NATIONAL: International aid agency Oxfam says Australia has a chance to make a real difference to world peace following its election to the United Nations Security Council.
Australia will take a seat on the council for just the fifth time after defeating competitors Luxembourg and Finland in a vote at the UN General Assembly in New York early on Friday.
Needing at least 129 votes to win the non-permanent seat, Australia received a resounding 140 nods from member states and will begin its two-year term from January next year.
Oxfam Australia executive director Andrew Hewett urged Australia to make the most of its rare but brief stint at the most powerful table in the world.
“For the next two years, Australia will play a major role within the international community in
helping to make the world a safer place for all,” he said in a statement.
“But Australia needs to hit the ground running with a clear vision if it wants to make a real
difference to the peace and security of women, men and children around the world.”
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the victory was a “remarkable” endorsement for Australia as a “fine global citizen”.
He said Australia would be pushing for an arms treaty at the UN to curb the spread of hand-held weapons, which kill 2000 people a day in conflicts worldwide.
It would also use its position to further calls for a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing, campaign for small island states threatened by climate change and share Australia’s experience in peacekeeping.
Oxfam welcomed Senator Carr’s pledge to use the UN seat to lobby for an arms trade treaty, and recent Australian calls for the protection of medical facilities and personnel in war-torn Syria.
The aid agency said it hopes the Australian government will meet with non-governmental organisations, academics and humanitarian groups to discuss key issues before taking its seat next year.