Thursday, July 19, 2007


The ABC reports that a "UN group" has given Australia a bad report card:
The United Nations Association of Australia has written a report strongly criticising Australia's recent record on international issues.

The report gives Australia a 'C' on human rights, nuclear disarmament and aid, while on climate change and migration Australia gets a 'D'.
In fact, the UNAA -- a lobby group not affiliated with the UN -- reports on Australia's UN performance, not its international relations performance.

Chapter one of the report, written by Dr Keith Suter, evaluates Australia's General Assembly performance. In a section titled "The Real 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'" Suter praises Australia -- sort of -- while having a dig at the US:
Australia has a similar General Assembly voting pattern to the US’s. Australia’s foreign and defence policy is very much tied to the US and so it is expected that at the UN, as elsewhere, Australia will follow the US’s lead.

However, there is one issue that certainly divides both countries. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are killed each year by small arms. The US is the world’s largest manufacturer, buyer and seller of small arms. The National Rifle Association is the most influential NGO in US politics. Gunshots are the second most common cause of death for Americans aged between 10 and 24 and the leading cause of death for young Blacks. Every year about 30,000 Americans are killed by guns (10 times more than the number of people killed on September 11 2001).

Australia has a much tougher policy on gun control. It also took an active role in the 2001 UN conference to create a small arms and light weapons control programme. The US blocked most of the initiatives in 2001 and so weakened the programme of action.

In June 2006 a review conference was held to examine the programme of action, and again the US blocked progress. Australia was diplomatic in expressing its exasperation with the US’s stubbornness but it is clear that Australia wants more achieved (if only to reduce the availability of weapons in the South Pacific region which could harm Australian peacekeepers). I understand that Mr Howard (who has strong views on gun control) has raised this issue in conversations with President Bush.
A reference to US domestic handgun deaths is an odd inclusion in a "Report Card on Australia’s performance at the UN in recent years". But given Suter's UN idealism it's not surprising:
The tragedy is that, given all the problems that need an international response, the UN could be used far more extensively to assist the planet.
Assist the planet? Disband the useless monstrosity.


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