United Nations (UN)

Australia is firmly committed to effective global cooperation, including through the United Nations (UN) and its specialised agencies and regional commissions. Engaging with the multilateral system is a key pillar of Australia's foreign policy. This is because we live in a complex, inter-connected world where countries need to coordinate their responses to the major challenges we all face today.

Australia is a founding member of the UN, has been an active participant in UN institutions for 70 years and is currently the 12th largest contributor to the UN regular budget. Australia held the first Presidency of the Security Council in 1946 and provided the first military observers under UN auspices a year later, to Indonesia during the independence struggle.

International peace and security

Australia has been integrally involved in global efforts to build and restore peace for over 65 years. We have provided personnel to more than 60 UN and other multilateral peace and security operations since 1947. We remain a strong supporter of UN peacekeeping and are currently the 11th largest financial contributor. We continue to take forward Australia’s UN Security Council (2013-14) priorities to protect civilians and improve the effectiveness of the UN peacekeeping system, through our engagement in the review by the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.

Acknowledging the unprecedented strain on the peacekeeping system, in September 2015 we also committed to improve UN mission capabilities at the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping Summit. At the Summit, Australia pledged to provide strategic air lift support for UN peacekeeping operations in crisis situations, where and whenever we can. We will also assist our neighbours, who contribute to peacekeeping operations, to deal with improvised explosive devices and help train soldiers and police in our region to contribute fully to peacekeeping operations.

Australia has a long and distinguished record of promoting global disarmament and non-proliferation. Australia played a leading role in the negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. In 1995 Australia also initiated the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and, with Japan in 2008, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. In July 2010, Australia and Japan jointly established the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) with the key objective of promoting the implementation of the 64-point action plan agreed to at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The NPDI is a cross-regional group of 12 countries. In addition, Australia led negotiations towards the Arms Trade Treaty under which states agree to regulate the transfer of conventional arms. The Treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.

Australia is committed to strengthening international law to prevent conflict and restore peace and security.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The UN’s 193 member states formally agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda) on 25 September 2015 in New York. The new agenda provides a roadmap for global development efforts to 2030 and beyond. The 2030 Agenda succeeds the Millennium Development Goals which expired in 2015. Information on the 2030 Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals is available on DFAT’s Global Development webpage.

Climate change and environmental issues

An historic global climate change agreement was agreed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015. The Australian Government played a constructive role in delivering the Paris Agreement and setting in place an enduring, dynamic framework where all countries play their part. Australia is already taking strong, credible and responsible action domestically, and has set an ambitious target to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Australia is also supporting international efforts to act on climate change, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, through our aid program and contributions to multilateral funds.

Australia endorsed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global blueprint for the reduction of disasters, in March 2015. Through its aid program, Australia is committed to substantially reduce disaster risk and build a platform for strengthening disaster resilience to protect the most vulnerable communities.

Human rights and gender equality

Australia has an enduring commitment to human rights internationally and is a party to major human rights treaties. Australia was one of the eight countries that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation. In October 2015, Australia announced its candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council 2018-2020.

The Australian Government is committed to pursuing gender equality outcomes across the international agenda. Gender equality is an important right and a powerful driver for growth, development and stability. Promoting gender equality is integral to advancing Australia’s national interests and reflects Australian values of fairness and substantive equality. In December 2013, Natasha Stott Despoja AM, was appointed Australia’s second Ambassador for Women and Girls to promote gender equality in the international arena and to give women a stronger voice in the world. The launch of the Gender Equality Fund in 2015 demonstrated the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Australia’s aid program.

The Indigenous peoples of the world

Reconciliation is fundamental to maintaining peace and security internationally, respecting human rights and promoting equality, dignity and self-determination. Australia is committed to providing opportunities to assist indigenous peoples – both in Australia and overseas – to overcome social and economic disadvantage.

Australia plays an active role in the United Nations systems. We have played an important role in the establishment of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Australians have served as both governmental and non-governmental members. We support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and continue to give practical effect to the UNDRIP. In September 2014, Australia proudly supported the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and welcomed the World Conference Outcome Document.

In August 2015, the Department released its Indigenous Peoples Strategy which provides a framework to work collaboratively with Australia Indigenous peoples, communities and businesses, to advance and promote the wellbeing of indigenous peoples around the world.

Australia is the fifth largest contributor to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Indigenous Populations.

In February 2008, the Australian Parliament formally apologised to Indigenous peoples for past mistreatment and injustices. This was a turning point in Australia's history. Just as Australia recognises the wrongs in its own past, we seek to advance the interest of First Peoples around the world.

United Nations reform

Australia wants to ensure that the UN delivers on the ground for the people, communities and nations that need it most. Australia played an important role in drafting the articles of the UN Charter that deal with the Security Council. We argued against allowing permanent members a veto power. Australia supports reform of the Security Council and its working methods to better reflect the modern world and ensure it is accessible to small and middle-sized countries.

International economic cooperation

Australia takes a close interest in a number of important economic issues debated in the United Nations. Developing countries are naturally very concerned to overcome the impact on their economies of problems such as the high level of debt, persistent high interest rates, persistent unacceptable levels of unemployment, depressed and unstable commodity prices, fluctuating exchange rates, inflation and continuing population pressures. Economic interdependence is a fact of international life. Countries including Australia need to pursue their economic interests, particularly in trade and finance matters, within a multilateral setting. All countries, developed and developing, have therefore a serious interest in trying to make the multilateral system work more effectively in the economic area.

Commitment to interfaith and inter-religious dialogue

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations, whose people identify with more than 270 ethnicities, speak more than 260 languages, and observe all the world's religions. Australia is committed to fostering mutual respect and understanding among different religions and cultures. We are an active participant in UN initiatives, including the Alliance of Civilizations and Ministerial Meetings on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace. In 2009, we hosted the Parliament of the World's Religions and we co-chair a regional interfaith dialogue process in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Australia also supports grassroots programs in our region to promote intercultural and community links.