Pushing for a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict must be the top priority for Australia as it takes on its month-long presidency of the United Nations Security Council from today, Oxfam Australia said.
Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said the role of Security Council president gave Australia a real chance – and an important responsibility – to make sure the international community acted to find a political solution to the Syrian war.
“Australia’s presidency of the UN Security Council is an historic opportunity for us to play a lead role in improving the lives of people affected by war and conflict,” Dr Szoke said.
“With more than 100,000 lives already lost because of the Syrian crisis, and millions in the region in need of humanitarian aid, intensifying peaceful efforts to stop the bloodshed must be Australia’s number one priority as it takes on the critical role of Security Council president.”
The aid agency also welcomed the Australian Government’s recent statements warning against a hasty military response in Syria, which Oxfam fears could put civilians at danger, and threaten regional stability.
“Any military intervention should be an option of last resort. Australia should instead use its leadership position on the Security Council to push for long overdue peace talks on Syria, and prevent further arming of rebel groups.”
The international aid agency is also urging Australia to use its September presidency of the Council to help advance women’s rights in Afghanistan, and take steps to address the impact of illicit small arms in fuelling threats to peace and security.
With the Security Council’s quarterly debate on Afghanistan scheduled for September, Oxfam is calling for Australia to use its presidency to highlight the need to recruit more women into the Afghan National Police. Women currently make up about one per cent of the Afghan police force.
“Afghan women experience some of the highest levels of violence in the world, yet most are unable to turn to male police because of cultural barriers,” Dr Szoke said. “Increasing women police numbers is critical to securing the rights of Afghan women and girls and their access to the formal justice system.”
Oxfam is also urging Australia to use its presidency to push for the Security Council to build on the achievements of the recently adopted Arms Trade Treaty and take a more active role in tackling the impact of illicit and unregulated arms on international peace and security.
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia’s Rachael Nightingale on 0449 881 980.