In the early hours of this morning, journalists, activists, NGO’s, academics, politicians, social commentators and international affairs addicts were tweeting madly. After years of campaigning, Australia has finally won a seat at one of the most powerful tables in the world- the United Nations Security Council.
Yesterday (Thursday 18 October), countries around the world voted on who would become the newest non-permanent members of the Security Council. Excitingly, Australia, along with Luxembourg, Argentina, Rwanda and South Korea, were the countries voted in.
So now that Australia is in, what does it mean? As a newly-elected, non-permanent member, Australia is on the council for only two years, which basically means Australia needs to get into gear fast if it’s to make any real difference. As Oxfam Australia’s Executive Director, Andrew Hewett put it,
“For the next two years, Australia will play a major role within the international community in helping to make the world a safer place for all. But Australia needs to hit the ground running with a clear vision if it wants to make a real difference to the peace and security of women, men and children around the world.”
Oxfam (and many other commentators on the issue) are pushing for Australia to identify a small number of core issues that it can “consistently push throughout the Council’s work”. It’s also an opportunity to offer a new perspective, vision and leadership in areas where Australia has the “sufficient expertise and credibility to drive the agenda,” Mr Hewett said. At the forefront should be protecting civilians in armed conflict:
“Australia has significant experience in this area of work. Australia has helped develop training and guidelines to better equip UN and African Union peacekeepers to protect civilians,” he said.
It’s an exciting time, not only for the government, but for any Australian citizen who’s ever wished we were that little bit more connected to the international arena and the decisions that get made within it. So now, here’s our chance.
Australia will commence it’s seat on the Security Council on January 1, 2013. For now, check out the 10 things you need to know about Australia and the U.N Security Council.