Open Debate on Working Methods
- Central Africa
- Central African Republic
- Children and Armed Conflict
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Human Rights
- Peace and Security
- Regional Organisations
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you Madam President for convening this debate, and for Argentina's and your own leadership in improving the Council's working methods as Chair of the Working Group. Thank you also to our briefers; to Ombudsperson Kimberly Prost for her insight and candour. And to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for her perseverance in a difficult role which is vitally complementary to what we do in this Council.
Madam President, at a time when the number of simultaneous crises requiring urgent Council attention is at historic levels – and the number of people displaced around the world at the highest since World War II – an open debate on working methods might seem to some to be an exercise in Council introspection. But this is certainly not true. The way in which the Council works – our procedures and the way in which we engage with Member States, regional organisations, civil society and non-governmental organisations – shapes our understanding of these crises and our ability to respond effectively.
The breadth and depth of advice the Council considers has a direct bearing on the quality and timeliness of its decisions and actions. We welcome the fact that the Council is hearing from an increasingly diverse range of briefers. Critical to our work is information about human rights and protection of civilian challenges which are often an indicator of emerging conflicts and escalating crises. So it has been important that the Council has been briefed a number of times this year by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and by a wide range of other UN agency heads.
But we must also bring more of these voices from the front lines into this Chamber – particularly those of civil society and NGOs – such as Sandra Uwinringiyimana, the young woman from DRC who addressed the Children and Armed Conflict debate last month, and Jackson Niamah of MSF, who told us of the terrible impact of Ebola on Liberia.
And we must also use all of the fora and tools at our disposal to do so. In the past year the Council has made use of the wide range of formats available to it. Arria formula meetings have brought significant human rights information to the Council, and enabled civil society voices to be heard. Australia has convened such meetings on the human rights situations in Syria and the DPRK; and jointly with Chile on the protection needs of IDPs; and on the lessons from the field in strengthening implementation of Mission mandates with respect to women, peace and security. These issues must also be considered regularly in the Council's formal discussions.
The Council effectiveness depends on its legitimacy – and its legitimacy is directly impacted by the Council's willingness to be informed by and engaged with the broader membership. It is in this spirit that Australia advanced the proposal referenced in the concept note to reinforce the Council's dialogue with Member States, which led to Presidential Note S/2013/515. Regular open debates and an expansive approach to Rule 37 have also assisted. The holding of wrap-up sessions in public is an important advance. The shifting of format of a number of country situations – including the monthly Syria humanitarian discussion – to ensure a briefing in the Open Chamber has been welcome. But we must have meaningful dialogue with TCCs and PCCs in particular.
There is no procedural issue of greater substantive import to the Council's effectiveness and credibility than the constraints around the use of the veto. Australia welcomes France's initiative on restraint on the use of the veto in situations of mass atrocity. This deserves very close attention and ambitious follow-up. Also deserving of attention by the Council is the application of Article 27, which provides that a Council member must refrain from voting in a matter in which it is a party to the dispute.
While the Council's rhetoric on the importance of holding those responsible
for serious international crimes to account is strong, as everyone knows its
words are not always followed by action. The Council has failed to extend its
full support to the International Criminal Court, the efforts
of which complement those of this Council and can have a multiplying effect.
This is true not only in respect of the two situations referred by the Council
but also in respect of other situations such as Mali, Central African Republic,
DRC, and Côte d'Ivoire.
While the formal briefings by the Prosecutor are valuable, this Council needs to do much more to support justice and ensure impunity does not fuel future conflicts. The establishment of a permanent forum within the Council enabling formal and informal discussions about support for the Court is essential.
It is important that the Council also discusses the working methods of its subsidiary bodies. Australia has worked to improve the transparency of the Council's sanctions-related activities, including in the three Committees we chair on Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Iran. We have seen significant improvements in working methods and transparency: more Committee meetings with key stakeholders, including regional and affected States; more Committee press releases; more briefings by Committee Chairs in open Council sessions; more open briefings to UN member States on the work of Committees; and increased engagement with UN entities that operate where sanctions apply and have a shared interest on cross-cutting issues. But we can do more.
As a sponsor of the high level review of UN sanctions currently underway, we have consulted broadly with Member States on a range of working methods issues related to sanctions, including the role of the focal point. We will convene a briefing on sanctions issues during our November Presidency to enable a detailed Council discussion of these issues.
To conclude, Madam President
Our working methods shape and define the Council's effectiveness and impact. We have made some advances in the past year. But we cannot stop here. The Council must continue to review its working methods to ensure it is effective, transparent and representative of all member states.