance for the provision of funds for the development of the third world. I have in mind particularly the United Nations development programme which has, I think, been mentioned only 1518 once during our debate. It is an important source of funds for much of the work in the third world. Equally, the International Development Association is the soft loan subsidiary of the World Bank. That organisation has provided some 30 billion dollars to the third world on very favourable repayment terms.
Summing all this up, there is no doubt in my mind that that combined work of the network of United Nations specialised agencies has been of enormous benefit to the world. Not only has each of the organisations dealt with its own agenda and its own problems in a positive way, but something else, I think, has emerged from their work. In their constitutions, they have brought together representatives of the three main political trends in the modern world. There is the western world plus Japan; there is the Soviet bloc; and there are the former colonial territories which we describe as belonging to the third world. Representatives of all three groups are brought together within the specialised agencies. It is surely the case that practically working together in these agencies has helped to counter the political confrontations between these groups in other ways. But satisfaction which we have expressed with the past achievements of these specialised agencies should not blind us to the dangers that lie ahead and to which I now wish to turn.
There have been several references to the great growth in the number of countries which have become members of the United Nations since it came into existence. Some 100 third world countries are now members. At the time that the United Nations was founded they were colonial in status. But they have reached independence. And now they can sometimes, indeed they frequently do, exercise voting strength, particularly in the Assembly of the United Nations, which is superior to that of the great powers. In recent years, that new voting power has resulted in a whole series of resolutions—I recall such matters as the new international economic order—which are unwelcome to the western nations, our own included. This change in the balance of power in the United Nations is in itself causing serious conflicts of interest and open clashes of view.
In particular, I would suggest that the United States has shown its displeasure with this new political development. It is there that I sense the danger to which I have referred. It has taken a series of steps which are inimical to the development, and, indeed, to the maintenance, of the multilateral framework of institutions to which tributes have been paid during this debate. The United States began that process of inimical decisions back in 1977 when it withdrew from the International Labour Organisation in a fit of political pique. Only two years after that it rejoined, having recognised the error of its earlier withdrawal.
Now we have the case of UNESCO, from which the United States has withdrawn. To the dismay of those of us who are anxious to strengthen international links, our own Government are threatening to follow the United States into isolation on this matter. I thoroughly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, who expressed the view that it is better to seek to change these organisations from within rather than to abandon that opportunity by withdrawing.
There are many other examples of this kind of negative decision. The latest, of which I have read in 1519 the United Nations information bulletin, is the failure of the United States to meet its undertaking to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. The director of that organisation, Dr. Salas, has said:Withdrawal of a commitment firmly made can only jeopardise the future of multilateral co-operation in population and other development objectives".I echo what my noble friend Lord Caradon said in this connection about the dangers of following the United States in this kind of negative decision. I have instanced two—UNESCO and the Fund for Population Activities—but there are others. IMF quotas were not replenished. Increases in special drawing rights and in other facilities were refused. Perhaps most seriously, the International Development Association, which as I have indicated earlier provides funds for the third world, has not had its adequate replenishment. I make no accusation to our Government, who have a good reputation in this connection, but I regret the United States action and I issue the warning that our Government should not follow along that path. Indeed, because of this kind of action—withdrawing or retreating from internationalism—the World Bank set up its own special fund to deal with the problem of agriculture in Africa. It set up the special fund for Africa; and Britain failed to contribute directly to that fund. There is another small but very significant organisation, IFAD—the International Fund for Agricultural Development—which also is still awaiting the renewal of its resources.
I believe this to be a sad catalogue, and we must remember these setbacks on the economic front at the same time that we celebrate quite rightly, as the most reverend Primate asked us to do, the achievements of 40 years of the United Nations. But we should recognise this danger. I believe that we are at a point of crisis in the affairs of international institutions. There are powerful forces at work which are seeking to bring about a retreat from internationalism and thereby to weaken the agencies of the United Nations.
This leads me to ask two questions. What is the cause of this attempt to turn the clock back; and what should be done to prevent it? I believe that the cause is that certain governments of the developed world, our own included, have become alarmed by the change in the power structure within the United Nations and cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that the developing countries, having thrown off the colonial yoke during the course of the 40 years that we are considering, are now seeking a more powerful, collective political voice in the centres of world politics, and they will not be denied.
I believe that in attempting to resist that development the industrialised countries are like King Canute bidding the tide to turn. If we follow the course of withdrawing from or weakening the United Nations system we shall indeed be acting against our own best national interests. We shall be pushing the third world countries away from the West and into the arms of the Soviet bloc. Therefore I believe that we should instead seek whenever we can to strengthen the United Nations as it faces the years ahead and be prepared to accept, indeed to promote, changes in the constitution of the organisation so as to give third world countries 1520 an influence commensurate with their needs, even though this will involve (as I believe it will) a major transfer of resources from the rich nations to the poor.
During the course of this debate there have been many personal memories of people who were in at the beginning; and I am sure that that has benefited and entertained us in this most interesting debate. We have had people such as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who were right there when the charter was inaugurated. But a noble Lord who has not spoken, my noble friend Lord Beswick (I am glad to see him in his place) reminded me that he too was at the first meeting of the United Nations. I recall also that round about that same year he was a witness in the Pacific of the testing of the atom bomb. This causes me to reflect that in those middle' forties, when we were raising the hopes of the world through the United Nations Charter, we were developing the atom bomb, which is potentially the doom of the world. Surely as we contemplate the successes of the last 40 years and look at the current dangers of the present years and of the future, it ought to be our resolve—in whichever part of this Chamber we sit, or whatever our role in life—to make sure that it is the charter of the United Nations that is victorious over the bomb.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, it is a tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the Motion that he has put down for debate today, that so many noble Lords have spoken this afternoon. If I may say so, almost everyone has spoken from his or her personal experience. In my opening remarks I was able to pay tribute to a number of noble Lords who were in at the beginning of the United Nations. But now that I come to wind up I should also like to pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy—I had not appreciated that he, as a young diplomat, was at the early meetings of the United Nations—to the noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, who reminded us that he was a member of one of the first British delegations to the United Nations; to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, who is the president of UNICEF; and to my noble friend Lady Elliot and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, who both reminded us that they were involved in their youth in the League of Nations.
With all this behind one, I feel it is a very brave Minister who gets up to speak at all. However, I welcome the constructive spirit in which noble Lords have addressed the need to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations and which reflects your Lordships' continuing commitment to this organisation.
I should like to say right at the beginning that the Government share this commitment. We make it first in practical terms, by contributing money and resources to the organisation and to its activities. In 1984 we contributed £138 million, over half of which represented voluntary funding of United Nations activities and specialised agencies over and above our assessed contribution to the United Nations budget; and I shall return to this point. But before going on to detailed points I should like to say, having listened to this whole debate, how impressed I have been at the amount of agreement there has been from all parts of 1521 the House about the United Nations, both about its problems and about its weaknesses, and at the same time the value of its strengths. I may say that not all of us are capable of putting our thoughts in verse as did the noble Lord, Lord Caradon.
Of those points of agreement, one which I think came out very clearly from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, from the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was the importance of the United Nations peace-keeping forces and the effectiveness of them. I was also very interested in the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, on the lessons that were learnt from the United Nations intervention in the Korean War.
I think there was agreement with the very valuable points that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, made about the specialised agencies of the United Nations. I drew attention to these in my opening remarks but I think that nearly all noble Lords have spoken about them and have recognised their importance.
Nearly every noble Lord referred to the great changes in the composition of the United Nations and of course to the fact that during this 40-year period many of those countries which have become independent believed that one of the objects of the United Nations was in fact the abolition of colonialism. Now that colonialism has almost departed, there are other problems which again were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Oram. I am sure that we all listened with great interest to the very useful analysis which was given by my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel about the weaknesses of the Security Council, which he identified very clearly, and also to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, about the value of the veto.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester drew our attention to the importance of capturing the imagination of the young and of a generation which does not remember the war or indeed the start of the United Nations and which needs, therefore, to look at and to be taught about its value and what it should do. That point was picked up by the noble Lord, Lord Parry, and by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont.
The most reverend Primate referred to the importance of the funding of the United Nations. Perhaps I may begin by giving some examples of the money which we have contributed. We are a significant contributor to the finances of many of the United Nations aid-giving institutions. In terms of the number of personnel on technical assistance assignments and of training facilities for overseas students, we are one of the largest suppliers. In cash terms, of Britain's total or gross aid programme in the current financial year of over £1,200 million, some £68.5 million will go to UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (£20 million), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (£4.5 million)—and I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, that we support that agency—and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (£9.4 million). The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester asked me about our contribution in the future. For the current financial year the sum of £9.4 million has been voted for the United Nations High 1522 Commissioner for Refugees. However, the aid budget for the next financial year is still under discussion. We give £7.8 million to the Food and Agriculture Organisation; £6.5 million to UNESCO; and £4.5 million to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, to which the noble Lord, Lord Oram, referred towards the close of his remarks.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, raised a number of points about UNICEF. I am happy to agree with the noble Baroness and to pay tribute to the work of UNICEF. We consider that organisation to be one of the best United Nations agencies with a good field programme. I can confirm that UNICEF is funded by voluntary contributions from governments, nongovernmental organisations and individuals. In 1984, some 75 per cent. of its total budget of 342 million US dollars came from governments. In the financial year 1984–85, the British Government's contribution to the regular programme was £6 million. That has been increased in the current financial year to £6.3 million, In addition, the Government gave a further £1 million for the Special Appeal for Africa in 1984–85, and a further £1 million in the current financial year. The Government have also contributed £100,000 to the UNICEF Special Programme for Mothers and Children in Chile.
The noble Lord, Lord Oram, asked me again about a number of specialised agencies, particularly about the World Bank. I should like to confirm that Britain is one of the five largest shareholders of the IBRD which taps the world's financial markets for the vast majority of its lending to developing countries. Its current annual lending level is around 11.5 billion dollars. Britain also plays a major part in the funding of the International Development Association (IDA), IBRD's soft loan affiliate, and is making over £400 million available as a grant to the Seventh Replenishment of the IDA covering the bank's three fiscal years ending 30th June 1987.
We have all been conscious, as a backdrop to this debate, of the very serious situation in Africa. Indeed, a number of noble Lords have referred to this matter. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis that I think we all acknowledge the very great achievement of Bob Geldof as regards the incredible amount of money which he has raised. However, I should like to quote what my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr. Raison, said on 22 nd October about the situation in Africa:Our famine relief programme for Ethiopia started in 1982—since when we have spent over £75 million sterling in that country alone. Our contribution grew as the dreadful effects of the drought widened and deepened. So for Africa as a whole we spent over £89 million on famine relief in 1984–85 from the aid programme. This year we will provide at least a further £75 million. None of this has meant cutting back on any of our planned long-term programmes.I think that that sets out what the Government have done in response to this very serious situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, suggested that there may have been an alleged violation by a United Kingdom company of the arms embargo against South Africa. I should like to confirm to the noble Lord that the United Kingdom already complies with the arms embargo set out in Security Council Resolution 418. We can and do prosecute when there 1523 is evidence of someone contravening the embargo. We do not import arms supplied from South Africa.
The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, asked me about the law of the sea. I should like to confirm that the Government decided that this country should not sign the UN Law of the Sea Convention. However, we decided not to stand in the way of the signature of the convention by the European Community whose competence as regards the convention is limited to fisheries, pollution, Customs matters between landlocked states, and commercial policy to a limited extent. Although much of the convention was recognised as valuable, the proposed regime for deep sea-bed mining was unacceptable. Potential United Kingdom mining operators made it clear that they would not wish to commence operations under the mining regime as presently proposed in the convention. We hope that as the drawbacks of the convention as presently envisaged become clear, it may yet be possible to establish a regime for marine matters which would be built on consensus among the whole international community.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, raised the point about the Commonwealth Accord. I was concerned that he should feel that Britain had not played an important part in this matter.
The Commonwealth Accord on South Africa, which was signed in Nassau, is, we believe, a major Commonwealth achievement. A vital part of it is the call on all sides of the South African conflict to suspend violence. This is unprecedented and constitutes a considerable step forward. The urgent priority is to promote a process of dialogue between the South African Government and the genuine representatives of the black community. The accord is designed to further that process. A small group of "eminent Commonwealth persons" will be set up to assist in this process.
In addition, the Commonwealth has adopted a list of measures designed to send a clear political signal to Pretoria of the deep concern in the Commonwealth at the urgency of the need for fundamental reform. Britain is already observing most of these measures. However, two additional measures are action to preclude the import of Krugerrands and no further Government fundings for trade missions to South Africa or participation in exhibitions or trade fairs in South Africa.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester quoted from the speech of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the United Nations. I intended to use precisely the same quotation, and I think it is good enough to repeat. My right honourable friend said:We cannot do without the United Nations, but we can do a lot more with it".I should like to conclude with some forward looking issues which I think we need to address.
First of all, there is the very serious modern problems of drugs. From its foundation, the United Nations assumed responsibility for international aspects of drug control. Today, the problem of drug misuse is viewed by almost all nations as a very serious threat which can be tackled only by international 1524 efforts. As a result, the United Nations drugs bodies to a gratifying extent are free from political bias and enjoy worldwide support. But—and this is important—there is room for improved co-ordination and rationalisation between the United Nations drugs bodies themselves and for greater co-ordination between them and other United Nations bodies whose work touches on questions of drug misuse.
As a long-standing and influential member of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs we fully co-operate in the work of the United Nations drugs bodies and are pressing for better co-ordination in all appropriate United Nations fora. We are a regular contributor to the UN Fund for Drug Abuse Control. We have just announced our intention to make available, in addition to our regular annual contribution, a further £3.4 million for use in Pakistan, where we are already providing law enforcement equipment and training, to back up crop substitution schemes, and in support of programmes aimed at reducing the illicit production of cocaine in Latin America. We must all do what we can to keep up the pressure on the traffickers. We must unite in our commitment to rid our societies of the scourge of drug abuse.
My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel referred to terrorism—again, another modern problem. International terrorism is a problem which affects the international community as a whole. Therefore, we welcome the recent presidential statement issued by the Security Council in the wake of the "Achille Lauro" incident. That statement resolutely condemned the unjustifiable and criminal hijacking as well as other acts of terrorism, including hostage-taking. Indeed, it condemned terrorism in all its forms wherever and by whomsoever committed. We now need to build on this by working towards widespread acceptance of the principle that there should be no concessions to terrorists and no safe havens for those who resort to violence in support of political aims. We need to work for the ratification of international conventions on terrorist offences by those not currently party to them. We need to ensure that states adhere to the provisions of the conventions when faced with a terrorist incident.
I should like to refer once again to one of the points made by the most reverend Primate about disaster relief. It is important that the international community should respond effectively when disasters occur. The United Nations has an important role to play in mobilising relief to disaster-stricken areas, and in promoting disaster preparedness. The key organisation in this area is the Office of the Disaster Relief Co-ordinator. It has shown a flexible and effective approach, capitalising on past experience to ensure maximum efficiency. It acts as a central control, avoiding duplication of effort and the consequent wastage of resources. It fosters the pooling of knowledge and the co-ordination of action. United Kingdom disaster aid expenditure in 1984–85 was £12.4 million. We are a major contributor to the programmes of other agencies active in relieving disaster victims, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to whom I have already referred in my earlier remarks.
1525 I believe that we have had a very useful debate this afternoon. It has been valuable for the House to draw upon the personal experience of so many of your Lordships at the start of the United Nations in its early days, and to hear their reflections on the United Nations 40 years on. We shall study the report when it is written in Hansard for the points made by your Lordships. I think it is encouraging that there are many good points which have been made, particularly about some of the agencies of the United Nations, and I think particularly of the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, to which particular reference has been made in the course of the debate. I think we are encouraged, too, by some of the examples where the peace-keeping forces have been a success. But there are many pressing practical problems such as the continuing armed conflicts in many parts of the world. These reinforce the need identified by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury at the beginning of our debate, to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations.
The debate today has proved a valuable contribution to the Government's consideration of the problem. The interest which so many of your Lordships have shown in this important issue will help sustain us in our efforts to ensure that in the years ahead the effectiveness of the United Nations is indeed improved.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, it remains for me to express my gratitude to all those who have taken part in a debate which has more than fulfilled my expectations of the contribution this House might be able to make to the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations, and our thinking about its future at a critical turn in the fortunes of the world.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness the Minister for her readiness to reply to a debate in which contributions of a statesmanlike character have been made with real authority and thoughtfulness, as well as many personal testimonies given. The noble Baroness has been able to respond with an awareness of those who speak from experience in international relations and political sophistication which I cannot claim. Not only in her reply but also in the opening speeches, I am grateful for the mixture of critical realism and positive appreciation of what has been and is being achieved by the various agencies, together with real suggestions about fresh directions.
My Lords, I believe that the quotation from the speech of the Prime Minister to the United Nations which has already been used twice, in fact captures the mood expressed by the House in this debate. We can do a lot more with the United Nations—that is exactly so. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, gave us a proper perspective of how we should regard the United Nations. As members, my hope is that we shall be able in this country to begin again the task of building the sort of constructive proposals we have heard into the framework of a future and revived United Nations. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.