Wrap-up Session - July 2014
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
This month has been a hard one.
On 17 July we learned of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukrainian territory controlled by separatists killing all 298 passengers and crew. Eighty of the victims were children. The victims were citizens of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines and the United Kingdom. A number were dual nationals of other countries.
This devastating incident reminds us that in an increasingly globalised world, the individual stake of each UN member state in international peace and security is greater than ever before. It reminds us that we all have an interest in a UN Security Council that can respond effectively.
On 18 July, the Council unanimously condemned the downing of flight MH17. It followed quickly on 21 July with a decisive resolution to ensure a full, thorough and independent international investigation; to demand immediate and unrestricted access to the site to allow for the recovery of the bodies and the work of the investigation to proceed; to prohibit any actions that could compromise the integrity of the crash site, most notably by local armed groups; and to insist that those responsible be held accountable. This was what the international community expected of the Council.
In itself, of course, this is not enough. We now need full and urgent implementation of Resolution 2166. At the request of Ukraine, the Netherlands has taken the lead in the investigation with the assistance of ICAO and other international partners. Dutch and Australian unarmed personnel have been deployed – not yet successfully – to provide protection to the investigators at the crash site and to assist with the removal of the remaining bodies and belongings and to secure wreckage and physical evidence.
In this work we – and Australia’s Special Envoy leading our efforts, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, just mentioned by Ambassador Churkin – are meticulously working through the OSCE as the contact on our behalf with the local armed separatists. These Australian and Dutch personnel have not yet been able to access the site because of local conditions. But urgent access remains imperative as conditions at the site deteriorate. All of this makes plain that full and immediate implementation of Resolution 2166 is a serious obligation. Certainly, my own country is determined to bring home our thirty-eight dead, identify those responsible, and pursue justice.
While the Council’s progress in delivering a resolution on humanitarian relief to the people of Syria was measured in weeks, rather than days, Resolution 2165 again demonstrated that the Council can break new ground in resolving even seemingly intractable issues. Resolution 2165 authorised cross-border access by UN humanitarian agencies and their partners to enable them to reach an estimated 2.9 million in need. As we were informed by UN Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos earlier today [30 July], the first humanitarian convoy has crossed the Turkish border under the new arrangements.
The adoption of resolutions such as these is a primordial part of the Council’s work. But the Council needs to constantly remind itself that securing agreement on text is of little use if it does not also relentlessly pursue implementation of its decisions.
The adoption in February of Resolution 2139 on humanitarian issues in Syria was a direct response to the Syrian regime’s failure to abide by the provisions of the Council’s earlier Presidential Statement of 2 October last year. The Council systematically received reports each month from the Secretary-General on implementation of 2139 which laid out starkly how dramatically the humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate. It was unchallengeable from these reports that the parties were not implementing the resolution’s obligations and that a stronger Council response was therefore needed. We did this with a ground-breaking resolution in 2165. As a Council we have a responsibility to ensure this resolution and its parent, 2139, are implemented in full – and to take further measures if non-compliance continues.
Of course, to pursue implementation, the Council needs the right information, at the right time. It must not be hostage to routine reporting cycles – rather it should increase its attention on threats to international peace and security as they emerge and as situations demand. The Council has recently increased the tempo of its consideration of Libya, and used the “Any Other Business” (AoB) standing item on its agenda to consider a number of immediate developments, including on Yemen and Iraq. This is how the Council should work, consistently.
The Council also needs access to a broad range of information – not only from the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and the Department of Political Affairs, but from other actors, including the SG’s special envoys. As the “Rights Up Front” initiative has affirmed, understanding the human rights dimensions of a situation is a crucial element of the Council’s work, and this means it should be looking at what Commissions of Inquiry, and the human rights special mechanisms can offer the Council.
To pursue implementation, the Council needs to be ready to fully utilise the tools available. The Council’s willingness to establish new sanctions regimes in Yemen and CAR, and to consider doing so in South Sudan, has been welcome. But sanctions will only work as a policy tool if properly implemented. This requires closer engagement with affected States, including assistance to meet the conditions and to implement the obligations of Council sanctions, and better coordination with other Council responses to the specific situation and across sanctions regimes generally. Australia hopes the High Level Review of UN sanctions, which we are co-chairing, can help deliver this.
The Council also needs to support implementation of mandates it gives to other actors, like the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Council took the right decision in referring the situations in Darfur and in Libya to the ICC: but like all decisions of the Council, these referrals need follow up action by the Council to be effective. The Council must shoulder its responsibility to support the Court’s efforts to fulfil the mandates the Council gave it. A good start would be responding to the Court’s eight letters about the failure of some States to cooperate with the ICC in relation to the Darfur referral.
Finally, the Council must be ready to innovate to ensure implementation. It must also cooperate with regional organisations and other relevant institutions including the ICC to achieve Council objectives.
The world is now experiencing more simultaneous crises in peace and security with a broader impact across the globe than for decades. Major humanitarian crises inevitably result, and themselves become the source of further instability. The demand for peacekeeping is increasing. Civilians are at a greater threat in larger numbers than at any time since World War II. Fifty-one million people are displaced. In this world, protection of civilians becomes an even more central – and demanding – part of the work of the Council. And the Council’s success in protecting people has become the measure to which we are held.
It is only through a relentless focus on implementation of Council decisions that we will be able to meet this measure.
Thank you Mr President. And congratulations to you and all the Rwanda team for a successful and helpful presidency. Good luck to the incoming UK presidency for August – obviously another tough month is in prospect.