United we stand with other nations
Articles and op-ed
Published in: The Daily Telegraph
1 November 2011
WHEN Qantas suddenly becomes the walking kangaroo, it reminds all of us just how interconnected we are and how important is our access to the globe.
Globalisation, and the transformation not simply of global transport but global communications has opened up huge opportunities in countries rich and poor. The transformation of the global economy has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
But in a globalised world, challenges facing one country can affect all of us. For example, no nation connected to the world economy was spared from the global financial crisis.
The challenges of climate change, pandemic disease, natural disasters, food security, transnational crime and global terrorism also know no national boundaries. The need for nations to come together to deal with global challenges effectively has never been greater. That's why we remain committed to the UN and other global and regional forums. And it's why we hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth.
Of course some forums are effective. Others, frankly, less so.
But if they deal with things that really matter to the prosperity and security of Australians, we have no choice but to do our best to make them work. Where existing bodies don't deliver, we have to find new ones that do.
As to whether Australia can make a difference, I believe we can and we do. That's partly because we're a practical people, not bogged down in old-style diplomatic niceties but always looking for workable solutions.
It's also because of who we are and where we live. We're a dynamic, modern economy in the Asia-Pacific, with a vibrant, diverse population. In international forums, this translates into a tendency to identify common causes across political, cultural and regional economic divides. This doesn't guarantee success of course. But it sure helps.
Take peacekeeping. It's one of the most important things the United Nations does. Australia has been doing its fair share, starting with the first UN peacekeeping mission in Indonesia in 1947 and more than 50 missions since then involving more than 65,000 troops. We've got more than 3000 serving now, in difficult places such as Afghanistan, East Timor, Solomon Islands, the Middle East and Sudan. The success of these operations directly affects Australia's security and the security of all.
The UN Security Council decides which of these operations can be conducted with the full support of international law. That's why we're contesting a seat on the Security Council in 2013-14, when the Council will take important decisions on the transition of coalition forces in Afghanistan and the drawdown of troops in East Timor.
Another example of how Australia makes a difference in the world is by working with international humanitarian institutions. Our aid program does a great job in reducing poverty and providing assistance to those affected by conflict and disasters. That's good work, and also important for our own security because conflict fuels people smuggling and provides environments for terrorists to operate.
Australia is at present the world's third largest donor to the famine in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. 75 per cent of our humanitarian assistance to the drought in the Horn of Africa is delivered through the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. We also supported the UN Children's Fund in Somalia provide life-saving treatment to the most desperate and vulnerable of the 75,000 children affected by the famine.
Then there is the global economy and the international institutions we work with to deal with the continuing challenges we face.
In 2009, when the global financial crisis threatened to ruin us all, Australian drive and energy helped shape the G20 as the critical forum for dealing with the crisis. That's because we knew rebooting the global economy would only be possible with the key emerging economies in the G20, notably China and India, fully engaged.
The massive economic stimulus measures announced at the 2009 G20 Summit played a key role in staving off disaster.
A long list could be put together of how and where Australia contributes globally.
It would include our work with the UN and others to clear millions of land mines and cluster bombs. This stops innocent kids, who spot something shiny in a field, being blown up and killed.
It would include our strong support for the people of Libya. We were among the first to encourage the UN Security Council to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to help protect innocent civilians.
This list would also include our role as chair of a group which played a big part in establishing the International Criminal Court to bring justice to the victims of atrocious crimes.
It would include another typically Australian effort to find middle ground between developed and developing countries at the Climate Change negotiations in Cancun last year. Since Cancun, 90 countries accounting for over 80 per cent of global emissions pledged to limit their emissions.
It could also include Australia's lead role in negotiating the UN Law of the Sea Convention, ensuring our rights over millions of square kilometres of ocean holding vast resources, including fisheries, oil and gas and setting rules to protect our marine environment.
And last week the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting resolved to strengthen democracy in the Commonwealth.
The list goes on.
The business of Australian foreign policy is to ensure that the decisions of global forums advance Australia's interests as much as possible.
The UN is far from perfect. But it is a bit like Winston Churchill's observation that "democracy is the worst form of government in the world, except for all the others". So too with the UN: With all its faults, it is an indispensable global force.
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