Vienna, 29 December 2009 – Austria assumed its responsibility as an elected member of the UN Security Council in January 2009, since which time it has closely cooperated with the other members, and in particular, its EU partners.
Austria’s priorities in the Security Council comprise the rule of law, the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians, in particular women and children, the strengthening of the role of women in post-conflict situations and peace processes, as well as fields such as disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.
Right at the beginning of its membership, during the negotiations on a resolution of the Gaza crisis, Austria successfully advocated a swift halt to hostilities and a solution based on consensus between the fifteen members of the Security Council. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger himself acted as a mediator during the consultations in New York.
Against the background of the military offensive by the Sri Lankan government against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, together with his British and French counterparts, called upon the Security Council to deal with the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka, as well as ensure observation of international humanitarian law and the provision of humanitarian aid for the thousands of trapped civilians.
At the beginning of April Austria condemned North Korea’s missile launch as a clear and blatant violation of existing resolutions and supported the Security Council’s decision to further tighten sanctions against North Korea. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger emphasised that these measures “were the right signal to make it clear to North Korea that its actions would not remain without consequences.”
In August, Austria advocated a swift, unanimous and clear answer by the Security Council to the Burmese junta’s conviction of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to a further eighteen months of house arrest. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger pointed out that this judgement deprived the opposition politician of the possibility of actively participating in the 2010 elections and condemned the judicial proceedings as “not meeting rule of law standards in any way, and an example of the continued political repression in Burma.”
Moreover, Austria’s membership of the Security Council offered the opportunity to further establish the country as a hub for dialogue and an international meeting place. The informal talks held by the parties to the Western Sahara conflict, Vienna’s thirty year anniversary as an official seat of the UN and the visit of a delegation of Nepalese constitutional experts at the beginning of November, all contributed to today’s position of both Vienna and Austria.
Assumption of the Security Council chair in November, and adoption of Resolution 1894
The assumption of the chair in November 2009 constituted a special challenge for Austria during its first year of Security Council membership. In this position, Austria’s task was to achieve consensus among the 15 Security Council members on all ongoing issues and draft resolutions. All resolutions were adopted unanimously during the month Austria chaired the Security Council.
The highlight of Austria’s role in this position was the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1894 for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Chaired by Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and also attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Croatian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gordan Jandrokovic, a high-ranking discussion on this topic was held on 11 November. Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger called Resolution 1894 “a culmination of lengthy preparations and efforts to convince others as to its usefulness.”
Resolution 1894 contributes to improving compliance with international standards for the protection of civilians by parties in conflict, laying the foundation stone for the effective implementation of protection tasks by peacekeeping operations in the field. Spindelegger emphasised that the Resolution was “a clear signal for establishing clear legal barriers to violence during war.”
Subsequently, Austria was committed to further strengthening the protection of civilians as a top priority in the UN peacekeeping mission to the Congo (MONUC) as well as to ensuring that important elements of Resolution 1984 were integrated in the MONUC mandate.
In addition, the UN mandates for the EU peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR - Althea) and for fighting piracy off Somalia’s coast (EUNAVFOR - Atalanta) were also extended under Austria’s chair.
Acting as chairman of the 1267 sanction committee for Al Qaida and Taliban, Austria is also making efforts to improve procedural standards in the fight against terror. Resolution 1904 - which is being strongly supported by Austria - now provides among other things for the establishment of an ombudsman for persons and enterprises against whom sanctions have been imposed. This can be regarded as great progress.
Prospects for 2010
Austria shall continue to promote the protection of civilians in armed conflict as a priority at the EU level. Another proposal for 2010 is to discuss the topic of the Protection of Civilians in NATO Operations within the framework of the EAPC Council of Ambassadors.
In 2010, Austria will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its participation in UN peacekeeping assignments. Austria’s first UN peacekeeping mission was in 1960 in the Congo within the framework of ONUC. For this reason, and against the background of the ongoing reform of UN peace operations, the 40th IPI Seminar will deal with cooperation between the UN and regional organisations in the context of peacekeeping operations.
Austria again plans to host a UN retreat in Alpbach in August 2010. The agenda will again encompass numerous trouble spots in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but also hot spots in Europe and Latin America. The debates as to possible further sanctions against Iran, as well as the Middle East peace process, are likely to develop as the greatest political challenges in the year ahead.
Federal Ministry for European and
International Affairs Press Department
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