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What confronts the UN Security Council in 2013

Australia took its seat on the UN Security Council - for a 2 year term - on 1 January. In the context of exploring the range of issues Australia's diplomats will face in 2103 alone, a firmer Oz diplomat, Bruce Haigh, writing for Crikey, identifies the myriad of "problems" likely to be on the Council's agenda. It's a formidable list - and shows what a "world" we live in that there are so many issues to contend with.

"The issues facing the UN Security Council are substantial, with the Middle East requiring close focus and some tough decisions. At the top of the list is Syria, which is bringing into play NATO with the deployment of patriot missiles to Turkey. The rabid regime has caused a refugee humanitarian crisis in neighbouring countries. Instability stalks the region, whilst Israel pours fuel on the fire with further settlements on Palestinian land and a hatred of Hamas, apparently precluding negotiations.


Egypt is struggling with a democracy managed by fundamentalists. Iran has a leadership respected by none and, like its ally North Korea, is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Afghanistan has been a costly failure and will sooner than later come under the control of the loathed Taliban, who have played the occupation by the US and NATO every bit as skilfully as the occupation by the Russians was exploited internally by the Mujahideen. Pakistan is poised to gain influence, which will not play well with India. China has pocketed Sri Lanka and is securing what it wants from Pakistan in the form of naval bases and future access to some airbases.
Burma has moved into the US sphere of influence, a development not at all welcome to China. Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Australia have agreed to maintain or strengthen military ties. India, watchful of China, has so far been careful with the US, wanting and privately demanding recognition as a major world power.
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia remain in play with both China and the US. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have the potential to ignite regional conflict.
Climate change will require a complex range of strategic and diplomatic responses, particularly in Pacific Island countries and Indonesia. The movement of people as a response to climate change and the resultant political upheaval and conflict will require a more sophisticated and planned response than has hitherto been the case.
The movement of food, particularly live meat and grain, will require new international agreements. Australia should take the initiative whilst it has the opportunity on the Security Council.
The stagnation and over-borrowing by Western economies could cause serious political instability during Australia’s term on the Council. Some of the issues cited above have the potential of coming to a head at the same time, causing an escalating knock-on effect internationally.
The inability of the US to demonstrate the kind of leadership it expects from other states, particularly friends and allies, does not auger well for those states, such as Australia, that have tied their future to the listing mast of the US ship of state. Fundamental reform of gun laws and fiscal discipline, including the equitable redistribution of income through a fair and balanced tax system, might help maintain the respect necessary to support the notion of American exceptionalism, as expressed through the desire to influence and lead internationally."

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