High Noon at the United Nations: What has Australia achieved and how will it handle its top seat?

EVENT – 6pm Tues 10 Sept: Australia has assumed its one-month presidency of the highest security body in the world at a volatile time. Syria is imploding and the world is calling for action, the US is threatening punitive strikes, and the United Nations Security Council is frozen in deadlock.

The use of chemical weapons against civilians in Damascus has proved to be a tipping point for the international community, with the Arab League adding its voice to the international chorus calling for a UN intervention. However, Russia and China have made it clear that they will use their Security Council veto to block any unjustifiable UN interference in Syria’s sovereign territory. Coincidentally, President Barack Obama is asking the US Congress to support an American attack on Syrian targets without UN approval.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said an independent US strike on Syria would be a grave violation of international law, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon is likewise urging states to act only within the UN charter. It is in this critical and unpredictable situation that Australia has taken on the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.

International turmoil aside, Australia will probably have had a change of government just one week into its presidency, though, despite the rhetoric of the election campaign, the main parties talk the same language.

To discuss the role of the UN, past, present and future, AIIA NSW is delighted to welcome a distinguished Australian international diplomat, Mike Smith.

Mike Smith, will draw on his 5+ years of experience working in the UN Security Council to give us a practical perspective of what we can expect to see achieved. With his hands-on understanding of the structures and processes within the council, he will explain the limitations and the potential of Australia’s Security Council membership, as well as shedding light on Australia’s role since our membership began in January this year.

Mike Smith was until 30 June this year, assistant secretary-general and executive director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate. Prior to his appointment at the UN, he was a career diplomat in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, serving, inter alia, as ambassador to Algeria and Tunisia, (1989-91), ambassador to Egypt and Sudan, (1995-97), ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in Geneva (2002-06) and ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, (2006-07).  He was chief of staff to the Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer, between 1998 and 2002.

Entry:  AIIA NSW members:  $15.00   Senior/students $10.00

Visitors:  $25.00   Student visitors $15.00

Book now: http://aiia.asn.au/nsw-events/event/800-high-noon-at-the-united-nations

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