THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
THE HON ALEXANDER DOWNER MP
13 SEPTEMBER 2002, NEW YORK
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
Both raise real hope for a new era of political stability and economic growth
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Otherwise, if Iraq's pursuit of these abhorrent weapons is allowed to continue,
we may shortly be asking ourselves why we failed to act.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.