With a full-scale war of aggression under way in Europe, the General Assembly was meeting this year “in a new geopolitical era that demands those who believe in the principles of the United Nations to stand up,” according to Elizabeth Truss, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
“We must fight to defend the ideals of the UN and deliver on them,” Ms. Truss said Tuesday evening in her first address to the Assembly’s high-level debate since becoming Prime Minister. She proposed a blueprint that would open a new era in the UK and, more broadly, heal the “fracturing principles that have defined our lives since the dark days of the Second World War.”
Indeed, a new chapter was beginning in the United Kingdom, just a few days after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, “the rock on which modern Britain was built”. Ms. Truss said that she hoped that the new era under King Charles III would be based on new partnerships “and a commitment to hope and progress”.
Democracy vs Autocracy
“This is a divisive moment in the history of this Organization…and in the history of freedom,” said Ms. Truss, extolling the principles of democracy, which alone could ensure economic development and the realization of citizens’ aspirations. Autocracies, however, “sow the seeds of their own demise” by stifling the aspirations and creativity that are essential for long-term growth.
The Prime Minister stressed that her first long-term goal for the UK would be achieving annual economic growth of 2. 5 per cent to create quality jobs and fund public services. She also advocated for greater energy resilience, and less dependence on autocratic regimes for fuel and food supplies, thus ensuring that citizens “…will not be held hostage by those who seek to weaponize the global economy.”
These and other efforts she planned to undertake would be part of her country’s response to what she saw as “a real struggle going on in the world between democracies and autocracies. We must do this together so that we can build new partnerships around the work of deepening links with fellow democracies and building new economic and security ties.”
‘Strength of collective purpose’
“The international response to [the war in] Ukraine has shown how we can deliver diplomatic action and rapid military support. The strength of collective purpose that has made things happen for Ukraine must be used in a more concerted way to push back against autocratic regimes,” the Prime Minister said, adding by example that if an economy is being targeted by an aggressive regime, “we should move to support them, acting as a sort of ‘economic NATO’. This is how we will build resilience.”
She went on to say that “no one is threatening Russia, yet as we meet, barbarous weapons are being used to kill people”; women were being raped and families were being torn apart. “Putin is trying to claim the mantle of democracy for a regime without human rights or freedoms,” she said, denouncing the Russian leader’s recent pronouncements as a “desperate attempt to justify catastrophic failures…with yet more bogus claims and saber-rattling threats”.
However, the international alliance against Russia’s aggression was strong, because, among other reasons, “Ukraine is not only defending its values but the security and values of the whole world.” Prime Minister Truss said, “now is the time to act – on all fronts” to shore up this collective strength of purpose, and for its part, the United Kingdom would devote three per cent of its GDP to defense by 2030.
“In the face of rising aggression, we have shown we have the power to act and the resolve to see it through. But this must not be a one-off. This must be a new era in which we commit to ourselves, our citizens, and this institution that we will do whatever it takes to deliver for our people and defend our values,” Ms. Truss stated.
In conclusion, she said: “The story of 2022 could have been that an authoritarian State rolling its tanks over the border of a peaceful neighbour and subjugating its people. Instead, it is the story of freedom fighting back.”