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Reinvigorating the United Nations: reform and reconfiguartion



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UNGA 52 GENERAL DEBATE STATEMENT

REINVIGORATING THE UNITED NATIONS : REFORM, RIGHTS AND RECONFIGURATION - STATEMENT BY MR ALEXANDER DOWNER MP, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF AUSTRALIA, NEW YORK, 4 OCTOBER 1997

MR PRESIDENT

LET ME BEGIN BY CONGRATULATING YOU ON YOUR ELECTION AS PRESIDENT OF THIS 52ND SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. THE COUNTRY AND THE GROUP YOU REPRESENT HAVE SEEN GREAT CHANGES IN THE LAST DECADE. IT THEREFORE SEEMS PARTICULARLY FITTING THAT YOU ARE PRESIDING OVER A GENERAL ASSEMBLY WHICH WILL LAY THE FOUNDATION FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGES TO THE UNITED NATIONS ITSELF, CHANGES WHICH MUST EQUIP IT BETTER FOR THE NEW, AND POTENTIALLY MORE COOPERATIVE, INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH WE FIND

OURSELVES.

IT IS THUS NOT ONLY RIGHT BUT NECESSARY THAT REFORM IS THE MAJOR THEME OF THE UNITED NATIONS AT PRESENT, AND OF THIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN PARTICULAR. WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FORMER

PRESIDENT OF THE ASSEMBLY, AMBASSADOR RAZALI, FOR THE OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION HE MADE TO PURSUING THE REFORM AGENDA DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, NOTABLY IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHAIRMAN OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY WORKING GROUPS.

TODAY I WISH TO CONCENTRATE ON THREE ISSUES IN PARTICULAR:

. REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS;

REORIENTING OUR APPROACH TO HUMAN RIGHTS SO AS TO PROMOTE COOPERATION AND INSTITUTION BUILDING, CREATING DURABLE STRUCTURES TO GIVE SUBSTANCE TO THE GOALS SET OUT IN THE UN

CHARTER, THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS; AND

RECONFIGURING THE TRADITIONAL UN GROUPS TO REFLECT BETTER THE REGIONAL GROUPINGS OF THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD.

IN DEALING WITH REFORM, MY PURPOSE IS TO BUILD A WORLD FOR THE NEXT GENERATION AND I AM INSPIRED BY THE HOPE AND ASPIRATIONS OF THE NEXT GENERATION.

IN THAT CONTEXT I AM PLEASED THAT WE ARE JOINED IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TODAY BY MR PERRY CROSS A DISTINGUISHED AND COURAGEOUS YOUNG AUSTRALIAN WHO IS LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST PARALYSIS. HE EXEMPLIFIES THE AUSTRALIAN BELIEF THAT INDIVIDUALS WITH A WILL AND A PRACTICAL FOCUS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN FIGHTING BARRIERS AND

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REFORMING STRUCTURES WHICH ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF AN EARLIER ERA.

REFORM

MR PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIA WANTS TO WORK WITH YOU, AND WITH THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND ALL MEMBERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS, TO ENSURE THAT BY THE END OF THIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY FURTHER, SUBSTANTIVE PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN THE THREE CRITICAL AREAS OF REFORM: FINANCIAL REFORM AND RESOLUTION OF THE CRISIS SURROUNDING THE UN BUDGET AND SCALE OF ASSESSMENTS; REFORM OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND REFORM OF THE ORGANISATION.

REFORM FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

WHEN I MADE MY FIRST ADDRESS TO THIS ASSEMBLY LAST YEAR, I STRESSED THE NEED TO MOVE AHEAD URGENTLY WITH THE REFORM AND REINVIGORATION OF THIS IMPORTANT ORGANISATION, TO ENSURE ITS FUTURE EFFECTIVENESS AND RELEVANCE. THIS YEAR REFORM HAS BEEN

GIVEN REAL IMPETUS BY THE NEW SECRETARY GENERAL, WHOSE APPOINTMENT AUSTRALIA WARMLY WELCOMED. BOTH IN MARCH AND IN JULY THIS YEAR HE ANNOUNCED SIGNIFICANT ORGANISATIONAL REFORMS AIMED AT THE RENEWAL OF THIS BODY. I HAVE ENTHUSIASTICALLY SUPPORTED THESE INITIATIVES. WE MUST NOW BUILD ON THEM.

WE SHARE THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE SHORTCOMINGS OF THE UNITED NATIONS. THE ORGANISATION’S MISSION, AS ENSHRINED IN THE CHARTER, HAS BEEN REPEATEDLY REAFFIRMED AND REMAINS VALID TODAY. BUT THE MACHINERY AND THE WORKING METHODS TO PURSUE THAT MISSION NEED THOROUGH REVIEW AND REVISION. WE

AGREE THAT THERE IS TOO MUCHFRAGMENTATION OF STRUCTURES, TOO MUCH RIGIDITY WITHIN BODIES AND TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON BUREAUCRACY AND PROCESS.

I WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT IN PARTICULAR THE REFORMS SUGGESTED TO.-> ,,. • -THE UNITED NATIONS STRUCTURES AND TO THE SECRETARIAT. THE ' ' ' ' ™ ‘ INTEGRATION OF TWELVE SECRETARIATS AND ENTITIES INTO FIVE, AND THE

PROPOSED CONSOLIDATION OF FIVE INTERGOVERNMENTAL BODIES INTO TWO ARE PARTICULARLY WELCOME. THEY WILL HELP STREAMLINE AND REMOVE UNNECESARY BUREAUCRATIC STRUCTURE AND DUPLICATION FROM THE SECRETARIAT. IT IS AN APPROACH WE COMMEND ALSO TO THE

SPECIALISED AGENCIES AS MEMBER NATIONS SEEK TO STREAMLINE AND EVEN MERGE SOME OF THESE BODIES.

IMPORTANT STEPS ARE PROPOSED IN REFORMING THE WAY THE SECRETARIAT WORKS. WE APPLAUD THE REMOVAL OF 1000 STAFF POSTS AND THE CUTTING OF ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS BY ONE-THIRD TO WHICH THE SECRETARY GENERAL HAS COMMITTED HIMSELF. WE ALSO WISH TO SEE ALL SECRETARIAT STAFF MOVE TO FIXED TERM RENEWABLE CONTRACTS TO ALLOW FOR GREATER EMPLOYMENT FLEXIBILITY IN THE ORGANISATION. WE SUPPORT THE INTRODUCTION OF A MERIT BASED PROMOTION SYSTEM

AND PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL IN THE PLACE OF A SYSTEM WHERE

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SENIORITY PLAYS A DISPROPORTIONATE ROLE. WE ALSO ENCOURAGE MANAGEMENT TO IMPROVE TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES FOR JUNIOR AS WELL AS SENIOR STAFF.

THESE REFORMS WILL NOT ONLY MAKE THE UNITED NATIONS WORK BETTER, BUT ALSO PROVIDE REAL SAVINGS. THESE SAVINGS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PROGRAMS, PROGRAMS WHICH BENEFIT ALL OF US, BUT ESPECIALLY SUPPORT THE DEVELOPING MEMBERS OF THE UNITED NATIONS. THUS IT IS A PACKAGE WHICH IS IN THE INTERESTS OF ALL, AND DESERVES SUPPORT FROM ALL. WE BELIEVE THE ASSEMBLY NEEDS TO PROVIDE BROAD ENDORSEMENT OF THE PACKAGE AS A WHOLE EARLY IN THIS SESSION TO

ALLOW THE REFORM PROCESS TO PROCEED, EVEN IF SOME OF THE DETAILS ARE NEGOTIATED SUBSEQUENTLY.

UN FINANCES

BUT I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FOR REFORM TO SUCCEED AND FOR THE UNITED NATIONS TO CARRY OUT ITS MANDATE ADEQUATE RESOURCES MUST BE PROVIDED TO RUN THE ORGANISATION. AUSTRALIA CONTINUES TO MEET ALL ITS FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS IN FULL AND ON TIME AND WITHOUT CONDITIONS AND SEEKS THE SAME COMMITMENT FROM ALL OUR FELLOW ‘ ' ’ MEMBERS. WE CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THAT THE NEGOTIATION OF FINANCIAL REFORMS WOULD BE FACILITATED BY EARLY SETTLEMENT OF ALL UNPAID CONTRIBUTIONS. THE ADOPTION OF A RESPONSIBLE NEGATIVE GROWTH BUDGET AND A NEW SCALE OF ASSESSMENTS, WHICH ACCURATELY REFLECTS RELATIVE SHARES OF NATIONAL INCOME AND THUS THE PRINCIPLE OF THE "CAPACITY TO PAY", WILL ALSO BE KEY ISSUES AT THIS

YEAR’S SESSION. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT RESULT ENSURES THE BURDEN OF SUPPORTING THE ORGANISATION FALLS FAIRLY ON MEMBER NATIONS.

SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM

AUSTRALIA REMAINS COMMITTED TO AN EXPANDED, MORE REPRESENTATIVE AND TRANSPARENT SECURITY COUNCIL, BETTER ABLE TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGES'OF THE 21ST CENTURY. IT SHOULD INCLUDE AS * — < PERMANENT MEMBERS IMPORTANT POWERS ABLE TO MAKE A MAJOR " ~~' '

CONTRIBUTION TO INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY, PARTICULARLY AT THIS TIME JAPAN AND GERMANY. IT SHOULD ALSO INCLUDE PERMANENT SEATS FOR UNDER-REPRESENTED REGIONS AS WELL AS ADDITIONAL NON-PERMANENT SEATS.

MIDDLE POWERS SUCH AS AUSTRALIA HAVE MADE A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO THE UNITED NATIONS SINCE ITS FOUNDATION, NOTABLY IN DISARMAMENT, DEVELOPMENT, PEACEKEEPING, AND HUMAN RIGHTS. WE ARE CONCERNED THAT THE INTERESTS OF SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED COUNTRIES NOT BE FORGOTTEN IN THIS EXERCISE. IN THIS CONTEXT, AND BECAUSE OF OUR LONG-STANDING HISTORICAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE VETO, ~ WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE AN EXPANSION OF THE COUNCIL ACCOMPANIED BY

A NEW UNDERSTANDING ON THE APPLICATION OF THE VETO. WE WOULD ALSO SUPPORT A REVIEW OF ANY NEW ARRANGEMENTS AFTER 10 YEARS SO THAT COUNTRIES LIKE AUSTRALIA AND ALL OTHER MEMBERS OF THE

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INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAVE A FURTHER OPPORTUNITY TO EXAMINE THE SIZE, COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS OF THE COUNCIL.

MR PRESIDENT

I AM OPTIMISTIC ABOUT WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED BY THE UNITED NATIONS IF WE CAN BRING ABOUT SOME ESSENTIAL REFORMS WHICH WOULD MAKE THE ORGANISATION FUNCTION MORE EFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY. LET ME MENTION ONE OF THE AREAS IN WHICH THE UNITED NATIONS HAS PROVEN IT CAN FUNCTION EFFECTIVELY - AS A FORUM AND CATALYST FOR INTERNATIONAL ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT EFFORTS.

IN RECENT YEARS WE HAVE WITNESSED SEVERAL LANDMARK DEVELOPMENTS IN THIS FIELD, NOTABLY THE INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY AND THE ADOPTION OF THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY. THIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY WAS THE FORUM, ONE YEAR AGO, FOR THE ADOPTION OF THE COMPREHENSIVE TEST BAN TREATY, AND AUSTRALIA IS PARTICULARLY PROUD TO HAVE BEEN

ABLE TO PLAY A ROLE IN THAT HISTORIC EVENT. . I - ( - - .

THERE ARE MANY CHALLENGES AHEAD AS WE WORK WITH, AND THROUGH, THE UNITED NATIONS TO REDUCE GLOBAL STOCKPILES OF CONVENTIONAL AND NON-CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS AND TO MAKE THE WORLD A SAFER AND MORE HUMANE PLACE. LET ME SINGLE OUT TWO. THE IMMEDIATE

COMMENCEMENT AND EARLY CONCLUSION OF NEGOTIATIONS ON A FISSILE MATERIAL CUT-OFF TREATY HAS REPEATEDLY BEEN IDENTIFIED BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AS THE NEXT MAJOR GOAL FOR NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION AND DISARMAMENT EFFORTS - MOST RECENTLY BY THE PARTIES TO THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY - WHICH NOW

HAS MORE MEMBERS THAN THE UNITED NATIONS ITSELF -AT THEIR FIRST PREPARATORY MEETING FOR THE SIXTH REVIEW CONFERENCE IN 2000. THE CANBERRA COMMISSION ON THE ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS ALSO IDENTIFIED AN AGREEMENT TO CEASE THE PRODUCTION OF FISSILE MATERIAL FOR N.UCLEAR£XPL£>SLYE PURPOSES. AS AN IMPORTANT STEP TOWARDS THE ΕΠΜΙΝΆΤΓΟΝ OF NUCLEAR "WEAPONS. CAPPING f HE AMOUNT' OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL AVAILABLE FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS USE BY EXTENDING SAFEGUARDS COVERAGE OVER CURRENTLY UNSAFEGUARDED

SENSITIVE NUCLEAR FACILITIES WOULD IN ITSELF BE A SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY, QUITE APART FROM ITS SIGNIFICANCE AS A STEP TOWARDS THE ULTIMATE ELIMINATION

OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

AS I SAID TO THE COMMITTEE ON DISARMAMENT IN JANUARY THIS YEAR, THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A FISSILE MATERIAL CUT-OFF TREATY IS A PRIORITY OBJECTIVE FOR AUSTRALIA AND I NOW COMMIT AUSTRALIA TO REDOUBLING

ITS EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE 4 .CUT-OFF TREATY AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE. WE MUST NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE PUT OFF BY THE OBSTACLES THAT CURRENTLY FACE THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THIS GOAL.

THE EFFECTIVE ELIMINATION OF LANDMINES AS A WEAPON OF WAR IS ANOTHER IMPORTANT TASK FACING THE UNITED NATIONS COLLECTIVELY

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AND ITS MEMBERS INDIVIDUALLY. I HAVE BEEN GRATIFIED BY THE GAINS MADE TO DATE, THROUGH THE OTTAWA PROCESS, THROUGH THE INHUMANE WEAPONS CONVENTION, THROUGH NATIONAL AND REGIONAL MEASURES AND, PERHAPS, MOST IMPORTANTLY, THROUGH ENHANCED CONTRIBUTIONS TO DE-MINING AND MINE VICTIM ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS TO ADDRESS THE TERRIBLE HUMAN TOLL OF ANTI-PERSONNEL LANDMINES. WE OWE IT TO

THE VICTIMS OF ANTI-PERSONNEL LANDMINES TO CONTINUE WORKING THROUGH ALL AVENUES TO ACHIEVE A REAL AND LASTING SOLUTION TO THE GLOBAL LANDMINES PROBLEM.

INSTITUTION BUILDING: A COOPERATIVE APPROACH TO HUMAN RIGHTS

THE ELIMINATION OF LANDMINES IS ONE NECESSARY STEP IN CREATING A MORE HUMANE WORLD, A WORLD WHERE INDIVIDUAL HUMAN RIGHTS CAN DEMAND PROPER RESPECT. BUT FURTHER MEASURES NEED TO BE TAKEN INVOLVING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DURABLE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS TO ADVANCE THE GOALS TO WHICH OUR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY COMMITMENTS ASPIRE. WE ARE ENCOURAGED BY AND SUPPORT THE PROPOSAL TO INTEGRATE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES MORE FULLY INTO A RANGE OF UN ACTIVITIES. IN OUR VIEW, THE LINKAGES BETWEEN RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, GOOD GOVERNANCE AND

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ARE IMPORTANT. THE FACT THAT ALL FOUR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES ESTABLISHED BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL WILL TAKE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES INTO ACCOUNT IN THEIR DELIBERATIONS

SHOULD ENSURE THAT MORE EFFECTIVE COORDINATION IS POSSIBLE ACROSS UN ACTIVITIES. WE WARMLY WELCOME ALSO THE STEPS TAKEN BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL TO REFORM AND REINVIGORATE THE SECRETARIAT’S ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE TO SUPPORT HUMAN RIGHTS, PARTICULARLY THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE OFFICE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND THE CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INTO A SINGLE OFFICE. HIS APPOINTMENT OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, MARY

ROBINSON, AS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IS AN EXCELLENT CHOICE. WE PLEDGE OURSELVES TO SUPPORT HER IN HER TASK.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT RECENT DEVELOPMENT. AT THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL HAS BEEN THE NEGOTIATION OF A DRAFT STATUTE FOR AN INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT. AUSTRALIA IS STRONGLY COMMITTED TO THE EARLY ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COURT AS A MAJOR HUMAN RIGHTS OBJECTIVE. WE URGE ALL NATIONS TO SUPPORT BY CONSENSUS THE PROPOSED RESOLUTION AT THIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CALLING FOR THE CONVENING OF A DIPLOMATIC CONFERENCE IN JUNE 1998 TO FINALISE AND ADOPT THE STATUTE FOR THE COURT.

AS WE APPROACH THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, WE PAY TRIBUTE TO THE UNIVERSAL STANDARDS THE DECLARATION HAS HELPED TO ESTABLISH. LET US NEVER FORGET AS WELL THAT THE DECLARATION, ALONG WITH THE TWO INTERNATIONAL COVENANTS, AND THE WHOLE BODY OF TREATY LAW AND PRACTICE WHICH HAS SINCE DEVELOPED, WAS REAFFIRMED BY ALL NATIONS AT THE VIENNA WORLD CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN 1993.

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MR PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIA IS A NATION COMMITTED TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND REGARDS HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AS INTEGRAL TO ITS DIPLOMACY. HOWEVER, THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WANT THE IMPORTANT AREA OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO BECOME AN UNPRODUCTIVE BATTLEGROUND OR AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SLOGANEERING. WHAT WE SEEK IS RESULTS, NOT RHETORIC, WITH THE OUTCOME BEING

GENUINE IMPROVEMENTS IN HUMAN RIGHTS.

THE REAL BASIS FOR A SUSTAINED IMPROVEMENT IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS NEEDS TO BE THROUGH DOMESTIC REFORM FOUNDED ON WORKING INSTITUTIONS WHICH GUARANTEE PARTICIPATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY. REFORM OF THE INSTITUTIONS OF CIVIL GOVERNANCE MUST COME FROM WITHIN. IT IS NOT SOMETHING WHICH CAN BE IMPOSED FROM WITHOUT, FOR IF THERE IS NOT THE POLITICAL WILL AND THE PEOPLE WITH A KNOWLEDGE AND A COMMITMENT TO MAKING THOSE INSTITUTIONS

WORK, THEN THEY WILL SIMPLY FOUNDER. ALMOST ALL NATIONS HAVE DARK MOMENTS IN THEIR HISTORY WHERE ABUSES HAVE OCCURED WHERE VIGILANCE HAS FAILED. ABUSES AND CORRUPTION ARE MOST LIKELY TO DISAPPEAR THOUGH WHEN THERE ARE INSTITUTIONS ESTABLISHED TO BRING LIGHT INTO THIS DARKNESS.

ALL TOO OFTEN HOWEVER, INSTEAD OF WORKING PATIENTLY TO ENCOURAGE AND HELP OTHERS TO BUILD THESE INSTITUTIONS, COUNTRIES HAVE TENDED TO ADDRESS ISSUES OF HUMAN RIGHTS BY CRITICISM ALONE. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT IN THE 52 YEARS SINCE THE UNITED NATIONS WAS ESTABLISHED THE WORLD HAS WITNESSED MANY EGREGIOUS AND VILE ACTS COMMITTED FOR THE MOST INHUMANE REASONS, AND DESERVING THE

STRONGEST CONDEMNATION. HOWEVER, THE CONDEMNATORY APPROACH ALONE HAS ONLY LIMITED PRACTICAL VALUE.

WE NEED TO RECOGNISE THAT IN PRACTICAL TERMS PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS MUST PRIMARILY BE DONE AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL. THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM, WHICH WE HAVE WORKED HARD TO BUILD, INEVITABLY HAS A BROAD FOCUS AND A LIMITED ABILITY TO

ASSIST STATES TO IMPLEMENT AGREED STANDARDS. REGIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS MECHANISMS ALSO HAVE A ROLE AND WE SHOULD DO WHAT WE CAN TO ENCOURAGE THEIR ESTABLISHMENT AND STRENGTHENING, INCLUDING IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC. HOWEVER, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE ABILITY OF EACH STATE EFFECTIVELY TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEPENDS TO A SIGNIFICANT DEGREE ON THE STRENGTH OF ITS OWN INSTITUTIONS, INCLUDING A REPRESENTATIVE LEGISLATURE, AN ACCOUNTABLE EXECUTIVE AND AN INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY. A VIGOROUS CIVIL SOCIETY

IS ANOTHER IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN CREATING A CULTURE OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

A CRITICAL ELEMENT THAT HAS OFTEN BEEN UNDERVALUED IN THE NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS IS THE IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE INSTITUTIONS AS A MEANS TO ACHIEVING GOOD GOVERNANCE. IT IS THIS INSTITUTION BASED GOOD GOVERNANCE WHICH OFFERS A REAL HOPE OF ERADICATING THE RANDOMNESS AND VIOLENCE WHICH CAN CHARACTERISE SYSTEMS WHERE THERE IS NEITHER POPULAR

PARTICIPATION NOR GENUINE ACCOUNTABILITY.

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GOOD GOVERNANCE CREATES THE ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS ARE RESPECTED AND PROTECTED. GOOD GOVERNANCE ALSO PROMOTES AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SOUND ECONOMIC MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF RESOURCES TO INCREASE PROSPERITY. THESE

CONDITIONS ARE IMPORTANT TO THE PROTECTION OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE EXERCISE OF CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS THROUGH PARTICIPATORY PROCESSES IS ESSENTIAL TO GOOD GOVERNANCE BECAUSE IT HELPS ENSURE GOVERNMENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND

EFFECTIVENESS. THE INTERLINKAGES ARE SUCH THAT ACTION IN ONE AREA OF HUMAN RIGHTS HAS A POSITIVE REINFORCING EFFECT ON OTHER DIMENSIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, MAKING ALL HUMAN RIGHTS INDIVISIBLE. ACCOUNTABILITY, PARTICIPATION AND EFFECTIVE INSTITUTIONS ARE THREE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES NECESSARY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

IT IS WITH THIS IN MIND THAT AUSTRALIA GIVES PRIORITY TO INSTITUTION BUILDING IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS FIELD. ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS IN RECENT YEARS HAS BEEN THE SPREAD OF NATIONAL : INSTITUTIONS FOR THE PROMOTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. SUCH INSTITUTIONS,

ABLE TO WORK WITH GOVERNMENTS AND CIVIL SOCIETY, CAN REFLECT TO A SIGNIFICANT DEGREE THE DIFFERENT CULTURES AND LOCAL CONDITIONS OF THE SOCIETIES IN WHICH THEY ARE ESTABLISHED, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME REMAINING CONSISTENT WITH INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS.

MOREOVER, IT IS WORTH NOTING THAT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HAS ENDORSED A SET OF MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR SUCH INSTITUTIONS - THE SO-CALLED PARIS PRINCIPLES. DESPITE CONSIDERABLE EARLY SCEPTICISM, RECENT EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN VERY POSITIVE AND MANY GOVERNMENTS

AND NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS ARE NOW LOOKING POSITIVELY AT INDEPENDENT NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AS AN IMPORTANT MEANS TO PROMOTE AND PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS. THE GENERALLY POSITIVE VIEW OF THE WORK OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS HELD BY MOST STATES WAS .REFLECTED Itf THE .ADOPTION BY.CONSENSUS OF AUSTRALIA’S RESOLUTION - — -

ON THIS SUBJECT AT THIS YEAR’S SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN “ ' RIGHTS, WITH AN INCREASED NUMBER OF CO-SPONSORS.

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ARE SHOWING RAPIDLY INCREASING INTEREST IN ESTABLISHING OR STRENGTHENING EXISTING NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS, AS A CONSTRUCTIVE WAY TO TAKE POSITIVE ACTION AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, BEARING IN MIND NATIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES, TO

PROMOTE RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. IMPORTANT EXAMPLES OF HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS RECENTLY ESTABLISHED IN MY PART OF THE WORLD THAT ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE ON THE GROUND INCLUDE THOSE IN INDIA AND INDONESIA. I WAS ENCOURAGED RECENTLY BY THE STATEMENT OF

PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S PRIME MINISTER THAT HE INTENDS PRESSING AHEAD TO ESTABLISH A HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

WE WILL ALSO WATCH WITH EXPECTATION THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROPOSED CAMBODIAN NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. A CREDIBLE AND INDEPENDENT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, ALONG WITH A

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GENUINELY INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION, COULD MAKE AN IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION TO PROTECTING STABILITY AND PROMOTING THE OBSERVANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN CAMBODIA IN THE LEAD UP TO WHAT WE STRONGLY HOPE WILL BE FREE, FAIR AND CREDIBLE ELECTIONS IN MAY NEXT YEAR.

THE WORK OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES CAN BE STRENGTHENED THROUGH SUB-REGIONAL AND REGIONAL ARRANGEMENTS WHICH PROVIDE A FRAMEWORK FOR EXCHANGES OF VIEWS AND EXPERIENCES. AUSTRALIA IS A STRONG SUPPORTER OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUCH ARRANGEMENTS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION. SINCE AN INAUGURAL MEETING IN DARWIN IN 1996 THERE HAS BEEN A STEADY CONSOLIDATION OF LINKS AMONG ESTABLISHED AND EMERGING ASIA-PACIFIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS. THE 1996 MEETING SAW THE COMMISSIONS OF AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, INDONESIA AND INDIA (LATER ALSO JOINED BY THE PHILIPPINES) ESTABLISH A REGIONAL NETWORK OF HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS, THE ASIA PACIFIC FORUM OF NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS, WITH A SUPPORTING SECRETARIAT BASED IN

AND FINANCED BY AUSTRALIA.

THE AIM OF THIS NETWORK IS TO STRENGTHEN COOPERATION AMONG NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS, INCLUDING THROUGH INFORMATION SHARING, STAFF EXCHANGES, TECHNICAL COOPERATION AND AN ANNUAL REGIONAL MEETING. IT ALSO ASSISTS OTHER REGIONAL

GOVERNMENTS WISHING TO ESTABLISH SUCH INSTITUTIONS. THE MOST RECENT REGIONAL MEETING HAS JUST BEEN HELD, IN NEW DELHI. IT ATTRACTED PARTICIPATION FROM THE FOUNDING HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS, AS WELL AS THAT OF SRI LANKA. OTHER REGIONAL COUNTRIES FROM ASIA AND THE PACIFIC ATTENDED AS OBSERVERS, SOME OF WHOM ARE CONSIDERING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THEIR OWN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONS.

A MOST EFFECTIVE AREA OF THE UN’S OPERATIONS IN THIS FIELD HAS BEEN THE WORK OF THE SPECIAL ADVISER TO THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN .RIGHTS QRNATIQNAL INSTITUTIONS AND REGIONAL — - ----­ ARRANGEMENTS: THE UN’S -WORK w it h a n u m b e r o f g o v e r n m e n t s , " INCLUDING IN OUR OWN REGION, IS AT AN IMPORTANT STAGE. AUSTRALIA

WAS THEREFORE PLEASED TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL SUPPORT THIS YEAR TO ENABLE THE UN TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS.

WE WELCOME THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S COMMITMENT IN HIS REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE ORGANISATION TO STRENGTHENING COOPERATION ON ISSUES OF DEMOCRATIZATION AND GOOD GOVERNANCE. WE NOTE HIS

COMMENT THAT "THE PAST YEAR HAS SEEN A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN THE ACTIVITIES RELATING TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR THE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS". WE ARE HEARTENED BY THIS DEVELOPMENT AND THE RESPONSIVENESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL. HIS REPORT CLEARLY REFLECTS THE NEED I AM STRESSING HERE FOR SUPPORT FOR NATIONAL INSTITUTION BUILDING TO BE AT THE CENTRE OF UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS ENDEAVOURS.

EARLIER THIS YEAR I ANNOUNCED THE ESTABLISHMENT IN AUSTRALIA OF A CENTRE FOR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS. THIS CENTRE WILL BE DEVOTED TO THE PROVISION OF PRACTICAL SUPPORT FOR THE CONSOLIDATION AND STRENGTHENING OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

INCLUDED IN AUSTRALIA’S AID PROGRAM. IT EXEMPLIFIES A COOPERATIVE RATHER THAN CONFLICT APPROACH TOWARDS PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND IT WILL BE THE FLAGSHIP OF OUR GOOD GOVERNANCE INITIATIVES. THE FOCUS OF THE CENTRE’S TRAINING PROGRAMS WILL BE ON ELECTORAL, PARLIAMENTARY, JUDICIAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTION BUILDING AND THE PROCESSES BY WHICH BROADER SOCIETY, NOTABLY THE MEDIA AND COMMUNITY GROUPS, CAN CONTRIBUTE TO DEMOCRATIC DECISION MAKING. IT WILL ALSO FACILITATE VISITS AND SECONDMENTS OF APPROPRIATE PARTICIPANTS, SUCH AS PARLIAMENTARIANS, SENIOR ADMINISTRATORS AND OTHER INFLUENTIAL PERSONS, TO RELEVANT AUSTRALIAN ORGANISATIONS.

WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS REMAIN AT RISK, OUR VALUES ARE COMPROMISED AND INTERNATIONAL STABILITY IS JEOPARDISED. THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS TO PROMOTE THE DIGNITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IS TOO IMPORTANT A MATTER FOR SYMBOLIC GESTURES ALONE. IT IS ONLY THROUGH THE PURSUIT OF PRACTICAL AND EFFECTIVE EFFORTS TO PROMOTE HUMAN RIGHTS THAT WE SHOW OUR REAL COMMITMENT TO THE WELFARE OF INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETY. AND IT IS VITAL TO SUCH PRACTICAL OUTCOMES THAT WE ORIENT OUR APPROACH TO HUMAN RIGHTS TO EMPHASISE CO-OPERATION AND THE CREATION OF DURABLE STRUCTURES.

MR PRESIDENT

IF I MAY STAY BRIEFLY WITH THE SUBJECTS OF PRACTICAL OUTCOMES AND DURABLE STRUCTURES, THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD ARE FACING TODAY THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND WILL NEED TO AGREE LATER THIS YEAR IN KYOTO ON SUSTAINABLE RESPONSES TO THAT THREAT. AT THE RECENT SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM, AUSTRALIA, ALONG WITH OTHER FORUM COUNTRIES, ACKNOWLEDGED J2EEEJC.ONCERN ABOUT THE IMPACT OF

INCREASING CONCENTRATIONSOF GREENHOUSE GASES ON RISING SEA LEVELS AND CHANGING WEATHER PATTERNS, ESPECIALLY FOR LOW LYING ISLANDS. AUSTRALIA, ALONG WITH OTHERS, IS WORKING HARD TO ENSURE THAT THE KYOTO MEETING DELIVERS A SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTAL

OUTCOME. WE STAND READY TO PLAY OUR PART, ALTHOUGH, AS WE HAVE MADE CLEAR IN THESE NEGOTIATIONS WE HAVE NO INTENTION OF IMPOSING UPON AUSTRALIANS AN UNFAIR AND DISPROPORTIONATE COST IN ADDRESSING THIS GLOBAL PROBLEM.

RECONFIGURING THE GROUPS

BEFORE CONCLUDING, MR PRESIDENT, I WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS THE THIRD AND FINAL REFORM ISSUE I SAID I WOULD BE RAISING. AUSTRALIA BELIEVES THERE IS AN ELEMENT MISSING IN THE PRESENT DISCUSSION ON REFORM. I AM REFERRING TO THE EXISTING ELECTORAL GROUP SYSTEM, WHICH DATES BACK TO THE LAST MAJOR REFORM OF THE GROUP SYSTEM IN

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1963. SINCE THEN THE SIZE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HAS NEARLY DOUBLED, MOSTLY WITH NEW NATIONS FROM AFRICA, ASIA AND THE PACIFIC.

THE PRESENT CONFIGURATION CONTAINS MANY CONSPICUOUS ANOMALIES AND INEQUITIES WHICH CONSTITUTE POWERFUL ARGUMENTS FOR REFORM. THE SUBSTANTIAL DISPARITIES IN THE SIZE OF THE VARIOUS GROUPS AND THE INADEQUATE LEVEL OF REPRESENTATION AVAILABLE TO THE MANY

SUB-REGIONS, INCLUDING IN OUR OWN GEOGRAPHICAL REGION OF EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC, HAS LONG BEEN AN EVIDENT SOURCE OF FRUSTRATION. COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE SIZE OF THE AFRICAN AND EAST EUROPEAN GROUPS (EMBRACING 53 AND 21 MEMBERS RESPECTIVELY) DEMONSTRATE THE LEGITIMACY OF DISSATISFACTION WITH THE STATUS QUO IN THIS REGARD.

THIS WIDESPREAD SENSE OF UNDER-REPRESENTATION IS EXACERBATED BY THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL DIVERSITY OF THE LARGER GROUPS AND THE LIMITED EXTENT TO WHICH A SINGLE MEMBER CAN BE SAID TO REPRESENT

THE GROUP AS A WHOLE. WHILE WE HAVE OUR OWN IDEAS, AUSTRALIA DOES NOT BELIEVE IT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO PRESCRIBE ANY RIGID FORMULA FOR RECONFIGURATION OF THE GROUP SYSTEM. WE ACKNOWLEDGE THIS IS A SENSITIVE ISSUE ON WHICH THERE ARE MANY VIEWS. BUT I BELIEVE IT IS TIME WE BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS THIS MATTER, AS WE SEEK TO EQUIP THE UNITED NATIONS FOR THE FUTURE.

MR PRESIDENT, ULTIMATELY, REFORM OF THE UNITED NATIONS MEANS ONE THING. IT MEANS A MORE EFFICIENT ORGANISATION CAPABLE OF DELIVERING PRACTICAL OUTCOMES TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD. IF WE ARE TO ACHIEVE THAT REFORM THEN WE MUST FOCUS ON CO-OPERATION NOT CONFLICT, WE MUST BUILD INSTITUTIONS WHICH WILL GUARANTEE EFFECTIVE VIGILANCE AND ABOVE ALL ELSE WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO ABANDON THE IDEAS AND STRUCTURES OF THE PAST AND EMBRACE THE

CHANGES WHICH BRING THE FUTURE.

ENDS

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