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UN House Scotland visit to Cabinet Office, Glasgow

Monday 4 December 2023

Report by Jerome Bailey

Meet and Greet On Monday, UNHS representatives were invited to a dialogue with the UK Cabinet Office at Atlantic Square, Glasgow. For half a day, UNHS interns and UNA Scotland members from Aberdeen to Ayrshire had the chance to meet with civil servants and discuss the shared aims of our organisations.

It was a learning opportunity for both sides, as the visitors explained the history of the UNAS organisation, the charity within which UNHS operates, and talked at length about our current UNHS activities and projects. We looked for commonalities in our respective aims and working practices. It was an especially invaluable opportunity for new interns to network and learn.

'2HQ' as it is known has been open for just over a year. The Cabinet Office's latest branch in Glasgow shares a purpose-built building with other UK government departments such as HMRC, containing around 700 of the 10,000 total Cabinet Office workforce. While 2HQ does house 'shared services' such as recruitment, it is not a mere 'back office' providing technical support.

Thanks to efforts of staff including many locals, 2HQ plays a leading role in shaping policy development and outcomes in Scotland, working closely with iother organs of governance such as the Scotland Office, the Scottish government, and other stakeholders.The meeting with UNA Scotland and UNHS interns was part of its 'open door' policy which places a premium on outreach and developing relationships with all those who have an interest in the government's policy priorities, from poverty reduction to health and social mobility.

Discussion and dialogue The attendees met with several representatives working in different sectors within the office. After introducing ourselves, we discussed the goals and current projects of UNHS, talking about everything from Model UN sessions in schools to our delegations at UN events abroad.

Even after a thorough explanation of how the Cabinet Office works, we had a host of questions about the complexities of the rather complicated British government system.

We then moved on to discuss the relationship between the UN and British government, highlighting worrying instances of the British government being absent at some UN Assemblies and Committees.

We were happy to expound on some core aspects of the UN agenda in 2023, for example the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we wondered if they could be better integrated at the national (British) level of governance than they currently are, especially in light of quite high levels of awareness in the Scottsh government for instance.

Over lunch, we discussed the Scottish policy landscape, and the importance of listening to diverse voices, in particular deprived communities and remote communities in the Highlands/Islands, which tied in with a recent UN House Scotland roundtable on poverty. We discussed the importance of British participation in the UN not only as crucial for furthering UN goals, but as a source of soft power, providing a networking space for international cooperation and a model for other countries to follow on matters such as climate adaptation planning, carbon mitigation and energy transition.

Finally, the civil servants talked about the importance of joined-up thinking and joined-up action on multiple axes: between the British government and the Scottish government, further down into regional and local government, as well as the third sector.

Every day's a school day The interns came out of the meeting with a sense of gratitude to our mentors and to 2HQ for allowing us the privelege of the opportunities the day provided. We managed to pack in a lot of learning in our short time at 2HQ.

One of the most important lessons learned was the importance of networking and cross-pollination of ideas in this post-Pandemic world of homeworking and Zoom meetings.

Cabinet Office Glasgow's successes have been largely made possible due to staff from various backgrounds coming together under one roof, which facilitates connections and knowledge sharing. In the same way, UNHS provides an excellent forum for uniting grassroots activism with key decisionmakers, all within an ecosystem guided by shared global goals of peace, human rights and sustainable development. Going forwards, both sides affirmed their interest in an ongoing relationship, with a folllow-up meeting to be booked into the diary soon.

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