The UK has a vital role to play in strengthening global support for Ukraine
One hundred and thirty-three years ago, a British MP named William Randal Cremer founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) with French MP Frederic Passy.
It is now the world’s oldest multilateral political organisation, with 46,000 parliamentarians across 178 national parliaments. Cremer won the Nobel Peace Prize for his life’s work.
Today’s international politics could not be more febrile, and we are clearly at a crisis point in the post-Second World War international order.
After two years, where the IPU met almost only online, this March I was able to lead a UK delegation to Nusa Dua, Indonesia. Our cross-party delegation included myself, Dan Carden, Karen Bradley, Anna McMorrin, Chris Rennard and Richard Holden. We gathered with parliamentarians from over 100 other countries with a very clear agenda – to agree an emergency resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Assembly also concluded with the adoption of the Nusa Dua Declaration, in which the world’s parliamentarians recognised the urgent need to address the climate crisis.
The declaration outlines the national action parliaments around the world need to take to implement the Paris Agreement, including accelerating the transition to clean energy, ensuring the inclusion of marginalized members of society and enhancing global cooperation for joint climate solutions.
It’s clear that many countries are hoping to put their heads in the sand over Russia’s invasion
The UK delegation worked closely with Ukrainian MPs (who could not attend for obvious reasons) to table an emergency resolution condemning the invasion by Russia.
Rather than accepting this unanimously, our Indonesian hosts then astonished us by tabling their own emergency item “The Role of Parliament in Supporting Peaceful Solution to Russian-Ukrainian Conflict” which appeared to assign blame equally and did not even use the word “attack” or “invasion”.
Cue 48 hours of frantic diplomacy in which New Zealand ended up proposing a hybrid version of the Ukrainian and Indonesian texts and a vote which led to a resounding endorsement of this approach.
In the end, only Bahrain, Belarus, China, Iran (Islamic Republic of), South Africa, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe recorded reservations – still, an uncomfortable lack of support for Ukraine.
In the emergency debate, Anna McMorrin made a barn-storming speech in support of Ukraine that the Ukrainian parliament, watching online, put on their website. Karen Bradley then helped stave off unhelpful amendments during a day in drafting committee.
We held formal bilateral meetings with hosts Indonesia, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, European allies Poland, Finland, Norway, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, CHOGM hosts Rwanda and COP27 hosts Egypt. Lots of brush-by’s with many others. One really good suggestion came from our Polish friends, whom we thanked for all they are doing for refugees. They are working with the Twinning networks between towns and cities and as a result I’m trying to twin three of my local towns with Polish towns to help Ukrainian refugees.
It’s clear that many countries are hoping to put their heads in the sand over Russia’s invasion and hope it will be over soon. Others fear they will be next.
It is a time where we must stand firm and show unanimity internationally in support of Ukraine. The UK has a key role to play in strengthening this view in other parliaments.
UK diplomacy and soft power operate in many ways, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union is a powerful forum where we successfully made a difference and projected our values at a critical time in the rules-based international order.
Harriett Baldwin is the Conservative MP for West Worcestershire.
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