Leveraging diplomatic power and influence on the UN Security Council: the case of Australia

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe. Security Council Authorises Multinational Force in East Timor. Alexander Downer, then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, addresses the Council on 15 September 1999 at the United Nations, New York.

In their recent paper ‘Leveraging diplomatic power and influence on the
UN Security Council: the case of Australia’, published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs Jeremy Farrall & Jochen Prantl compare Australia’s efforts to influence UNSC decision-making both as a UNSC member, and as non-member on the issue of East Timor.

You can access the paper here.

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UNSC and the RoL: Launch of policy recommendations a success

UN Photo/Mark Garten 

Dr. Jeremy Farrall and Prof. Hilary Charlesworth traveled to New York  this month to launch a set of policy recommendations to strengthen the rule of law through UNSC’s practice. The launch was held at the UN headquarters in New York on 11 March during the Dialogue with Member States on the rule of law at the international level. The event was organised by the Permanent Mission of Australia, the Permanent Mission of Japan, and the Rule of Law Unit, on behalf of the UN Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group.

Participants to the event included Mr. Edric Selous, Director, Rule of Law Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General; H.E. Ambassador Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations; Dr. Jeremy Farrall Fellow, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, the Australian National University; Prof. Hilary Charlesworth Director, Centre for International Governance and Justice, the Australian National University; Prof. Terence Halliday Co-Director, Center on Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation; and H.E. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations.

Introduction by Edric Selous, Director of the Rule of Law Unit:

Comments by the Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN

Comments by Prof. Hilary Charlesworth

Comments by Dr. Jeremy Farrall

Comments by Prof. Terence Halliday (part 1 and 2)

 

 

 

Global Governance discussion seminar with Jeremy Farrall

GG Cover_0Jeremy Farrall will lead the discussion at the next Geneva Global Governance discussion seminar.  The discussion on the role of elected members on the Security Council will be based on the recent article published by Jeremy Farrell and John  Langmore in the journal Global Governance ‘Can Elected Members Make a Difference in the UN Security Council? Australia’s Experience in 2013—2014’.

The event will be held at the Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations in Geneva. Participants will include H.E. Mr. John Quinn, Permanent Mission of Australia to the UN, Alistair Edgar, Academic Council to the United Nations System (ACUNS), and Roberta Spivak, One Earth Future Foundation (OEF).

The Global Governance discussion series provides a forum for scholars and policymakers to share ideas and forge new partnerships. It is convened by the One Earth Future Foundation and the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS). For more information visit: http://oneearthfuture.org/research/global-governance. Access the brochure of the event.

 Summary

The UN Charter gives the Security Council the extraordinary function of being responsible for international peace and security. Although the Permanent Five members are disproportionately powerful, there is nevertheless scope for elected members to influence the Council’s decision-making processes during their short two-year terms. This article uses Australia’s membership in 2013 and 2014 as a case study to examine why states seek election to the Council, means through which they can strengthen their influence how they can navigate P5 power. How successful they are in achieving their objectives, and how the effectiveness of both elected members and the Council as a whole could be improved. Despite the substantial constraints facing elected members, those that are imaginative and industrious can nevertheless make influential contributions to achievement of the Council’s purposes.

John Langmore and Jeremy Farral, ‘Can Elected Members Make a Difference in the UN Security Council? Australia’s Experience in 2013—2014’, Global Governance, 22 (2016), 59—77.  Click here for full paper.

 

 

 

Jochen Prantl and Jeremy Farrell speak on Australian diplomacy and UN Security Council at the Australian Diplomacy Today symposium

Jochen Prandtl and Jeremy Farrell talk about influencing decision-making on the Security Council and Australia’s experience as elected member at the Australian Diplomacy Today symposium. The event held on 28 August was organised by the Australian Institute of International Affairs. They also introduced the new four-year ARC Discovery Project Leveraging power and influence on the United Security Council  involving SCAN members Jeremy Farrell, Marie-Eve Loiselle, Christopher Michaelsen, Jochen Prandtl, and Jeni Whalan.

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.

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