Australia breaking ground on Security Council, but must shift words into action

Media Releases article written on the 16 Apr 2014

With just eight months left before Australia hands back its seat on the UN Security Council, there is little time left to fully maximize this rare opportunity to make a real difference for people who are caught up in the horror of war in places like Syria and Afghanistan.

A new report by Oxfam Australia released today – On the Home Stretch: Why Australia must use its final months on the UN Security Council to advance the rights and safety of civilians – shows that Australia has been instrumental in negotiating some of the Council’s most significant and positive resolutions since it took up its role in January 2013, including agreements on small arms control, humanitarian aid access in Syria and protecting women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the report warns that questions remain about the impact of these agreements as we witness a significant deterioration of peace and security globally.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Australia’s term on the Council had been ‘bittersweet’.

“While Australia should be immensely proud of its achievements on the UN Security Council, we cannot ignore the fact that conflict has escalated dramatically across many countries in the past year – from Syria and Sudan to the Central African Republic,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia has brokered some important agreements on the Council and arguably made more of an impact than thought possible for an elected, non-permanent member.  But now the government needs to work to translate these successes into action on the ground.”

Dr Szoke said there was often a wide gap between the Security Council’s agreements relating to the protection of civilians and the willingness and capacity of the Council’s members to hold themselves, other governments and peacekeeping missions accountable for implementation.

“This ‘implementation gap’ is a significant impediment to international peace and security, and Australia needs to focus the remainder of its Security Council term on transforming words into tangible outcomes,” she said.

“Australia should start by pushing for greater transparency of Security Council processes, including opening up the Council to greater scrutiny from the public.”

She said among Australia’s achievements had been securing a Security Council agreement to facilitate the opening up of humanitarian access in Syria – where the number of people requiring assistance had more than doubled since Australia took up its seat.

“Australia now needs to continue with this powerful momentum if it is to leave a positive and lasting legacy for the men, women and children suffering through ongoing crises,” she said.


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