Wrap-up Session - March 2014
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this wrap-up session. It should be axiomatic that the Council regularly assesses how effectively we have met our responsibilities – responsibilities we collectively exercise on behalf of all Member states, including those directly experiencing conflict, those seeking to avoid imminent conflict, and those recovering from it.
There is now universal acceptance that the protection of civilians must be at the core of UN efforts. The Council’s role is crucial – in its conflict-prevention efforts, and in deploying peacekeeping operations in a timely manner, equipping them with appropriate mandates, and ensuring those mandates are fully implemented.
We welcome the manner in which the Council has grappled with protection of civilians challenges in a number of situations, including DRC and South Sudan, during the past month. In adopting Resolution 2147, the Council reaffirmed MONUSCO’s mandate to protect civilians, with the robust role of the Force Intervention Brigade remaining central to an overall mission commitment to this objective. This central focus on protection of civilians should inform the Council’s approach to the mandate of a UN peacekeeping operation in CAR, where the protection challenges remain immense, despite the considerable efforts of MISCA and French forces.
In South Sudan, UNMISS’s performance in ensuring the protection of 68,000 civilians in eight of its bases across the country has been highly commendable – and necessary. The Council has recognised that the UNMISS mandate should now be redrawn to focus more sharply on core protection of civilians functions – this should happen quickly. In respect of Darfur the Council has recognised that, while UNAMID has the necessary mandate to effectively protect civilians, more resolute implementation of that mandate is required. We look forward to adopting a resolution reinforcing this message in coming days.
The Council’s effectiveness and credibility depends in large part on the extent to which it is able to ensure implementation of its decisions. The Council is best able to do so when it establishes clear benchmarks, explicit timelines, active monitoring mechanisms, regular reporting processes, and consequences for non-compliance. This approach has enabled the Council to maintain pressure on Syria to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal as required by Resolution 2118. This approach has also provided the Council with a clear picture of the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, and the extent of the failure to comply with Resolution 2139. The Opposition forces in Syria need to implement 2139 but the primary responsibility is with the Syrian government. Unless there is a dramatic and immediate improvement, the Council will have no option other than to determine non-compliance and take further measures. Both resolutions endorsed a political transition process based on the Geneva Communique – the Syrian government must seriously engage in such negotiations.
As we all know, the formation of the United Nations was the world’s response to the most violent half century in history. Crimea has a special place in the organisation’s creation story. It was in Yalta, Crimea in January 1945 that key decisions were taken by the former USSR, the United States, and the UK about constituent elements of the Charter, including, crucially, the veto power. At the San Francisco Conference a few months later, the veto question was highly controversial – in fact, Australia argued strenuously against it. But as we know the Conference ultimately decided to confer permanent membership of the Security Council, and veto power within it, on five states. This came with explicit expectations. These states had a special responsibility, in light of their privileged position, not only to uphold but also defend the Charter and its principles. That responsibility persists.
Russia’s forcible acquisition of a part of the territory of Ukraine has thus been a seismic challenge to the Council, the Charter, and to the rules-based international order on which we all depend. The Council has made strenuous efforts on Ukraine over the past month and discussed all dimensions of the crisis. We were of course unable to adopt a resolution, due to the veto by Russia, the resolution’s sole opponent.
But that veto does not diminish the overwhelming support by Council members for the resolution’s provisions – reaffirming fundamental principles in the UN Charter and under international law which are obligations of all Member States. The message from members of the Council to Russia has been as consistent as it has been clear. Russia must abide by the Charter, respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, refrain from the use of force, move immediately to de-escalate the crisis, including through a pull-back of Russian forces, and engage in dialogue with Ukraine’s government to resolve the situation peacefully. It is in the interests of Russia itself, this Council, and the entire UN membership that it do so.
In your opening comments to today’s session, you quoted playwright Eugene Ionesco to the effect that we can really only predict events after they have occurred. In an existential sense that is certainly true. We are all hostage to events – what happens, how things unfold from moment to moment. But we do of course try to shape events and to limit their arbitrary chaos. That is why the global community created the United Nations and this Council in 1945. That is why upholding the norms and obligations of the Charter and the never-ending struggle against the law of the jungle – is so vital.
So, this has been an especially challenging month. And I congratulate you for the outstanding manner in which you and your team have led the Council through it – and again for your personal leadership on children and armed conflict in particular. We pledge our full support to Nigeria for the month ahead.