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 United Nations

Pillars and priorities

Australia was a founding member of the United Nations – we have been an advocate ever since for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter which support human rights.

For over 70 years, we have continued to advocate for these principles, remaining an international human rights leader. Australia has been a champion of the principle that all states be treated equally, no matter their size.

We stand by these principles today, especially in the context of advancing human rights in the Indo-Pacific region.

This commitment reflects national values that are deeply embedded in Australian society and our respect for democracy and the rule of law. It also underpins the way we have always engaged with the international community – with active, practical advocacy, sensitivity and fairness, and a willingness to speak out against human rights violations and abuses.

Australia's membership is built around five pillars:

  • gender equality
  • good governance
  • freedom of expression
  • the rights of indigenous peoples
  • strong national human rights institutions and capacity building

These five pillars represent areas where Australia can advance human rights in practical, sensible ways that will have far-reaching systemic effects over time. Areas where we are already leaders in promoting improvements, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.

Our term on the Council will also be guided by other core objectives: the abolition of the death penalty; equal human rights for LGBTI people; and freedom of religion and belief. Australia has some of the most advanced laws in the world, including on intersex status.

As our recent membership of the UN Security Council demonstrated, we get things done. We acted as a bridge-builder and did not shy away from difficult issues. We convinced the Council to discuss human rights in the DPRK for the first time. We will bring this principled but practical approach to the HRC. We will listen to the concerns of other member states, particularly our smaller regional neighbours in the Indo-Pacific.

Voluntary pledges

In accordance with resolution 60/251, Australia lodged its voluntary pledges and commitments [PDF 254 KB] with the United Nations General Assembly on 24 July 2017. The pledges are in line with Australia's five campaign pillars and adhere to our longstanding commitment to promote and protect human rights.

On 11 September 2017, ahead of the Human Rights Council elections in New York on 16 October 2017, we were pleased to attend the Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights pledging events in Geneva and New York.

We presented our vision for Council membership, and responded to questions from other States and civil society on how we will realise the pledges and commitments made in support of our candidacy.

As demonstrated by our participation in the pledging events in New York and Geneva, we support civil society participation in international organisations, and our commitment to international scrutiny and accountability is unwavering. That is why we have received five Special Rapporteur visits in the last year, and that is why we ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in December 2017.

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