Mr President, thank you for convening this debate, for your own presence here today, and for Azerbaijan’s strong leadership of the Council this month. I thank the UN Secretary-General for his briefing. I would also like to thank Mr Ihsanoglu and welcome him, not for the first time to the Council, but as the first OIC Secretary-General to brief under this important agenda item.
The OIC makes a valued contribution to fostering international peace and security as its own Charter mandates. And today’s Presidential Statement rightly encourages the benefits of deeper cooperation with the OIC. Australia recognised the OIC’s role in adopting with the organisation last year a cooperation agreement to underpin closer engagement, including on political and humanitarian issues.
As we know, the partnership between the UN and international and regional organisations is a crucial instrument of our collective efforts to maintain peace and security. And as Mr Ihsanoglu notes, many of the issues on the Council’s agenda relate to the Muslim world. The OIC has unique strengths and distinct comparative advantages in these different regions, borne of its deep knowledge of context, cultural understanding and moral authority. The UN can draw upon these to help shape responses to threats to peace and security.
We see these strengths manifestly through the very substantial contribution of OIC member states to UN peacekeeping operations. It is also evident in the OIC’s invaluable mediation efforts – in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia as well as the Philippines and Thailand. The OIC’s newly-established Peace, Security and Mediation Unit offers new opportunities for cooperation on the peaceful settlement of disputes, the prevention of relapse into conflict and on conflict resolution initiatives, which we should embrace.
We acknowledge and welcome the OIC’s growing role in responding to humanitarian crises, from drought in the Horn of Africa to floods in South Asia. The OIC’s humanitarian work is also demonstrated by its rehabilitation programs in the Palestinian Territories and reconstruction efforts in Darfur. In Somalia and Yemen, the OIC has negotiated better access for humanitarian actors. We also welcome the forthcoming visit by the OIC to Myanmar to examine ways to help meet humanitarian and Muslim community needs there.
The joint needs assessment conducted by the OIC and OCHA in Syria, which culminated in a comprehensive humanitarian response plan was important. Australia is pleased to support OCHA’s provision of technical training to the OIC’s Department of Humanitarian Affairs and its NGO partners to participate in coordinated international humanitarian efforts.
I note Mr Ihsanoglu’s comments this morning on the OIC’s concerted campaign against polio. I note polio has now resurfaced in Syria for the first time in 14 years.
My country shares the OIC’s deep concern about the conflict in Syria which has precipitated an enormous humanitarian crisis and is destabilising neighbouring countries and the Middle East region. We agree that the Council could and should do more to protect civilians caught up in the fighting and to ensure humanitarian access and assistance. Australia fully supports the OIC’s call for an immediate cessation of violence and a process of peaceful transition through the Geneva II process.
We also agree with the OIC that the current peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel are an opportunity to achieve the two-state solution that we must not miss.
Australia welcomes the OIC’s efforts along with the UN to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of tolerance and peace, and we were pleased to co-sponsor the OIC’s General Assembly resolution on combating intolerance due to religion or belief. We strongly support enhanced cooperation to improve understanding across countries and cultures, as evidenced by Australia’s role in co-chairing over the past decade the Regional Interfaith Dialogue in South East Asia with our close partner and OIC member, Indonesia.
We look forward to examining the practical recommendations to enhance cooperation between the UN and OIC in the UN Secretary-General’s next report. Our focus should be in areas where the UN and OIC share common objectives and complementarities – mediation, conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation.
In concluding, I would like to congratulate the incoming Secretary-General, Mr Madani. I would like to pay tribute to Mr Ihsanoglu for his vision in leading the OIC over the past nine years and for enhancing the partnership with the UN. You will leave behind an important legacy for us to build on.