Austria and the United Nations
Austria has always attached great importance to the United Nations’ activities and regards her UN policy as an integral part of foreign policy. Since her last EU Presidency in 2006, Austria has been endeavouring to make UN policy an important component of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union.
On 14 December 1955, about six months after regaining her independence with the signing of the State Treaty, Austria became the 70th state to join the United Nations. Since then she has participated actively in the global organisation’s work and has gained an outstanding reputation in this regard. The fact that Austria has been elected a member of the Security Council three times (1973/74,1991/92 and 2009/10) can be seen as a recognition of her commitment. During Austria’s most recent period in the Security Council (2009/10), her priorities included the protection of civilians, the strengthening of the rule of law, international law and human rights, as well as the promotion of a culture of transparency and dialogue. The protection of civilians was also a key thematic topic of Austria’s Council presidency in November 2009, leading to the adoption of SC Res. 1894 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
Austria also demonstrates her close links with the UN by contributing to the organisation in various ways. Thus Austria is one of the largest providers of troops for peacekeeping operations. All in all, more than 90,000 Austrians to date have served under the UN flag all over the world as soldiers, military observers, civilian police officers and civilian experts. Moreover, Austria has acted repeatedly act as a mediator and has contributed substantially to the further development international law ("Vienna Conventions"). The Vienna headquarters has also become an important centre for addressing topical issues such as nuclear safety or the fight against organised crime.
Fifty Years of Austrian Membership of the United Nations
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Austria’s accession to the United Nations a ceremony was held in the Vienna Hofburg on 14 December 2005 that brought together leading members of the Austrian government and senior representatives of the Vienna-based UN organisations. Federal President Heinz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Federal Minister Ursula Plassnik, the Mayor of Vienna Michael Häupl, the Director General of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, and the Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV) Antonio Maria Costa all spoke at this event. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a video message of greeting.
A ceremonial act attended by State Secretary Hans Winkler also took place on 14 December 2005 at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the 50th anniversary of Austria’s UN membership. Austria was represented musically at this commemorative event by the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Reform of the United Nations
The comprehensive process of reform of the United Nations initiated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan culminated in September 2005 in the UN World Summit - a three-day meeting held in New York attended by heads of state and government of some 160 countries.
A final declaration was elaborated and adopted on the basis of the reform report "In Larger Freedom -Towards Development, Security and Human Rights" submitted by Kofi Annan in March. This 2005 World Summit Outcome, delineates very specific reforms in the four areas of development, peace and security, human rights and management.
The goal and task to be accomplished by member sates now consists in implementing the reforms adopted by the international community and preparing the United Nations for the global challenges of the 21st century.
Progress has been made in various fields, including the establishment of a Peacebuilding Commission and the emphasis on the important role played by women in the peacebuilding process or the establishment of a Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).