Wrap-Up Session - February 2013
- Human Rights
- Middle East
- Peace and Security
- Protection of Civilians
- Regional Organisations
- South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for convening this "wrap up session", and for specifically inviting Council members to look ahead to the Council's key priorities in coming months.
A key achievement of the Council in the past month was the adoption – under the ROK's leadership – of the Presidential Statement on the Protection of Civilians. We here are judged – properly – by how well we protect people. While the majority of peacekeeping mandates now contain a substantive protection of civilians component, we must ensure that these mandates are clear on what is being tasked, are effectively implemented, and that peacekeepers have the training, guidance and resources they need. We must ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld, and that there is accountability for those who commit serious crimes. The PRST's reaffirmation of the principle of responsibility to protect was also important. We must ensure that humanitarian personnel, including medical workers, are protected and their work not impeded. And we must ensure that a "protection of civilians" consciousness permeates all of our work.
In the past two days, the Council has received no fewer than four detailed reports from senior UN officials on the horror that continues to be inflicted on the people of Syria. We have been reminded of the terrible and ever increasing number of civilian casualties – well over 70,000 deaths, of the dire humanitarian situation – more than one in four of Syria's population in need, of the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, of the real prospect of the very destruction of Syria itself. We have heard shocking accounts of systemic use of sexual violence as a tactic. We have been told of the dramatic consequences of the conflict for Syria's neighbours – over one million Syrians have fled their country, including over 150,000 in the past month alone. Countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are bearing an immense burden – for which we must all be grateful. This is simply not sustainable.
The need for a comprehensive political solution to end the conflict and growing instability is starkly clear. We all know that. We welcome the willingness of the Syrian Opposition Coalition to engage in dialogue. We strongly support the continued efforts of Joint Special Representative Brahimi. The Council has a crucial role to play in supporting a transition process. But in the two years since the conflict broke out the Council has not played that role. This inaction is damning and indefensible.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Council has been briefed this week on the risk of further violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the resumption of rocket attacks on Israel, which is unacceptable. This year is a decisive year if we are ever to achieve a two-state solution. We need renewed and serious political leadership – and the earliest possible return to direct negotiations – to do this. The Council's role in supporting transition in Yemen is necessary and we must maintain this activism.
In adopting, by consensus, Resolution 2087, the Council sent an unmistakable message to the DPRK to refrain from further provocation. Its nuclear test on 12 February was a calculated act of defiance of the international community. In this regard, I would note in particular the strong expressions of concern by countries of our region, the Asia-Pacific, that the DPRK's actions threaten regional security, including the joint statement of 19 February of the ten members of ASEAN. It is essential that the Council adopt in coming days a further robust resolution under Chapter VII which imposes significant additional measures on the DPRK and which constrains DPRK's programs. Council unity in this is essential.
Council focus on Sudan and South Sudan over the last month further highlights lack of progress on the ground. We must do what we can to support the African Union's leadership of efforts to address this crisis, and continue to press the parties to meet their responsibilities to implement their own agreements. And we must ensure that humanitarian access reaches those in dire need, particularly in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where around one million people desperately require assistance. This must be a priority for the Council in coming days.
Significant progress has made in Mali. Security has been restored to the vast majority of Malian territory, thanks to the efforts of French, AFISMA, Chadian and Malian forces. The situation has changed dramatically since the Council adopted Resolution 2085 establishing AFISMA, and the focus must now be on moving to a UN peacekeeping mission as soon as conditions permit. Security efforts must be accompanied by progress on the political front, including the holding of inclusive elections and progress towards national reconciliation. And we must maintain our focus on the significant humanitarian and human rights dimensions of the crisis. We could be heading for crisis levels of food insecurity in the north by the end of April.
The signature on 24 February of the Regional Framework Agreement for the DRC was a significant milestone, and we commend the Secretary-General's leadership on this. The Agreement provides a new basis for the DRC and its neighbours to work together to address entrenched and underlying tensions in the region. But the security situation in eastern DRC remains highly fragile, and it is clear that MONUSCO is not appropriately configured at present. The Council will need to consider carefully the proposals contained in the Secretary-General's special report, including to establish an intervention brigade. It is important that we move quickly, but we also need to ensure we get MONUSCO's mandate right.
In coming weeks, the Council is likely to authorise new, or substantially revised, UN missions in the DRC, Mali and Somalia. While the contexts vary, there are some common elements. How can the UN work most effectively with regional organisations? What are the appropriate respective roles of regional forces and UN missions? We cannot hope to find template answers, but as a Council it is important that we actively consider the interrelationship between these situations, and learn lessons where we can.
As we look ahead, I should note that the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan will be a focus for the Council's work in March. Australia is pleased to be facilitating this process, and we look forward to working with all Council members to ensure a sound basis for the continued work of that mission in this critical phase of Afghanistan's transition.
I want to conclude by mentioning a critical aspect of the Council's work – sanctions. Sanctions regimes are an intrinsic element of the Council's armoury on peace and security. As our Argentine colleague has also said this morning, where the Council adopts sanctions, it is essential that they are implemented effectively. All Member States have a responsibility for this.
In the months ahead, we look forward to working constructively with all other Council members to ensure the activities of the Council's committees effectively support these regimes and the Council's stated objectives.
In concluding, I congratulate you, Mr President, for your own smart – and good-humoured – leadership of the Council this month, and the entire ROK team for their commitment, energy and collegiality. We look forward to working closely with the Russian Federation in the month ahead.