Australia concludes its two year term on the United Nations Security Council today, having served with distinction at a time when the world faces a larger number of security and humanitarian crises than since World War II.
Our record as a non-permanent member included taking the lead on several landmark resolutions, chairing the Al Qaida, Taliban, and Iran sanctions committees, while also taking the lead on drafting of resolutions as ‘pen holder’ on Afghanistan.
Australia came onto the Council determined that elected members could and should make a difference in strengthening the Council’s role in the maintenance of international peace and security. We endeavoured to use our term to support Australia’s core national security interests, including reinforcing our key alliance and strategic relationships, and to enhance our international influence by making a practical, constructive contribution across the Council’s agenda. By any measure, our term has been a success.
In July 2014, Australia led the Council’s response to the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine, a criminal act that caused the loss of 298 lives from many nations, including 38 people who called Australia home. Australia’s resolution, adopted unanimously as UNSCR 2166, gave the Council’s backing for a full, impartial international investigation into the incident and required all States to cooperate fully with crash recovery, retrieval and investigative efforts.
Strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism, including tackling the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, remains a top national security priority for Australia and was an important focus of our Council term. In November, we secured Council agreement to strengthen international cooperation on combatting terrorism, including tackling the threat of foreign fighters and countering violent extremism.
As Chair of three Security Council sanctions committees, we strengthened the Council’s response to the threats to international security posed by Al Qaida, Iran’s nuclear program and the Taliban, including through effectively targeting emerging threats like Boko Haram and ISIL. We led Council debate on sanctions reform, boosting engagement from affected countries, enhancing the transparency of the sanctions system and mobilising more professional support and coordination from the UN.
Australia also took a leading role in the Council’s response to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria securing the adoption of three ground-breaking resolutions in 12 months, requiring the Syrian Government and other parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian access to millions in desperate need.
We demonstrated leadership in promoting the important linkages between human rights protection and stability and security, including through our initiative this month to place North Korea’s broader political and human rights situation on the Council’s formal agenda. This was an historic breakthrough and puts the Council in a position to take action in response to continuing mass violations of human rights in North Korea.
Australia coordinated the Council’s work on Afghanistan during the crucial period leading into the transition at the end of 2014 from the NATO-led combat mission to Afghan security control. This culminated in Security Council support for Operation Resolute Support which will help train and advise Afghan security forces and in which Australia will participate.
We worked to make peacekeeping missions more effective and robust, especially in refocusing them on improved protection for civilians affected by conflict.
A key initiative of Australia’s November 2014 Presidency of the Council was to strengthen the effectiveness of police deployments in UN peacekeeping missions. This was achieved through the unanimous adoption of the first ever resolution on policing, UNSCR 2185. We also consistently sought to improve the Council’s protection of women and girls affected by conflict during our term, including ensuring that they are part of conflict resolution processes.
This built on the achievement of Australia’s September 2013 Presidency of the Council when we secured a landmark resolution to curb the use of small arms and light weapons, a major driver of conflict. The adoption of UNSCR 2117 continued the work we had led in the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty, adopted in April 2013, which sets international standards for the global trade in conventional arms.
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