AUSTRALIA

 

STATEMENT BY

THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
THE HON ALEXANDER DOWNER MP

13 SEPTEMBER 2002, NEW YORK

Mr. President,

Let me begin by congratulating you on your election as President of the 57th Session of the General Assembly.

I am also pleased to welcome Switzerland as a new member of the United Nations.

Let me acknowledge also two other significant developments: the establishment of the African Union (AU), and the creation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Both raise real hope for a new era of political stability and economic growth for Africa.

Mr. President,

We meet at this General Assembly in the shadow of the terrorist attacks on this great city a year ago.

Those chilling events were an attack on the values of the great civilizations represented here today -- values that are central to the UN Charter and this Organization.

We can take some comfort in knowing that the international community has responded -- deliberately and resolutely -- to international terrorism.

The coalition in the war against terrorism -- led by the United States and joined by others, including Australia -- has accomplished a great deal.

The Al-Qaida network in Afghanistan has been disabled. The Taliban regime has been defeated.

But terrorism cannot be stamped out by military effort alone. Together we must choke off support - financial and otherwise - for terrorism.

We must stop the patrons and banlcrollers of the trade in terror, and together face this most insidious threat.

Mr. President,

The decisive response of the United Nations after September 11 - embodied in Security Council Resolution 1373 - created a framework for Member States to join forces in suppressing, prosecuting and punishing terrorist acts and terrorist financing.

All Member States must implement the commitments made in Resolution 1373.
Australia has strengthened its counter-terrorism legislative and law enforcement framework. We are party to 10 of the 12 anti-terrorism instruments, and will ratify another later this month. Australia also is assisting other Asia-Pacific countries to implement their obligations.

Mr. President,

We face another grave threat to international peace and security - and one that tests the very authority of the United Nations.

For over a decade Iraq has flouted legally binding obligations to disclose and eradicate its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Iraq has defied UN resolutions, UN inspections and UN sanctions, and has ignored some 23 of the 27 UN obligations imposed on it under sixteen resolutions of the Security Council.

The Secretary General has been patient, flexible and assiduous in his efforts to get Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions.

But Iraq has refused to work with the UN in efforts to dismantle its WMD programs.
Until this occurs, Iraqis a grave threat to its neighbors, and to the world.

Iraq's well documented aggression towards its neighbors, and its past use of chemical weapons, underline the potency of the threat it poses.

Grave concerns remain about Iraq's present capabilities.

Up until 1998 UN weapons inspectors did much good work in finding and destroying Iraq's WMD program. But UNSCOM's work was never finished, because in 1998 they were effectively thrown out of Iraq.

Four years later, there is little doubt that Iraq has been working hard to rebuild its chemical and biological weapons programs. Moreover, serious questions also remain about Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

This state of affairs cannot be left unresolved. Iraq must give immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to inspectors to all areas, facilities, equipment, records and Iraqi officials.

In short, Iraq must fulfill the requirements of all relevant Security Council resolutions.

If Iraq has nothing to hide, then it has nothing to fear. Indeed, by meeting these demands, Iraq and its people have everything to gain.

Let us also be very clear: Iraq's flagrant and persistent defiance is a direct challenge to the United Nations, to the authority of the Security Council, to international law, and to the will of the international community.

We cannot stand by and allow ourselves to be ignored. Nor must protracted negotiations be allowed to weaken and eventually paralyze efforts to allay fears about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

We all must demonstrate a clear, collective determination to uphold the authority of the Security Council, and to ensure its resolutions on Iraq are implemented in full.

Otherwise, if Iraq's pursuit of these abhorrent weapons is allowed to continue, we may shortly be asking ourselves why we failed to act.

Mr. President,

The terrorist threat has given new urgency to our disarmament and nonproliferation goals, and demands a renewed effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction - both to non-state and state actors.

We have to be alive to the willingness of terrorist groups to develop and use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Australia, for its part, intends to pursue practical and effective measures through international non-proliferation treaty regimes and export control arrangements. These regimes and arrangements have delivered tangible security benefits, and should be supported strongly.

Mr. President,

We need to deal also with other trans-national challenges: not just terrorism but other trans-national crimes, including the smuggling of arms, drugs and people.

Trans-national crimes threaten all countries. They require us to cooperate further in law enforcement, intelligence and financial controls - much like the war on terrorism.

People smuggling and trafficking, in particular, are a truly trans-national problem. This lucrative criminal enterprise undermines the international refugee protection system, and legal migration programs, that have enabled millions to build new and prosperous lives in countries like Australia.

Combating people smuggling and trafficking in persons is particularly important to Australia and to the Asia-Pacific region.

This year, Australia co-hosted a Regional Ministerial Conference with Indonesia.

Ministers from thirty-eight countries committed themselves to stopping the people who deal cold-heartedly in human cargo. We agreed that in the first instance people smuggling must be legislated against as a serious crime.

There is much more we need to do, and Australia welcomes international discussion and action on the issue, including within the UN system itself.

Mr. President,

Australia welcomes the addition of the International Criminal Court to the international legal framework. It is an example of positive international cooperation, which will complement the efforts of states to end impunity for the worst violations of international humanitarian law.

Mr. President,

The UN's work in East Timor is another outstanding example of how the organization can, and does, make a difference - in this case in response to a humanitarian crisis.

In May we celebrated East Timor's independence. We are now about to welcome East Timor as a new member of the UN.

That we have arrived at this point owes much to the resolve and courage of the East Timorese. It owes much also to the UN and UN-authorized missions that brought stability and order, and renewed hope for the future.

I congratulate the Secretary-General and Security Council for providing UNMISET with the necessary support, not just for peacekeeping and policing, but also for developing stable governance in East Timor.

Sustained UN and international support will be critical in East Timor's formative years. Australia is determined to provide such support.

I would like to pay tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello's efforts in East Timor, and to congratulate him warmly on his appointment as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mr. President,

HIV/AIDS is a global issue that tears at the fabric of our society, and threatens the economic development of entire continents.

The UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in June last year brought home to member states their responsibilities to marshal national and regional responses to HIV/AIDS.

Australia hosted a regional ministerial meeting in Melbourne in October 2001. Ministers agreed on the need to develop strategies to fight HIV/AIDS, and on the need to share lessons and cooperate in priority areas.

We helped establish the Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development to engender greater cooperation in the region, and we applaud the appointment of a UN regional envoy for HIV/AIDS.

Mr. President,

The United Nations has a heavy agenda. But it cannot - and should not - try to do everything. To make a difference it must be selective and focused, matching its activities to its capabilities and to the priorities that we, the Member States, set for it.

The Millennium Declaration gave us clear, agreed priorities. And the Monterrey Financing for Development Conference and the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development have built on these, giving us a framework to shape and direct our work.

We also need to revitalize and reform the way in which the key organs of the Organization - the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Security Council - function. The Security Council, in particular, should be reformed - including by expanding its membership.

We also need to think again about the relationship between these organs and the Secretariat: time is not a free good -- nor are meeting services -nor are the Secretary-General's reports -- and nor is the capacity or will of Member States to provide resources without limits.

We need to look at how we can more effectively use existing UN mechanisms - particularly the General Assembly and ECOSOC - as bodies of review.

And we are concerned - especially - that major UN conferences have become so large and unwieldy that their fundamental purposes have been obscured.

Australia strongly supports the process of reform proposed by the Secretary-General for his second term. It this provides a unique opportunity to address these questions and to "re-tool" the Organization to build on its strengths.

Mr. President,

As member states, we are the United Nations. The organization is there to serve our collective interests.

To address new threats and challenges, the UN must be focused and responsive, and its key organs must function efficiently and effectively.

We must continue to work together to enable it to meet our expectations. I am confident that - together - we can achieve success.

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