Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

230112 - UN Security Council: Open debate on the promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security


12 January 2023

Statement by H.E. the Hon Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Australia thanks Japan, and in particular Minister for Foreign Affairs, for convening this important debate.

The rule of law lies at the heart of the international rules-based system.

It provides an essential foundation for a peaceful and secure world – in which all countries and persons can cooperate, trade, and thrive.

Where nations can prosper on the basis of fairness, stability, and predictability.

And where small and medium countries are able to maintain their sovereign choices, protected by rules.

For over 75 years, the UN Charter has underpinned international law and supported global stability.

And the International Court of Justice has played a vital role in facilitating the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Yet the international legal order is under great strain.

Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter.

Over the last year we have seen Russia contort and abuse fundamental principles of international law.

Including through its attempts to justify its war of aggression against Ukraine under the Genocide Convention and to legitimise the so-called “referenda” in eastern and southern Ukraine with reference to self-determination.

That is why Australia has supported accountability for Russia's actions through established legal processes, including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

And why Australia continues to call for Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s legally binding order and immediately withdraw its military forces from Ukraine.

We reaffirm the UN General Assembly resolution adopted on 14 November 2022, which recognised that Ukraine’s injuries require full reparation by Russia, in accordance with the international law of State responsibility.

In the Indo-Pacific, Australia strives to support a region that is open, stable, prosperous, and respectful of sovereignty.

Where disputes are guided by international law, not by power and size.

And where the agency and leadership of regional institutions, such as the Pacific Islands Forum and ASEAN, is respected.

Australia reaffirms the universal and unified nature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

It is the legal regime for establishing all maritime zones, protecting our oceans and maintaining peace and security in the maritime domain.

We maintain that any maritime disputes, including those in the South China Sea, should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS.

As we look towards the future, Australia aspires to shape outcomes that support our collective interest – a world where the rules are clear, mutually negotiated and consistently followed.

And today, I am pleased to announce that Australia will be joining the Group of Friends of the Rule of Law, to reaffirm our commitment. I encourage other States to support this initiative.