Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 5:07 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 5:07, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, few have done more over such a sustained period to promote peace and reconciliation in the Middle East than the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, and it is a great pleasure to follow her.

In my remarks, I want to mention the new axis of authoritarian dictatorships and their proxies, the danger posed by isolationism, and accountability and the rule of law. For the purposes of transparency, and as it was mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, I should note that I am sanctioned by China and Iran.

On this day in 1946, in Missouri, Winston Churchill gave his famous “Sinews of PeaceIron Curtain speech, in which he talked about,

“a solemn moment for the American democracy”,

warning that Hitler’s Nazism would inevitably reappear in

“the designs of wicked men or the aggressive urge of mighty states”.

Here they are—an alliance of dictators and authoritarians —in Xi’s Communist China, Putin’s Kremlin, Iran’s apocalyptic mullahs and their many imitators, from North Korea to Belarus. Then there are terrorist proxies, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, combining a toxic mix of ideologies and criminality.

China commits ethnic genocide in Xinjiang, with impunity destroys democracy in Hong Kong, and threatens a blockade of Taiwan, which would devastate the world’s economy. It persecutes, imprisons and oppresses. Foolishly, we have allowed the CCP to penetrate our markets with slave-made goods. Foolishly, we have allowed it to fill the void in the global South, including Commonwealth countries, with their $1 trillion belt and road programme, leaving indebted nations hostage to China’s strategic hegemonic interests, hostile and inimical to those of the free world.

China has happily watched Putin invade a sovereign nation, degrade its munitions and threaten the use of nuclear weapons, as he has sacrificed Russia’s place as a great power, as political opponents die in prison and as an ICC arrest warrant is issued against him. Putin’s quartermasters are Iran and North Korea—North Korea, which executes a young man for watching a South Korean movie, and Iran, where a young woman, Mahsa Amini, is jailed and then dies after being accused of failing to wear clothes approved by the morality police. This is the axis of despots and dictators who say that they will impose a new world order. The year 2024 feels dangerous, uncertain and unpredictable.

As in 1946, we must counter this through strengthened alliances and by combating isolationism—including through NATO and AUKUS, as we have heard. While it is heartening to see the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, it is depressing to hear Donald Trump with his threats and his isolationist talk of leaving NATO. He should remember that isolationism did not stop the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbour, and that Article 5 binds the other 31 NATO members to support America in the not inconceivable event of it being attacked.

America needs to be fully engaged not just in NATO but in the United Nations—in combating, exposing and reforming the UN. That institution’s organisations and agencies—from the discredited UN Human Rights Council to the manipulated WHO and subverted UNWRA —are all in need of new leadership.

The UN’s pathetic response to Alexei Navalny’s death —suggesting the Kremlin impartially investigate itself—defies reason and leaves it looking incompetent and corrupt. In the case of the Hamas attacks on Israel, it initially proved itself incapable of an unbiased outright condemnation. Where were the blue helmets as 600,000 were killed in Tigray while the world looked away? Now, thousands are dead in Darfur and Sudan, with 9 million people displaced, adding to the 114 million people displaced worldwide.

To tackle root causes of displacement will need the equivalent of the post-war Marshall aid programme through which the US, with extraordinary generosity, transferred $173 billion in today’s money to the reconstruction of western European economies. The 1940s was also a time when we built new alliances based on the rule of law, with lawyers like Raphael Lemkin framing the genocide convention, and others writing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was when Churchill advocated for the creation of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights. Their endeavours led to the Nuremburg tribunal, and later to the Rome statute and the creation of the International Criminal Court.

I hope that when he comes to reply, the Foreign Secretary will tell us how, in our generation, we will ensure a tribunal is established to prosecute the crime of aggression in Ukraine. What will we do to preserve the evidence and ensure prosecution for the crimes committed by ISIS against Yazidis and others in Iraq? What will be done to bring to justice those responsible for the genocides in Darfur, Xinjiang and Burma, and crimes against humanity in Nigeria and Tigray? In too many places, impunity has become the norm and justice is the exception. We must take urgent steps to reassert the primacy of the rule of law and demonstrate to the axis of dictators that they will be deterred and held to account.