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The UK's role in strengthening multilateral organisations inquiry launched and evidence session announced

22 June 2020

The Foreign Affairs Committee is launching its inquiry into the UK's role in strengthening multilateral organisations.


This inquiry will examine the vulnerabilities within these organisations and the possible reforms. The Committee will investigate the role that diplomacy can play and assess the performance and approach of the FCO. In cases where reform and engagement seem unviable, this inquiry will ask how best to manage the UK's relationship with these organisations.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

"In our increasingly interconnected world, the need for effective collaboration across borders is more important than ever. States are inextricably tied together, through trade, mutual interests and, perhaps most powerfully, shared values.

Multilateral organisations provide an indispensable channel for collaboration across borders; without these organisations acting as a framework, strategic and coordinated multinational work would prove impossible.

Unfortunately, these organisations are not immune to abuse, with rogue actors attempting to exploit the spirit of multinational working to further individual agendas. We cannot allow these organisations to become corrupted, and the admirable founding ideal of collaboration across borders to be undermined.

The urgency of the coronavirus pandemic has brought these issues into the fore, exposing the cracks in our international framework. This inquiry asks what threats exist to multilateral organisations, how we can act to preserve their integrity, and which mechanisms may help to protect these crucial vehicles of collaboration."

The first session will take place on the 23 June 2020 at 3pm. This session will broadly consider the existing situations with regards to the UK government's membership of multilateral organisations; current areas of vulnerability or examples of abuse/misuse in multilateral organisations; and the role of diplomacy in reforming them.

The Committee will hear from:


Tuesday 23 June - The session will have remote participation by the witness and Committee members.
At 3pm

  • Her Excellency Sylvie-Agnès Bermann—former French Ambassador to China, the UK and Russia

At 4pm

  • Rt Hon Alistair Burt—Foreign Affairs & Middle East Consultant, Former Minister of State at FCO and DfID
  • Ben Emmerson QC—Judge on the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia and former UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights

For this inquiry, the Committee welcomes written evidence on:

  • Vulnerabilities within the governance and procedures of particular organisations the UK government is a member of, and the practical steps required to overcome these.
  • In which circumstances the FCO is seeking reform of multilateral organisations? What are the main obstacles to reform of multilateral lateral organisations?
  • The role of diplomacy in addressing organisations' vulnerabilities, with a focus on the performance and approach of the FCO in exerting influence over any reform processes.
  • The role of the FCO in co-ordinating UK engagement with multilateral organisations.
  • How to best to manage relationships with multilateral organisations, including those with organisations where reform and engagement is not considered to be a viable approach.

[The UN Security Council and UN General Assembly will not be considered in this inquiry, nor the Commonwealth and associated institutions]
We are inviting evidence on the above areas and, in particular, would welcome views on any of the following organisations:

OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe)
UN OHCHR (Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
WHO (World Health Organisation)
ICC (International Criminal Court)
WTO (World Trade Organisation)

Further information

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