Britain on the International Stage
Great Britain in the United Nations
Creation of the United Nations
The predecessor to the United Nations was the League of Nations. The League of Nations was established in the aftermath of the Great War of 1914-18. Its purpose was to prevent another war on the scale of the Great War in Europe or anywhere else in the World. By the 1930s it was clear that the League of Nations had failed to halt the tide of war across the world and was disbanded.
In the last few months of the Second World War, Britain along with the United States, the Soviet Union and China met and agreed on a new world organisation to be known as the United Nations.
The blueprint for this new organisation was implemented and the United Nations Charter was signed by 50 countries and came into effect on 24 October 1945.
The General Assembly
Britain is a member of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
This body is the main forum of debate in the United Nations and discusses a range of issues that affect the world from the Charter to the Budget. The General Assembly has no binding powers on its members but can make recommendations.
The Security Council
Britain is one of only five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
The Security Council is charged with overseeing international peace and security. The other permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, Russia, China and France. Ten other countries hold temporary membership of the Security Council on a rotational basis. The resolutions of the Security Council can be binding and the Security Council can impose economic sanctions and authorise the use of military force in certain situations and it monitors and controls international peacekeeping operations around the world.
The World Court
Britain is also a member of the International Court of Justice, the World Court which is the main judicial committee of the United Nations which settles legal disputes between nation states that we referred to and it investigates alleged war crimes and atrocities.
The Economic and Social Council
Britain also plays a key role in the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations which oversees work in the areas of economic, social and humanitarian policy around the world and the commissions that monitor and oversee the work of its human rights, refugee population growth and other agencies.
Britain in the G8
The G8, otherwise known as the Group of Eight, is an assembly of world leaders who meet annually to discuss global issues. Each year, the G8 holds a Leaders’ Summit, in which Heads of State and Government of member countries meet to discuss and agree common positions on global issues. The G8 summit these days confirms the view and position taken on a wide range of economic and political issues that officials work on throughout the year and these are agreed at the annual summit by the G8 Leaders, although none of the G8 agreements are binding.
The G8 is made up of Heads of Government from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Great Britain and the United States. The European Union is also represented at meetings.
The G8 was originally the G6 and was known as the Library Group which was formed by a small group of financial officials in the aftermath of the economic and oil crisis of 1973. In 1975 the Library Group incorporated the Heads of Government who began to meet annually to discuss economic issues which included France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain and the United States. These countries were later joined by Canada in 1976 and Russia in 1998.
All G8 members originate from the developed, industrialised world. The G8 excludes China and India, despite their rapid economic growth, and fails to represent countries in Africa and Latin America. This has led to accusations that the G8’s priorities fail to represent the majority of the developing world. Although in the light of the financial crisis of 2008 it was proposed that a G20 was created to meet and discuss the global financial crisis and this organisation is continuing to evolve and develop but it is separate from the G8.
In 2013 Britain held the Presidency of the G8 and held the annual G8 summit at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.
Britain in NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NAT0) was founded in April 1949 in the aftermath of the Second World War and the advent of the Cold War which divided Europe into East and West.
NATO is primarily a collective defence organisation that takes the view that an attack on one of its members is an attack on all of its members and the treaty obligations are therefore enacted and implemented. However, NATO is also very much a political and diplomatic organisation.
Britain was a founder member of NATO and one of the original twelve signatories to the treaty. In 1952 Turkey and Greece were both admitted as members and West Germany were formally admitted as a member in 1955. NATO has helped keep the peace in Europe for over sixty years and in recent years has expanded its remit beyond its European borders. It has been able to do this mainly due to the logistical and military capability of its largest and most powerful member, the United States.
Following the demise of the Soviet Union and the old Warsaw Pact military alliance of the Eastern bloc countries in 1991, NATO began a political offensive ‘partnership for peace’ to engage with and invite membership to the former Eastern bloc countries. In 1999, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became members followed in 2004 by the former Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovenia, Slovakia and Romania were also welcomed as members.
Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia are currently in discussions about future membership of NATO.
In 1995, NATO established its first implementation force or IFOR as it became known to implement the military terms of the Bosnian peace agreement. In 1999, NATO went to war with Serbia for almost three months to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo.
Following the attacks on 9/11 in the United States, Article 5 of the Treaty was invoked by the British Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson, although the United States did not call upon its NATO allies to assist them militarily in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Although in 2003, NATO did assume responsibility for its first out of area deployment to Afghanistan initially in a UN mandated peacekeeping role and then an expanded international stability force ISAF role.
Throughout its existence, Britain has been a key player in NATO providing the second largest armed forces contribution to the alliance and its operations and defensive posture and maintaining a key political and diplomatic role at the NATO Council.