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National statements

Wrap Up Session - May 2014

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Darfur
  • Human Rights
  • Humanitarian
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacekeeping
  • Protection of Civilians
  • Sanctions
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria


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

Mr President

Thank you for convening this wrap-up session, and for your highly effective stewardship of the Council this month.

I want to focus today on an issue that is rarely discussed directly in the Council chamber. But it an issue crucial to our work, one we need to discuss. This is the question of the Council's credibility.

Our legitimacy is self-evident. We derive our authority from the Charter and the mandate to take "effective collective measures" to maintain international peace and security. The imperative is to act. Our credibility – which is ultimately a measure of our ability to shape and influence events – inevitably depends on whether we act, and how and when we do so. Assessments will vary. But they will be informed by the same key factors.

The Council is rightly judged on how effectively it addresses the major conflicts before it. There can be no question that the Council's continuing inability to halt the conflict in Syria has seriously undermined our credibility. Last week – in the fourth year of the conflict, with more than 162,000 dead and half the population displaced – the Council failed to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court because of vetoes cast by two permanent members. Use of the veto in such circumstances inevitably diminishes the Council's credibility, and highlights the need for restraint on the use of the veto in mass atrocity situations. More broadly, the Council's ability to ensure accountability for the most serious international crimes is a primordial measure of our effectiveness.

In coming days, the Council will face another crucial test on Syria. The Secretary-General's third report in three months and that by OCHA this morning definitively confirmed non-compliance with the humanitarian demands we all collectively made under Resolution 2139. The Council expressed its intent in that resolution to take further steps in the case of non-compliance. And the Secretary-General has now explicitly asked the Council to take that action. Australia, together with Jordan and Luxembourg, will now put forward a draft resolution which takes those further steps. It will be crucial – for the people of Syria, and their neighbours, and for the Council's credibility – that all Council members support this resolution.

The Council's ability to prevent and respond to mass atrocities goes to the core of its credibility. In adopting Resolution 2150 in April, the Council recalled the Council's devastating failure to prevent the Genocide in Rwanda, and reaffirmed the Council's Responsibility to Protect populations from mass atrocity. It is essential that the Council recognise when it fails and is serious in correcting failure for the future. And that it responds to its significant preventive responsibilities much more effectively. We welcome the fact that the Council is putting R2P into action in its response to atrocities in CAR and South Sudan by authorising and strengthening UN missions. The Secretary-General's Rights Up Front initiative provides further encouragement to the Council to act in the face of serious human rights violations; a briefing for the Council on this would be very useful.

The ability of UN peacekeeping missions to protect civilians is the fundamental measure by which the effectiveness of the Council and the UN system is judged. The actions of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in providing protection for 80,000 civilians in their bases has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to delivering on expectations that the UN will protect. The fact that these civilians fled to UNMISS bases illustrates a basic truth – people under threat expect the UN to protect them. The Council's adoption of Resolution 2155 a few days ago has now sharpened the protection of civilians focus for the UNMISS mission, and provided the additional troops necessary to extend protection beyond key centres.

Importantly, Resolution 2155 also instructs UNMISS to create the conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance across the country. This demonstrates another crucial role for the Council – to ensure full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for populations in need. We must do this consistently, and ensure there are genuine consequences for arbitrary denial of humanitarian access. In the case of Syria, we must act to give access to all those in need, not just those in areas controlled by the Government.

The manner in which the Council deploys peacekeepers, and the subsequent actions of those peacekeepers in the field, is another central factor shaping perceptions of the Council's credibility. The Council has a fundamental interest in ensuring that peacekeeping personnel – military, police and civilians – are adequately trained, suitably equipped and quickly deployed, and that the right Force Commanders are chosen. Appropriate use of new technologies is crucial to enhancing the effectiveness of UN missions.

Another measure of the Council's credibility is the manner in which it responds to attacks on UN personnel. In the past month, UN personnel have been attacked and killed in CAR, Mali, Somalia, Sudan (Darfur), and South Sudan. In most cases, the Council has issued statements of condemnation, and urged accountability. But rarely does action follow. The Council must prioritise this.

The manner in which the Council designs, utilises, and follows up on the sanctions regimes it establishes is a further test of its credibility. The Council's willingness in recent months to establish new sanctions regimes is welcome, as is the focus on ensuring appropriate listings. The decision by the Al Qaeda sanctions committee to list Boko Haram was an essential demonstration of Council determination to address evolving threats. At the nub of the sanctions regimes must be their effective implementation. Self-evidently they have no utility otherwise. Our sanctions committees must assist Member States with implementation – as highlighted so effectively in the open debate on the 1540 (non-proliferation) regime this month. And vitally, the Council must respect the expert groups and panels it appoints to help implement our sanctions regimes, and should not routinely reject or ignore their advice or recommendations. Where the Council creates specific exceptions to sanctions regimes – as in Somalia – or seeks to wind down sanctions regimes – as in Liberia – this must be done responsibly.

The Council's credibility also depends on the Council speaking out, and using its authority. The Council has issued 13 press statements this month, ensuring the Council's voice was heard on a wide range of issues and incidents. We must be consistent and timely in our public messaging.

To conclude, Mr President,

Why is the Council's credibility important? Because perceptions matter, and they influence actions by others. Because, when the Council's credibility is in question, its authority and its ability to determine or even influence results is weakened, and the maintenance of international peace and security thus becomes significantly more difficult. It is therefore imperative that the Council acts at all times in a manner which preserves and enhances the Council's credibility. This is a genuine challenge for all of us.

Thank you. And may I express best wishes to the Russian delegation for the month of June.

Last Updated: 18 June 2015
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