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10 Jun 2009 : Column 301WH—continued

With regard to human rights issues, it was right to support the Sri Lanka special session with the EU and like-minded partners to call attention to a situation in which there has been significant and unacceptable loss of life and prolonged suffering of civilians displaced by the conflict. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the UK voted against the final resolution tabled by Sri Lanka at the HRC and regrets that a consensual outcome was impossible, despite the fact that the EU did everything to try to engage constructively. However, the session was not only about a resolution. Many important
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interventions were made during the debate, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling for an independent inquiry to ensure accountability for human rights violations committed on all sides.

I shall conclude by focusing on the more general question of UN reform. There are two urgent priorities. One is reforming the Security Council—to which both the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North referred—to make it far more representative. Permanent reform remains the ultimate prize, but an intermediate solution such as that set out in the report of the high-level panel on threats, challenges and change would be a helpful first step. Such reform would consolidate the Security Council’s primacy as the authoritative body on maintaining international peace and security. It would counter charges of irrelevance made by those who do not yet have the stake that they feel they deserve, and acknowledge that those nations need to be part of the solution.

The second element of reform is to deliver system-wide coherence across the UN, building on the November 2006 high-level panel report, “Delivering as One”. Massive growth in UN development, humanitarian and environmental systems is not yet matched by the coherence that would allow them to be sufficiently effective and efficient. Some $15 billion-worth of official development assistance is channelled through the UN, and that money must be used to best effect. That is particularly relevant in the context of the current economic crisis. For example, 23 separate agencies working on water issues in the UN system is not an efficient division of labour. We must continue to drive forward the “One UN” reform processes being piloted in eight countries around the world.

Better ways of managing our global affairs will emerge from multilateral negotiations. We remain committed to that. From civil society—my hon. Friend referred to the central importance of civil society in situations such as this—to business, and from public health to terrorism, there are just too many reasons why we need multilateral approaches. We must ensure that the platform for that continues to be a United Nations, but a United Nations that is reformed and fit for the 21st century and that can respond properly and nimbly to humanitarian crises and tragedies such as the one that we are seeing unfold in Sri Lanka.

5 pm

Sitting adjourned without Question put Standing Order No. 10(11)).

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