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Security Council Reform

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

 

Madame Vice President

Allow me to thank the President of the General Assembly for providing this joint debate on the Security Council Annual Report and on Security Council reform, the subject of which Australia is a longstanding advocate. Australia welcomes the introduction of the Security Council Annual Report, made by the Permanent Representative of China, Ambassador Liu Jieyi, in his capacity as President of the Council for this month. We also thank the United States delegation, along with other Council members, for their work on the report. We look forward to a more substantive discussion in the General Assembly on the Annual Report later this month.

 

Madame Vice President

Substantive reform of the Security Council is long overdue. It is, therefore, imperative that we achieve progress in the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform during this 68th session of the General Assembly. Indeed, the priority that the President of the General Assembly has attached to this issue during his Presidency is welcome and significant.  We commend his re-appointment of Afghanistan’s Ambassador Tanin as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations. Having led the General Assembly’s work on this issue consistently since 2008, Ambassador Tanin’s re-appointment will be an important element in maintaining continuity, focus and an appreciation of the complexity of the issues under discussion.

We also welcome the appointment by the President of the General Assembly of a new Advisory Group on Security Council reform, comprised of the Permanent Representatives of Belgium, Brazil, Liechtenstein, Papua New Guinea, San Marino and Sierra Leone. We have full confidence in the substantial intellectual contribution and integrity of these individuals and this Group. Given the need for a strong Council with the capacity to tackle today’s international peace and security challenges, we support this initiative. We have a rare opportunity to achieve lasting successful reform, and we should seize it. We need to shift out mindset, and move from posturing to practical, real negotiations.

 

Madame Vice President

Australia has long supported an expansion of the Council’s membership in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. This is important both to ensure a more equitable geographic balance and to enhance the Council’s legitimacy – both of these factors are important drivers of reform.

And as we have said before, all Member States have a stake in the Council’s decisions. The Council has universal responsibilities and engages in situations across regions, particularly in Africa for which the case for permanent membership is clear and compelling.

Madame Vice President

Since joining the United Nations as a founding member, Australia has also argued strenuously for limits on the use of the veto, and promoted transparency as integral to the Security Council’s legitimacy. We remain strongly committed to these principles, particularly as an elected Security Council member for this year and next.

And the growing complexity and breadth of the Council’s agenda makes it all the more necessary for the Council to adapt to modern times. The key to effectiveness lies in a more representative, transparent and legitimate Security Council.

A major criticism of the Security Council is that, in recent times in the face of humanitarian crises, it has failed to discharge its responsibility to maintain peace and security – a responsibility it exercises on behalf of all Member States. Much criticism is directed towards the impact of the use, or the threat of use, of the veto.

Given the recent Syria experience, we believe France’s proposal for Permanent Members to voluntarily renounce their veto powers in cases of mass atrocity crimes has merit and deserves further consideration. We should seriously discuss how to take this proposal forward.

 

Madame Vice President

Without prejudice to other aspects of Council reform, Australia supports early efforts to realise immediate and tangible benefits in the Council’s working methods.

As an elected Council member, we have seen first-hand the importance of greater transparency and accountability in the Council’s work, including to enhance engagement with the broader UN membership, in particular troop- and police- contributing countries – these countries working to implement Council mandates – as well as key organs of the UN such as the Peacebuilding Commission, and regional and sub-regional organisations.

As we said during the Security Council Open Debate on Working Methods on 29 October, the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency or ACT Group, established in May this year, has greatly informed our own work as a Council member and we value our collaboration with them. Security Council Presidential Notes 515 and 630 – adopted this year – represent important steps towards enhancing the Council’s engagement with the wider membership including troop- and police- contributing countries.

 

Madame Vice President

As the President of the General Assembly has said, Member States must now consider how to reinvigorate efforts to find common ground. This has been a useful discussion, but now let us try to make substantive progress. We look forward to hearing the ideas of the membership as well as those of the Advisory Group on how to take this issue forward.

This will require flexibility, cooperation, creative solutions, and – above all else – political will. But we must make progress to strengthen and modernise the Council. The challenges facing it – and all of us – are great and growing, and we need to re-craft a body that will meet them.

Thank you, Madame Vice President.

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