The British Ambassador To The United Nations On The New Multilateral Discussion

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Sir Emyr Jones Parry, British Ambassador to the United Nations.

Editor: Sir Emyr, would you provide our readers with something of your background and experience?

Jones Parry:
I studied physics at university for some eight years, culminating in a doctorate at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. After a short period in industry, a keen interest in politics encouraged me to join the Foreign Office in 1973. After a posting in Canada, I started work on European Union policies four days after Margaret Thatcher's election in 1979, and I have been a multilateral diplomat ever since.

Editor: Please tell us about the work of the UK's Mission to the UN. What does the UK seek to accomplish at the UN?

Jones Parry:
The UK Mission represents all interests of the British Government throughout the UN system in New York. This includes the work of the Security Council and the General Assembly, and that of agencies like UNICEF and UNDP. Specifically in terms of policies, the Mission works to ensure a more effective UN role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, on conflict prevention, on alleviating poverty, on protecting the environment, and so on.

Editor: Would you tell us about the changes you have seen in the international discussion over the course of your career?

Jones Parry:
The big change has been the ending of the certainties of the Cold War, and their replacement by the uncertain opportunities that have emerged post-1989. Adapting to this transformation, enlarging both NATO and the European Union to include the new democracies of Central Europe, these have been among the biggest and most productive challenges.

Editor: What are the challenges that you face as British Ambassador to the UN?

Jones Parry:
The stimulus of the job is the range of challenges - harnessing an excellent Mission team to achieve our objectives, defending and explaining UK policies in the Security Council and working for the best outcomes, tackling the new challenges of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but at the same time working on the outstanding long-term threats of poverty, environmental degradation, HIV/AIDS, and so on.

Editor: Is your role significantly different from the role played by your predecessors in this position?

Jones Parry:
I doubt that the role has changed much, but the subjects vary and the need to respond more quickly to new challenges is only too apparent.

Editor: One of the ongoing themes of our publication concerns the progress of the rule of law in an international context. Do you have any sense of how we are doing in this area?

Jones Parry:
The rule of law is basic to democracy, and democratic states are less likely to be in conflict. The UK Presidency of the Security Council in September 2003 convened a Ministerial Debate on the rule of law. We followed this up with a number of seminars, and the Secretary-General is due to report to the Security Council soon. Our aim is to facilitate progress in developing the rule of law in countries coming out of conflict, and consolidate more effectively the building of peace and democratic institutions based on the rule of law. Progress is being made in different countries, but a far more integrated approach by all the different institutions of the international system is necessary.

Editor: There are few subjects that arouse more passion these days than globalization. People tend to be either very much in favor of it or very much opposed. Will you share with us your thoughts on this?

Jones Parry:
Globalisation has become inevitable. We cannot duck it. It has brought us many advantages, but sadly, there are many downsides, such as the ease with which terrorism and proliferation can flourish. So it needs a more joined-up effective response to tackle the problems, and better use made of the opportunities. I don't think that you can put this particular genie back in the bottle.

Editor: Since the end of the Cold War the United States has been the world's only superpower. How has this affected the international discussion? And particularly the concept of multilateralism in that discussion?

Jones Parry:
We have all had to come to terms, and that includes the United States, with American power. The UK has always found it comfortable to work with the United States, and to pursue multilateral responses where this route can produce positive results. Practice has shown that in a range of areas (e.g. NATO, the World Trade Organisation, the IAEA) the U.S. has worked consistently for multilateral solutions.
Editor: Would you share with us your thoughts about the United Nations? How has its role changed since the end of the Cold War?

Jones Parry:
I believe the United Nations has become more efficient since the end of the Cold War, as the old stand-off was replaced by a need for international intervention. The UN today, on the ground in Afghanistan and in Liberia, demonstrates clearly why it is needed - to tackle injustice, to promote stability and order, to alleviate poverty, and to offer hope. As we face global problems, so a global organisation is essential, and it is only the United Nations which has the universality of membership and the means to contribute.

Editor: Structural change at the UN has been under discussion for a considerable time - I am thinking of the composition of the Security Council and of the variety of agendas that clash in the General Assembly - as well as the need for increased efficiency in the organization's activities and operations.

Jones Parry:
Change is underway at the United Nations. Kofi Annan set in train a series of reforms to make the organisation more efficient and implement change management. More is necessary, particularly to prioritise activities, and to ensure a coherent, integrated approach from all parts of the UN family. Structural change is inevitably linked to membership of the Security Council. Let us see what the Secretary-General's High Level Panel produces by way of recommendations. They are due to report in December 2004 on the challenges which the international community faces, and the best multilateral response to them. They have been encouraged to promote structural change where this would facilitate a response to today's challenges. Better co-ordination and integration with the activities of the World Bank and IMF are desirable. Improved institutional arrangements between ECOSOC - the UN's Economic and Social Council - and the World Bank and IMF are in place and are starting to facilitate co-ordination.

Editor: What about the future? Are you optimistic about the multilateral discussion and the role of the United Nations?

Jones Parry:
Yes, I am a committed optimist. Multilateral responses are invariably preferable, if not always attainable. But you should strive for global responses to global problems, and the UN will have a major part to play. The extent to which it plays that part will depend upon its own ability to change, and its capacity to deliver results through multilateralism.