New SCAN project: The influence of elected members

ARC Discovery Project

Leveraging power and influence on the UN Security Council: The role of elected members

PRESS RELEASE

Inaugural workshop launches new project to investigate the power and influence of UN Security Council elected members

When countries serve a two-year elected term on the UN Security Council—as Australia did in 2013–14—they must use innovative diplomacy if they want their voice heard. Australian researchers have begun a four-year project to discover the diplomatic practices that can help elected members wield influence on the world stage.

The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Forged by a post-World War II settlement of the victorious powers, the UN Charter allocates special rights and responsibilities to five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (the P-5). More than 70 years later, this structure has not essentially changed. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Council is controlled by the P-5, while the other 188 UN member states are effectively sidelined, including those serving two-year terms on the Council as elected, non-permanent members.

This project challenges the conventional wisdom of unfettered P-5 predominance. It examines how elected members on the Security Council can influence Council decision-making and norm development. Assembling a research team of international lawyers and political scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the University of Queensland (UQ), and the Australian National University (ANU), the project provides a rigorous, multi-disciplinary evaluation of why and when non-permanent Council members have been able to shape the Council’s decision-making process, despite lacking the veto power available to the P-5.

The four-year research project was officially launched at the ANU’s Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy on Friday, 19 February 2016, when the project team convened a roundtable of key stakeholders from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the academy and from the wider policy community, under the Chatham House rule.

Three preliminary findings stand out:

  1. For Australia, finding effective means of leveraging power and influence on the UN Security Council is of utmost importance, given the centrality of the Council in, and Canberra’s dependency on, a functioning rules-based global order.
  2. The project’s outputs, which include advancing evidence-based and empirically grounded policy proposals designed to increase the capacity of elected members to exercise power and influence over the Council’s agenda and policy, will be of vital interest to the 188 UN member states that are not permanent Security Council members.
  3. Finally, the project raises larger questions of global governance in times of shifting power. At the beginning of the 21st Century, the global order is in transition. The liberal institutional architecture that was created in the aftermath of World War II is not only challenged by complex problems but also by the lack of voice and representation of those countries to which global power is shifting. This wider background turns the project into a compelling case study with profound implications beyond the case of the UN Security Council.

Contact: Ms Marie-Eve Loiselle, Project Manager, m.loiselle@unsw.edu.au

Project website: https://scan-un.org/

Brisbane, Canberra, and Sydney, 19 February 2016

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Australia adds weight in global leadership

ml-artw-leadership-20131028173741200955-620x349 In world diplomacy, the Security Council has been a vital proving ground.

The Canberra Times29 October 2013

Jeremy Farrall and Jeni Whalan

Australia is almost halfway through its two-year elected term on the UN Security Council. Our delegation has acquitted itself well, particularly in the ceremonial role of council president in September. Hopes are high that Australia can build on its 2013 achievements to craft a lasting legacy as a productive contributor to global peace and security.

During the first half of 2013 Australia made solid contributions to the Security Council’s work, primarily in its work as chair of the committees overseeing sanctions against Iran, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It also worked behind the scenes to coax other council members to support action to address the shocking humanitarian situation in Syria. An example of these efforts was Australia’s sponsorship of an informal briefing for Security Council members by a UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Australia’s most important test came in September, when we assumed the temporary position of Security Council president. Preparations for the presidency were hampered by the timing of federal elections, which complicated efforts to arrange a flagship high-level council meeting on a theme of Australia’s choosing. As president Australia also faced the considerable challenge of managing differences between council members on how to address the crisis in Syria. Tensions over Syria were particularly high following the August 21 use of chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus.

Despite these challenges, Australia managed to preside over three important high-level meetings and secure the adoption of two landmark resolutions. The first high-level meeting, on September 26, was on stopping the illegal flow of small arms and light weapons. Australia chose this theme to build on its successful efforts earlier this year as chair of the final conference for the Arms Trade Treaty. It was the Security Council’s first formal meeting on small arms for five years and Australia’s leadership ensured that an intensive negotiation process culminated in the adoption of the council’s first ever resolution on small arms.

The second high-level meeting, on September 27, discussed the situation in Yemen, where an ongoing national dialogue process is making progress towards a more peaceful, inclusive transition to democracy, notwithstanding ongoing security, political and humanitarian concerns, particularly in the south of the country.

In the third high-level meeting, late on September 27, the Security Council took its first action in 18 months to address the situation in Syria. In one of its final acts as president, Australia thus presided over the adoption of resolution 2118 (2013), which endorsed the framework agreed by the United States and Russia for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. As Australia’s ambassador Gary Quinlan noted at the time, this was a momentous occasion.

After a successful first year of membership, Australia now has greater diplomatic capital with which to address important global issues that might otherwise escape the attention of the Security Council’s major powers.

While the threat of military strikes against Syria is no longer immediate, there is little respite for the seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance. On October 2, a joint Australia-Luxembourg initiative culminated in a presidential statement calling for all UN member states to contribute with urgency to the ongoing humanitarian appeals for Syria. At $4.4 billion, the Syrian appeals constitute the largest aid request in the UN’s history. Barely half the funding needs have so far been met. A crucial test of Australia’s leadership will be whether it can maintain its commendable record on Syria’s humanitarian crisis, both in and outside the Security Council.

Australia should continue its efforts to improve Security Council transparency and accountability. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative, once championed by Australia, has fallen out of favour with many UN members as an unfortunate consequence of NATO’s over-enthusiastic implementation of the mandate to protect civilians in Libya. One way to restore confidence in R2P would be to develop appropriate accountability mechanisms for civilian protection mandates. Australia should also encourage careful review within the council of recent shifts in UN peacekeeping practice, including the authorisation of ”combat peacekeepers” and surveillance drones in the Congo, a controversial new mission in Mali, and expanded efforts to counter organised crime and terrorism throughout Africa.

Finally, Australia is the ”penholder” on Afghanistan – the nickname for a Security Council member that takes the lead on the issue’s deliberations. With both elections and the ”transition” of NATO-led international operations due in 2014, Australia will play a crucial role in shaping the future role and status of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Australia has 14 more months on the Security Council, including another turn as monthly president. Australia’s legacy will be shaped by our ability to use this time to promote political and humanitarian progress in Syria, increase the council’s transparency and accountability, strengthen peacekeeping practice and promote a constructive role for the UN in Afghanistan.

Let’s hope our diplomats have the stamina and support to achieve positive outcomes on all these fronts.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/australia-adds-weight-in-global-leadership-20131028-2wbrd.html#ixzz2jpYJ52b5

New York is Jakarta: why Tony Abbott should attend Leaders’ Week at the UN

Jeni Whalan and Jeremy Farrall

First published by The Conversation, 20 September 2013

Foreign minister Julie Bishop’s austerity announcementsover the weekend make it clear that she will attend Leaders’ Week at the United Nations later this month. But it is still not clear whether Australia’s new prime minister Tony Abbott will attend this important gathering of world leaders. We think he should.

The UN remains the most important forum of global governance, indispensable for collective efforts to solve the world’s most troubling problems. But visiting New York this September will also enable Abbott to achieve two of his most important short-term foreign policy goals: consolidating relations with our nearest neighbours and saving money for the Australian taxpayer.

Every September, world leaders gather in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly. This provides leaders of the UN’s 193 member states an opportunity to share their views of the biggest challenges facing the world community. It also provides an invaluable chance for these leaders to meet their counterparts to discuss issues of pressing national interest.

In the past, Australian prime ministers have taken full advantage of this opportunity. Kevin Rudd is reported to have held around 50 one-on-one meetings with other heads of state and foreign ministers.

During the final days of the election campaign, Abbott was asked if he would attend this important event. While he didn’t rule out the possibility, he used the opportunity to emphasise his “Jakarta not Geneva” approach to foreign policy by assuring journalists that his first international visit would be to Indonesia.

There are many reasons why Abbott should go to New York. The first is that he is now Australia’s leader and there is a reason that this occasion is called “Leaders’ Week” rather “Foreign Ministers’ Week”. This is Abbott’s opportunity to announce his arrival on the global stage as Australia’s leader and to begin forging those essential personal relationships with his peers.

Australia is also currently President of the UN Security Council, and it will hold a high-level meeting on small arms on September 26. As the meeting will take place during leaders’ week, all 15 Security Council members have been invited at the head of state level.

As the Security Council’s president, Abbott could therefore get to bang the gavel to call to attention a gathering of peers that might include presidents Obama, Putin, Hollande and Jinping, and conservative UK prime minister David Cameron. There is also a possibility that the presence of such leaders in New York might galvanise the Security Council into action on Syria, which would make the absence of an Australian prime minister all the more conspicuous.

Finally, Abbott does not have to “choose” between regional and global commitments. All of our region’s most important leaders will be in New York. He could therefore advance Australia’s national interests in meetings with his most valued regional peers on issues of bilateral and multilateral concern. Of course, if he were to meet these leaders in person in New York then it would eradicate the need to undertake costly trips at taxpayers’ expense to dozens of other capitals.

Visiting New York for Leaders’ Week is not a frivolous extravagance: it is core business for Australia’s new prime minister. That Tony Abbott can save money conducting foreign policy at the United Nations should be the icing on the cake.

This Saturday, Australians will finally elect a president

Gary Quinlan, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of September, chairs the Council’s meeting on the situation in Liberia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.
Gary Quinlan, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of September, chairs the Council’s meeting on the situation in Liberia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Australia is now President of the United Nations Security Council. Throughout September, Australia will set the council’s agenda and chair its meetings. But what will this Saturday’s federal election result mean for Australia’s September presidency and our remaining 16 months on the council?

First published by The Conversation, 2 September 2013

Jeremy Farrall and Marie-Eve Loiselle

Under normal circumstances it would be a stroke of good fortune to hold the Security Council presidency in September. Towards the end of the month, presidents and prime ministers from around the world will gather in New York for UN leaders’ week.

In previous years, countries holding the council presidencyin September have scheduled high-profile, high-level council debates on important global themes. But the scheduling of federal elections during the same month as our presidency has complicated our diplomatic efforts to make the most of this rare opportunity.

It is no small irony that the greatest challenge posed so far to Australia’s presidential aspirations has come not from a sceptical Coalition, but from a convinced Labor. As Oscar Wilde might have observed, to schedule elections in September once (under Gillard) may be regarded as a misfortune but to do so twice (under Rudd) seems like carelessness.

Kevin Rudd must have been tempted to delay the elections beyond September so that he could have the Security Council presidency all to himself. But the Coalition would have gleefully painted him once again as “Kevin 747”, a prime minister who was more interested in rubbing shoulders with global leaders than humble Australians.

Somehow, despite the conflict between national elections and our Security Council presidency, Australia has managed to schedule a high-level council meeting on small arms. This is the first time since 2008 that the council has held a formal debate on this topic.

According to diplomatic convention, our prime minister will be expected to sit in the president’s chair for the high-level meeting on small arms. This means that the election’s victor will soon get the chance not just to look presidential, but to be president of the most important peace and security body in the world.

So how will the election result affect the rest of Australia’s presidency? The answer is very little. While the Security Council has the flexibility to respond spontaneously to pressing threats to international peace and security, September’s formal schedule was painstakingly negotiated with other council members during August.

No matter which candidate wins government on Saturday, he will have little scope to modify the agenda for this month. In terms of protocol, Australia’s UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan will be the daily face and voice of the council throughout September.

The more interesting question is how the election result will affect Australia’s general participation on the council once our month as president ends. Kevin Rudd’s position on the virtues of Security Council membership would appear clear. He was the chief engineer of Australia’s campaign to join the council and plainly values any chance to showcase his nation’s contributions on the global stage.

So, if anyone understands the importance and the possibilities of our council membership it is Kevin Rudd. If he does win on Saturday, then he could be expected to use the presidency and the remainder of our membership to promote effective action to protect civilians in Syria and to stamp out illegal trade in small arms. However, with the polls the way they are, it is highly likely that Tony Abbott will soon set the priorities for Australia’s membership on the Security Council.

Australia is now President of the United Nations Security Council. Throughout September, Australia will set the council’s agenda and chair its meetings. But what will this Saturday’s federal election result mean for Australia’s September presidency and our remaining 16 months on the council?

Under normal circumstances it would be a stroke of good fortune to hold the Security Council presidency in September. Towards the end of the month, presidents and prime ministers from around the world will gather in New York for UN leaders’ week.

In previous years, countries holding the council presidencyin September have scheduled high-profile, high-level council debates on important global themes. But the scheduling of federal elections during the same month as our presidency has complicated our diplomatic efforts to make the most of this rare opportunity.

It is no small irony that the greatest challenge posed so far to Australia’s presidential aspirations has come not from a sceptical Coalition, but from a convinced Labor. As Oscar Wilde might have observed, to schedule elections in September once (under Gillard) may be regarded as a misfortune but to do so twice (under Rudd) seems like carelessness.

Kevin Rudd must have been tempted to delay the elections beyond September so that he could have the Security Council presidency all to himself. But the Coalition would have gleefully painted him once again as “Kevin 747”, a prime minister who was more interested in rubbing shoulders with global leaders than humble Australians.

Somehow, despite the conflict between national elections and our Security Council presidency, Australia has managed to schedule a high-level council meeting on small arms. This is the first time since 2008 that the council has held a formal debate on this topic.

According to diplomatic convention, our prime minister will be expected to sit in the president’s chair for the high-level meeting on small arms. This means that the election’s victor will soon get the chance not just to look presidential, but to be president of the most important peace and security body in the world.

So how will the election result affect the rest of Australia’s presidency? The answer is very little. While the Security Council has the flexibility to respond spontaneously to pressing threats to international peace and security, September’s formal schedule was painstakingly negotiated with other council members during August.

No matter which candidate wins government on Saturday, he will have little scope to modify the agenda for this month. In terms of protocol, Australia’s UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan will be the daily face and voice of the council throughout September.

The more interesting question is how the election result will affect Australia’s general participation on the council once our month as president ends. Kevin Rudd’s position on the virtues of Security Council membership would appear clear. He was the chief engineer of Australia’s campaign to join the council and plainly values any chance to showcase his nation’s contributions on the global stage.

So, if anyone understands the importance and the possibilities of our council membership it is Kevin Rudd. If he does win on Saturday, then he could be expected to use the presidency and the remainder of our membership to promote effective action to protect civilians in Syria and to stamp out illegal trade in small arms. However, with the polls the way they are, it is highly likely that Tony Abbott will soon set the priorities for Australia’s membership on the Security Council.

It is less clear how Abbott would use Australia’s seat on the Security Council. He was of course a vocal critic of Australia’s campaign for a council seat and the Coalition’s few electoral foreign policy pronouncements have suggested a preference for Jakarta over Geneva, and trade over aid. Abbott’s shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop recently suggested that a Coalition government would use its membership to focus the council’s attention on preventing the emergence of failed states in our region.

However, if in government, the Coalition would have to engage effectively in council deliberations on the global crises of the moment, no matter where they may be located. In the current climate this is more likely to mean Syria, Egypt or Afghanistan than Fiji or the Solomon Islands. The Coalition should not shy away from shouldering Australia’s responsibilities on the council.

If it serves no other purpose, Australia’s council membership would surely enable Abbott to fulfil the pledge in his policy booklet to “enhance Australia’s role and engagement in the world developing greater international cooperation”.

If Kevin Rudd defies the odds to win Saturday’s election, he would fly to New York in a heartbeat to preside over the Security Council’s high-level meeting on small arms. And despite the Coalition’s vocal opposition to the Labor Party’s campaign for Security Council membership, Tony Abbott’s advisers must be licking their lips at the prospect of prime minister Abbott chairing a council meeting potentially attended by presidents Obama, Putin, Jinping and Hollande, as well as British prime minister David Cameron.

Such a priceless photo opportunity would announce and anoint Abbott as a heavyweight leader on the global stage. Depending on your perspective, it would be a terrible – or delicious – irony that the person he would most have to thank for the chance to partake in his first truly historic moment on the international stage would be none other than Kevin Rudd.

Women, peace and security: the theme of Australia’s Security Council presidency

Women in Côte d'Ivoire gather to celebrate International Women's Day in Abidjan. UN Photo/Ky Chung
Women inCôte d’Ivoire gather to celebrate International Women’s Day in Abidjan. UN Photo/Ky Chung

A priority mentioned in Australian speeches and statements to the United Nations this year – Women, Peace and Security (WPS) – is likely to feature as the key “theme” of Australia’s presidency of the Security Council. 

But what is the WPS agenda? What progress has been made so far, and – given our support has been stronger in rhetoric than practice – what can Australia do better?

First published by The Conversation, 30 August 2013

Susan Harris-Rimmer and Hilary Charlesworth

Just before the election was called, foreign minister Bob Carr confirmed that:

…[a] key priority for Australia on the council — particularly during our presidency in September — will be to highlight the important leadership role women can play in ensuring long-lasting peace in fragile post‑conflict societies.

The presidency carries great responsibility for holding the crisis management powers of the Security Council bestowed under the UN Charter. It also offers the opportunity to frame an agenda that carries forward the broader themes of the Security Council, which includes the WPS agenda since 2000.

About the WPS agenda

The Women, Peace and Security agenda appears in a cluster of UN Security Council Resolutions. The groundbreakingResolution 1325 was adopted in 2000 with an agenda framed on the premise that women and girls experience conflict differently from men and boys. It affirmed that women have an essential role in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict reconstruction and that governments are required to ensure women are represented in all levels of decision-making.

Later resolutions reaffirmed the first. The most recent isResolution 2106, adopted in July this year, which focused on prevention of sexual violence in conflict and increasing the participation of more women in the UN’s own “good offices” roles in mediating conflict and negotiating peace.

The UN Secretary-General has also appointed a Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, whose mandate includes empowering women to seek redress,ending impunity for conflict-related sexual violence and increasing recognition of rape.

One key action in terms of WPS is for states to design and implement National Action Plans. Australia launched aNational Action Plan in 2012. So far, only around 40 countries have implemented National Action Plans. However, few are funded, and there is little or no baseline data for many of the actions. It seems that institutional commitment to WPS is more rhetorical than real.

In some cases, even the rhetoric has proven controversial. In the last two years, debates on the thematic agendas have been criticised as extending beyond the Security Council’s mandate, such as the focus on sexual violence during election turmoil. But there is some evidence that WPS issues are being considered more routinely in debates.

What will Australia do?

Australia will host a “side event” on September 6 focused on women’s leadership in peace-building. The event is intended to be an interactive meeting between civil society, field practitioners and peace-building and gender experts of Security Council delegations, with an Asia-Pacific focus. Australia will also launch a publication by London-based NGOConciliation Resources entitled Women building peace. There are essays from women in strife-torn places such Somalia, West Africa, Aceh and Cambodia.

As chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Croatia, together with UN Women, will hold a high-level meeting on women’s economic empowerment in post-conflict peace-building during leaders’ week in late September.

Australia is working closely with Croatia on planning for this event to highlight the close links between the work of the PBC and the UNSC on women’s leadership in post-conflict peace-building.

There are a number of other opportunities for Australia to focus on WPS in September. For example, the UK is planning a high-level event on its Champions Initiative as part of its program to prevent sexual violence.

What more should Australia do?

A positive aspect of the government’s current plans is a clear focus on the participation of women, which is at the heart of the WPS agenda. This differentiates Australia’s focus from the theme so far this year on the protection of women against sexual violence during conflict.

Bringing peace-building experts to talk to gender experts is important, as these experts are often operating within UN silos. So too is presenting the evidence for why these issues deserve to be at the centre of the agenda and not at the margins.

To do this using the direct voice of women involved – such asSister Lorraine in Papua New Guinea – is crucial.

Another positive aspect of Australia’s plans is to strengthen some of the Security Council architecture such as thePeacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Support Office. It is also important to bring an Asia-Pacific perspective to the debates of the Security Council, which is often heavily focused on Africa. There has been significant civil society consultation, both here and in New York, and civil society actors from the field will be involved.

However, there are also disappointing aspects of the current plans. For example, why is Australia planning simply side events on WPS? There is an array of other mechanisms within the Security Council processes, including a presidential statement and open debate that are recorded in the official proceedings.

Of course, Australia has the opportunity to raise WPS during the business of the Security Council as it plays out in crisis mode. This could be in the sanctions committees and the drafting of mandates, country-based debates and budget decisions – not just in September but for our whole term on the council. Civil society should keep on Australia’s case about this. For example, Australia could draw attention to theevidence that the major cause of flight for Syrian refugees was sexual violence.

The timing of the election has clearly cast a pall over Australia’s first presidency. Let’s hope that Australia starts planning now for a more impressive presidency stint next November.

Security Council sanctions: can Australia make a difference?

Gary Quinlan (second from left), Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of September, briefs members in his capacity as Chairman of the Council’s 1737 Sanctions Committee on Iran. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
Gary Quinlan (second from left), Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN and President of the Security Council for the month of September, briefs members in his capacity as Chairman of the Council’s 1737 Sanctions Committee on Iran. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

For the United Nations Security Council, sanctions are an important instrument in addressing threats to international peace and security. They usually take the form of controls and bans on travel, trade in specified goods and services, and on financial dealings with designated persons and entities.

first published by The Conversation 29 August 2013

Christopher Michaelsen and Maire-Eve Loiselle

Since it assumed its role as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in January this year, Australia has been playing a leadership role in chairing three subsidiary bodies of the council mandated to implement UN sanctions: the 1267 Committee on Al-Qaida, the 1988 Committee on the Taliban, and the 1737 Committee on Iran.

It would be foolish to expect that we could instigate widespread reform, in particular if permanent council members like the United States, Russia or China remain sceptical or indeed opposed to further changes. We should nonetheless consider options and opportunities to strengthen the mandate of the Ombudsperson when the 1267 regime comes before the Security Council for extension in June 2014.

The first UN sanctions regimes were comprehensive in that they were directed at states as a whole. But in the late 1990s, it became apparent that such comprehensive sanctions had devastating effects on the innocent population without affecting the regime in power. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s was a case in point.

In response, the council developed “smart” sanctionstargeting specifically identified individuals and entities within states, including an increasing number of non-state actors. Over the last decade, individualised sanctions regimes have proliferated.

The individualisation of UN sanctions, however, has not been accompanied by the creation of effective mechanisms for individuals to challenge the measures targeting them. At the UN level, no judicial or quasi-judicial institutions exist to provide an avenue of appeal. What’s more, recourse to national courts and tribunals tends to be unavailable as these generally lack jurisdiction to review Security Council resolutions.

It is therefore unsurprising that the UN sanctions regimes – the 1267 regime in particular – have been criticised for their lack of due process. Nonetheless, reform has been slow. The most significant development has been the establishment of an Ombudsperson mechanism in 2009 which now allows listed individuals and entities to petition the 1267 Committee for delisting.

While this represents a significant improvement, there is still no obligation for the 1267 Committee or the Security Council to delist a targeted individual or entity if certain requirements are met. Just last month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ)expressed its concerns about the current system. In the Kadi II case, the court held that the lack of effective judicial protection at the UN level required that EU courts proceed to an indirect judicial review of contested listings.

So, what can Australia do in its capacity as chair of three sanctions committees and non-permanent member of the Security Council to address the due process shortcomings?

Some of these options are technical and perhaps politically uncontroversial, but they would have a significant impact on the overall fairness of the process. For instance, the Ombudsperson currently does not have a mandate to follow up in cases where individuals and entities are officially delisted in New York, but where this delisting has not been implemented by states in practice with the consequence that assets freeze and travel restrictions remained in place.

But we should also not lose sight of the bigger picture and consider advocating for extending the Ombudsperson procedure to other UN sanctions regimes. At present, 14 of these regimes operate lists targeting individuals and entities. Yet, the Ombudsperson procedure is only available to those listed by the 1267 Committee. In one case, this has led to the absurd outcome that an individual was delisted from the 1267 list, only to be relisted on the sanctions list of the Committee on Somalia and Eritrea.

It is clear that such broader structural reform requires sustained political will. It is also clear that Australia’s capacity to tackle these broader endemic challenges is limited. But it can nonetheless play an important role in keeping the issue on the agenda, even if immediate progress seems politically unlikely.

The debate on the due process concerns of the UN sanctions regimes is therefore not only about justice for listed individuals and entities per se. Rather, it is also about the system that we want to build. If we want to go beyond the state and target individuals considered to constitute a threat to international peace and security, we should also give them standing to defend themselves. The issue is therefore closely related to the Security Council’s credibility in general.

As the council is becoming more concerned with human rights violations, it should practice what it preaches and operate in line with decent procedures. Australia should make the most out of its presidency of the Security Council and push for continued reform in this regard.

Will Australia make the most of its Security Council presidency?

UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré. Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia.

As the federal election calls Australian attention to matters domestic, our diplomats are preparing for one of their most demanding briefs. On September 1, Australia becomes President of the United Nations Security Council.

Will Australia make the most of its opportunity? Or will politics at home overshadow this crucial role?

first published by The Conversation28 August 2013

Jeremy Farrall and Jeni Whalan

The Security Council is the world’s preeminent authority on matters of international security. It is accorded primary responsibility under the UN Charter for identifying threats to the peace and determining appropriate global responses.

The presidency of the Security Council offers a rare opportunity for Australia to promote its foreign policy agenda within this powerful body, usually by focusing the council’s 15 members on a particular issue of concern. Historically, council presidents have used their tenure to tackle such important issues as preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, protecting civilians in conflict, and promoting justice and the rule of law.

September is a big month at the UN. Not only will our diplomats need to contend with the distractions of the Australian election, they also face a demanding list of precarious international situations before the Security Council.

Last week’s allegations that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against civilians will demand the council’s attention. However, the Syrian conflict exposes the deep political divisions between the council’s permanent members. Russiaand China have repeatedly blocked proposals from the United States, Britain and France for action against the Syrian government. Russian support for an independent UN investigation of the chemical weapons attack is a positive move, but is not expected to lead to Security Council consensus on further action.

Meanwhile, the council is also managing fragile conditions in countries around the world. These include the Democratic Republic of Congo, where earlier this year the council authorised the UN’s first combat peacekeeping operation; the Central African Republic, where deteriorating political, security and humanitarian crises have left 1.6 million people in dire need of assistance, half of them children; and Sudan and South Sudan, where violent conflict and humanitarian crises have occupied the council in 17 meetings this year alone.

Further, the council currently oversees 31 peacekeeping and field-based political missions spanning the globe, including the hotspots of AfghanistanMali and Somalia.

Given the international turmoil and domestic election campaign, why does Australia take on the presidency in September? The simple reason is that the Security Council presidency rotates on a monthly basis according to which country comes next in the English alphabet.

Due to our favourable alphabetical position, Australia was actually the first ever president of the Security Council. On Thursday January 17, 1946, the council’s inaugural meeting was called to order by none other than Australian Norman Makin. The presidency is currently held by Argentina, which will hand us the presidential baton at 12.01 am on Sunday September 1. We will then dutifully pass it to Azerbaijan at 12.01 am on Tuesday October 1. The monthly presidential rotation also means that Australia will have a second opportunity to be president in November 2014.

So what can we expect Australia to do in September while it holds the presidency? As president, we will set the Security Council’s agenda, chair its meetings, sign off on formal correspondence and speak to the press as the official voice of the council. Savvy past presidents have also taken advantage of their position to promote Security Council policy refinements.

If Australia’s performance to date on the council is any indication, then the day-to-day business of the Security Council should proceed smoothly and effectively. Our delegation will undoubtedly fulfil its chairing responsibilities diligently and professionally. But it would be terrific if Australia could use its presidency to deliver more durable improvements in the Security Council’s effectiveness and credibility.

The scheduling of national elections for September was less than ideal for our Security Council presidency. Normally, a September presidency would be a golden opportunity to shape the council’s approach to pressing issues of the day. This is because heads of state and government from the UN’s 193 member states will converge on New York in the third week of September for the annual UN General Assemblyleaders’ week.

An Australian prime minister could therefore preside over a leaders’ level Security Council meeting on their favoured cause, with potential attendees including presidents Obama, Putin, Jinping and Hollande, as well as UK prime minister David Cameron. This would represent a full house of thePermanent Five members.

In the past, September presidents have shone the spotlight on protecting children affected by armed conflict (Germany in 2012), preventing nuclear proliferation (United States in 2009) and maintaining peace and security in Africa (France in 2007).

At the time of writing, Australia has still not announced what its flagship presidency theme will be. Insiders suggest that a rabbit is waiting to be pulled out of the presidency hat. It might be promoting a greater role for women in peace-building, protecting civilians in Syria, strengthening the rule of law in countries emerging from conflict or banning illegal trade in small arms and light weapons.

In light of recent Syrian events and Australia’s own historic role in the successful conclusion of the Chemical Weapons Convention over 20 years ago, this would also be an opportune moment to devote renewed energy to arms control.

Let us hope that Australia makes the most of this opportunity to promote an important theme that will improve the effectiveness and credibility of the Security Council. If we can do this, then we might be remembered not just as a country that worked hard as council president, but as one whose hard work in that position made a difference.

UN peacekeepers cross the line of warfare in the Congo

The idea that peacekeepers should not initiate military action has prevailed … until now. Jeni Whalan says the new “intervention brigade” in the Congo has stretched the institution of peacekeeping to breaking point.

first published by ABC The Drum, 23 April 2013

Jeni Whalan

There’s a fine, but critical, line between keeping the peace and waging a war.

For the blue-helmeted United Nations peacekeepers deployed in some of the world’s worst conflict zones, it’s a line that is constantly, violently tested – by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the early 1990s; by rebels who this month killed five peacekeepers in South Sudan. Yet the greatest challenge may have come from the United Nations itself.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council established an “intervention brigade” to take offensive military action against rebel groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

It’s a decision that takes UN peacekeeping into uncharted waters. Peacekeeping is the UN’s policy instrument of choice for responding to violent conflict around the world. It entails diverse tasks, from monitoring buffer zones to holding elections to demobilising militia forces. But never has UN peacekeeping involved combat operations to defeat an armed group through military force.

The Congo’s new peacekeepers are charged with precisely that: with “neutralising” militia in the country’s east. The move follows an earlier decision in which the Security Council dropped its historic reluctance to give peacekeepers intelligence-gathering capacity, authorising their use of surveillance drones to monitor conflict activity. Despite assurances that the DRC is an exceptional case, these are precedents that demand careful scrutiny.

The earliest peacekeepers were prohibited from using military force except under strictly defined conditions of self-defence. When former UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld penned the first peacekeeping doctrine in 1958, he wrote:

Men engaged in the operation may never take the initiative in the use of armed force, but are entitled to respond with force to an attack with arms … The basic element involved is clearly the prohibition against any initiative in the use of armed force.

This prohibition was relaxed over time. Indeed, peacekeeping is defined foremost by its ad hoc, flexible character, which has continuously evolved in concert with emerging crises and shifting international norms. Each of the touchstone principles of peacekeeping has adapted to new conditions: “state consent” was (selectively) expanded to become the consent of conflict parties; “impartiality” was reconceived after the Rwandan genocide to exclude inaction in the face of evil; and the non-use of force is now recognised to mean “except in self-defence and defence of the mandate”. Since 1999, 12 peacekeeping operations have been authorised to use force to “protect civilians under imminent threat of violence”.

But concern about slippery slopes notwithstanding, peacekeeping has to date been distinguishable from warfare. Hammarskjöld’s notion that peacekeepers should not initiate military action has prevailed.

Until now. The offensive posture of the Congo’s new intervention brigade stretches the institution of peacekeeping to breaking point. Its mandate declares that the new combat force is created on an “exceptional basis” and does not constitute “a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping”. But practice surely outweighs these words. This is a fundamental shift for peacekeeping.

The current situation in the eastern DRC is untenable. After thirteen years of peacekeeping, and despite the current deployment of nearly 20,000 peacekeepers, the country remains defined by its insecurity. DRC occupies the bottom ranking in the UNDP’s Human Development Index: 186th of 186 countries. Armed groups continue to operate with impunity in the country’s east; rape and sexual violence occurs with horrific frequency; and the complex dynamics of a war economy are a destabilising influence throughout the region.

But there is an air of desperation about the Security Council’s authorisation of combat operations in the Congo’s east. The new intervention brigade will operate within the existing MONUSCO operation, which – despite being one of the UN’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping forces – has thus far failed to stem the violence or address the conflict’s root causes.

As respected New York think-tank Security Council Report put it recently:

Many Council members have expressed their scepticism about the capability of the new intervention brigade to neutralise armed groups and restore stability in the eastern DRC.

Nevertheless, it seems that lacking any alternative ideas or political resolve to invest in addressing the root causes of conflict in the region, Council members are willing to endorse a course of action put forward by the regional actors.

If true, a lack of ideas and political resolve seems a dangerous basis indeed on which to redefine peacekeeping, with potential repercussions for people and nations far beyond the DRC.

Dr Jeni Whalan is a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of NSW specialising in peace operations, the UN and Australian foreign policy. View her full profile here.

The decline of consent in international law

2013 Conference on Disarmament. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.
2013 Conference on Disarmament. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré.

International scrutiny of the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs always has a strong legal dimension. But just how far do legal obligations extend?

First published by the Lowy Interpreter19 March 2013

Marie-Eve Loiselle

North Korea’s latest nuclear test came just days after the Security Council indicated in Resolution 2087 that it would be willing to take significant actions in the event of a further North Korean nuclear test. The Security Council’s response to the test came on 7 March with a China-backed resolution that strengthened UN sanctions.

In the case of Iran, Western countries contend that Iran’s failure to disclose the construction of enrichment facilities is in contravention of its obligation under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and its Safeguards Agreement. Iran, on the other hand, relies on NPT Article 4(1) and insists on its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

In January, Oxford scholar Dapo Akande posed the following question on the website of the European Journal of International Law: if Iran withdrew from the NPT, would the Security Council be legally justified to impose on Iran, through a Chapter VII resolution, obligations contained in the NPT and the Safeguards Agreement?

The Security Council has already determined implicitly, in a series of resolutions adopted under Chapter VII, that the Iranian nuclear program constitutes a threat to international peace and security. So a priori, there would be nothing to prevent the Council from imposing obligations contained in the NPT on Iran. Thus, even as a non-party to the NPT, Iran may continue to be subject to the same obligations, since decisions taken under Chapter VII are binding on all UN member states.

Yet there would be something unsettling about such a move by the Security Council. After all, Iran, by withdrawing from the NPT, would simply be exercising the right provided to all state parties under NPT Article X: ‘Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.’

Respect for national sovereignty and the consensual nature of treaty obligations lies at the heart of the question.

While the letter of the UN Charter suggests that the Council would be empowered to impose NPT treaty obligations on Iran, this would clash with that country’s expressed will not to be bound by NPT obligations.

This would not be the first time the Security Council had imposed treaty-like obligations on states. As Vera Gowlland-Debbas noted in a recent paper, in the last decade the Security Council has become increasingly involved in the law-making ‘industry’ through Chapter VII resolutions, especially in the area of non-proliferation.

Some of these resolutions have practically copied and pasted treaty obligations into Security Council resolutions that are now binding on states not party to these agreements (prominent examples include resolutions 1373 and 1540). In country-specific cases,resolutions 1718 and 1874 on North Korea are examples of resolutions imposing treaty obligations on non-parties. North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2002. Yet following North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006, the Security Council demanded that it act in accordance with the obligations of the NPT and the Safeguards Agreement. North Korea’s latest nuclear test calls into question the effectiveness of that approach.

While some of these decisions may have been justified from the standpoint of maintaining international peace and security, the composition of the Security Council, the risk of double standards and the lack of transparency in its decision-making process casts a shadow on this recent practice of enforcing unendorsed treaty obligations through Article 39 of the UN Charter and the determination of a threat to international peace and security. This is further complicated by the fact that the Security Council’s understanding of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security has become increasingly broad in the last two decades.

Intervention in Libya: Another Nail in the Coffin for the Responsibility-to-Protect?

Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Chris Michaelsen and UNSW law graduate David Berman publish a critical article on the Responsibility to Protect doctrine (RtoP) and the intervention in Libya. The article, published in a special edition of the International Community Law Review focusing on Libya, challenges the widespread assertion in the public and academic discourse that the military intervention in Libya was a successful first true test of RtoP. Examining the application of the doctrine as a tool of international political decision making as well as a normative framework in international law, the article reviews relevant Security Council resolutions as well as statements made by UN Member States during the Libyan crisis. These suggest that an express invocation of RtoP would have prevented rather than facilitated the adoption of Resolution 1973 (2011) and its authorisation of the use of force to protect civilians in Libya. It is argued further that a narrower focus on ‘protecting civilians’ rather than on the broader concept of RtoP is likely to provide greater political and legal utility in preventing humanitarian catastrophes in the future, even if the Security Council’s response to the crisis in Syria has been disappointing so far.

Link to the full article and special edition of the journal: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/10.1163/18719732-12341235

First published by Australian Human Rights Centre

Australia wins a seat on the Security Council—but now it needs sound policy

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It’s a comfortable victory that Australia’s diplomatic corps have little time to celebrate. In the early hours of Friday morning, the world’s nations decided that Australia deserved a seat on the United Nations Security Council. But now that the campaign is won, Australia has vital interests to pursue in New York, which demand more than good storytelling, a past record, a generous aid budget and a seemingly endless photo album of Australian peacekeepers hugging small foreign children.

First published by the Canberra Times, 20 October 2012

Jeni Whalan

Australia ran a good campaign. From a standing start, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s strategists achieved a remarkable feat by comfortably beating both Finland and Luxembourg in the first round of voting. That the secret machinations of the vote leant Australia’s way is surely to the credit of our tireless diplomats and planners.

Backed by a growing aid budget, they built a narrative of Australia’s global role designed to appeal to the key voting blocs of developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It told the story of good, honest, pragmatic Australian foreign policy – of a ”practical” contributor that recognises the value of ideals, but is also prepared to roll up the national shirtsleeves when needed.

The campaign’s tagline ”Australia, we do what we say” provided an opening to speak with humility about the nation’s proud contributions over the past six decades to peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development and humanitarian relief. DFAT’s story highlighted Australia’s proximity to developing countries and its commitment to working with the UN’s smallest and most vulnerable members. Australia will make a difference, the campaign promised, for the small and medium countries of the world.

Of course, like all good narratives, we find in this a degree of requisite mythologising. More worrying is whether constructing the story became a higher priority at DFAT than getting policy right.

If Australia is truly to ”do what it said”, it needs better, more informed, more innovative and bolder policy positions to take to New York. When Julia Gillard addressed the UN last month, her speech – entitled ”Practical progress towards realising those ideas in the world” – delivered the final refrain of DFAT’s carefully composed campaign tune. But if the Prime Minister’s speech is to be more than mere campaign rhetoric, Australia must get back to formulating serious policy contributions in New York.

The council’s agenda is broad. During Australia’s tenure, it will certainly include the worsening crisis in Syria, ongoing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN’s role in Afghanistan during and after the transition of NATO-led operations, and oversight of the 16 peacekeeping operations deployed under Security Council mandate. In Mali, the growing power of militant groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb prompted the Security Council last week to adopt a French resolution paving the way for an African-led intervention.

These are big challenges. Undoubtedly, it is the permanent five members – China, France, Russia, Britain and the US – that ultimately determine the council’s outcomes by virtue of their veto power. But Australia will have opportunities to lead: on issues of rule of law and disarmament, for example, and on the council’s multiple sanctions committees. Australia’s Pacific Islands neighbours will be hoping that Australia will lead on issues of climate security.

For inspiration, Australia might look back to 1990, when our diplomats didn’t need a Security Council seat to produce a draft Cambodian peace proposal that broke the impasse in negotiations. The 155-page ”Red Book” provided a substantive account of the roles, costs, people and processes required for a comprehensive Cambodian settlement. Far from the generic principles and motherhood statements that too often pass for UN contributions, this plan was remarkable in its specificity, a carefully researched resource document presenting realistic paths to peace in Cambodia – and without a photo in sight.

That Australia will take its place alongside 14 other Security Council members in January is a broadly good thing for our foreign policy. But Australia now needs to harness the energy and strategic prowess with which our diplomats waged the Security Council campaign for higher ends, to tackle the urgent threats to international peace and security for which the council has unique responsibility.

It needs in particular the serious investment of strategic planning resources within DFAT. It needs to promote open, rigorous debate about policy ideas and practice – not just those that cohere with Australia’s campaign strategy. And it needs to let its public officials off the leash so they might engage in honest discussion, in and out of their departments, about what works, what doesn’t and why.

Having a seat at the table might be important, but having something worthwhile to say is indispensable.

Dr Jeni Whalan is a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of NSW specialising in peace operations, the UN and Australian foreign policy.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/good-to-have-a-seat-at-the-table-20121019-27wyi.html#ixzz2iV5SpYWC