United Nations Reform

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:58 am on 18th April 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:58 am, 18th April 2006

The Minister is right to press me; unfortunately, I cannot give him further detail. The five of us who visited the UN were given that figure by the assistant United States ambassador to the UN. Feeling quite moral and upright, I replied that the limit in the UK Parliament is only £250 per gift, but I had the ground cut from under me when the American deputy ambassador replied that it is only $250 for American politicians—so, in America, they have even higher standards than us. I am sure that the Minister can find out further details through his officials and our excellent mission to the UN in New York, and ensure that the UK lobbies on that point as part of our reform negotiations.

I shall address the three areas on which the UN concentrates. On the first page of the UN charter, its purposes are helpfully laid out, the first of which is peacekeeping—or maintaining "international peace and security", as the charter puts it. For all the criticism that comes the UN's way, it is not well known that it has 85,000 personnel—troops and military support staff—deployed across the world, keeping the peace in 18 different operations. By any yardstick, that is a formidable achievement, which the UN would do well to speak of more. If people knew that it has that level of commitment across the world, they would be extremely impressed.

Will the Minister tell us, in his reply, whether the UN has ever, to his knowledge, been short of either the number of troops that it needed on the ground, or of specific types of troops to mount peacekeeping or other UN operations? It has occurred to me from time to time that it is a slightly chaotic system, given that despite the UN's significant military presence in many countries, it does not have the ability to call, in some systematic way, on military support. Will the Minister tell us whether that has caused difficulties for the UN and is an issue? Does he think that there should be a formal mechanism to ensure that it has under its command the troops that it needs to mount such operations, or at least at its disposal the ability to call on them in a fairly ready and easy manner?