Wrap-Up Session - January 2013
- Peace and Security
- Protection of Civilians
- South Sudan
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representativeof Australia to the United Nations
Thank you for this opportunity to consider the Security Council's work over the past month. I especially want to thank you for your leadership and energy.
We are all familiar with Dag Hammarskjold's statement that the United Nations "was not created to bring humanity to heaven, but to save it from hell". The Council, of course, often stands at the gates of hell. Obviously, there are limitations on what the Council can do but the fact remains that we have a decisive task to help prevent countries sliding into the abyss. Inaction can have terrible consequences.
Two days ago, Special Representative Brahimi provided us with a very stark account of the extreme violence that is being inflicted on the people of Syria. He told us "the country is breaking apart". And he said that "only the Security Council can help… and the time to act is now". We agree. The principles for transition that he put forward provide a strong basis for Council action, and we endorse them. We must respond.
Only an end to conflict and an inclusive transition process can present a long term solution. In the interim, however, we must act to ameliorate the worst effects of the conflict. Almost one-quarter of Syria's population is in direct need of help. Humanitarian access is essential. This includes cross-border access. Australia has called on all parties to ensure that medical facilities and personnel are protected in accordance with international humanitarian law, and that civilians are able to access medical assistance. We will continue to work with all relevant actors to that end. We must also not lose sight of ensuring accountability for those committing such terrible crimes in the conflict. Syria is – as the Secretary-General has said – "our immediate test".
The adoption, by consensus, of Resolution 2087 in response to the DPRK's December 2012 missile launch was a necessary statement of this Council's resolve to combat proliferation, and to impose consequences for persistent violations of Council resolutions. We strongly condemn the DPRK's statements in recent days in which it has expressed its intent to undertake further acts that would constitute a serious threat to international peace and security. The Council has made clear that it will take strong action should there be further provocations – there should be no doubt about this. The Council's own credibility is engaged.
Your holding of an open debate on multi-dimensional peacekeeping was especially important. This is core UN business, and the effectiveness, and the reputation, of this organisation depends on us getting peacekeeping right. Resolution 2086 – the first Council resolution on peacekeeping for more than a decade – recognises that early peacebuilding is an integral part of peacekeeping. And effective peacebuilding of course recognises the inherent links between security and development – a recognition that must underpin the Council's work. This is one of the lessons of our success in Timor-Leste.
The Council's open debate on a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism saw an overwhelming recognition that improved implementation of existing counter-terrorism tools was essential, but not sufficient. As Presidential Statement 2013/1 makes clear, the international community must also tackle the drivers of terrorism, and counter the terrorist narrative and processes of radicalization.
It is imperative that terrorist groups are not permitted to establish a safe haven in Mali. We express our strongly support for the intervention by France, at the invitation of Malian authorities. The contributions of ECOWAS and other African states are also a crucial contribution, and demonstrate the fundamental role regional and sub-regional organizations now play in the maintenance of international peace and security. We have some big – and urgent – questions in the month ahead in putting in place the necessary security and political arrangements in Mali. We need to be pragmatic in this.
In the past month the Council has heard shocking accounts of the grave humanitarian consequences of conflict. Chilling reports of the targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and child recruitment have become commonplace. These reports must strengthen our collective resolve to ensure the protection of civilians – to require states and other actors to protect civilians, to provide peacekeepers with the mandates and training they need to protect civilians, and to ensure those who commit serious crimes are held to account. And we must always ensure our strongest support to protect the most vulnerable – women and children in particular. This is a priority for Australia.
The situation in the DRC underlines the fundamental importance of the protection of civilians. Ongoing conflict in that country raises fundamental questions about UN peacekeeping – its purpose and mandate, and how we structure and operate a mission to achieve these. MONUSCO needs to be looked at carefully. Regional contributions will need to be effectively integrated. Certainly, the Council needs to get this right. But we also need to act very quickly. The security and humanitarian situation remains very bad.
We should never lose sight of how important Council support can be to countries emerging from conflict, and transitioning to democracy. The Council's role in Yemen is a case in point. During the Council's mission to Yemen last Sunday, President Hadi told us strong Council support had brought Yemen "back from the brink of civil war". He has asked for our continuing help. We need to give it.
This, of course, is also a reminder that expectations of the Council are high – among UN member states, among our own citizens, and above all from those people caught up in the midst of conflict.
One failing of all of us that worries me is the terrible humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. John Ging from OCHA made a compelling appeal to the Council two weeks ago to help. The situation in Sudan/South Sudan is rightly reviewed by us every two weeks. I know we cannot directly control the parties to the conflict, and particularly non-government groups. But maybe we can look again at what we can do to address the imperative humanitarian needs in this situation.
My own country will work closely with colleagues on all these tasks. In particular I want to assure Ambassador Kim Sook and his team of our support during February.