Australia and the United Nations

Australia is firmly committed to effective global cooperation, including through the United Nations (UN) and its specialised agencies and regional commissions. Engaging with the multilateral system is a key pillar of Australia's foreign policy. This is because we live in a complex, inter-connected world where countries cannot address on their own some of the major challenges we face today.

Australia is a founding member of the UN, an active participant in UN institutions for over 65 years and the 12th largest contributor to the UN regular and peacekeeping budgets. Australia held the first Presidency of the Security Council in 1946 and provided the first military personnel as peacekeepers under UN auspices a year later, to Indonesia. Australia is one of the top ten contributors to the World Health Organization; World Food Programme; UN Children's Fund; UN Central Emergency Response Fund: UN High Commissioner for Refugees; and UN Trust Fund for Indigenous Populations.

International peace and security

Australia has provided more than 65,000 personnel to more than 50 UN and other multilateral peace and security operations since 1947. Of these, over 30,000 have participated in UN peace operations and more than 20,000 in UN-mandated operations.

Australia has been integrally involved in global efforts to build and restore peace for more than 60 years. As a capable and dependable partner, Australian expertise is sought after in developing the frameworks for promoting human rights, protecting the most vulnerable and preventing a return to conflict.

Australia has a long and distinguished record of promoting global disarmament and non-proliferation. Australia played a leading role in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Australia also initiated the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and, with Japan, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. More recently, Australia established, also with Japan, the ten-country Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative to take forward the outcomes of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. In addition, Australia is deeply engaged with the negotiations for a new Arms Trade Treaty to enhance international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.

Australia is committed to strengthening international law to prevent conflict and restore peace and security.

Millennium Development Goals

Australia provides strong endorsement of and action on the Millennium Development Goals.

Environmental issues

Australia is working hard to help shape a strong global solution on climate change through multilateral, bilateral and regional activities, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agenda. Following our ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, Australia has played a lead role in pursuing a post-2012 outcome that includes credible and binding mitigation contributions by all major economies and assistance directed particularly toward the most vulnerable countries.

Australia is committed to working with other countries to implement the coherent forward agenda for sustainable development that was agreed by world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. Australia’s priorities are the sustainable management of oceans; sustainable development goals; Indigenous land and sea management; mining for sustainable development; gender equality; food security; and disaster risk reduction.

Natural disasters further entrench poverty. Living in a region prone to frequent and seasonal natural disasters, Australia is involved in disaster risk reduction programs to protect the most vulnerable communities.

Human rights and gender equality

Australia has an enduring commitment to human rights internationally and is a party to major human rights treaties. Australia was one of the eight countries that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation.

Australia is committed to advancing gender equality both at home and abroad and recognises that women are powerful agents of change for peace and security. Australia recently appointed the first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls to advocate for the needs of women and girls.

The Indigenous peoples of the world

Reconciliation is fundamental to maintaining peace and security internationally, respecting human rights and promoting equality, dignity and self-determination.

In February 2008, the Australian Parliament formally apologised to Indigenous peoples for past mistreatment and injustices. This was a turning point in Australia's history. Just as Australia recognises the wrongs in its own past, we seek to advance the interest of First Peoples around the world. In the UN, we support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have played an important role in the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Australians have served as both governmental and non-governmental members. We are the fifth largest contributor to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Indigenous Populations. In November 2010, Australia worked with Bolivia to secure UN agreement on convening a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014.

United Nations reform

Australia wants to ensure that the UN delivers on the ground for the people, communities and nations that need it most. Australia played an important role in drafting the articles of the UN Charter that deal with the Security Council. We argued against allowing permanent members a veto power. Australia supports reform of the Security Council and its working methods to better reflect the modern world and ensure it is accessible to small and middle-sized countries.

International economic cooperation

Australia takes a close interest in a number of important economic issues debated in the United Nations. Developing countries are naturally very concerned to overcome the impact on their economies of problems such as the high level of debt, persistent high interest rates, persistent unacceptable levels of unemployment, depressed and unstable commodity prices, fluctuating exchange rates, inflation and continuing population pressures. Economic interdependence is a fact of international life. Countries including Australia need to pursue their economic interests, particularly in trade and finance matters, within a multilateral setting. All countries, developed and developing, have therefore a serious interest in trying to make the multilateral system work more effectively in the economic area.

Commitment to interfaith and inter-religious dialogue

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations, whose people identify with more than 270 ethnicities, speak more than 260 languages, and observe all the world's religions. Australia is committed to fostering mutual respect and understanding among different religions and cultures. We are an active participant in UN initiatives, including the Alliance of Civilizations and Ministerial Meetings on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace. In 2009, we hosted the Parliament of the World's Religions and we co-chair a regional interfaith dialogue process in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Australia also supports grassroots programs in our region to promote intercultural and community links.