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National statements

Statement to the UN General Assembly regarding Security Council reform

Thematic issues

  • Justice

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters

Statement by H.E. Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President

Thank you for convening this debate on Security Council reform. Australia welcomes the debate. We also welcome your advice that reform will be a priority matter for the 66th session of the General Assembly. The importance of the Council's work has been demonstrated continuously in the past very intensive year. This has underscored the need to move to boost its representativeness and legitimacy into the future. We need to accelerate our efforts to break through the current impasse and achieve reform which means something.

Australia's outlook on reform is founded on the premise that no country should have a monopoly on power. We are committed to a rules-based international order that respects international law. And we believe that the effectiveness of a rules-based order depends on access and buy-in by all Member States.

For Australia, achieving Security Council reform has been a longstanding ambition. We, as a founding member of the United Nations, were extremely active at the San Francisco Conference in drafting the articles of the Charter relating to establishment of the Council. From the foundation, we argued strenuously for limits on the use of the veto, and promoted transparency as integral to the Council's legitimacy. We remain very strongly committed to the importance of these principles today. The complexity and breadth of the Council's agenda in fact makes them all the more important. And the key to legitimacy into the future is clearly more balanced geographic representation and openness and transparency in the Council's working methods.

Mr President

There is an obvious consensus that substantive reform of the Council is well overdue. The last significant reform measure took place nearly 50 years ago when the size of the Council increased to 15 members. The Council clearly continues to be out of step- badly, even dangerously- with the evolution of the world's geopolitics. Australia agrees with the Africa Group that the absence of permanent representation on the Council from the Group is an historical injustice. And it is an impediment to the Council's operations. Two-thirds of the Security Council's agenda focuses on the African continent. The continent must take its rightful permanent place in those deliberations.

During the debate yesterday, some helpful suggestions were offered by delegations to chart the way forward. Those included, for example, the encouragement to put the G4's proposal on the agenda, to explore in depth its application, to test whether it can realistically attract the requisite support, and, if not, to identify other workable proposals. Australia itself is not a member of any of the established groups on reform. Our overriding imperative as a country is to find a way to move the reform debate away from sterile discussion. We welcome recommendations like those put yesterday with a view to gathering momentum at the forthcoming round of the Intergovernmental Negotiations.

In anticipation of these negotiations, I should briefly reiterate Australia's position. We support an expansion of the Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories, while balancing the need for enhanced representation on the Council with the practical requirement of maintaining decision-making coherence and effectiveness. We remain prepared to assist the negotiations by showing flexibility and creativity to find solutions.

We are committed to cooperating with Member States to advance comprehensive reform in all five aspects of the Intergovernmental Negotiations. We do agree, however, with the comments made yesterday by the Permanent Representative of Singapore on behalf of the S-5 group that, without prejudice to other aspects of the Council reform, we should make early concerted efforts to realise immediate and tangible benefits in improving working methods. We should try to make progress on this quickly.

Mr President

To conclude, Australia pledges its full support to the ongoing discussions on Security Council reform. We welcome your re-appointment of Ambassador Tanin as chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations. We commend Ambassador Tanin's dedication and, above all, his tenacity in leading us through these complex discussions. We are committed to working closely, creatively and pragmatically with you and Ambassador Tanin to shift our collective focus to genuine engaged negotiations, with our overarching objective of early and substantial reform.

Thank you.

Last Updated: 16 June 2015
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