UN member flags flying high in New York
UN member flags flying high in New York

4 priorities for the UK at the UN General Assembly

Next week, the 193 members of the United Nations will meet in at the General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. The hope is that governments will commit to joint action on the world’s most urgent crises and challenges.

The packed agenda includes high-level summits on the climate crisis, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Universal Health Coverage, and financing for development.

But what role is the UK, expected to be represented by prime minister Boris Johnson and other senior ministers, going to play? And what commitments do we want to see for the international development sector?

As Bond, we hope our representatives use this precious opportunity to present a UK that will play its part in creating an equal, just and sustainable world, in collaboration with other like-minded countries.

As NGOs, we know that the sooner we act and work in partnership with governments and global institutions, the better chance we have of protecting both people and the planet for future generations. As UNGA approaches, we call on the UK government to take these actions.

1. Work closely with other countries to tackle the climate and environmental emergency

All eyes will be on the wealthiest nations, including the UK, at the Climate Summit on 23 September, where the UN will meet to bolster efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

We expect to see the UK affirm its commitment to the Paris Agreement. We also expect to see a coherent, consistent, cross-government approach that is not undermined by the UK’s aid investments which support fossil fuels or harm the natural environment.

2. Increase ambition towards the SDGs

The SDG Summit on 24-25 September provides a critical moment for greater focus, as the world gears up to deliver the goals by 2030.

As we highlighted in our recent report on the UK’s international implementation of the goals, a lot more needs to be done to shift from policy to practice.

We want to see the UK reaffirm its support for Agenda 2030, alongside more substantive practical commitments that will lead to genuine progress. This should include greater attention to:

  • reaching the most marginalised and excluded first
  • increased support for national and local ownership of the goals and essential public services
  • leading by example by developing a concrete plan for achieving the SDGs at home.

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3. Strengthen the UK’s voice and influence by targeting poverty and inequality

While the UK has traditionally been influential on aid spending and development, there is no time for complacency. We need greater and better targeted resourcing to meet today’s development challenges, as states will highlight at the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development on 26 September.

Bond calls for the UK to stand by its legislated commitment for its aid to be focused on reducing poverty and inequality, and promoting women’s empowerment, gender equality and sustainable development. Aid and resources must be targeted towards the people and places that need them most, rather than the UK’s own national security and commercial interests.

But this challenge can’t be met through aid alone. The UK and other wealthy countries must do their parts to make all global economic and financial rules, and trade and investment agreements, work for the public interest in all countries.

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4. Raise the profile of transformative cross-cutting issues

Bond would like to see the UK represent at the highest level the other cross-cutting issues that affect the lives of people around the world. Examples include:

  • being at the forefront of promoting peacebuilding and humanitarian principles in global emergencies
  • strengthening democratic and public accountability at all levels of international development, including promoting an environment for communities and civil society to operate freely.


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