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National statements

UN Charter: Upholding International Peace and Security

Thematic issues

  • Conflict Prevention
  • Human Rights
  • Justice
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Rule of Law
  • Sanctions
  • Women


Statement by H.E. Gillian Bird, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Thank you Mr President for convening this important debate.

As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the UN Charter, it is timely to focus on the issues that lie at the heart of the system of collective security – a system that has allowed us to avoid global conflict since the Second World War, but one that must continually evolve to meet contemporary security challenges.

Australia is firmly committed to a rules-based international order that respects international law and respects not only the letter, but also the spirit of the Charter – forged from the lessons of two world wars.

The challenges facing the international system continue to grow. Today, there are more simultaneous crises with a bigger impact on a larger number of people than at any time since World War II.

Terrorist groups have descended to new depths of brutality. Their use of social media exposes vulnerable young men and women from around the globe to their hateful propaganda. ISIL's brutality and claims to territory are an urgent security challenge that we must all confront.

The UN must respond nimbly and effectively to these crises with the full range of instruments at its disposal, just as it must take concrete steps to prevent new conflicts from emerging. This is the task given to it by the Charter.

We are familiar with the warning signs of conflict – social unrest, displacement, and significant human rights violations. The Security Council must use the full weight of its political authority and other preventive tools to address these warning signs as they emerge, including effective use of sanctions to disrupt destabilising actors, and to stem the flow of funds, weapons and fighters that fuel conflict.

In responding to conflict, the Security Council must ensure the UN's peacekeeping and special political missions have sufficient authority, clarity and direction to carry out well-targeted and achievable mandates, including to improve rule of law and to protect civilians. The current review of UN peace operations is a welcome opportunity to achieve important reforms.

On average, countries emerging from conflict have only a seven-year window to build lasting peace before they risk relapsing into conflict. The UN has a central role in preventing this relapse. This year – 10 years after the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund – we have an opportunity to review the UN's peacebuilding architecture to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Strengthening the rule of law is a critical pillar of both conflict prevention and effective post-conflict peacebuilding. That makes it core business for the Council and for UN peace operations. Rule of law interventions can significantly reduce the likelihood of conflict occurring or recurring.

With the adoption of Resolution 2185 last November, this Council recognised more could be done to build effective police institutions vital to the UN's work on justice, corrections and the rule of law.

Respect for human rights is of course central to the UN Charter. Our collective responsibility is the universal promotion, protection and realisation of those rights for all and the knowledge that living in peace and security means we never turn a blind eye to gross and widespread violations of human rights.

Sovereignty carries with it fundamental obligations, chief among them the need to protect civilians. Australia reaffirms its strong commitment to all the principles of the responsibility to protect (R2P) and we welcome France's initiative on restraint on the use of the veto in situations of mass atrocity and encourage further progress on this initiative.

The credibility of the UN system depends on its willingness and capacity to protect civilians, particularly women and children who suffer disproportionately in conflict.

Without the engagement of women in conflict responses and peace building, there can be no lasting solution to conflict.

It is our conviction that the investigation and prosecution of serious international crimes is also critical to establishing lasting peace. Tragically, today, Rome Statute crimes are committed in many locations on an alarming scale.

It is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes. The International Criminal Court, as a Court of last resort, has a vital role to play when States are unable or unwilling to act. The ICC deserves the full support of the international community.

Mr President

As we reaffirm our commitment to the UN Charter in its seventieth anniversary year, we should be able to say its fundamental norms are universally applied. But, sadly, this is not the case. Key elements of the Charter – including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity – and of the legal framework of protection for civilians – have been persistently defied in recent times, with tragic consequences.

The UN, this Council and all member states must continue to be vigilant to ensure these fundamental norms are protected – only then will the international community be working collectively to ensure peace and security for all.

Thank you Mr President.

(Check against delivery)

Last Updated: 18 June 2015
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