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Recap: ‘Climate & COVID: Combining National & Collective Action to Combat Global Security Challenges


On July 11th, the UNA-YP had the honour of inviting Lord David Hannay GCMG CH to speak on the topic of ‘Climate & COVID: Combining National & Collective Action to Combat Global Security Challenges’. Given his former roles as Permanent Representative for the UK to the United Nations Security Council in New York, United Nations Special Representative for Cyprus, and Chair of UNA-UK, Lord Hannay provided an especially compelling perspective in regards to two of the major crises afflicting the world at large.


One of the earliest points made during the discussion, Lord Hannay stressed the importance of treating COVID-19 and climate change as concurrent issues, as their economic consequences readily intertwine and it is not sensible to choose to tackle one or the other; they must be addressed simultaneously. We cannot marginalize or push aside efforts on the Green New Deal in light of COVID-19; there is no luxury or time for such a pushback. Lord Hannay emphasised the need for a coordinated effort between national and international action to deal with both. Specifically, he distinguished between the health and economic impacts of COVID-19; the former affects people disproportionately whilst the latter affects everyone in some way, due to universality of economic reverberations.


Similarly, Lord Hannay claimed that the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations should not be the focal point for blame [in regards to the pandemic], as they have not been equipped with the necessary resources and power to do enough. Lord Hannay argued that the WHO should be given more assured means of revenues in order to be proactive and independent, rather than reactive and dependent on the generosity of member states. One participant asked “You mentioned the onus is on member states to give international organisations, such as the WHO, power. How can the UK persuade reluctant members to do so?”, to which Lord Hannay recommended the WHO to have access to all emerging data in light of any outbreak to prevent a replication of the delayed global response to COVID-19 in China. He asserted that the WHO should be granted greater powers and resources, as such an agency can prevent such destructive delays. On the other hand, Lord Hannay cautioned against taking any “draconian” action due to its lack of feasibility in achieving real results. Soon, Lord Hannay importantly steered the conversation towards the access to vaccines and stated that they must be distributed proportionately and be available to the worldwide population, especially to those we need it most.


Compared to COVID-19, climate change has faced a longer lifetime and still has not been properly countered. Given that Great Britain is set to chair the next large gathering for COP26 in Glasgow, Lord Hannay highlighted the need to capitalize on the extended time until them and to make effective use of extra preparation. Concerted efforts are required with the United Nations and new commitments must be achieved at the highest and most influential level; that is the pathway for tangible change. He juxtaposed the dialogue in Paris with that of Copenhagen, attributing the former’s relative success to the French working effectively with all the main players and applying the expertise of UN specialists.


On the topic of youth activism and involvement, Lord Hannay commended the influential work of Greta Thunberg, who “galvanized the public debate” and created a sense of direction, and claimed that young people can in fact make a difference. Calling for purposeful international cooperation and collaboration, Lord Hannay urged youth organizations from across the world to work collectively, and not engage in disruptive activity, towards a vision for change.


As stated by Lord David Hannay, we need perseverance, a set of objectives to pursue, allies, and the support of like-minded countries in order to battle climate change in the most sustainable fashion. We need to establish forums to get our voices heard. Most importantly, we need to turn words into action.


If you’d like to hear more about our discussion with Lord David Hannay, the Zoom Q&A will soon be available for you to revisit and explore further topics, such as the security aspects of climate change, fiscal strategies, dealing with uncooperative political leaders, and more. Stay tuned!

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