National Statement - United Nations General Assembly

  • Speech, check against delivery
28 September 2018

Goodevening, Mr President

Weare all proud members of this venerable institution.

Ifthis place, and our membership of it, stand for anything, then we stand for aninternational order based on rules and cooperation.

Thisprinciple guides our actions, our dealings with each other, and our treatmentof collective challenges as they arise before us.

Australiarecognises the reality of a world in which the power of great states shapes theinternational system in which we seek to advance our national interests. That is the grain with which we all work.

Equally,we hold true to this simple proposition – we will be safer and more prosperous in a world whereglobal differences are managed, and global challenges met, by agreed rulesrather than by the exercise of power alone.

Strongglobal cooperation sets a tone, and sets in place rules and norms, forconstructive diplomacy in every region of the world.

Thisis true even in a period of rapid and accelerating change, and it is true evenin a period of rising nationalism and geo-political competition.

Ourmost urgent global challenges won't be solved by countries acting alone. Solutions begin with collaboration.

InAustralia's 2017 ForeignPolicy White Paper, we set out an analysis of the trends that are shaping theworld. Most importantly, we set out our policy response.

Ina more competitive and contested era, Australia is taking responsibility forour own security and prosperity. Athome, we are investing in our national resilience and strength, ensuring oureconomy is strong and Australians are safe. We are sovereign and independent.

Inour region - the Indo-Pacific - we seek a neighbourhood in which the rights ofall states are respected and adherence to rules delivers lasting peace.

Internationally,we are committed to promoting and protecting the rules and institutions thatsupport stability and prosperity, and enable collective action to meet globalchallenges.

MrPresident, at this time of change, of challenge and opportunity, we MemberState have the honour of preserving and advancing international rules andorder, to deliver on the expectations of our people for a just, fair, andsecure world.

Oneproof of the necessity of the United Nations is the hard fact that we cannotwith all confidence rid the world of nuclear weapons, not today or this year.

Giventhis reality, we must redouble our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation,and to build the international trust and confidence necessary to move towards aworld free of nuclear weapons.

Ourpeoples expect us to continue to work towards verifiable nuclear disarmamentwith sound compliance, safeguards and enforcement regimes.

Overwhelmingly,our peoples expect us to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Todo this, we must continue to build on the progress we have made through theNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Forthis reason, Australia supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program, as long as Iranabides by its commitments. It is in our collective interests that controls onIran's nuclearprogramme remain in place.

Andfor this reason, the world watches with anticipation the negotiations betweenthe United States and North Korea, pursuing complete, verifiable andirreversible denuclearisation of the Peninsula, in accordance with UNResolutions. Australia will also continue to fully implement our obligations under the UNSecurity Council resolutions and maintain our own autonomous sanctions whileawaiting real progress towards denuclearisation.

Further,we have most recently witnessed a new pattern of indiscriminate slaughterthrough the use of chemical weapons, including the weaponisation of toxic industrialchemicals like chlorine. We havecollectively agreed that the use of chemical weapons anytime, anywhere, andunder any circumstances is unjustifiable and unacceptable.

AsMember States, we must defend our long-standing prohibition on the use ofchemical weapons, and be prepared to abide by our collective right and resolveto investigate allegations, and to verify this prohibition. Australia joins those calling for Syria tocease the use of chemicals as weapons. Australia also continues to urge Russia, and indeed all nations, toreinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons anywhere.

MrPresident, Australia like the United Nations is committed to improvinghumanitarian assistance in fragile settings. I commend the Secretary General for establishing the "United for Gender Parity" initiative, and for declaring zerotolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.

Australiais also a robust and strong contributor to the UN's Women Peace and Security agenda,first set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Australiawas one of the first Member States to draw up a National Action Plan on WomenPeace and Security, and we are continuing work on our next five year NationalAction Plan.

Examplesof our work on this issue include a benchmark of a minimum of 15 per cent offemale military members deployed on Australian peacekeeping mission teams,which I was proud to support over the past three years in my role as Australia's Minister for Defence. Australia alsohas active training programs on Women Peace and Security in Afghanistan, in Iraq,and the Philippines, where our military is assisting partner forces to dealwith counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency challenges.

Australiafirmly believes that it is only through the inclusion of women in all aspectsof peace and security initiatives, including negotiations, the design of peaceprocesses, and the management and enforcement of peace programs, that lastingand resilient security can be achieved.

MrPresident, many here will remember my predecessor and my friend Julie Bishop's determined and sustained workpursuing accountability for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Australia remains firmly committed to thisobjective, and we will continue working with our Joint Investigation Teampartners to pursue justice for the victims and their loved ones.

Inexpecting other Member States to abide by international rules, we must alsosubject ourselves to these same standards and expectations.

Onthe 6th of March this year, here in New York, Australia andTimor-Leste signed a new Maritime Boundaries Treaty.

TheTreaty was the successful result of the first-ever compulsory conciliationinitiated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

TheTreaty underscores Australia'scommitment to international law, and is testament to the way in which internationallaw, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, enables countriesto resolve disputes peacefully and properly, abiding by the rules.

Theconciliation process created the space for compromise and negotiation on what Iacknowledge was a previously intractable disagreement, and ultimatelystrengthened bilateral relations.

MrPresident, when Member States work together to uphold international law and theinstitutions that support it, the benefits accrue to all alike: the powerfuland the weak, the large and the small.

Thisis a long-standing principle we share, regardless of our culture, our language,our religion or our political system: we are all equal before the law.

MrPresident, Australia particularly welcomes the active engagement of the United Nationsin our region, the Indo-Pacific. It is adynamic region which has experienced an economic transformation in recentdecades that is unprecedented in human history.

Theregion's rising prosperity has been built on a strong foundation of stability.

Australiais absolutely committed to ensuring that the fundamental principles which haveenabled the region's success are maintained.

Weare committed to a region in which the rights of all states are respected. A region characterised by respect forinternational law and other norms, and where disputes are resolvedpeacefully. And a region in which open markets facilitate the free flow oftrade, capital and ideas.

Toachieve this outcome Australia is strengthening our Indo-Pacific bilateralrelations, because they are among our most important in their own right andbecause strong bilateral relations help us support our regional goals.

Ouraid program is an important mechanism through which we support the aspirationsof our neighbours. It is predominatelyand unashamedly focused on the Indo-Pacific region and geared to expandopportunities for people, business and communities to promote economic growthand to further reduce regional poverty.

Wework in sectors that drive economic growth and human development, including aidfor trade, infrastructure, education and health, and empowering women andgirls. And we work in ways that are mosteffective, including with UN Resident Coordinators, and through the region'spolitical, security and economic architecture.

ASEANsits at the heart of our region. It is the collective voice of SoutheastAsia.

Thereare good reasons why Australia is ASEAN's longest standing dialoguepartner. We are both committed todriving continued strong regional economic growth and we share optimism for thefuture. At the same time we share aconviction to tackle head on the security challenges of our region, includingthe fight against terrorism.

Asthe convener for more than 50 years of the Indo-Pacific's most important diplomaticarchitecture, particularly the East Asia Summit, ASEAN plays a vital role inthe security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.

Australia'sinterests are well served by ASEAN and our commitment to its success andcontinued effectiveness is stronger than ever.

Thatcommitment was there for all to see at an ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, heldin Sydney in March this year. The Summitmarked a new era in the Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and Australia.Leaders issued the Sydney Declaration, which comprehensively sets out ASEAN andAustralia's shared commitment to work together towards a more secure andprosperous region.

Inother key pieces of regional architecture, the Asia-Pacific EconomicCooperation forum, or APEC, seeks to build upon the growing interdependence ofthe Asia-Pacific's21 member economies. The APEC meeting inPapua New Guinea in November will be a further important opportunity to foster cooperationand economic activity across borders, to the mutual benefit of all.

Icommend Papua New Guinea on the significant work it has done to host APEC 2018,and look forward in particular to a very successful Leaders' Week in Port Moresby later this year.

Ialso commend our Pacific neighbour the Republic of Nauru for its successfulhosting of the 49th Pacific Islands Forum in the first week ofSeptember. With the theme of "Building a strong Pacific: ourislands, our people, our will",the member states, associate members, observers and dialogue partners of thePacific Islands Forum continued a now long tradition of amity, consultation,partnership and policy development on diverse matters of climate change, economicreform, transport and trade.

Australia is committed to working withPIF Member States, and UN Resident Coordinators, to strengthen resilience toclimate change and to natural disasters in the Pacific. In all of this, the UN Development Programmeis a vital partner.

Australia recognises that Pacificisland countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate changeand to disaster, and that this is a leading priority for the region. The Pacific Islands Forum Boe Declaration,released at the meeting last month by Member States, takes a contemporary viewof security inclusive of human and environmental security and emphasises theimportance of regional cooperation and collaboration in building resilience todisasters and to climate change.

MrPresident, 2018 Australia joined the Human Rights Council for the first time.

Australiaworks for and seeks a region that promotes accountability and respectsinternational law for the benefit of all nations and people.

Australiahas been a strong supporter of the Independent International Fact-FindingMission on Myanmar, and we have been deeply disturbed by its findings.

Weare working with Myanmar and with ASEAN and regional partners, andinternational partners, to find long-term solutions to this complex crisis,including with Indonesia as co-chairs of the Bali Process and through jointhumanitarian efforts in Cox'sBazar.

Australia will continue to work with the Myanmar Government and theinternational community towards a long-term and durable resolution of thenation's complexproblems.

After50 years of isolation and instability, Myanmar is at critical stage in itsdemocratic and economic transition, and it is in all our interests to ensure thatit succeeds.

Letus honour the late Secretary-General Kofi Annan by renewing our efforts to seefully and genuinely implemented the recommendations of the Advisory Commissionon Rakhine State, which he so ably led.

MrPresident, international institutions, and the United Nations in particular,help us to adapt collectively as our world changes around us. But as theSecretary-General said when he opened the General Assembly earlier this week,and I quote, "trust in globalgovernance is also fragile, as 21st-century challenges outpace 20th-centuryinstitutions and mindsets".

Thatis why Australia supports the Secretary-General's work to reform the United Nations.

Weneed to work together to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of the peoplethat we serve.

Butto remain fit for our times, the United Nations must remain true to thefounding principles, the universal rights and obligations, we agreed upon whenwe first came together as Member States.

Chiefamong these is the sovereign equality of all states.

MemberStates must re-dedicate themselves to the aspirations of the founders of theUnited Nations, and take to heart the Charter, so that our world is indeed amore just, fair and secure place to live.

Ladiesand gentlemen, Mr President, thank you very much for your attention thisevening.

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