Australia made its mark today on the world stage, successfully passing the first United Nations Security Council resolution on small arms and light weapons.
“The Security Council has taken too long to adopt its first resolution on small arms,” Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who chaired the historic event, told the high level meeting.
Representatives from member states, including Britain’s deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, agreed, and applauded the Australian government for its relentless pursuit of a devastating global problem that has not been addressed by the UN in four years.
“Thankyou Madame president for choosing the issue of small arms for the month of your presidency,” added the French Foreign Minister Fabius Laurent after the Council adopted its first resolution on the topic by a vote of 14 in favor, with Russia abstaining.
Ms Bishop, who sat proudly with the title “President” in front of her, opened the two-hour meeting by condemning the recent attack in Nairobi, and then calling for debate on small arms, which she said “has not been considered in a dedicated way in more than four years”.
While Ms Bishop managed to chair the Security Council with poise and professionalism, what she was not prepared for was pronouncing some of the names, including Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov.
Also not going to plan was when the lights went out – but only for a second.
Ms Bishop, who has been in New York all week representing Australia at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, unusually refused a request to speak to world media after her landmark role, prompting speculation she was unwilling to face potential questions on the increasing tension with Indonesia over the Coalition’s turn back the boats policy.
At the council meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the Council: “The world is overarmed and peace underfunded.”
“Small arms are a source of crises, conflict and criminality.”
He urged States to commit to building a safer and more secure world by signing and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty.
Adopted by the General Assembly in April, the treaty aims to alleviate the international trade and plague of small arms in conflict zones.
He said the treaty, which needs 50 ratifications to enter into force, has so far been signed by 110 states and ratified by 7.
“Yesterday another 18 countries committed to the treaty.
“I call on all those states to make the commitment to act as soon as possible.”
In praising Australia for today’s resolution, he said it was a “reminder that’s it’s our collective responsibility” to act on combating international weapons trade, which had wreaked havoc on lives and nations.
Ban Ki-Moon’s sentiments were echoed by foreign ministers from other states who praised Australia for its “hard work” in highlighting the issue of the proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons.
Ms Bishop accepted the praise, and said: “I should note that Australia has built on the earlier work of others – including Argentina some years ago – to get to this point.”
She told the council “this international momentum must be maintained”.
“The Council should consider these issues more systemically, return to this subject with greater frequency, and ensure that our commitments today are not forgotten tomorrow.”
She said the resolution would strengthen implementation of the Council’s arms embargoes.
“It supports peacekeepers’ efforts to limit the impact of these weapons on post-conflict societies.
“Most importantly, the resolution demonstrates the fundamental importance this Council places on protecting civilians, and for full respect for international humanitarian law and human rights.”