In her speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, covered a wide range of topical issues on the global agenda, as well as her country’s efforts in each of them, while also re-affirming its commitment to the world body and its ideals.
“Australia embraces the high ideals of the United Nations and takes a practical approach to achieving change,” Prime Minister Gillard told the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, which began on Tuesday. “The work of the United Nations is an historic task in which Australia wholeheartedly joins.”
“Australia's ideals in the world are those of the UN – and Australians know the practical value of the UN's work,” she added, noting that that was why Australia seeks to serve in all areas which the United Nations works in, and particularly on the Security Council. The Antipodean nation seeks one of the ten non-permanent seats on the 15-member Council for the 2013-2014 period.
In her statement, the Australian leader noted her country’s work in peace and security affairs around the world, including its lead-role in the UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste, its UN-endorsed regional assistance mission to the Solomon Islands and its contributions to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“Australia will bring this record of service to the international community to our service on the UN Security Council should we have the privilege to be elected by the UN membership in October,” she said. “There and beyond, our work and the work of every nation for peace must continue.”
In relation to the crisis in Syria, Prime Minister Gillard called on UN Member States must do everything possible to end the suffering of the Syrian people. “We urge the members of the Security Council to do so and to act decisively,” she said.
More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in Syria since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, according to UN estimates.
The Prime Minister added that the international community must unite behind the new Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi, who took over the mission from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the beginning of September.
Addressing journalists after a briefing to the Security Council earlier this week, Mr. Brahimi said that while the situation in Syria continues to be “very grim,” a solution may be forthcoming. The Joint Special Representative recently returned from a trip to the Middle East where he met with President al-Assad to discuss the crisis.
Prime Minister Gillard touched upon a range of other issues of global concern in her statement to the Assembly, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Middle East peace process, cooperation with Pacific island states and religious tolerance.
The Australian leader is one of scores of heads of State and government and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.
She also met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday. They discussed issues concerning recent developments in Afghanistan and Australia’s military support, the strengthening of the partnership between the United Nations and the Pacific Islands Forum, the political achievements in Timor-Leste, the democratic transition in Fiji, and the escalating conflict in Syria.
The Secretary-General also emphasized the important role Australia has played on peace and security issues in the Pacific region and beyond.