Australia’s election to the United Nations Security Council is a rare opportunity to play a leading role in addressing the greatest international security challenges of our time, according to a new report by international aid agency Oxfam Australia.
Oxfam’s Off the bench report, published today, makes the case for why Australia should use its Security Council term to focus on protecting civilians: ordinary women, men and children affected by war and conflict around the world.
The report says there has been a serious deterioration in security for civilians in a number of places around the world in 2012, which included:
• more than three quarters of a million people being forced to flee their homes in terror in Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a result of intensified fighting
• more than 200,000 refugees languishing in overcrowded camps in South Sudan, most from the conflict-ravaged Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions of Sudan
• a three-fold rise in the number of attacks on schools in Afghanistan, with girls schools particularly targeted.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said Australia has an historic opportunity to push the Security Council to play a more constructive role in ending this kind of suffering.
“After 26 years, Australia will finally come off the bench and take up a seat at the most powerful body in the United Nations system,” Mr Hewett said.
“But to do the job well, Australia needs to work to prevent conflict and protect people affected by violence – no matter who they are or where they live.”
Oxfam’s report says Australia’s strategy should focus on two priorities: ensuring better protection for civilians caught up in conflict; and addressing the global spread of conventional arms – such as guns, tanks and grenades – that are injuring or killing 1500 people every day.
“Australia should build on its experience in places like Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands to push the Security Council to ensure UN-led and authorised missions act to better protect civilians,” Mr Hewett said.
With the Security Council term lasting just two years, he said Australia would need to hit the ground running to make the most of its term.
“From day one, Australia will need a clear approach and strategy for what it wants to achieve as well as the resources and people to back it up,” he said. “Bi-partisan support and commitment to resourcing Australia’s role on the Security Council will be a key factor in its success in helping to make the world a safer place.”
Click here to access the Off the bench report. For interviews and more information please contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or firstname.lastname@example.org