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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 215

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 December 2008:

In what way does the Australian Government support a United Nations intervention, including a military intervention, to alleviate human misery and suffering in: (a) Zimbabwe; and (b) the Congo.

Senator Faulkner (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The following answer has been provided by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the honourable senator’s question:

The Australian Government strongly supports United Nations (UN) action to address the situation in Zimbabwe. In July 2008 Australia co-sponsored a draft UN Security Council (SC) resolution imposing international sanctions against the Mugabe regime. This draft resolution was vetoed by two permanent members. The Minister for Foreign Affairs welcomed further consideration of Zimbabwe by the UNSC in December 2008, and urged the Council to continue to sustain its interest in the crisis.

In the absence of UNSC-mandated sanctions, the Australian Government tightened Australia’s sanctions against Zimbabwe in December 2008. These measures now impose travel and financial restrictions against 254 members of the Mugabe regime and four companies.

The Australian Government continues to support UN humanitarian efforts in Zimbabwe. Since March 2008, Australia has contributed over $20 million to the UN World Food Programme’s current Protracted Relief and Recovery operation for Zimbabwe. In December 2008, Australia provided $800,000 to UNICEF to meet the immediate needs of women and children affected by Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic.

The Government would support a military intervention in Zimbabwe were such action proposed and endorsed by the UNSC under the UN Charter. Such military intervention would need to be based on an overwhelming assessment that proposed military action would alleviate the suffering of the Zimbabwean population as a whole, and that the risks to the population attendant on military action could be addressed effectively. UN authorisation for military intervention in Zimbabwe is not expected in the near future, primarily due to continuing efforts by the UN, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to find a political solution, and the reluctance of some members of the Security Council to support military action.

The Australian Government strongly supports UN action to address the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and has welcomed efforts by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to broker a peaceful settlement between the parties to the conflict.

The Government welcomed the announcement by the UNSC on 20 November 2008 that the UN peace keeping mission in the DRC (MONUC) would be reinforced by an additional 3,000 personnel. Australia contributed US$14.5 million to MONUC in 2007-08, and has provided US$10.2 million so far this financial year.

On 1 December 2008, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning human rights abuses in the DRC, particularly sexual violence and use of child soldiers, and emphasising the primary responsibility of the DRC Government to protect its people. Australia co-sponsored convening of the meeting, and made a statement expressing concern at the humanitarian crisis and support for the work of MONUC.

Australia has pledged $5 million in emergency humanitarian assistance since early November 2008 for the people affected by the current fighting. Of these funds, $4 million was provided to UN agencies including the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.