Australia on the United Nations Security Council 2013–2014
The Council’s agenda during Australia’s term
The day-to-day business of the Council is comprised of country and regional issues, of which there are around 50, and cross-cutting thematic issues, covering around 20 items. These fixed items make up the large part of the Council's agenda. It must also respond immediately to international peace and security crises as they arise. As a result, the agenda is demanding and the pace relentless and often unpredictable.
The Council's workload increased during our term, with the deterioration of peace and security in many countries including Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
Notable developments 2013
Entrenched ethnic and political rivalries engulfing countries from Africa's Sahel region to the Middle East's Fertile Crescent and beyond challenged the Council's ability to respond quickly and effectively to conflict and worsening humanitarian crises. In the Middle East, the Council was focused on the deteriorating situation in Syria and how it should respond.
Serbia and Kosovo signed the First Agreement on Principles Governing the Normalization of Relations on 19 April.
In the Horn of Africa, the Council established the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) in May to prevent the terrorist group Al-Shabaab from gaining a stronger foothold. The Mission is supporting the Somali Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to reduce violence and build security, justice and administrative institutions capable of fostering the rule of law.
In the Central African Republic, the Council created and deployed the African Union-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA). It also mandated French forces already in the country to use "all necessary measures" to help the new Mission restore law and order after months of lawlessness and sectarian fighting sparked by a coup d'état in March.
In July, the Council deployed the first-ever 'intervention brigade' within the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), breaking the mould of standard peacekeeping practice by authorising a modernised mandate to help with one of Africa's bloodiest and longest-running conflicts. The intervention brigade was authorised to carry out offensive operations – with or without the Congolese armed forces – against the 23 March Movement (M23) and other armed groups threatening peace in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By November, the M23 declared an end to its 20-month insurgency.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was also authorised in July with the mandate to help cement a truce between the Malian authorities and separatists in the north of the country. The Mission was authorised to help stabilise key areas by "all necessary means". In September it assumed the functions of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
In September, United Nations investigators concluded that chemical agents had been used in an attack against a Damascus suburb on 21 August. In response, the Council was unanimous in requiring the Syrian authorities to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal or face the consequences under "Chapter VII" enforcement measures.
In late December, the Council responded to escalating fighting in South Sudan between troops loyal to the Government and rebel soldiers seeking to usurp it by enhancing the number of peacekeepers in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The security situation in Iraq deteriorated over the year amid a political stalemate, terrorist attacks and strained Arab-Kurdish relations which had fuelled existing security challenges.
In monthly briefings on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the Council continued its call for both parties to commitment to direct negotiations. These negotiations resumed in late July, but progress was slow and experts advised the chances of reaching a two-State solution could be irreparably damaged if the process continued at this pace.
In the Balkans, a "zero-sum" approach to politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina had hampered the country's quest for European Union integration.
Over the year the Council adopted 47 resolutions – 27 of them concerning Africa – and issued 22 Presidential Statements. Four texts were adopted by vote that was not unanimous and the Council failed to adopt one resolution that sought a one-year delay in International Criminal Court proceedings against the President and Deputy President of Kenya.
Notable events in 2014
With a succession of new crises in Europe, the Middle East and across Africa, the Council tackled an expanding workload in a record number of meetings.
By the end of 2013, the political dispute in South Sudan had devolved into factional violence that sent up to 100,000 people fleeing to United Nations bases in the early months of 2014.
In February, the Panel of Experts report identified that the proliferation of weapons to and from Libya was a major challenge for the stability of the country and the region, given that most weapons are still under the control of non-state armed actors and border control systems remain ineffective.
The report of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Commission of Inquiry was presented to Council in February. The report confirmed the DPRK is continuing to develop and test its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and described in detail the types of techniques it used to evade sanctions. The report also documented widespread and systematic human rights violations in the DPRK and, among other recommendations, called on the Council to consider referring the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court and impose targeted sanctions against those individuals most responsible for crimes against humanity
With 2013's political crisis in the Central African Republic spiralling into inter-community violence, the Council approved the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA). Council members visited Mali as the peacekeeping operation there suffered numerous attacks in the north that resulted in the deaths of some peacekeepers.
In March, the Russian Federation military intervention in Ukraine, which followed the February Euromaidan, resulted in the Russian annexation of Crimea. Following the annexation, demonstrations by pro-Russian groups in the Donbass area of Ukraine escalated into an armed conflict between the separatist forces of the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics and the Ukrainian government.
In the Middle East, war erupted between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in July. The 51 days of fighting left thousands dead and homeless. In the months following the ceasefire, violence and tension increased throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.
With hundreds of thousands killed and little political progress in Syria, the humanitarian situation was deemed a separate threat to international peace. In June, the UN provided a report to Council with clear evidence the regime was using the distribution of humanitarian aid as a tactic of war, and no progress had been made in authorising cross-border aid operations, allowing access to besieged areas, observing medical neutrality or ceasing aerial bombardments.
In June, Daesh (also known as ISIL) crossed the border from north eastern Syria into north eastern Iraq. It claimed the Levant and Iraq as a worldwide caliphate and captured the cities of Samarra, Mosul, Baiji and Tikrit.
In July the Council was advised of a probable imminent and significant escalation of politically motivated and inter-militia violence in Libya.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, an international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down in July killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The plane crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, close to border with Russia and over territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
In Yemen, the Houthis –a Zaidi Shi'a rebel group from the north–threatened to derail the political transition by staging protests during August. With their control of Saada governorate and other areas in the north, the Houthis were functioning as a state within a state. The growing number of attacks by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), including the kidnapping and execution of soldiers, added to a volatile situation.
In August, Daesh captured the cities of Zumar, Sinjar and Wana in Iraq.
In September, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was deemed a new threat to international peace and security as it grew exponentially in three countries emerging from conflict. A resolution countering isolation of those countries and mobilizing aid had the most sponsors in the Council's history.
In November, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported that Daesh was committing crimes against humanity.
In December, the Council shepherded the end of the transition to Afghan national control of the security sector, as insurgent attacks by Al-Qaida and the Taliban again took a significant toll throughout the year.
Over the year, the Council adopted 63 resolutions and issued 28 Presidential Statements. Three texts were adopted through a vote. In December a draft resolution on the Middle east peace process failed to obtain the needed majority.
Two draft resolutions – one that would have termed invalid a referendum in Crimea that preceded its joining the Russian Federation and one on referring gross human rights violations in Syria to the International Criminal Court – were vetoed by the Russian Federation, along with China in the latter case.